I Do Not Understand This Cuddling You Speak Of
As a person who moves primarily among significantly younger people, and dates exclusively younger people (I’m a Lifestyle Cougar) I sometimes come up against things I simply don’t understand.
Like the whole thing where “anal sex isn’t really sex” and “oral sex isn’t really sex”. In 2007, only 20% of almost 500 college students in a University of Kentucky study said oral sex was sex. Or the idea that oral sex is less intimate than penis/vaginal sex.
I disagree strongly with all those ideas; I personally define any experience that involves mutual genital stimulation as a form of sex, and anal sex as a much more serious, responsible form of sex (because of the way it requires so much negotiation, patience and lube, and because of the greater risk of STI transmission through rectal tearing) than PIV sex. Yet a recent boyfriend (16 years my junior) had anal sex before he ever had PIV sex. As I continue to date 27-year-olds, and their birthdates edge closer to the late '80s, I expect to encounter more of this.
I don’t understand oral sex being considered less intimate or “safer” than PIV sex; my experience of young people is that they are quite ready to go down on me without asking my HIV status (frequently tested, thanks!) or suggesting a dental dam even though vaginal and cervical secretions do contain sometimes enough viral load to be infectious and there are a few recorded cases of HIV transmissions through oral sex. “Low-risk” is good enough for them.
Back in the day, pre-HIV, we considered oral sex much more intimate than fucking—fucking was something you did with people you met at a bar in the East Village, on a table in the bar in the East Village, without exchanging names—oral sex was what you did with the people you loved. Even today, I find it much harder to feel comfortable with a new lover performing oral sex on me than I do with fucking them. It feels invasive sometimes, or to use a Victorian notion, rather “forward”.
So clearly, my ideas about intimacy are sometimes at odds with those of my lovers and younger friends. This was demonstrated to me again when I experimented with the concept of “cuddling” and “Cuddle Buddies” as espoused by twenty-somethings.
Not just the “Cuddle Party” concept, which has been floating around since the ‘90s, but the idea of deliberately deciding to spend a night in bed cuddling with someone in a purely affectionate, non-sexual way.
So earlier this year I had a very confusing experience with “cuddling”.
There was a boy, as there always is, this one some fourteen years younger than me; my nearly infallible radar indicated that he was interested in me. I started spending time with him and working on a portrait of him. We went out to dinner; he paid. I came over to his apartment in the evenings to paint; I brought Chocolatier Blue caramels and fed them to him while he posed on a chaise, he cooked me meals, we had wide-ranging conversations and listened to Sisters of Mercy. He got a texting plan on his phone, as boys who communicate regularly with me always wind up doing.
This went on for several weeks. One night we finished painting even later than usual, and I asked if I could stay over. He said he’d like that, and without further discussion he welcomed me into his bed. We snuggled up together and cuddled; I was quite willing to take it slow and respect his boundaries and I’ve grown accustomed to these young guys not giving it up right away. So there was cuddling and I petted him and...then we went to sleep. It was horribly sexually frustrating; I wanted that boy very badly. He knew I wanted him badly, because I’d told him so. Politely, several times. But, okay. A few nights later, I stayed over again. More cuddling, more petting him—and I said very reasonably, “I would like very much to kiss you.” “I don’t know what I want”, he said. Okay, respected his boundaries, went to sleep. In my world, I-don’t-know is NO.