Signal

Coming back from the bathroom, I tuck a piece of red fabric into the breast pocket of his brand-new suit; it matches his tie perfectly.  It looks like a handkerchief with a small, neat triangle perfectly pointed up toward his face.  He looks down, then quizzically at me as if to say, “From whence did this matching handkerchief come?” And then it dawns on him.  “Are these your knickers?!” he asks.  I smile and slide into a seat next to him, caressing his leg, and whisper into his ear that it’s time to go home.  He raises his hand for the check, and we can’t get out of the restaurant fast enough.

 

I walk up to him in a crowded bar on New Year’s Eve, kiss him on the cheek, and press something into his hand.  “You have pockets, right?” I purr into his ear.  He nods in affirmation.  “Can you hold onto these for me?” I ask, walking away.  I turn my face over my shoulder and look back as he realizes what’s in his hand and, startled, blushes and shoves my panties into his pocket.

 

He slides my panties down and takes them gingerly off my legs, over my heels, in a public park at dusk; when he starts to lick me, I come almost immediately – something that hadn’t happened in over a decade.  He won’t give me my knickers back after I come, instead making me walk to and sit through dinner naked under my white sundress – my cunt swollen and wet most of the night, ready for when we get back to mine.

 

I’m prepping dinner at my kitchen counter; he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me. I lean back into his lips on my neck and press my ass back against him.  He slides his hands up my skirt to discover that I’m pantiless and takes that as an invitation to turn me around, push my skirt all the way up, pick me up, and fuck me on my kitchen counter (as I’d hoped he would) so we can work up an appetite.

 

For me, going commando is always a step toward some kind of sex – or at least a bomb of a hint that I’m interested in fucking.  I don’t particularly like being nude under my clothes; my thighs start to chafe a bit when I walk, and I find panties soooo comfortable.  But I love when my partners know I am – turning them on turns me on.  Whether it’s a tease at the beginning of the night or a signal at the end of a date that I’m ready to go, dropping my knickers gets both (all?) of us revved up and feisty and wanting more.

 

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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.”

 

Straight Talk

Blood is such an excellent prompt for a piece of fiction, but I’m having the damnedest time thinking of one because all I can focus on is the blood gushing out of me at this moment.  Thanks to hormonal birth control, I barely bled for the last twenty years.  My periods were usually three days of light bleeding and no cramps – so my whole life I’ve had NO idea what women with heavy or painful periods went through.  My periods were terrible when they first started, but it was so long ago I’d forgotten.

Until this year.

I’m experiencing heavy bleeding for the first time as an adult.  I mean cups full of scarlet blood, much redder and thicker than I expected it to be, poured into my drain… which is unexpectedly satisfying.  I’m experiencing strong cramps for the first time.  Now that I have a copper IUD in, I’m experiencing menstruation-induced pain for the first time.  And it’s a motherfucker.  My lower back hurts in a way that I’ve heard women complain about but have never been able to imagine.  So bad that I don’t want to go to the gym today, even though I know exercise will help.

I’m skittish about using my cup this month because my first IUD expelled last month during my period, so I’m using a pad for the first time since I was thirteen, which is a weird feeling (tampons are wildly expensive here – around $.50 a pop – and stores don’t sell the ones without applicators).  It’s uncomfortable and I can actually feel the blood coming out of my body in spurts.

The strangest thing about all of this is that it actually feels good emotionally.  Even though I’m experiencing pain, I also feel much more connected to my body, to the other women in my life, and to the natural world.  I know that sounds so fucking cheesy, especially given that the reason I’m bleeding more is that I have a piece of metal in my uterus – but the feeling is genuine.  I want to make art with my blood.  I want to be fucked bent over in my shower, hands against the tiles – to have him come inside of me, to watch the pink fluid run down my leg in rivulets and mix in with the water on my shower floor while panting (Y’all know period sex is so good, right?  My orgasms are much more intense right before or at the beginning of my cycle!).  And I want to talk about menstruation.  To men (gasp!).

