Staring Contest

It worked every time – he didn’t even have to try anymore.  Will strode confidently into a Farringdon pub at the tail end of Friday happy hour; he didn’t need the stumbling desperation of one am to convince someone to come home with him.  He sat at the end of the bar, ordered a brown ale, and scanned the scene.  Some nights he had to wait thirty, forty minutes for an approachable woman to show up; tonight, he spotted her within ten.

She sat at the opposite end of the bar and started scrolling through her phone, looking a bit bored and sipping on a cider.  She was wearing a fitted grey suit, and her hair was tied into a knot at the nape of her neck.  He walked around the edge of the bar so he could approach from behind, then walked up to the bar and sat next to her.  He ordered a double scotch, neat, and took out his phone.  Scrolling through old messages, he sighed loudly.  The woman next to him looked over and asked if he’d had a hard day at work.  “Everything feels hard some days, even when it’s not that bad – know what I mean?” he replied.  She did.  He continued: “Sometimes I think about how easy everything seemed when I was young and the only thing I had to stress about was losing a game or looking stupid in front of a girl.”  She laughed and said she agreed with him; she was having one of those weeks, too.

He continued, feeling the hook slide in, the line go taut.  “What did you do for fun when you were young?” he asked.  “Oh, I suppose we just played normal kid’s games – bulldog, Mr. Wolf, oranges and lemons, -” “The one where someone’s head is chopped off?!” he laughed. “That’s terrible!”  “We loved it!” she said, and laughed even harder.  “What about you?”  “I played thumb war with my brother a lot,” he answered.  “Oh, and I was a staring contest master.”  “Oh?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.  “Yeah,” he continued.  “No one could beat me at a staring contest.  Even when my older brother was beating me at every other game, I always had him in a staring contest.”  “Let’s have it, then,” she said.  “I don’t know,” he replied – “are you in the mood to be heavily defeated after the week you’ve had?”  She grinned and said she thought she could handle it.

Her eyes almost matched her suit – grey, but a bit darker.  “Loser buys the next round,” she said, determined to win.  They turned in to face each other, their knees touching.  “Three,” he counted; she closed her eyes tight. “Two…”  She blinked rapidly. “One!”  She opened her eyes wide and stared into his.  He never knew what was going through their minds at the time; he counted in his head to make sure that enough time passed to make it seem like he was making a concerted effort, but little enough time that it seemed plausible that he would blink.  If he was closing in on a minute, that’s when he would graciously lose.

He remembered them all by their eyes: Carla was the one with the deep brown deer eyes.  Meg was the one with the hazel eyes, a refractory of color.  Sara, the one with violet lenses.  A dozen other women whose names he’d forgotten, but whose irises were imprinted on his brain.  He’d started this years ago when he’d heard that you could make anyone fall in love with you via a series of intimate questions and four minutes of eye contact; while he sure wasn’t looking for love, he thought they might be onto something with the eye contact.  He was right.

“Argh!” he exclaimed, blinking almost imperceptibly.  “Really, I swear – I’m good at this.”  “Aww,” she said sympathetically.  “How will you ever live this down?”  “Please don’t tell anyone,” he replied.  “My reputation will be ruined.”  She laughed.  He started pulling the line.  “What will you have, then?” he asked.  “I don’t need another drink,” she said – “I just needed a good laugh.”  “In that case, may I suggest we take a walk?  It’s a remarkably nice evening, and I can work on my stand-up routine.”  She hesitated for a moment, but then said, “Why not?  It’s Friday, after all.”  “That it is,” he agreed, and stood up, gesturing toward the door.  “After you, miss,” he said.  He saw her dangling now, shiny and dripping with water – a real beauty.  She smiled at him and walked toward the door, sashaying her hips a bit as she walked.  It worked every time.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Advertisements

The Basics

I know within a few minutes of meeting someone whether or not I want to fuck them. Something in their smile or their posture or the way they greet me either gives me a boner, or it doesn’t.  I usually need to hear a hello or a few words to warm me to the idea of being intimate with someone – but when The Engineer walked into our dorm room in Rwanda, one glance was all it took.  I’d been restlessly horny all day, and I thanked the universe for dropping a tall, handsome man conveniently into my room.

We were the only two in a twelve-bed dorm; he asked if I wanted to join him for dinner, and I fantasized about him in the shower beforehand, sliding fingers through my slippery folds. When, after two beers, he asked if I’d like another, I said, “No, and I don’t think you should have one, either – I think we should fuck first and then have another.” The bed creaked and banged against the wall as I rode him; I’m 100% sure the entire hostel staff heard my moans and whimpers, and I didn’t care. We went back out and had a celebratory beer before bed while chatting about our travels.

It was supposed to be a one-night stand.  He was supposed to go off on a hike the next day… but he stayed.  We spent the day walking along Lake Kivu, coming back to the hostel to fuck in the shower and on a bunk bed ladder (great for the height difference!), then changed rooms and fucked in the bay window, in the bathtub, on the huge bed.  We slept next to each other, waking up early to have sex one more time before I walked to the Congolese border.

