Friendship and its boundless possibilities
Article by Caro Desmartin
Illustration by Qianhui Yu
Relationships are multiple and elastic. Whether they are romantic, friendly or sexual, I like to picture them as colourful. Undulating from a situation to another, from a person to another, from a summer to another, from a feeling to another, this type of fluidity is often used to describe romantic or sexual relationships: polyamory, open relationship, one night stands… But very rarely when comes the time to describe friendships.
It can revolve around sex once in a while and a lot of friendship – and sometimes, the center of gravity shifts. Sometimes, it’ll become a romantic relationship, without it becoming a “couple” as society defines it; it’s more fluid and open. We’re far from the binary “we’re either a couple or friends” here. It’s a kind of intimacy between two persons who have started deconstructing the dominant relationship models from their personal sexuality.
[For me,] sexual friendships are meant to be fun, caring, with deep connections and respect, without forgetting to share social or cultural activities. It’s allowing ourselves to explore our desires and our sexuality together when we feel like it, while looking after each other’s sexual wellness. Sex is not strictly reserved for couples or one night stands.
To summarize, a sexual friendship is when intimacy and friendship are lived in a more imaginative and fluid way, far from the normative scripts society wants to impose on us. It’s a sidestep from what friendship should or shouldn’t be. Sex then becomes a complementary way to connect with a friend. Once you already have emotional intimacy with someone who saw you being vulnerable and who knows you like you are, without any makeup or masquerade, it allows you to move away from traditional seduction dynamics. Indeed, we often change to please, whereas our full self is the cutest of all. Being true to yourself is stronger than anything.
In this context, is there anything sweeter than intimate exchanges with a person who constitutes a safe space? A person with whom we can talk about our fears and anxieties; a person with whom we can be fully transparent. Because a friend will always look at us as a whole, with all the caring in the world; it is the foundation of a friendship after all.
It’s also refreshing to let ourselves be carried by the spontaneous evolutions of our relations, without any predefined agenda. Only going with the flow of our feelings and stopping trying to plan ahead and feeling the pressure of what’ll happen in 6 months. Not preventing ourselves from living what we want to explore, as long as it is in consent and communication. And being comfortable with what we can’t master, while recognizing desire. Because hey, when it’s there, it’s there.
It pushes us to be transparent with ourselves and with others and to really reflect on what we want or not. This kind of sexual friendship requires nurturing to make sure both are always on the same wavelength, as it will change and evolve, like a human living several mini-metamorphosis.
What’s amazing is that it creates an environment where we can truly and freely explore where our friendships can be taken. Thomas Roach, a Professor of philosophy and cultural studies at Bryant University, summarizes this in his book Friendship as a way of life: “Friendship is formless, amoeba1 -like, and can be invented from A to Z. Unlike romantic relationships and marriage — which are overburdened with cis-hetero courtship rituals and scripts — friendship is ours to create. And queers have been incredibly innovative in this regard!”. This decoupling of our relationships is frankly remarkable. Because what could be more exciting than inventing our own set of rules that give us the opportunity to joyfully discover new facets of ourselves along the way?
1 An amoeba is a living organism composed of just one unique cell; it is shapeless and can shift shapes indefinitely.
Caro writes about the intimate and the invisible in relationships to bring new cultural models and narratives to light. She calls this her imagination duty. With as many ideas for subjects as the number of tabs open on her computer, she is fueled by her background in creative agency, where her brain is on fire when it comes to decoding social trends. She wants to tell the stories that exist between the possibilities - the ones that are hushed up and rarely told. Now a member of the board of the Sexu Club, she is a part of the organization's mission to promote positive, inclusive, and un-complexed sexuality education.