Women are made to feel shame our whole lives for something we have zero control over – socialized to believe we are dirty or smelly or untouchable when in actuality, we are badass.  Every month, we go to work or school while bleeding.  We play sports and work out while bleeding.  We go on dates and hang out with friends while bleeding.  We take care of kids and partners while bleeding.  We program and shop and dance and work outdoors and swim and study and read and run conferences and write and make art and make music and cook and take boxing classes and sleep and drive and argue and heal and play while actual blood – ounces of it – is coming out of our uteri.  Some women have incredibly painful periods, and they still do all this shit.

Half the population bleeds for approximately 15-20% of their reproductive lives.  That’s a lot of blood… but many of us never talk about it.  And I think we should – or at least, we should feel like it’s okay to talk about without the people around us clamping their hands to their ears and exclaiming, “TMI!”  Can you imagine people doing that if you started talking about what you ate for dinner or how long you slept last night?

I’ve had more than one male partner freak out because he suddenly saw a little bit of blood on his dick and he thought something was TERRIBLY WRONG when in fact, he had just knocked a little blood loose from my cervix at the beginning or end of a cycle.  I have male friends who refuse to have sex with their partners while they’re bleeding because the mere sight of blood unnerves them… in person.  Seeing pints of blood squirt out of various body parts in a Quentin Tarantino film is no problem, but if it’s on a tampon, it is gross and terrifying.

But period sex is awesome for a lot of women; if we can handle a cunt full of blood five to seven days a month (and spotting in between), men can probably give a go to having a little blood on their cock for five minutes.  I say if the sight of blood bothers you, try a blindfold!  Your partner is powerful at this time anyway (I mean… at least according to Pagan folks), so it seems like a good time to work on your submissive side.  When your partner wants to talk about what’s going on with her body, listen.  If you have a question, ask!  Communication is aces.  Period fucking: Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Menstruation affects most aspects of our lives in some way – for me, it can impact mood, diet, activities, libido, and physical and emotional comfort.  For women without access to educational or medical resources or menstrual products, it can be completely life-altering.  One thing it does not do is impact the decisions I make at work or how I engage in other life responsibilities… but it does affect my life, and I expect to be able to acknowledge that.

I’m happy I bleed.  It makes me feel strong.  It makes me feel incredibly horny (my period horn is super intense now that I’m off the hormones).  Sometimes it makes me feel crummy and sore and frustrated and sensitive too, but I wouldn’t change it if I could.

Friends with Benefits

The first time I fucked a friend who I had zero romantic (or sexual, for that matter!) interest in was on New Year’s Eve, 2002.  I don’t remember why we left the party and went back to his place; likely we were outside smoking together and he said he needed to get something, so I opted to go with him.  We were both drunk, but not too drunk – just drunk enough to be warm and aroused. The night was still young – not quite midnight.
We went into his bedroom to get whatever it was he needed to get, and then… honestly, I don’t remember what happened next.  I remember we were kissing, and he was smiling, and then we were in the shower, and then we were wet and fucking on his bed.  I remember discarding a condom wrapper on the floor and laughing about how no one was missing us.  I remember how nice it felt to be intimate and sexual with someone without any expectation that it would happen again but also with care for each other’s feelings and pleasure because we’d known each other for years; how I didn’t worry that it would affect our friendship.  I didn’t think about where it would go or what I should do to make him happy, because I just wanted it to be what it was in the moment – an authentic connection, a mutually-enjoyed sensual experience.  Every time I saw him afterward, we would share a secret smile that said, “Thanks – that was lovely.”      
I’ve been thinking about this lately because I recently opened up a couple of friendships into sexual relationships, and both have been truly amazing.  I’ve always been strict about compartmentalizing my life; I suppose I still am in some ways.  But I refused to mix friendship and fucking because I was always afraid of hurt feelings.  Now that I’ve had my heart broken a couple of times in the past few years (and I mean really fucking broken), I’m not so afraid anymore.  I’m still here.  These broken hearts have improved my communication skills and opened my heart and body to new ways of experiencing love, friendship, and intimacy.  I definitely don’t want to fuck most of my friends, but when I do, it feels like a safe space in which to explore, to feel sexy, and to be cared for without so much on the line. 