I came back to our guesthouse in Rwanda three days later, then shortly took off for another hike the day he was returning from one; he stayed.  When I returned, he was sitting in the common area; he didn’t expect to see me, so when I ran in and flung myself into his arms, it took us an hour to get off the couch.  We went to Kigali together and spent four days mostly eating, drinking wine, and exploring each other’s bodies instead of the city (corporal tourism?).

He took me to the airport at midnight, and it was a hard goodbye; when you develop feelings for someone while in a novel or challenging situation, the feelings can be pretty intense.  We stayed in touch every day after that; when I messaged him asking him to come to Barcelona in July, he said that July was too far away and he wanted to see me sooner… and then proceeded to spend four days traveling overland by boat, bus, and minivan from Zanzibar to the southern end of Lake Malawi, where we spent a week on the beach, drinking cocktails, swimming, fucking like field mice, and being super handsy in public.  By the end of that week, after telling folks in the guesthouse that we were on our honeymoon (it sure felt like it), I was in deep.  We both were.

He took me to the airport again in Lilongwe, and the goodbye was much harder, even though I was sure we weren’t done seeing each other – and we weren’t. He called me when I was in Spain to tell me he was coming to Ireland with me at the tail end of my trip.  He flew over his home to travel with me in a country he’d never been to, even though he was homesick. He met me at the airport with roses; we rented a car and spent eleven days driving through the countryside, staying in bed and breakfasts, cooking for each other, listening to amazing live music, and playing.  We dropped the L word on day five after walking along the Cliffs of Mohor, and when we parted, he gave me a framed photo of us that he’d taken with his phone on the second day we’d been together back in Rwanda.

I’m not someone who believes in fate.  I don’t believe in soulmates, and I certainly don’t believe in The One. But I do feel pretty lucky that we happened to be in the same place at the same time.  Being with him is so easy; I feel emotional security AND physical lust at the same time, which is strange and wonderful.  I feel prioritized, valued, and deeply cared for, and that’s something I haven’t experienced since the last time I lived in the US.  This is good.  It’s really good.  And it’s not over yet – not by a long shot.

Gratuitous sex stories to come!

El Nido

Last post before I depart!  I thought a travel sex story would be fitting.

I’m not someone who loves Valentine’s Day, nor am I one who scorns it.  For me, it just comes and goes like the tides.  There is one Valentine’s Day, however, that is forever etched into my memory, and thinking about that particular day will always make me smile.

Two years ago, I was travelling in the Philippines; I was sitting at a bar my first night on Cebu, and I started talking to the gentleman next to me.  Our conversation flowed so easily that it felt like we’d known each other for years; we skipped the small talk and jumped right into deep conversation about our travels, life philosophies, families.  We laughed and talked for hours, then agreed to meet the next night.  I arrived that night with a huge group and dragged him from the bar to our table… then proceeded to ignore all the people I came with to talk to him.  I felt so drawn to him – to his laugh, his easygoing nature, his penetrating questions and openness (maaayyyybe to his extraordinary body as well).

We met again the following night – same place, same time – and as we were chatting on a porch underneath a full moon, a photographer asked if he could take pictures of us “while we were flirting and the sparks were flying.” Yes, of course, we said, laughing.  As he walked away, I put my hand on Neil’s leg and said, “Just so you know, I am flirting with you.”  He smiled nervously and we continued to talk until I absolutely had to go.  He walked me out; we were both planning on heading to another island around the same time, so I asked him to come north to meet me when he got there.  Sadly, he said, he was heading south, but he’d keep in touch and maybe we could meet up for a day before I left.  I grabbed his hand, leaned into his ear and tipsy-whispered, “No – you need to come up north so I can fuck you.”  He kissed me lightly on the lips and said he’d try to make it.  We said our goodbyes; I didn’t sleep a wink that night thinking about how his strong hands would feel running down the length of my body.

Fast forward a week and a half.  I have just arrived in El Nido; I’m walking back to my hotel, and who should cross my path but the one person I’ve been wanting to see this whole time?  We hug, we laugh, we beam at each other.  He tells me that he was warned not to go south because there was political turbulence, so instead he came north, hoping to run into me.  Looks like the stars aligned!  That night, we had dinner on the beach, the surf literally touching our toes.  We ate freshly-caught fish and drank fifty cent beers by candlelight and talked like children do when they have a secret language.  The wait staff finally had to tell us that we had to leave – they were closing.  We looked behind us to see that they had taken all the other tables and chairs off the beach and we hadn’t even noticed.  I looked him in his clear, blue eyes and asked if he were going to take me home with him some night that week; he asked what I thought about tonight?  I kissed him in response, and we walked uphill to his hotel, me in bare feet.  We got a bit lost along the way – the good kind of lost.

