Dusty*, 24 & Clementine*, 20
Dusty and Clementine (not their real names) have been in a non-monogamous relationship for one year.
Quality of sex overall: 10/10
Frequency of sex: 6.5/10
Intimacy levels: 9/10
How do you feel generally about the people you fuck: 9/10
How happy are you with the amount of time you have for sex: 9/10
VICE: Your scores are all pretty high as it is – what would have pushed them all to a solid 10?
Dusty: They would have been higher, but we talked about it, and if we were just having sex with each other they would have been 10 out of 10 for everything. Our hookups bring down the average.
Clementine: Yeah, the sex we have with each other is really good, but the sex we have with other people, separately, it doesn’t compare.
So sex is more hit and miss with other people?
D: We’re non-monogamous, and we don’t really have any rules other than making sure that there’s always complete transparency and communication. But I still don’t have sex with many people outside our relationship. Obviously we’re in lockdown [in New Zealand], but before that I’ve only ever had a couple of hookups, and one of them was OK and the other was pretty shit.
D: I feel like quality of sex in a relationship comes down to the communication between the involved parties, and trust.
C: We’re quite good at communicating and talking through stuff, and that’s why we have good sex. I haven’t had many hookups outside of our relationship, though.
What’s your experience with non-monogamy been like?
D: I've had a bit of experience with doing non-monogamy before we were together, and I had quite low self esteem and that did affect my relationships. But since we've been together – I mean, for me, for the most part I don't feel like the relationships or hiccups I have outside of our relationship affect our relationship negatively.
Has the lockdown changed your relationship?
D: We’ve just moved in together, so it’s new for us to be spending 24/7 together. You know, neither of us can even leave to go to university.
C: It actually hasn’t been bad, we haven’t fought.
Has moving in together changed your sex life?
C: It’s harder, because we have other flatmates, and because of lockdown everyone is home most of the time. So we have to make sure we're really quiet, which is really hard for me. I used to think I was really quiet during sex, but it's just because I was having really bad sex. Now that I’m having good sex, the only time we can really let go is when no one is here.
So you’re having sex less frequently than you were before?
D: We actually used have sex more often. But in the past month my sex drive has changed a lot. I was on testosterone for the past year and a bit. Then, a couple of months ago, I decided I didn't want to be on testosterone anymore, because I’d gotten all the changes from it that I wanted. I'm a lot more comfortable with my body now than I was pre-transition. But it has been a big hormonal adjustment for me, and my physical, emotional and mental wellbeing have changed quite a bit, so now I have a different relationship with myself and how much I want sex. Sex hasn't gotten worse, it’s just I don’t feel like having sex as much, and I do most of the initiating between us. Before, every day – like, minimum – I would initiate sex. But now it's like a few times a week.
How has that adjustment been for you, Clementine?
C: It’s OK. I don’t initiate sex that often, purely because I don’t think about it as much. When Dusty was on testosterone, I thought [sex] was something that they thought about quite often. I’m on testosterone myself, and I have been for about two years, but I don’t initiate sex as much because of my autism.
D: It’s interesting – a few weeks back we were talking about how desire manifests. When I was on testosterone it would be more of me imagining the things I would want to do to someone sexually. Since coming off testosterone, that’s changed, and that's no longer how I experienced desire. I'm just not as visual. That’s how Clementine feels all the time.
Has transitioning changed the way you view sex?
D: I think before I went on testosterone in the first place, I was so uncomfortable in my own sexuality because I was so uncomfortable in my body. Then, after a while on testosterone – and I also got top surgery – I was way more comfortable with my body.
C: I didn’t grow up in an environment where sex and sexuality were OK things to talk about – it was very taboo – and I didn’t really receive sex education in high school. So on top of being trans, I didn't know what sex was supposed to be like, or what I wanted from it. I was really uncomfortable in my own body and just didn't feel comfortable exploring what felt good for me. I think that starting testosterone and having my body change to how it is now… with my chest, I haven’t got top surgery, but pre-testosterone I couldn’t look at myself naked at all. I got to the point where I didn’t know what I looked like naked because it made me so dysphoric to look at myself, whereas now that I'm a lot more hairy everywhere, I feel comfortable looking at myself naked and I really like my body because it looks how I think it should. I’m going to get top surgery soon, so it will be interesting to see how that changes post-surgery too.
Do you think your outlook on sex and sexuality will be ever-changing?
D: Clementine has invisible disabilities. They have chronic fatigue syndrome, so looking at them, you wouldn’t be like, ‘They’re disabled.’ But it's really affected their experience of sexuality.
C: Yeah, I ignored that I had several disabilities that impacted things like my mobility and my energy levels. For years, I basically tried to appear as not disabled as possible. It’s impossible, and also really bad. It’s the main reason my health got really bad earlier this year, because I’d been doing that for so long. In the last couple of months, I’ve had to come to terms and accept that I actually am disabled and need to use mobility aids and things like that. So part of that has been having conversations about how it affects our sex life, or how things we do during sex aren’t accessible for me. There are things that I want to do, but physically can’t because of my disabilities.
What about with hook-ups?
C: I've only hooked up with one person where I've actively been like, “I can't do this position.” But even on dating apps, when I wouldn’t talk about my disability or have photos of myself with my mobility aids, people would find me a lot more attractive and I’d get more matches. I’m still not that open about it on dating apps – like, I don't need to put a disclaimer in my Tinder bio listing what I have. It’s not a defining thing about me. I’m posting photos of myself on Tinder with my mobility aids because this is just what I look like.
Interviews are edited for length and clarity.
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