Ego-Centric Sexuality


Ego-Centric SexualityLast week, in the style of the wonderful Cunning Minx, I wrote myself a User Manual. The basic idea of the user manual is that you write about your emotional and sexual turn ons, your turn offs, your background and family history, basically anything that effects the way you interact with people; particularly things that are likely to bring you closer to someone you’re dating. It’s a great idea, and even if you don’t want to show it to potential dates, I found the experience quite self-revelatory.

The final section of the user manual is about turn offs, and writing this particular section got me thinking. One of my biggest turn offs is hearing about other peoples’ sex lives. I used to think this was to do with jealousy – and there may still be an element of that – or rather I used to dismiss it as jealousy, but as I wrote my list, instead of making assumptions about why I wanted to put this subject out there, I took a moment to really think about it.

The thing is, in terms of the sex my partners have with my metamours, yes, there may be an edge of envy at the very least, the type that just isn’t worth sparking; I don’t need to know what the man I love does in bed with his wife. That is just unnecessary and potentially disruptive information. However, jealousy or envy are not the root here (and as I’ve written several times before, I’m working on those emotions anyway). The truth is, I don’t have that much interest in anyone’s sex life unless it involves me. And that includes the couples I sleep with; their sex lives pretty much only interest me when I’m there too.

I feel kind of bad saying that: my sexuality is so ego-centric, that unless I’m involved in the sex, I find it rather dull.

Yes I still watch and enjoy porn, but in that situation I tend to project myself into the scene, and if I can’t, I tend to switch and watch something else. Erotica is different because when I read sex, I am more interested in it literarily than I am sexually; particularly as – and, oh my but this is a big omission for an erotic fiction author and occasional sex blogger – I don’t read it for the sex. (I read it for the eroticism.)

I’m speaking in generalities, of course; (but I think I’m allowed to when it’s about myself, right?). Of course I have heard stories about real-life-sex that aroused me, or read erotica where the sex really turned me on. But generally, most of the time, I just find it dull.

So what does this have to do with non-monogamy? Well, a lot of the non-monogamy that I see role-modeled is very openly and sexually expressive, as well as appreciative. Many of the non-monogamous (or even just sex-positive) people I know take a great deal of pleasure from hearing about each others’ escapades: there is a reason why sexually explicit blogs can become so popular; and I don’t by any means wish to undermine or challenge that. I think it’s wonderful to be able to share our sexualities and have them appreciated in a variety of different ways.

This does, however, leave me with a slight dilemma, or at least in a position of uncertainty. In such a sexually progressive community, I think we all try and push for the idea that no matter how your sexuality manifests it’s okay, so long as there is consent. We can play out rape fantasies, and we can engage in watersports, and participate in any number of activities which, to many, may be somewhat taboo. From this point of view, I don’t feel all that guilty about saying that in certain respects, my sexuality is very selfish; or at least ego-centric. I think I can allow myself that.

However, it does somewhat jar with my desire to achieve compersion. Or does it? If my partners’ happiness with my metamours makes me happy, is that compersion? Or does it need to go deeper? Do I need to find appreciation for the details of my partners’ other relationships? Perhaps in an ideal world I would be happy about all the little details?

In the end, I seem to be left with many questions, but particularly: where should we draw the line on the indulgences we allow ourselves, and what self-truths just need to be reassessed?


Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.


  1. I think that you’re (and others in this situation) are dealing with can be compartmentalized into two distinct boxes – wanting to hear about your partners’ / others’ sex lives, and being turned on by that.

    As far as the former goes, I personally feel this is a stage of growth that most people go through that are at your point in life. (Not so much an age, but a set of circumstances – sexual exploration without the “fear” of parents/partners/others questioning your choices, learning your own likes and dislikes, connecting with others who are more experienced, etc. You and I coincidentally seem to have hit this stage around the same chronological age.) I do think that it is rooted in jealousy, both in the fact that your lover is with another, and that your lover & the other(s) are past this stage while you are not. It is ego-centric, but it’s also a stage of development that is quite expected. You will get past it, if you choose to work on it as you say you are. Others don’t and are stuck, as I’m sure you’ve come across in life.

    The second is just sexual preference – some people don’t get off on this sort of thing unless they are directly involved. Think of it this way. I enjoy watching someone cook a roast lamb dinner – preparing it, making the trimmings, cutting it up and serving it. But if you put the plate in front of me to eat, I’d politely say “no thank you”. You can enjoy and appreciate something without being sexually aroused by it – even sex itself.

    • I think you’re completely right that anything that’s being sparked by jealousy would really benefit from some growth and examination. Reading this back I actually do sweep things under the rug there – “I don’t need to know what the man I love does in bed with his wife. That is just unnecessary and potentially disruptive information.” – in a way I don’t actually agree with. I don’t think it’s okay to just deny that stuff and forget out it. Eventually, that’s something I want to face and deal with.

      And there is a good chance that “I find this dull” is a learned reaction I have developed in order to cope with jealousy. But I have to say that’s not how I usually react when I feel envious or jealous. My reactions are usually very violent (within me; they don’t make me violent, haha) and very emotional. This strange apathy is much calmer! And you know, the thing is that when it comes to sex, what I’m interested in is the larger socio-political picture and the immediate personal experience. And I don’t feel a great drive to make an effort to be interested in other peoples’ personal experiences; although I do enjoy it when I find a natural interest in others’ experiences.

      It’s tricky, but I’m really glad I wrote this, and thank you so much for responding. It’s still making me think.

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