winter-2014-15-196

We spent the next three days going on adventures (sightseeing, kayaking, snorkeling, making out in secret caves), eating amazing food, and fucking like bunnies.  My last day in El Nido happened to be Valentine’s Day.  That morning, I got a massage, bought a dress (a rarity for me), tweezed and shaved my travel body, and told him to come to mine before dinner.  As an avid fan of Dan Savage, I knew it was best to fuck first – so when he arrived, I was only wearing a sarong, which quickly got flung aside.  Even with the air conditioning on, we were soon covered in a slippery layer of sweat, which we’d earned.  We relished every inch of each other’s bodies and slid all over each other in the heat of the tropics until we were starving and exhausted.

winter-2014-15-197

Time does seem to sprint by when you’re enjoying yourself, so I remember the night in flashes: We’re sitting at an Italian restaurant overlooking the ocean, devouring pizza and sipping on cocktails.  We’re dancing at a club, our bodies jumping and bouncing to pop music along with a packed crowd, rum and cokes in hand.  We’re outside, dancing in the ocean to cool off, spinning and dipping.  We’re sitting on an old, overturned, wooden kayak, making out like teenagers.  He’s facing me toward the ocean and putting his arm around me and asking if I’d ever come back to El Nido – and if he were there, I’d be back in a heartbeat.  We’re walking back to his hotel at 3:00 am to fall into a deep sleep in each other’s arms – but not before taking silly pictures with each other on the balcony. We’re waking up at 6:00 am to the sound of church bells, and I have to go.

I’ve had interesting Valentine’s Days before and since, especially while traveling, but I can’t imagine any topping that night – a night that felt perfect.  A night that capped off a magical movie-like travel romance in an idyllic setting.  A night when the stars aligned.

 

Over My Head

I’ve been waiting to post this for a long time; it was inspired by this Girl on the Net post.  When I saw that the Wicked Wednesday prompt was “Follow Your Heart,” I thought: it’s time.  It’s non-fiction and not very wicked, but I can’t think of a more appropriate prompt for this piece.

________________________________________________

At the time I met Banger*, I was deep into lesbian territory.  I hadn’t been physically intimate with a man for four years and wasn’t planning on it anytime soon; however, when I opened my door and saw him standing there one cold February afternoon, I felt my heart leap in my chest.  He was my type: Tall, bespectacled, bookish.  At least – he was the type I’d had before I stopped dating men.  I panicked and reacted to how handsome I thought he was by being overly cheerful and energetic.  I didn’t really know what to do with my sudden and strange urges; it had been so long since I’d had them.

Over the next year, I developed a massive crush on him, but never said anything; he was always dating someone, and I was supposed to be gay.  We became close friends and confidants; we worked together, shared an office, and lived in the same building, so I saw him all the time.  We’d go out for kimchi stew or barbecue together and chat; a couple of times we went to a noraebang (private room karaoke), just the two of us, drunk on rice wine, and sang songs late into the night.  He made me giggle.  Not laugh – giggle.  The kind of laughter you share with someone when you have inside jokes or find something hilarious that no one else would laugh at.  We could be silly together and really honest with each other because we weren’t trying to get into each other’s pants.  It was brilliant.  Spending time with him was so easy – a breath of fresh air.

He went home for vacation that summer, and I found myself acutely missing his company.  I could feel a kind of dull ache inside of me at his absence.  When I went home for Christmas, he kept in contact with me the whole time I was gone.  The night I got back, there was already a message on my phone welcoming me back to Korea and asking me to dinner.  We spent the next three nights on his bed, watching 90s movies and drinking boozy hot cocoa.  It felt like those times in uni where you’re trying to be physically close to a crush without admitting you like like each other, because what if the other person doesn’t feel the same?  The second night, I asked if I could put my head on his shoulder.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I had cuddled with someone, and it ignited something in my body that I was wholly unprepared for.  My insides exploded with an unstoppable force, and my panties were literally soaked by the time I got back to my apartment.  The next night, as I was stroking his arm, my brain stopped working and my body took over; I grabbed his face and kissed him, and it felt like everything fell into place in that one moment.  My lust was a champagne bottle uncorked.

I went away for a couple of days after that; when I came back, we spent hours making out and exploring each other’s bodies before falling asleep.  At first morning’s light, I told him that I desperately wanted him inside of me.  I hadn’t had penetrative sex with a man for five years at this point; I thought I would need to take it a bit slow or that it might even hurt, but because I was so highly aroused, it felt so. fucking. good.  Like eating an ice cream cone on a scorching summer day.  Like the first time you try ecstasy and you find yourself floating in joyous spacetime.  Like the first day of spring after a long, hard winter.

He called me; he asked me to spend time with him; he held my hand in public, and that’s when I think I fell.  I moved to another city shortly after we first hooked up; it was hard going from seeing him every day to seeing him twice a month, especially now that we were being intimate.  I found myself feeling lost in the behemoth of all these feelings I hadn’t felt in years – overwhelming waves of love and desire.  I had a real libido for the first time in forever.  I was drowning in hormones, and I didn’t know how to get to shore.  I felt crazy.  Suddenly I was being cautious with every word I said to him, scared that if I said or did the wrong thing, all of my joy would vanish.  He would disappear like a magician into the void of a magic box.  I tried to stop myself from feeling, tried to put tape over a waterfall, but I had already contracted emotional ebola and I was bleeding out.

