Around 18 months ago, I was asked if I was familiar with the word roue, the implication being it could apply to me. I was not familiar with it, and on hearing the definition laughed out loud, enjoying a brief moment of pride.
So, dictionary definition:
"roue" . . ."a dissolute and licentious, [. . .] lecherous dissipated male"
And, re-defined by the Marquis de Sade as a certain kind of woman, an older, cynical, prostitute* woman. Nice.
So why did I laugh? Because if it implies that reaching a state of dissipated licentiousness is the result of long service in the field of sexual and romantic relations and a few brushes with moral laxity, then yes, I'll take the label. Or maybe I laughed because I am, indeed, une grande roue.
My sex life is 25 years old this year. I have frittered away much of the currency there is to be earned by choosing carefully when to put out, and in exchange I've gained a lot of empirical evidence of what men of my generation think about sex, and women. I have many anecdotes and have learnt a few tricks myself. I have enough experience to expound a few theories on sex and gender and how we go about things as men and women. I've done this in my head, on stage, across pub tables and, the worst crowd, at middle class dinner parties. I've also made it very hard for myself to play the game.
Rather than stress about this, I invented a new game, I’ve rewritten the rules of engagement if you like. I moved from gathering evidence to testing it. We live in an age of sexual tourism and that includes the way we drift in and out of each others lives and bodies. And so I have spent the last 5 years on a non-girlfriend tour of duty, through 5 lovers and half a boyfriend (I fell into it). I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned for example, that sex is powerful but our attitudes to and desire for it are largely based on it just being very nice, comforting and for some, definitely worthy of addiction. It is also intense and historically private and so, anarchic and subversive. That's why it has to be regulated and constrained in the contexts of romantic love, fidelity and public health, because it feels so good and because it is also especially in the 3rd context, hazardous. I think this leads to many relationships being veiled in lies and fraught with danger, which is emotionally exhausting and character draining. It’s a life played out according to some faded social blueprint for control. Familiarity can breed contempt, sex can make us think we are closer than we are. I suspect still more so for women than for men. So, I’d rather stay non-girlfriend until I work this imbalance out, I cannot simply accept this is ‘how it is’.
Please keep looking, and please, as dark as it gets, keep laughing.
* I'd like to state for the record, so far my roue existence has not resulted in the exchange of hard cash. Hard drugs in my younger years maybe, but never hard cash. I'd have made a fortune.