Written by Jessie Sage, originally published in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
In my line of work, I get asked a lot of questions about my sexual preferences and history and most of them don’t bother me. Except for one: What are you into?
This question isn’t unique to my work; I remember when I did more online dating I got the same question from potential dates prior to even meeting.
If pressed, I could come up with lists of things I am into and things I’m not. I’ll try now: I’m into sensual touches, holding hands, forehead kisses, oral, squirting, fisting, anal, and ass worship. I’m not into face-fucking, deepthroating, facials (let’s be real, anything to do with my face), and pain.
And then there are things that I could take or leave. Face-sitting comes to mind (doing the sitting of course, I do not like my face covered). Perhaps I should also include bondage or other light BDSM practices. I think being tied up or spanked can be fun in the right context, but I literally never think about either unless a partner brings them up.
The problem, however, is that while I was creating the above list, I was qualifying every single item. I am not, per se, into pain or anything having to do with my face, but I remember a deeply intimate night when a partner smacked my face over and over until I cried and then came.
Conversely, I generally love anal, but I once went on a date with someone who begged me for it. The begging sounded like this, “Come on baby, I want it sooo bad.” Not only was this totally unappealing (honestly, even thinking back on it gives me the heebie-jeebies), but I was annoyed that he would ask — repeatedly, no less — on a first date. Do I like anal? Yes. Did I want to do it with this guy at that moment? Absolutely not.Similarly, while I love receiving oral, I was once at a play party and overheard a man I only tangentially know suggest to his girlfriend, “Let’s both go down on Jessie.” I stopped everything I was doing to say that this was never going to happen. I love oral, but not by just anyone!
And herein lies the crux of the issue. Thinking about sex as a catalogue of discrete acts that you either like or dislike takes away the relational aspect of sex. There are a lot of things that I can imagine liking in abstraction, but chemistry with any particular partner is complicated.
Something that I love with one person can be a total flop with another. And something that I have little interest in can become really exciting with the right partner. What’s more, lining up catalogue items with a new partner and doing the things that you both express interest in is no guarantee that your sex will be good or satisfying. And it perhaps narrows possibilities of what you will explore together.
I can be into a lot of things, but only in the right context. So to go back to the original question: What am I into? A genuine connection with partners who explore pleasure with openness, curiosity, and honesty. Specific sex acts are the least interesting part of sex.
Jessie Sage is a sex worker and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s also the co-founder of Peepshow Magazine and the co-host of the Peepshow Podcast. Her words can be found in the Washington Post, VICE’s Motherboard, Hustler Magazine, Men’s Health, BuzzFeed, and more. She’s currently writing a book on sex work, motherhood, and illness called An Unexpected Place (forthcoming on West Virginia University Press).