Over the next couple of months, we had the most incredible sex I’d had in a decade, and I experienced orgasms I couldn’t even believe were real.  We fucked everywhere in my apartment, cuddled next to each other on the couch to watch videos, and only came up for air to go out to eat and build up our energy reserves so we could make love again.  If oxytocin is sex vodou, he was a houngan and I was ready to dance with snakes.  He brought me back from the dead.

My friends were baffled.  They said:

“I’ve never seen you this happy.”

“I’ve never seen you this way!”

“You’re glowing!”

“I’m surprised at how… mushy you’re being about this.”

“I never expected to hear you being so sentimental.”

“I’m impressed – not because it’s a guy, but because you like him.”

“It’s kind of nice to hear you say that you feel something again.”

And suddenly, I wanted to know what we were.  Not where it was going – I knew he was moving back to England in the summer – but I wanted to know that he had romantic feelings for me like I did for him.  That I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t crazy.  I told him that I had real feelings for him and that it was freaking me out.  He said he hadn’t had romantic feelings for anyone in years and didn’t know if he could.  I, meanwhile, was feeling ALL THE FEELINGS ALL THE TIME, and it was so completely isolating.  I tried meditation, breathing, yoga, sleeping pills, processing with friends.  Nothing could take away the anxiety of loving someone when I didn’t know how he felt about me.  My pain started to become stronger than my joy, but I held on because the high was so powerful.

When I told him that I felt like I’d changed from someone he actually cared about to someone he was just sleeping with, his response was, “Yeah, I guess that’s just part of the changing nature of relationships, you know?”  When I asked if I could say that we were dating, he responded, “I don’t know.  I mean, you can say whatever you want, but I don’t know.”  When I said that that had hurt me, he said he was sorry I felt hurt.

We kept having these amazing weekends together, but I was in pain all the time.  It’s hard work loving someone who doesn’t love you in the same way; it takes everything from you.  Confidence, dignity, pride, joy, sanity.  Laughter.  Self-worth.  I knew that he cared about me a great deal; he wasn’t good at expressing that with words, but he showed it by doing things like serenading me with a song sacred to my heart that he learned just to play for me, or by choosing to spend his last weekends in Korea with me.  But I was in a different place.  I understood for the first time why people want to give up everything to be with someone.  Why they’ll move half a world away.  I wanted so much to spend my life loving him despite knowing deep down that we probably wouldn’t be compatible in the long run, and that was unnerving.  He told me shortly before he left that he loved me – and I truly believe he did – but continued to introduce me as his friend, which was confusing at best and devastating at worst.

The day before he left, he asked me: “What now?”  I don’t know, I said.  I wanted to say that I wanted to be in a long-distance relationship with him while continuing to date other people here, but the idea of him saying no to that was too crushing to consider.  So I just said that we’d keep in touch, keep loving each other, and hopefully one day down the road we’d meet again and create a second chapter in our story.

We tried to be friends after that, which in hindsight seems like the biggest mistake ever.  His responses to me became less frequent and shorter; we still talked, but it wasn’t the same.  I finally told him right before Christmas that I was deeply in love with him and that it was too painful to try to be his friend.  That I needed a break.  We talked for a long time and hashed things out – then emailed a week later and talked for hours again and hashed more things out – and in the end, he said he was still attracted to me, but didn’t know if that translated into romantic feelings.  That he just assumed I was over him.  That it would be logical to have romantic feelings for me, but feelings aren’t logical.  That he didn’t know if he could be emotionally supportive of me.  I got angry about it all and my anger hurt him; he thought I was diminishing the ways he cared for me just because his feelings weren’t as intense as mine.  He loved me – just not in the way I wanted to be loved.  We left the conversation on a positive note, and agreed that the friendship we’d had before was worth working on.

It took a long time and dating other people (and a thorough reading of More Than Two) to wade through the layers of love and loss I felt… but I made it to the other side, and when I did, I came out stronger.  Not that defensive kind of stronger where you swear you’ll never let anyone in again, which is where I was before I met him, but the kind of stronger where you learn how to open your heart and love completely, accept and really feel your feelings, and vow to work on knowing what you want and how to communicate that.  Where you breathe deeply and let your walls crumble to the ground around you in tiny pieces.  Being that vulnerable and crawling through the darkness that came after were both transformative experiences.

