A British interviewer of a certain age ran afoul of the Guardians of the Problematic not so very long ago by saying that whenever he was speaking with attractive women, he was very likely to be considering in a part of his mind what she'd be like as a lover, or what an affair with her would be like. I read the on-line attacks on him by the usual crowd of ranting moralizers and gender warriors and just threw up my hands. It did no good to ask if these people were fools, since they so obviously were, but I had once again to wonder how it had come to this.
I for one have never partitioned my thoughts about speculative desire. I have to be very open about that. If I'm talking to a lovely girl, I'm flirting, even if it's just pro forma. When I meet an attractive girl, or if I see her walk into a room or an office or a club, I am constructing a story in my head about what it would be like to have a romance with her, what it would be like to take her to bed.
There's a difference between that and leering. There is. One needn't be staring or drooling. But in some part of my mind, whatever else I may be doing, I am telling myself stories in my head about how the girl and I would meet, about what we'd do out for drinks and dinner, about what where we'd travel and how we'd flirt and what we'd do in bed. I can be lecturing to classes or working over documents with a client or reading in a cafe, but I am telling stories in my head and imagining what conversations would be like. Yes, of course, I wonder about what her key sexual skills are, certainly, but I'm also constructing dialogues and trying to puzzle out what interests we'd share.
Sometimes I know there's a kind of self-imposed melancholy there: Isn't it lovely to think so? Or sighing for what have might been even more than thinking about how to actually take the girl out or take her to bed.
In any case, I can't imagine ever not creating stories. I can't ever imagine ever not feeling desire when I see or talk to someone attractive. I can't imagine not flirting a bit when I talk to someone attractive. It's really not possible for me to not imagine some kind of sexual tinge to how I interact with someone attractive. Just as with the British newscaster, even if I go on to be completely professional in a meeting, the attraction, the interest, the stories will have been there.
After all, why shouldn't those things have been there? Why do we find it so horrifying that we (and here I'm using "we" to mean "males", since those attacked for the sin are inevitably male) experience desire or speculate about what-might-have-been? Why is there the presumption that someone (meaning someone female) doesn't know that others will find her desirable and/or will be appalled and horrified at the thought? Why is it so hard to recognize that desire exists and that a certain well-controlled, often unspoken, sexual tension is likely to be in the air? Importantly--- why do we think that sexual desire or tension obliterates everything else? Why is it so difficult to imagine a certain amount of speculative or fleeting desire as just one more possible element of social encounters? Why does being desired seem to be taken as having everything else in one's life erased?
I suppose I'm asking why it seems to be so hard to imagine people as doing or being more than one thing. And why the culture has become so desperately afraid of sexual desire. It is funny, though--- sex as an act can still be assimilated to the category of "intimacy", but the desire behind it and the imagination fueling it are regarded as part of some category of oppression and power. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?