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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Relationships: Intimacy, Sexuality, and Identity – A Self-Assessment Test (2010)

[I felt encouraged to come up with this by a comment I made about consent in a recent article on @news - so I feel it has relevance! BTW - No need to post the results, but commentary on what you think the results reveal may be interesting]Relationships: Intimacy, Sexuality, and Identity – A Self-Assessment Test (created by me)
Step 1:
What personality traits or characteristics do you prefer for people in your life, to varying degrees? These 4 categories represent how intimate you prefer to be with people: do you want to keep them at the distance of an acquaintance, involve them in your social life, include them in your personal life, or spend as many days a week with them as you can? The five subcategories represent how you evaluate these people in your life: Ideal, Preferable, Neutral, Detestable, Anathema.
Example – an Ideal trait for someone in your social life may be their sense of humor, a preferable trait for an acquaintance may be compatibility of interests, a neutral trait for someone in your personal life may be their sex or gender, a detestable trait for someone in your daily life may be their hygienic habits, or an anathema for someone no matter how close you get to them may be whether they are authoritarians. You may find that some of these traits persist despite how intimate you prefer to be with someone, or you may find that they change with the level of intimacy. You also may find that your Ideal is the same for every category but what you find Detestable changes.
Give it a shot!
Acquaintances: People you like to know or don't mind knowing
Ideal:
Preferable:
Neutral:
Detestable:
Anathema:
Social Life: People you like to maintain enough contact with for your social life
Ideal:
Preferable:
Neutral:
Detestable:
Anathema:
Personal Life: People you like to be involved with in your personal life
Ideal:
Preferable:
Neutral:
Detestable:
Anathema:
Daily Life: People you would like to be a part of your everyday life
Ideal:
Preferable:
Neutral:
Detestable:
Anathema:
Step 2:
Sexual Intimacy:
What categories are you comfortable having sexual interactions with the people in? This may be a measure of a preference for polyandry, monogamy, etc.
Step 3:
Sexuality
I believe that by filling in the answers to these questions, one can get a much better grasp on their sexuality than what is offered by gender analysis or other theories of sexual attraction. There are different reasons for why we are attracted to people, how much we want those people involved in our lives, and why we find some people to be more sexually attractive than others. For instance, someone may be perfectly comfortable having sex with acquaintances so long as their detestable and anathema qualities do not over-ride the qualities they are neutral about, prefer, or find ideal. On the other hand, someone else may not feel comfortable having sex with someone who they wouldn't also feel comfortable sharing their everyday life with. Some people may have totally different standards for their acquaintances than for the people in their social life. Other people might have the same standards for people no matter how involved they are in their life.
In other words, our standards are subject to change depending on the amount of intimacy we want to share with each other. Our standards may even change over time. Along with all of this complexity, our sexual preferences may change on the scale of intimacy as well. Not only that, but our relationship to sex itself may change: ten years ago we may have placed a very high value on whether or not we were having sex; today we may place a very low value on whether or not we are having sex. We change our preferences for what we find to be sexually attractive as much as we change our preferences for what we find attractive for acquaintances, social companions, friends, and living partners. As all of these things are subject to change, so is our sexuality. It is my opinion that whether we prefer a penis or a vagina (or both equally, or unequally but still prefer both) barely scratches the surface of what our sexuality really is, but of what all of our relationships really are.
Beyond just a simple way to evaluate these sort of preferences we have, these preferences are also a clue to our identities. If we find racists to be utter anathema at any level of intimacy and find anarchists to be ideal at any level of intimacy, that could go a long way in defining a large part of the identity we often see ourselves through. At the same time, if our sex (and our sexuality) is something that we place a very high value on, then despite our sexual preferences we may form identities that are predominantly sexual identities. As an example, I can be “bi-sexual” without giving it a second thought and without those preferences to factor highly into my identity. With others, being “bi-sexual” may be an enormous factor in their identity; determining what the traits and characteristics are they find ideal at every level of intimacy.
Surely, filling this out and thinking about it is still a simplification of many things about how and why we relate to the people that we do. But, I think that it goes at least a few steps further than many of the concepts people use to explain their relationships, sexuality, and identities.
So...
Sexual Partners: people who you would prefer to have some sort of sexual interactions with. There is no reason why the traits/characteristics filled in need to be particularly profound or superficial. For the sake of self-knowledge, if you like blue eyes then put it in as a preference... if your ideal is someone with two different color eyes, put it in. If you think some characteristic would make someone a bad bed partner, put it in the detestable category. If you hate STI's, that may just be anathema for you!
Ideal:
Preferable:
Neutral:
Detestable:
Anathema:
Comparing the variables in this category to the above should reveal a number of things... which in filling this out would be intuitive. Comparing what you fill in for the variables and where on the "intimacy scale" the question of sex at all falls could tell you about some of your prejudices, inconsistencies, difficulties, etc. But, overall your tastes.
Step 5:
Yourself: The final, and probably the most telling category would be the aspects that you fill in for these five variables in relationship to yourself
Ideal:
Preferable:
Neutral:
Detestable:
Anathema:
Overall, this should expose double-standards and other such things when compared to the other steps. After analyzing all of the ways in which these different preferences interact with each other, one would presumably understand themselves much better: why they find some people attractive for X reason, but not Y reason; why they find some people sexually attractive but don't feel comfortable with the social norms of how intimate they should be with someone for sexuality; how much sex is an emphasis in their lives at this time; and possibly many other insights.

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