I started writing this blog while I was seeing him because I wanted him to be proud of me for doing something creative; it has since turned into something I’m proud of myself for doing.  I’m grateful for that.  We’re still friends, and the friendship feels easier now.  My heart feels so much lighter when I talk to him.  He lives with someone he’s dating now; that was hard to cope with at first, but a month or so ago I suddenly found myself feeling genuinely and deeply happy for him out of the blue.  We should all get to love in life and be loved in return – even the people who have hurt us.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

 

*Not his real name, obvs.  This is what a few of my friends started calling him after I initially and hesitantly told them I was “bangin’ a dude.”

 

Patience

This crazy thing is happening right now, and it’s pretty wonderful: I’m not having sex.

I’ll let that sink in.

I started unexpectedly seeing someone new a few weeks ago; he’s an acquaintance whom I’ve known for years, but have never particularly felt attracted to.  We were sitting in a bar and chatting one night; I mentioned that I was cold, and he took my hands to warm them.  That felt pretty nice, so I just left my hands in his.   A bit later, when I was telling him how lovely that felt, he kissed me out of the blue – which was shocking, as I’ve always considered this guy to be a little shy and socially awkward.  The kissing was pretty nice, too, so I asked him on a date… and then I asked him to spend the night.

He told me that he was happy to stay there, but he didn’t want to compromise his morals.  See – this guy is religious.  Not in a church-on-Christmas kind of way, but in a bible-study-small-town-Baptist-church kind of way.  I’m barely even spiritual, so… it’s interesting.  Making out with him in my bed and not being able to touch his dick was a glorious kind of torture; I was soaking wet all through the night and really relished that heightened state of arousal that I’m so used to curing with release.  This time, it just built and built and built, and I could feel the sexual energy coursing through my body for hours.

That was two weeks ago.

This guy has spent the night at my house three times, and I haven’t seen him naked, and… it’s been kind of amazing.  He asked me to slow dance in my living room and to walk around to look at Christmas lights.  He takes his hat off when he walks in my door.  He went a half mile out of his way a few days ago so he could walk me home, and he kissed me at midnight on New Year’s Eve (the first time in over ten years I’ve been with a date on NYE).  He’s an old-fashioned romantic and I am LOVING THE FUCK OUT OF IT.

We’re not compatible for a million reasons (God is not a fan of my libido, for one), and I’m leaving the country in six weeks – but for right now, being wanted for my company rather than my cunt feels healing, and being with someone who loves slow dancing is even better.

Suddenly Beautiful

I am not beautiful in my country.
Okay, so I guess I’m beautiful in that Dove ad, body positivity, everyone-is-a-unique snowflake kind of way, but I would never be described as objectively beautiful by American beauty standards.
My two front teeth are a bit indented because when I was growing up, my parents couldn’t afford braces.  I used to weigh significantly more than I do now, and my heaviest weight is what I’ll always feel like I am.  Sometimes I have acne, because I’m a human.  I have those little rolls of fat near my armpits that ladies with big boobs have.  I don’t tan, I don’t wear makeup, I don’t wear high heels, and I’ve never once gotten a manicure. 
I am not beautiful in my country.
The first time someone passed by me on the streets in Korea and whispered, “Oh, beautiful,” I thought it was a fluke.  Maybe they were looking at someone else, or maybe they’d never seen a foreigner before.   
Then it happened again.  And again.  And again.  Students would tell me I was beautiful, strangers in bars and cafes, clerks in stores.  And suddenly, I felt beautiful. Over time I grew confident and held my chin up.  This is incredibly strange to me, because in Korea, I am definitely not beautiful to other Americans.  In fact, I’d say a large percentage – not all, to be sure, but a lot – of North American men come to Korea because they find Korean women to be so beautiful.  And stranger still is that so many Korean women do not consider themselves beautiful the way they are naturally, opting to get plastic surgery, wear heavy makeup, and wobble around on stilettos that will ruin their feet in the long run (this is in part due to unrealistic Korean beauty standards that are based on unrealistic western beauty standards, creating a WHOLE CLUSTERFUCK of expectations of an external appearance that no one will ever be able to live up to).
I am fully aware that cross-cultural attraction is fraught with colonialism, racism, degrading sexual stereotypes, objectification, and exoticism.  That sometimes what’s happening is not genuine attraction to a person, but attraction to the romanticized and dehumanized version in someone’s head of what that person represents.  I’m also aware that my white privilege has an impact on my social interactions in Korea.
But I’m going to keep it one hundred on my end and say this: being told I’m beautiful – something that never happened to me at home – feels good.  Even if it comes out of exoticism and a bullshit adherence to western beauty standards.  When it’s paired with sincerity and stated as an opinion rather than used as a manipulation tactic, it can be so empowering.  The guys who pass me on the street and whisper, “Oh!  Beautiful!” aren’t looking to hook up; they’re not asking for my number.  They say it shyly, quietly, as if they’re just thinking aloud.  And I straighten my back, turn and smile coyly at them, and think, “Yes.  I am beautiful.”    

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone were told this enough to really, truly believe it?

If you’re interested in reading some fucking fantastic articles about gender and beauty in South Korea, look no further than The Grand Narrative – really incredible blog.  On the other end of this experiential spectrum, check out this horrifying pieceabout the intersection of online dating and racism.  