Also, one of these new friends with benefits is a service sub, and how can you say no to that?        

Ten (Okay, Eleven) Sex and Relationship Tips based on the Rules of Acquisition

Yes, the Rules of Acquisition from Star Trek.  You may be thinking: Why would I want to read relationship tips based on a fictional, misogynistic alien race?  Because the INTERNET, that’s why!  What else do you have to do for the next five minutes – work?  Bah.  Right, then: Crack open a lukewarm bottle of Eelwasser, and let’s dig into some Ferengi wisdom.
7. Always keep your ears open.  The importance of deep, intentional listening cannot be overstated in a relationship. Take the time once in a while to ask your partner(s) if they feel understood and if their needs are being met.  Then sit with them and really listen to their answers, asking follow-up questions.  When your ears are open, your heart is open. 
19. Satisfaction is not guaranteed.  Some people can make amazing friends, but terrible partners.  If you’ve tried everything in a relationship and still find that it’s not working for you, then perhaps you and that partner just aren’t compatible – and that’s okay.  If your relationship ends, it doesn’t mean that it was a failure, especially if you can end it amicably and have good memories together.
34. War is good for business. There are sex therapists who actually recommend scheduling fights with your partner(s).  Fighting with your partner(s) at a scheduled time gives you a chance to get things off your chest in a constructive way (by thoughtfully choosing your words shortly after you feel bad feelings instead of letting them build up, along with resentment, over time); fighting also fills you with adrenaline, which can make for some really intense sex and bonding.  I find it important to touch my partner(s) when we’re fighting so that they know I’m not going anywhere – just taking the time to communicate my feelings and listen to theirs.
AND 35. Peace is good for business.  Those who have a peaceful inner sanctum (as it were) and can find their own path to joy without needing someone else to create joy for them draw people toward them.  Be that person.
45 / 95.* Expand or die.  Always see your partner as a mystery and your love as a tree that has infinite space around it to grow, and let it grow where it will.  Love is a living thing that needs to grow – or it withers.  Don’t assume you know everything about your partner(s), even if you’ve been with them for years; seeing them as mysterious will intrigue you and make the relationship stronger.
57. Good customers are almost as rare as latinum; treasure them. Often, when people are with someone for a long time, they start to take that person for granted.  Don’t.  Your partners are a valuable part of your life; they enrich it, so treasure them and embody a sense of gratitude for everything they share with you.  No one owes you their time or their love, so say or show (whichever your partner prefers) your appreciation often!
62. The riskier the road, the greater the profit. In More Than Two, Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert say that life rewards people who move in the direction of greatest courage.  Make your relationship choices based on what’s right for you instead of what society expects of you (and if those two things happen to align, that’s great!).  You will find community if you look for it – no matter what road you choose, you’re not alone.  There are great rewards in seeking the kind of relationship and the kind of partner(s) you actually want. 
168. Whisper your way to success. Whisper something dirty in your partner’s ear right now.  Go on – do it.  Then whisper something else in another language.  Then nibble their ear lobe ever so gently.  Yeah, just like that.  That’s nice.  Where was I? 
208. Sometimes, the only thing more dangerous than a question is an answer.  If you ask your partner(s) a question, be prepared to hear the truth.  If your partner is brave enough to communicate something with you that’s difficult to say, then be brave enough to really hear them.
Image result for oo mox223. Beware the man who doesn’t take time for oo-mox.  I mean… sex is fucking important.  MAKE time for it.  If you’re busy, schedule time for it.  If you need to get away from the house in order to decrease your stress level enough for you to feel desire, then go to a hotel (or a dark alley… you do you)!  Do what you need to do to stay physically connected to your partner, because a good bang can help assuage negative feelings.  Sex fills your brain with all kinds of hormones and neurotransmitters that will make you feel more bonded with (and empathetic with) your partner(s).
240. Time, like latinum, is a highly limited commodity.  Love may be abundant, but time is finite.  There are only so many hours in the day – consider this when starting a potential new relationship.  Don’t promise time to people if you don’t have it, and make sure you save some time for yourself.  (I’m an introvert who has a hard time saying no; when I feel stressed about giving away all my time, I write a big X in my planner with the words “DON’T MAKE PLANS.”)  Remember that you choose how to prioritize your time.  Be grateful for the time your partners choose to share with you, and make time for your partners. 
*Stated as 45 in Enterprise but 95 in Voyager.  Shut up, I’m super cool.
P.S. Dear Anticipated Comment Troll: Yes, I do know that relationships aren’t transactions and love isn’t something that can be acquired, but thank you so much for pointing that out!

