So, when I first heard the term sex-favorable, I thought it was great – I knew of a couple people who had long felt that they were something other than just indifferent, but that never had a good way to describe that. It seemed like a nice way to round out our terminology – sex averse/repulsed for the folks who can’t stand the idea, sex-indifferent for the types who are kinda “meh” about it, and sex-favorable for the folks that actually are kinda interested.
Unfortunately, over the last few weeks that hasn’t been how things have played out, in part I think to a bit of a misunderstanding over what “sex-indifferent” actually means. See, what’s happened with sex-favorable is that instead of being used to describe those who felt positively about sex enough that indifferent didn’t work for them, it’s recently been used to simply replace the term indifferent to create a more drastic averse-favorable binary that’s just missing the point.
See, it’s not about “liking sex” vs. “not liking sex”. A lot of people I think hear “oh, you aren’t averse to sex? that means you like it which means you want it!” But that’s not really how it works.
I like metaphors, so let’s try one: Instead of talking about aversion/indifference/favorability of sex, let’s talk about cleaning toilets.*
(* of course, this metaphor doesn’t align perfectly because non-consensual toilet cleaning is nowhere near as bad as non-consensual sex, and unlike avoiding sex avoiding cleaning your bathroom can actually have negative consequences on your health and happiness. But I hope that it can still explain things a bit).
See, there are some people I know who absolutely hate the idea of cleaning toilets. Like, the thought of having to touch a toilet with their hands or even go near one for anything other than excreting waste just grosses them out. Or maybe they don’t object to the toilet itself, but maybe the smell of cleaning products makes them gag. But for whatever reason, these people would almost never willingly agree to clean a toilet under any circumstances. You could perhaps describes these people as “averse” or “repulsed” by toilet cleaning.
Then, on the other hand, there are people like me who don’t really mind. Like, it’s not fun, but we can see that it has certain benefits, like having a clean bathroom, that are useful. And when I do decide to clean the bathroom, there’s no instinctual revulsion or anything that I have to deal with. Like, it involves weird smelling chemicals and some elbow grease and other unpleasant things, but nothing that bothers that much in the overall scale of things. Let’s call these people “indifferent” to toilet cleaning
And then, on the theoretical other end of the scale, there’s probably some people who are actually kinda into cleaning bathrooms. Maybe they have like a porcelain kink or something, or maybe they just find the routine of cleaning things a good form of stress-relief. These people could maybe be described as “favorable” towards the act of toilet cleaning.
Still, let’s note some things. First, the fact that I am not repulsed by the idea of cleaning toilets doesn’t mean that I’m automatically going to say yes if someone asks me to clean a toilet. Like, if someone comes up to me and says “hey, wanna clean my toilet?” I’d laugh in their face. Heck, even if one of my close friends comes and pleads for me to help clean their toilet, I’m still probably not going to. See, even when you’re indifferent to something, you’re still not going to do it unless the benefits are greater than the costs. Cleaning toilets involves missing out on other things I could be doing, it requires energy that makes me tired, etc. so I’m only going to do I if there’s some reason I think I’ll benefit.
So to exit from the metaphor, being sex-indifferent (or sex-favorable, for that matter), doesn’t mean you’re going to say yes to sex – now, or maybe ever. It just means that if the right circumstances arose, you might be comfortable considering it. It does not mean that you’re automatically willing to have sex with a romantic partner, or that you would ever be automatically open to anything.
Also, from a historical perspective, words like “indifferent” and “averse” were meant to be less about your willingness to do certain acts than they were about your comfort level around certain things. At least, when I first encountered the terms on AVEN, they were often used much more broadly to describe things like not just dis/comfort with having sex but also various levels of dis/comfort with things like talking about sex, or watching sexually charged movie scenes, etc. And just being “averse” or “indifferent” didn’t really say anything about how you would choose to act in certain circumstances – for example, there are some people who consider themselves sex-averse or sex-repulsed who may decide that some level of sexual activity has, in their view, more benefits than costs, and may choose (for whatever reason) to engage in certain things, even if they might be uncomfortable with them – while on the other hand a person who feels more indifferent may nevertheless decide that for them, the costs aren’t worth the benefits.
Unfortunately, it seems like these definitions are being lost now – “indifference” has been extremely warped where it hasn’t been completely erased, and that “averse” and “favorable” have been bastardized into shorthand for “would you be willing to have sex with a partner”, which for people like me has never been what they were meant to mean. And at this point, I’m still wondering if those originally meanings can be reclaimed or if the concept has just been too far warped.