Rules of Attraction (NSFR)

At the show we were at on Saturday night, he put his hand on my back and I kissed him in the middle of a bar full of my friends.  It all felt very natural, especially considering it was only our second date.  Something about him felt comfortable.  We got off the subway early coming back to my place so we could go for a stroll in the late summer air that had been cooled by rain; while walking, we bounced jokes off each other.  He’s witty, incredibly well-read, and refreshingly imaginative. He makes me laugh really hard. 
When we got into my apartment and I took off my shoes, he said I had cute feet.  SCORE – I know what that means.  He rubbed them as we sat on my couch sipping Jim Beam and talking about Modernists, horror, and blues music.  I can’t remember the entire conversation – we drank a lot of Jim Beam – but I know it sparkled.  He dove across the couch to kiss me, and we sat up so I could straddle him.  We took each other’s clothes off slowly, delighting in just touching each other.
We stumbled upstairs; he tossed me onto my bed, which I love.  Nothing better than being thrown around!  He licked my feet (yesyesyes) and kissed me in secret erogenous zones that most people never pay attention to.  I was thinking, This guy knows what’s up.  Aaaaand then he took my panties off and I noticed that the familiar feeling of heat and that string of clear fluid that normally sticks to my panties from the wetness in my cunt was missing.  Dry as a bone.  We made out a little and licked and nibbled each other’s various body parts; he tried fingering me, which as you can imagine was not extremely pleasant (I know, I know, I should have handed him one of the bottles of lube next to the bed).  I rolled him over and restrained him so I could play with him instead, thinking that maybe I’d just had too much to drink and things would improve in the morning. 
We woke up after not nearly enough sleep; after a bit of kissing and touching, he lightly traced his fingers around my nipples and along my outer labia – good start.  I told him as much – I like to be touched gently in some places.  He put his face between my legs and started eagerly licking my lips… and it felt really nice, but I still wasn’t getting wet.  The only wetness came from his mouth.  I told him that I probably wasn’t going to come because I don’t come easily from oral sex – I’ve made peace with that and don’t want to fake it (which is true).  That sex wasn’t about orgasms, but about pleasure and connection, and I was feeling both / really enjoying the way his tongue felt on me – also true.  What I didn’t say is that he just wasn’t doing it for me.  It wasn’t anything about what he was doing, but just that my body wasn’t responding to him.  I didn’t feel the zsa zsa zsu.
In her book Come As You Are, Emily Nagoski says that among women, there’s only a ten percent overlap between arousal and genital response; I just figured that non-concordance was occurring.  However, the next day when my sister asked me if I were attracted to him, I realized that attraction hadn’t even crossed my mind.  Of course I was attracted to him!  He could write!  We had sparkly conversation!  He made me laugh!  We like all the same things!  When I started saying all of this, she laughed and asked if I were physically attracted to him.  And the honest answer is… no.  He’s handsome.  But I don’t feel that physical pull, that “God I need you to touch me right the fuck now” feeling when I’m with him.  I assumed that because we’re so compatible in other ways the attraction would just be there… but it’s not.  
I’m a lucky gal when it comes to sex; when I’m physically aroused, my vagina responds in spades.  As I’ve come to find out, however, there’s a difference between mental and physical arousal.  All of you are probably saying, “DUH, Jo,” but I’ve always been most physically attracted to people I find mentally stimulating.  My brain is turned on, and my body follows.  This is a first for me, and I’m not quite sure what to do with it.  I’d like to try again, but then I feel like I’m just experimenting on the guy.  Then again, maybe when we spend more time together, my body will decide it’s aroused – feelings change.  It’s a sex quandary.    
              

Intentional Dating

On my 27th birthday, my best friend (who at that time was just a guy I’d recently re-met after we’d both moved to San Francisco a month earlier) drove me up to the top of Twin Peaks and stopped his car.  We looked out at the beautiful lights before us and the city we’d come to call home, and he told me to wait a minute, then went to his trunk — and came back with a birthday cake, full of lit candles.  He sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and my jaw dropped — my friends never remember my birthday, let alone bring me cake.  He then went on to tell me that over the last month while we were getting to be good friends, he realized that he had more than friendly feelings for me and was wondering if I felt the same.  It was an incredibly romantic gesture — but I felt no romantic or sexual feelings for him at all.  Zilch.  I was very honest with him; I’m sure it stung a little, but he got over it and we remained great friends.

Over the next two years, I watched him fall for the same girl over and over: charismatic, energetic, full-of-life women who wanted to sleep around and be rootless.  Which would be fine – except for that what my best friend wants more than anything in the world is to be a married father.  He’s a traditional guy who believes in traditional gender roles.  And he will be the best dad ever — that is, if he can ever manage to fall for a woman who wants the same things he wants in life.  He’s not doing anything to seek out this woman; rather, he’s putting his happiness in the hands of fate, as most of us do.  As we’re told to do by every romantic comedy ever made.

