the sexual object vs subject lens, and women

{This isn’t really a post; it’s on here basically for wordpress reasons and that I can’t comment on two posts at the same time.

Content note: I read two posts about marginalized groups I am not in, and ended up with a thought about a different marginalized group that I am in.}

So recently I read Xan West’s post On Internalizing the Cis Gaze When Thinking About Sex and Relationships, which linked back to a different post of Xan’s, Writing Fat Characters In Erotica: Why It Matters To Me. These posts both use a shared lens {I’m not sure what the right word here is?}, which is about being treated as always an object rather than a subject of desire – a setup where the ultimate hope is to be a successful object of desire, while being the subject of desire, having desire, isn’t even – in the room (and about resisting this and claiming desire).

More recently I was listening to an older relative of mine talk about some friends of hers. She was discussing their families, and about one of them said something like – ‘she never married – I don’t know why, she was so pretty’.  And it occurred to me – this is that same thing again, at women. Where the thing that matters, the thing to aspire to, is being an object of desire, meeting some metrics for success in that. While one’s own desire is – not even brought up to be thought about.

(Note, this (the re women part I mean) feels like totally the kind of thing that there’s already lots of writings about out there, that I’ve maybe even run into. But my brain isn’t coming up with specifics right now, and did have this particular thought in this way, and it was a something for me, so.)

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Some definitions that are important for discussing myself and consent

Sparked Desire
-This is anything that I have actually decided to do or have started doing.

Driving Desires
-I believe that this is the same/similar thing that people might call emotional needs. They also come the closest to what I would actually define as ‘desire’. Basically, if something is a driving desire, that means it’s very important to me, if I get it it means a lot, and also I want/need it on some level wherein if I don’t get it, there is an unfulfilledness there.

The thing that allows me to ‘diagnose’ something as a driving desire is that something ‘happens’ when it is unfulfilled. Sometimes that’s simple- my mind goes back to it over and over again. Sometimes it’s personally unpleasant, but OK-  I cry in stairways, I curl up on my bed in ‘despair’ of a sort. Sometimes it’s a bit problematic- I start steering conversations in certain directions in the sheer subconscious hope that a topic I go to will bring about the effect I want, I drop ridiculous hints about things I feel that I can’t say. Sometimes it’s more problematic.

Also, as a general rule, having one of these things happen is the only way I get to consciously know that something is a driving desire. I’ve had at least a few times when I thought something was simply a want, or didn’t know it was a thing at all, until one of the above things started happening.

Wants/would-likes
-This is anything where, if someone asked ‘do you want to do this/ would you like to do this’ I would have the answer ‘yes’. This can be something I’ve done before, something I haven’t done before but want to try, something I want to do for the process, something I want to do for the goal- anything.

Likes/predicted likes
-This is anything that I have done and feel positively about for its own sake, or anything that I haven’t done but predict this feeling for (if I subsequently do it and feel differently, it gets moved to the corresponding list), but that isn’t on the wants list.

Neutrals/predicted neutrals
-This is anything that I have done and for its own sake feel neither positive nor negative about, or anything that I haven’t done but predict this feeling for (again, if I subsequently do it and feel differently, it gets moved to the corresponding list).

Dislikes/predicted dislikes
-This is anything that I have done and feel, for its own sake, negatively about, or anything that I haven’t done but predict this feeling for (again about moving).

Issues
-This is anything that I can’t/won’t/don’t want to do because of some issue I have, separately from whether I do or don’t like it. (Note that for a lot of these, I really don’t know how I properly feel about them, since the issues pop up before I can try to make that kind of judgment.)

On Service (Not properly, but I can’t think of a better term)

I like and desire both doing things for other people, and other people doing things for me (‘things’ here meaning quite a range of things, from writing someone a note about why one values them, to having a party on someone’s birthday, to cooking a meal someone likes or giving someone a present).

I like the latter because it’s a chance to be happy and excited, and because it makes me feel loved/liked.

I like the former because I want to show others how much I value them, and I want to make them happy.

I also have a lot of anxiety around both these things. For the former, I worry that whatever I do won’t be welcome, that I’ll be imposing, or look clingy or overbearing or whatever the word is for people who seem to be more excited about you than makes you comfortable. For the latter, I also worry about imposing, about people doing me favors and how before long this will make them too annoyed to be around me, that they’ll think I’m overly demanding and needy and too much work.

What this means is that I am happier being told what other people like having done for them, because then I know what is welcome, and am happier not telling other people what I like having done for me, because then if they do it, I feel somewhat less like they are only doing me a favor, and somewhat more like they actually want to do it.

This falls into several categories of thought for me: things where I’m not sure if they’re part of my personality or an issue I should be dealing with; double standards I have between myself and others (I have different feeling-ideas on how I should/shouldn’t act, and how I mind/don’t mind if people act toward me), compatibility-thoughts (this would make me compatible with someone who liked to tell others what they liked having done for them, and also liked to do things for others without being prompted), desire-thoughts.

But it’s true, so there we are.