How to Love

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been slowly making my way through a book of passages by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh called How to Love; slowly, because that’s the only way to take it in.  Instead of reading it like I would a book, I read two or three passages a week – one at a time – and think about how that passage applies to my past and present and how I can incorporate its teachings into my future.
There are a few passages I keep coming back to – passages that have profoundly changed the way I perceive myself and my loved ones, the ways in which I interact with others, and the way I see the world around me.  I wanted to share one of these because it’s had a personal impact on my current relationship:
Rediscovering Appreciation (p. 55)
When a loved one is suffering a lot, she or he doesn’t have enough energy to embrace you and help you suffer less.  So it’s natural that you become disappointed… If you’re patient and you practice taking care of yourself and the other person, you may have a chance to discover that the elements of goodness and beauty in the person you love are still there.  Taking care of yourself, you can support your loved one and re-establish the joy in your relationship.
I love this passage because it emphasizes the importance of compassion – putting yourself in your loved one’s place and feeling their suffering – and patience (which I’d argue people have less and less of in an age of overstimulation and rapid access to everything).
How to Love talks a lot about finding joy in your life outside of your relationships in order to share that joy with your partners (to nourish their hearts and minds); this passage reinforces that idea.  When we’re hurting, we often react out of anger or fear; we blame our partners rather than considering their suffering and looking at the bigger picture; however, as Franklin Veaux says, just because we feel bad doesn’t mean that someone did something wrong.  Through self-care, compassion, mindfulness, having an active, joyful, and full life outside of our romantic partners, and having a supportive community of friends, we can take better care of ourselves and help our partners when they need it.

My sweetheart is going through a stressful and extremely busy time right now; he feels overwhelmed, working three jobs and doing an online master’s degree.  This means that he has less time to spend with me; when that hurts me (and it does), I go to this passage and focus on how I can support him emotionally.  I ask him what he needs, and that’s been a really big deal to him.  I tell him that when he’s done with all the things he needs to get done, I’ll be here, loving him, full of funny stories to share with him, and waiting with a healing touch.  Practicing loving kindness and compassion can be transformative; if not for the other person you are being kind to, then for yourself.   

The Parent Trap

Image result for exasperated childOn a recent drive home from visiting extended family, my mom and I got into a fight, which isn’t surprising in and of itself – we can’t spend any real amount of time together without fighting.  What is surprising is that on this occasion, instead of reacting the way I normally would (sighing heavily and shutting down), I used a communication technique from books about ethical non-monogamy. 
The situation was this: She said something passive aggressive and meant to evoke feelings of guilt (“Honey, you must be so excited to go to DC so you can get away from your mom.”); in a raised tone of voice, I told her that it’s not okay to guilt trip me; she told me it wasn’t a guilt trip, then lapsed into the silent treatment. 
I tried talking her out of it for a while, but nothing was working – then finally, a light bulb went off.  “You’re a good mom,” I said, “and I love you.  When you say things like that, it makes me think that you think that I think (confusing, no?) you’re not a good mother, but you are.  And it’s okay if you need validation.  I should say this more out loud: You’re a great mom and I love you so much.  If you need reassurance, just ask and I’ll give it to you!  We all need reassurance and validation from the people we love.  I do, too.”  And poof!  Just like that, she came out of silent mode to tell me that she didn’t think that I thought she was a bad mother and that she loved me, too.  We talked about how hard it is that my sister and I live far away from her, and she really does worry that we don’t want to spend time with her.  Most of her friends have children who still live in my hometown and who have kids of their own; I know it’s emotionally difficult for her that we don’t. 
Then she said something really interesting. When I told her that there were a lot of people in my life that I care about, she said, “I guess sometimes I just feel jealous.”  And instead of saying, “That’s crazy – we’re both adults,” I held her hand and said, “Yeah, it’s gotta be hard to have someone depend on you for so long and then become completely independent.  I understand why you feel that way.” Of course, being childless, I can never truly understand – but I can try. And trying makes a world of difference.
Even parents – those people who are supposed to be our rocks – need reassurance that they’re important and loved.  Because they take care of us when we’re young, we sometimes see them as being impervious to feelings of inadequacy or jealousy, but they’re not.  They’re every bit as fragile and vulnerable as we are, especially as they age and start losing their own parents, siblings, and friends; in the long run, it’s not only easier to be compassionate than stubborn, but it’s better for our relationships (and our mental health).   