He complained to me for years about how no women ever liked him back because he was just “too nice.”  He’s not a Dr. NerdLove Nice Guy ™ — he actually is a nice person — but he chooses the wrong people.  He looks for his “type” instead of women he’s actually compatible with.  I finally told him this recently after he and his fiancée broke up because she’s not ready to get married.  And while I was telling him that he should specifically be on dating sites looking for women who want a serious long-term relationship and children, it hit me: I am absolutely fucking terrible (I’m sure most of us are) at taking my own advice.  My whole life I, too, have been dating people who I was immediately physically and mentally attracted to because they were my “type” instead of looking for people who want the same things I want.  And as I was recently forced to figure out exactly what it is I do want*, I thought it might be an excellent idea to use that to my advantage.

This year I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with a couple of men who I would never have pictured myself with, and they’ve both been really wonderful experiences.  I feel cared for and valued, and much happier because of it.  I finally started seeking out people who have a similar communication style to me and who want similar things in a relationship instead of just expecting people to fall out of the sky in front of me.  And surprise!  It’s working.  Intentionality is a beautiful thing. 

The moral of the story is: Figure out who you are and what you want, and specifically and purposefully look for people who also want these things.  Because amazing things can happen when you do.

*I used the questions at the end of the chapters in More Than Two; seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough.

“Loving another without losing ourselves is the central dilemma of intimacy”: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

Image result for mating in captivity While I was reading Sex at Dawn, it seemed like every person I mentioned this to asked: “Have you read Mating in Captivity?”  I can finally say yes, and I am better off for it.  You may know Esther Perel from her excellent and highly popular TED talk about maintaining desire in long-term relationships; it has almost six million views, and that’s just on the TED website.  Obviously a topic many people care deeply about, as it affects most of us at some point in our lives.  I’m not in a long-term relationship, so I wondered how this book would apply to me, if at all.  I was delightfully surprised that it had a lot to offer single people by way of general relationship advice. 

Perel begins the book with the idea that we want both stability and desire in our relationships, but that we often forego one for the other, thinking for some reason that we have to.  We don’t, she argues.  We can have both if we accept that these things don’t necessarily happen at the same time.  She stresses that erotic desire naturally waxes and wanes over the course of a relationship, and that it’s normal to go through periods of intense desire and lowered desire. 

Within relationships, a feeling of comfort and security can often lead to boredom; Perel says that in order to rekindle desire, you sometimes have to let go of your security because eroticism is fueled by uncertainty.  She says that in order to build erotic desire you need separation — that separation begets connection.  “Our ability to tolerate our separateness – and the insecurity it engenders,” she argues, “is a precondition for maintaining interest” (p. 36).  Sometimes we need distance in order to become closer; furthermore, maintaining a strong sense of self and personal identity — that “me” rather than “we” — allows our partners to see that they might not know everything about us, and there’s something enticing about that mystery.  Sexual desire is fueled by yearning and elusiveness, and constant contact / co-dependence smother that desire.  She points out near the end of the book that our partners are not ours — admitting that they are choosing to continue to be with us of their own free will is paramount to preserving our attraction to them.

Some of the takeaways that I got from reading this book are:

  • Contemporary intimacy has too many expectations placed on it; we expect our partners to be everything to us, but that’s impossible.
  • If you want to fall in love with your partner(s) again, watch them doing what they’re good at doing.  Try to see them through a stranger’s eyes.
  • We can’t expect spontaneity all the time, and making plans creates anticipation.  Being intentional in our sexual lives is healthy and builds connection.
  • Sexual power play and negotiation can ignite erotic desire; these things create tension and foster creativity.  Being playful is a great tool to help nurture our desire. 
  • We’re always told to be giving lovers, but being selfish in bed once in awhile isn’t a terrible thing.  If we can be selfish sometimes with our partners, it’s a sign that we trust them; moreover, it can be a huge turn-on to acknowledge your own sexual needs to your partners.
  • When we view a lowered desire or libido fluctuation as a “problem,” then we try to fix it with sexual band-aids instead of looking at underlying causes, and that doesn’t help anyone.  Perel puts it this way: our sexual and romantic connections are a “paradox to manage, not a problem to solve” (p. 81).  We need to take the time to reflect on these connections.
  • Our communication patterns stem from how our parents communicated with us when we were children, and our childhoods “shape our beliefs about ourselves and our expectations for others” (p. 107).  The way we balance between autonomy and dependence depends a lot on the way we were raised.  

