Always wearing lingerie is banal
A pretty common pattern for people is to have lots of sex in the beginning of relationships when they first realize “Oh, I really like this person.” Good for them!
A period that sometimes follows this “hair-trigger passion” phase, is the steady normalization of intense intimacy. Walking around the house naked, even if you don’t normally do that. Sleeping naked. Leaning-into idiosyncratic slang of the couple. Taking showers together, even if the shower space is small. Making a point of sharing food, plates, cups.
It’s a kind of subversion of relationships with well-understood boundaries. It’s a moment where many couples say to themselves, simultaneously, “Hey, this is our space and I want to eat cake every day, in every possible way.”
And you can. Most of the time, though, it stops hitting the same. Your brain encodes your lover’s naked body as just another outfit they wear—you still love them, but it doesn’t arouse you so much as feel like normality, because it’s been priced into your background predictions.
With nowhere else to open-up to, many couples lower what counts as good and cute and right. People get less cutesy with each other, while maintaing their rose-colored view of things. They lower their standards, as a means of capturing the emotion evoked by the disparity between the performed behavior of their partner and their reaction.
Not wearing make-up. Showing your ugly angles. Not sucking in your gut, and still having your partner coo over you. Not hiding your farts. Sharing your silly worries and having your partner co-manage them. Voicing your unreasonable expectations as they arise.
The subversion here comes from the maintence of desire that seems to contradict the manifestation of the ordinary, of the greasiness of how the sausage is made.
Why is “subversion” something that drives these actions in the first place?
When we are testing ourselves and each other for what the limits of our desire and intimacy are, we use how much we can bypass expected norms as measurement of how much a person really likes us. And while this isn’t a perfect signal, it’s quite good because generally people (a) aren’t willing to waste their time faking so much intimacy (which does indeed use up many hours per week) unless they’re getting cold, hard cash at the end of it and (b) genuinely people just aren’t that good at faking interest, except through silence, and eventually it shows how little they mean it in very intimate scenarios.
This “intimacy effort” brings us to a third stage I’ve observed: couples trying to retain the intensity of the “measurment by subversion” phase by putting in an effort to passionatize and often sexualize themselves and their situation as much as possible.
Things like always wearing lingerie around the house. Sending increasingly high-effort sexts. Buying more and more expensive sex toys. More complicated sex positions, watching youtube videos about doing something you think your partner would like. Keeping track of records: “I bet we can do it 5 times tonight.”
At the end of this phase, sexual attention often becomes banal for a period, even if it doesn’t cease. Of course, a bunch of this is just “desensitization”, but I don’t think that’s all it is, becuase I think most people are pretty desensitized already at the end of the “steady normalization of intense intimacy phase”.
What’s going on here is that the mind has mentally collapsed the space of sexual possibilities into the same message, that very difficult to specify one named “what this relationship means to me”. The small differences that could have communicated information, are difficult to distinguish from the normalization of mistakes and flaws from the “lower standards” phase. Where comments, willingness, and effort might have once communicated complex shades of emotion, the task of measuring mutual willingness to subvert previous norms has “taken up the space” where message passing used to happen.
Basically every form of human intimacy is a kind of communication and is susceptible to this kind of over-shadowing by magnitude measurement. The measurement of intimacy in friendships through mutual roasting can make it difficult to assess how much people actually are bothered by different aspects of each other. The measurement of intelligence between colleagues make it difficult to say something without seeming like you’re trying to look smart. The measurement of how happy you are can make it difficult to self-represent yourself to your parents. Having a way things are normally done is a way of communicating things through deviation—but if someone is using the norms you set as a measurement of where you are, it’s hard to communicate a corrective, because it’s all perceived as signal.