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.

Stop the presses! Rich white girls in trouble!

I was directed last week via Timaree’s Friday sex links to an article from the Sydney Morning Herald’s comment section about how online porn is turning young men into violent, sex-crazed hornballs who are now demanding anal sex from their teenage girlfriends; the subheading reads, “We need to educate and embolden our daughters to fight back against pornography, which is warping the behavior of boys.”  This immediately set off a red flag in my head.  No, two red flags.  First of all — the phrase “fight back against pornography” seems kind of funny to me.  I’m imagining a porn movie with its fists up in little red boxing gloves.  It’s important to create and support alternative pornography and to have critical discussions about pornography with young people… but the way this is phrased suggests that porn as a whole should be eradicated.

Second — how about we educate our boys about the differences between the sex they see in pornography vs. real sex?  How about we have critical discussions with them about gender roles, consent, the meaning of masculinity, and healthy relationships?  A program in Canada is doing just that, and it would be the greatest thing ever if that program were available everywhere.

Despite these red flags, I continued to read the article — a scare piece — and was shocked when I came to this paragraph:
    There was stunned silence around that table, although I think some of us may have let out involuntary cries of dismay and disbelief. Sue’s surgery isn’t in the brutalised inner-city but in a leafy suburb. The girls presenting with incontinence were often under the age of consent and from loving, stable homes. Just the sort of kids who, two generations ago, would have been enjoying riding and ballet lessons, and still looking forward to their first kiss, not being coerced into violent sex by some kid who picked up his ideas about physical intimacy from a dogging video on his mobile.

I wasn’t shocked by the fact that teenagers are having sex.  It wasn’t the mention of teen girls having to have surgery for incontinence that made my jaw drop, though that is certainly shocking and disturbing.  What caught my attention is the implied racism / classism in Pearson’s writing.  That her outrage stems from the fact that it’s privileged suburban white girls who are being coerced into sexual acts that they’re not entirely comfortable with and not lower class girls from the “brutalized inner city” teems with racist and classist implications. As though it wouldn’t be newsworthy if a teenage girl from an inner city neighborhood needed surgery because her boyfriend had aggressive sex with her.  In addition, the fact that she paints being from the inner city in opposition to being from a “loving, stable home” really got on my fucking nerves.  In doing so, she is tacitly stating a mutual exclusivity between making less money and providing stability or love for one’s family.

Pearson longs for a time when teenagers were “looking forward to their first kiss” at the age of sixteen (the age of consent in Sydney).  This is 2015.  We need to be talking realistically to young people about their lived experiences and having conversations with them about desire, communication, and consent, and we need to give them safe spaces to speak freely and advocate for their own agency.  That includes recognizing that young people have sexual desire and that that desire is part of their humanity.  (I also think it should be said here that anal sex is not by definition violent sex.)

Coercion and social expectation are real for young people and have tangible consequences on their lives.  So it’s imperative that we talk to young women and young men about media images of sexuality and how they influence behaviors and expectations.  Because while it is shocking that there are young women having fistula surgery from anal sex (which, again, is not inherently aggressive, and when done right should not result in injury), it is equally shocking to hear young men say that they feel like they are socially expected to pressure their girlfriends into doing it.          

“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!)