Hands down, the biggest and most important takeaway I got from this book regards communication style.  Perel devotes an entire chapter to verbal vs. non-verbal communication; she points out that intimacy based on talking has a female bias, and that men are at a disadvantage at times because of this.  That society values and expects verbal communication, but men are socialized to do rather than say (and to be invulnerable), so when they don’t verbalize their feelings, their partners are often offended.  “The pressure is always on the non-talker to change,” says Perel (p. 42), not on the verbal communicator to adapt to a different style of communication.  She emphasizes that we need to honor ALL of the ways we connect — by doing things for each other, doing things together, touching each other, smiling at each other, spending time in the same room quietly — not just saying how we feel.  She goes even further to say that sometimes the sharing of intimate feelings can be seen as coercive if there is an expectation that the partner returns those sentiments verbally.  As someone who is a very verbal communicator and easily expresses myself with words, I have been guilty so many times of not seeing the value in my partner’s non-verbal communication.  This book has changed that and will shape the way I communicate with partners in the future.   

In addition to all these incredibly valuable points, Mating in Captivity includes chapters on parenthood, erotic fantasy, non-monogamy, finding sexual desire inside of a partnership in addition to finding it outside of a long-term partnership, and the Madonna-whore complex.  The book is filled with real-life examples to support her theories and case study conversations with clients she’s had as a relationship therapist.  This is a useful book even if you’re not in a long-term relationship; the central ideas that run through the text alone are worth reading it for.  It’s beautifully-written and both deeply thought and felt.  Also, it’s just really fun to read.  One-click it now! 

(P.S. Esther Perel is hot, y’all!)  

Need help from a stranger? You better be wearing heels!

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m super interested in sex, gender, and relationship research.  So I was stoked last night to find out about that there’s a podcast called the Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast.  Of course, when I looked at the titles of recently archived episodes, I beelined for the one titled “Why Do Women Who Have Anal Sex Have Anal Sex?” (that’s a whole other blog post; remind me to come back to that).  The episode, however, only came around to this topic at the end.  The main focus in the episode centers on a study that was done regarding how people react to women wearing high heels versus women wearing flats. 

The researchers did three separate experiments.  In the first, they had a nineteen year-old woman ask male passersby to take a survey about gender equality while wearing different types of footwear.  46% of men stopped to take the survey when she wore flats, 63% of the men stopped for her when she wore low heels (5cm), and 83 percent stopped for her when she wore stilettos (9cm).  Eighty percent — almost double the percentage of men who stopped for the very same woman wearing flats!  And not to ask her out — to take a survey.  Because the lead researcher (Nicolas Gueguen) wanted to validate his results and make sure that these men were not just reacting to this specific woman, he repeated the experiment with four different women who also asked female passersby to take the survey.  Women stopped to take the survey about 30% of the time, no matter what type of shoes the volunteer was wearing; the results of men being asked to participate in the survey were the same as before (approximately 40 / 60 / 80).

The researchers were then curious if footwear would influence “spontaneous” acts of kindness.  They had a woman walk down the street and drop a glove in front of someone she was passing in order to see who would pick it up and return it to her.  Women returned the glove 50% of the time regardless of whether she was wearing flats or heels.  60% of men returned the glove to the woman while she was wearing flats; 80% returned it while she was wearing short heels; and 95 percent returned it to the woman wearing high heels.  After hearing this, I was left with a burning question: What’s up, ladies?  Pick up the glove!  I get why women wouldn’t stop to take a survey (busy, on the way to do something, have no interest, whatever), but they most certainly have time to pick up a glove and hand it to someone.  This kind of weirded me out.

Image result for fuck me pumpsIn order to control for factors such as how heels make a woman walk differently or the fact that they make women appear taller, the lead researcher had a woman sit in a bar with different types of shoes on to see how long it would take a man to hit on her in a night club while she was sitting!  Two volunteers watched her creepily from a corner and took notes.  It took thirteen minutes for the woman wearing flats to be approached and chatted up by a guy, eleven minutes for the woman wearing short heels, and seven minutes for the woman wearing high heels to be approached.  I’m feeling like this time span would vary greatly depending on location, even within the same city.   

Gueguen has a couple of hypotheses about why men respond more favorably to women wearing heels than women wearing flats.  One hypothesis is that smaller feet are generally considered more attractive on women than larger feet, and high heels make feet appear smaller.  The other hypothesis, which I find MUCH more likely, is that women look more sexually accessible or appear promiscuous in the male gaze while wearing high heels because that’s what men are used to seeing strippers and women in porn wear. 

“That girl is wearing high heels!  That must mean she wants to have sex with me!  Yessssssssss!  CFM*s, here I come!”

I’m disappointed that this experiment wasn’t repeated in a lesbian bar.  I bet the results would be fascinating and maybe even inverted. 

As the podcast host (who has a lovely accent — I might listen to all the archived episodes on that factor alone) mentions, the study fails to take into account that women might just act more confidently when wearing heels because they feel sexy, and that men might therefore be more attracted to women’s confidence rather than the way high heels make women physically appear.  As someone who wears heels only once in a blue moon, I can tell you, I am *not* feeling confident when I’m walking around in them — more like I’m going to face plant into the concrete at any given moment.  Still — I do love looking at a woman strolling down the street in pumps, swishing from side to side, working those shoes.      

*Come Fuck Me Heels / Fuck Me Pumps.  Yes, it’s a thing.