Over the past few years, minimalism has become a keen topic of interest for many academic, creative and social circles. Ideas around minimalism, particularly in art, were introduced decades ago.
In the last few years however, there have been many articles, documentaries and other forms of engagement relating to minimalist design, fashion and living In effect, there’s a considerable amount of information regarding minimalism as it relates to the materialistic parts of our lives.
As a person who is fond of all things creative, my first encounter with minimalism was also in a materialistic context. First, it was minimalist architecture and then minimalist style. Naturally, these ideals appealed to me, and as a result, most of my aesthetic tastes tend to favour the minimal. I.e., neutral colours, clean lines, and simple but effective design.
Exploring Minimalism in Different Aspects of Life
Conversely, minimalism as a lifestyle concept is not something I would say appealed to me. When it comes to material possessions and the accumulation thereof, I have always understood myself as one who isn’t averse to excess. Even to this day, I can still rationalise my desire to acquire more than one home, to have a fleet of cars and to lead a lifestyle that doesn’t involve me making do with the bare essentials.
Be that as it may, through growth and maturation, I am definitely more comfortable with the idea of minimising more than ever before. I have a much smaller social circle than I did a few years ago. My financial decisions have less to do with long-held beliefs about working to flaunt what I have, and more to do with my long-term aspirations and the kind of financial legacy I want to leave for my family. I now also make life decisions (personal and professional) primarily based on how little stress they will cause. Before I continue though, I think it’s best to identify a working definition of minimalism that will guide the progression of this piece.
Authors/Life Coaches Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus associate minimalism with making a conscious choice to simplify and streamline your life, filling it only with activities, people and possessions which have a purpose and add value to your life.
In her blog, Lethu Msimang, opines that it is the promotion of the things we truly need and the removal of anything that distracts from it. She then asks an important question about this: “If minimalism has to do with our basic needs, it becomes crucial to define those needs, as they are not always the same for us all.”
This led me to ask myself something I hadn’t thought of, beyond material objects and the lifestyle routines we follow, what does minimalism mean? To be more exact, what does sexual minimalism mean?
One may argue that sex is a part of our lifestyle, however, it can also be said that we do not navigate sexual pleasure in the same way that we do our decisions about what to buy, where to live, or who to associate with.
The Personal Journey: Discovering Sexual Minimalism
For many of us who come from conservative backgrounds, we still lack directness, honesty and transparency when it comes to our sexual needs, sometimes even with ourselves. We all have different sexual needs and different ways to go about fulfilling them. I personally am very clear on what sexual satisfaction is for me. It involves a lot more than just a partner with a fire stroke, magic hands/ tongue or pre and post-coital behaviour. For the sake of transparency, I must confess that psychological stimulation, power play and complete lack of inhibition, coupled with the physical chemistry described before, are not even half of what I would consider my sexual needs.
I need to note that at the time of writing, I had last had a sexual encounter over four months ago, and before then another six months. Once again, the decision to go so long without intercourse is a conscious way for me to eliminate stress, as sex for a single feminine gay man can be a bit of a telenovela.
If I consider Msimang’s definition, I have a need for lack of stress, and pursuing sex more often than I do would distract me from fulfilling this need. Having said that, I must confess that my last sexual encounters didn’t have everything I need, In fact, very few of my sexual encounters ever have, even when I engaged more frequently therein. Coupling my aversion to stress, and my very specific requirements for an encounter to be considered fulfilling, my sexual minimalism is as follows. One solid partner who fulfils all of my sexual needs, who won’t in any way shape or form with their words and actions cause me to worry or panic. As an optimist, I choose to believe this person exists, but the realist deep inside of me begs to differ.
Therefore I must come to a different understanding of what sexual minimalism is. So, is it me engaging with different partners who all offer me different things at the same time? How many partners am I looking at? How often am I meeting all of them? What are the logistical considerations of sexual minimalism?
Value and Fulfillment: The Essence of Sexual Minimalism
What does sexual minimalism look like for you? Does it mean cutting down on your number of sexual partners, or having sex less frequently? What if your need is to have as many sexual encounters with as many people as possible? What then?
It is important then to factor in value into the equation. As Liesl Snymaan puts it in an article for The South African, “A minimalist is purely someone who values themselves more than earthly or material possessions. One who finds freedom in purpose and value in their own identity and not in ownership or accumulation.”
With this in mind, sexual minimalism requires a combination of more than one element: The fulfilment of a basic need, while also determining the perceived value of fulfilling that need. More simply put, it may be satisfying to get maximum sexual pleasure, but it may even be more satisfying if that encounter teaches you more about your body, your desires and needs you may not know you even had, for example, the need to feel secure, the need to feel appreciated and protected.
My understanding of minimalism is doing that which is necessary to find your true value beyond what you have and how much of it you have. Even better put by Snymaan, it is more than “getting rid of the unnecessary” but it is rather saying no to certain things so you can ‘say yes to living. Sexual minimalism then means more than having the sexual experiences you need, but only having those sexual experiences that open up parts of yourself you didn’t even know existed.
Niza Jay, born and raised in the Eastern Cape, is a celebrated actor and LGBTQ+ rights activist from South Africa. His breakout role in Inxeba (The Wound) was a milestone in SA cinema, and he continues to break boundaries from Showmax SA epic Blood Psalms to independent pieces like The Tree and Hello Au Revoir. His latest work leading an ensemble cast in the film You’re My Favourite Place, directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. Niza is a strong advocate for gender equality and empowerment, using his platform to drive awareness and positive change.