Timebaum - Gotta love the little-thought-of third point of the General Sexuality Triangle. And if that isn't already a thing, I suggest you make it in an article.Feb 27, 2012Sam Keeper - It's just tricky because it's hard to decide what to include.... I'm not sure I would be up to the task of sorting it out.Feb 28, 2012 - EditSam Keeper - Especially since "Pansexual" actually doesn't fit very well into any existing scheme...Feb 28, 2012 - EditTimebaum - The way I see it, I think most people probably see the sexuality spectrum as a line, with Homosexual on one side, and Heterosexual on the other. However, I think that it's really either a triangle (with the third point being Asexual) or even a pyramid (with the fourth point being Polyamory). I don't think the 4-point Pyramid really works, though, as I don't know if Polyamory really fits in the the others. Regardless, I think the Triangle works pretty well, and it's at least an improvement.Feb 28, 2012Sam Keeper - Well, but the problem is, something like Pan functionally doesn't fit because the whole point of pansexuality is that it bases sexual attraction on nonsexual personality characteristics. Furthermore, where would you put someone that is romantically attracted to women but sexually attracted to men? They would end up occupying two different points. And yeah, poly is another possibility, as is gender expression.
I have to wonder if Kinsey didn't, in some ways, do more harm than good by passing down to us this spectrum mindset when maybe a better model would be a constellation...
Actually, that's not a bad idea. Hmmmm...
Thus began a project that would only add to my general sleep deprivation. A few snippets from the conversation struck a chord with me: the idea of mapping things on a triangular spectrum, the idea of finding a way of mapping multiple types of sexualities onto the same chart.
And, of course, there was that one word:
There seemed to be such poignant potential in that one word. Sexuality, I thought, is a beautiful thing. Why not express it as points of light in an imaginary sky? What a great way of moving past simple categorization and scientific measurement to an emotionally resonant expressive model! It's sexuality as expressed not by psychiatric medicine (no offense, Timebaum) but by artistic sentiment.
Of course, not all of this went through my mind in so many words, but it was there nevertheless. It just seemed intuitive to me. But there's an underlying logic to decisions like this that are not necessarily apparent even to the artist making the creative choices, which, I suspect, helps reinforce the myth of the magical creative moment. This is Design Lesson Number 1: Inspiration is a cognitive skill. That flash of an idea came to me because I have worked to strengthen the neural connections that support this particular problem solving heuristic. Non-artists often seem to have this idea that what we do is magical and comes from some secret place in our souls, but really all we've done is strengthened the parts of our brains that enable creative problem solving.
It also introduces Truthiness Lesson 1: Minor decisions can totally reshape our understanding of reality. All it took was Timebaum's suggestion that I add in a third point to prompt me to rethink our conception of sexuality. What if you could be somewhat bisexual but also mostly asexual? Or, to split things up further, what if you could separate other sexual characteristics? These decisions are pernicious because they are also often invisible. I suspect that if you asked someone who wasn't aware of asexuality how they would map sexuality out they would suggest a spectrum with gay at one end and straight at another. (Or straight at one end and hellbound on the other, I suppose.) It's just common sense, after all. But Kinsey made a decision, when he first described sexuality as a spectrum, to label the two ends in that way, and, with that decision, shaped what common sense was.
But enough of this intellectual drivel, let's get to the first pretty picture. Even I'm tired of my own writing by now.
|Sexuality Star Chart Version 1 (Click For Larger Version)|
For this chart, the individual would be (apparently) intersexual (note the biological sex is in the middle), slightly more male gendered, polyamorously interested in play, attraction, and romance, all slightly more interested in females and more romantically than sexually interested.
It's not a bad system, I don't think. But something about it didn't quite work for me. This is Design Lesson Number 2: Design is a method for problem solving. The problem solving aspect of art tends to be a bit overlooked in modern artistic discourse, but it's absolutely huge conceptually. I don't care how much of an inspired, creative, emotional person you are, eventually you're going to look at a piece and realize that not only doesn't it look right, you don't know how to fix it.
So, I stared at this design for a while and pondered it over, and noticed a few things:
- The stars are way too varied in their appearance. There's no unity to the piece as a whole because I've got that weird pointed thing, moons, that really large yellow circle and so on. A simple circle and a simple triangle are the major shapes in the work; I need to stick to those.
- The colors are terrible. They just look arbitrary and badly organized and bleh. There's not enough variety for it to be a balanced rainbow (a desirable scheme, considering what this chart represents) but there's too much for there to be visual unity.
- There really aren't enough stars, and they're too big. They don't look like stars, they just look like abstract symbols in a triangle. Thankfully, this can be solved by also solving the next problem:
- There's some stuff I'm missing. For one thing, gender identity isn't necessarily obvious (I don't always wear a skirt, for example) so I should add in gender expression.
But it also catapults me straight into Truthiness Lesson 2: When you lock into a particular model, you blind yourself to what you have excluded. This is true in two ways. First, you blind yourself potentially to people whose needs are different from your own. The lack of unity is ugly, there's no denying it, but it does accomplish one thing:
It makes the chart readable to people who are colorblind.
And that actually didn't even occur to me until I started writing the article. This is a great example of how I became blind, through my design strategies, to the needs of others. And while I think there's some validity to the argument that you can't design based on every single person's needs, my point isn't that I should redesign the piece to be useable to the colorblind, or the blind, or what have you, but that I should have at least made the choice consciously. And, thinking back, that was one of my reasons for designing the chart the way I did originally, but somewhere along the several days of creation I forgot that I had made that choice.
What's more, as I wrapped up this first draft, I happened to run into a friend of mine that's interested in analysis of gender roles and sexuality. I asked this person what else I might include as part of sexuality.
"What age group a person is attracted to."
I was flummoxed. That had never occurred to me. Age attraction is just something that's taken as either normal or not normal--common sense, again. And, I was locked into a chart design that really couldn't effectively incorporate that information. The model I had decided upon, combined with cultural assumptions, had totally blinded me to a whole area of sexuality.
The chart also can't account for: causes of attraction (there's no difference between bisexuality and pansexuality), kinks and fetishes, domination or submission preferences, where you prefer to be touched, how hard, and so on. Again, my point is not that I should have found a way to model all of these--that would probably be impossible, or at least it would be really ugly and cluttered looking. My point is that what I chose to map was largely arbitrary and no more fundamental, in some cases, to aspects of sexuality that I excluded from the star chart. But again, once I was locked into the chart design I was blind to what I had left out.
These stunning failures aside, I slogged forward through the murky marsh of graphic design, and turned out this:
|Sexuality Star Chart Version 2|
It also now includes both interest in forming friendships, and gender expression, which helps fill the chart out a bit more and helps potentially clarify some of the person's sexual nature a bit more. (Incidentally, yes, this is a real person's chart, and no, I'm not telling you who.)
Just for fun, here's mine. I'm sexually the big dipper!
|Sexuality Star Chart Version 2 B|
None of this is a definite, last word sort of thing. It's a snapshot of how I was feeling about these issues as I put the chart together--kinda like how our labels of straight, gay, bisexual, asexual and so on can change over time, despite their definite biological basis. The definitions and our understanding of them change, and that is enough to change our understanding of reality. This chart might be a good way of exploring that, so long as people don't start adopting it like some sort of badge that defines them forevermore.
And, of course, that leads me to Design Lesson Number 3: There Will Always Be Something More To Do. Call it the perfectionist impulse. Once you're used to thinking of work in terms of problem solving and analysis, it's really easy to fall into a perfectionist model of behavior. I can think of a number of clever ways to make this
- Lines indicating direction of influence, so interest in friendship could point to physical attraction to indicate a genderqueer disposition, and so on
- An interactive version built in Flash (possibly with the help of guest contributor Ian?) that I could upload for people to play with
- Some sort of, I don't know, orbit line thing for age ranges or...
Although, every once in a while you just get an idea so good that you have to try it out.
What, after all, does a map of space naturally include?
|PEW PEW! PEWPEWPEW!|
Lesson Number 0: Creativity is just a form of madness that has been put to a constructive purpose.
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