Are You Sexually Frustrated, Too? Let’s Talk About It

Photo credit: Stephen Acuna

So there’s this thing that happens when spring hits: Lots of people want to have sex.

This is standard. It’s natural. As the sun starts to get brighter, the days longer, and spaghetti straps reappear, people get, well … randy.

The fact is, with all the societal and cultural weirdness – oops, I mean “norms” – around sex, it’s easy to forget that we are biologically impelled to mate. It’s the only way the species gets propagated.

Nature wants us to fuck, which means we want to fuck.

It’s normal.

The problem? A lot of us don’t have the opportunity to (or believe we don’t).

There are a variety of reasons for this.

Some people are in sexless marriages. They don’t have access to sex (or believe they don’t) and must determine how to handle this: Bring it up only to get shot down again? Cheat? Try to get their partner to go to a couples counselor or sex therapist? (Will it really make a difference? Can we afford it? Do we prioritize that over other things we need right now as a family?)

Other people are in long-distance relationships (LDRs, aka Lack of D Routines). They have to ration their sex, parse it out in mega-doses, then hang on, like holding your breath underwater for the whole length of the pool.

Others are simply single.

This is more the category I fall into. I’m not in a sexless relationship (thank goodness. I’d most likely either address it or leave if I were). I just don’t have anyone with whom to share that special something.

It kind of sucks.

It also sucks because I’ve also realized that as much as I really to get laid, there’s a deeper reason I wish was sleeping with someone right now:

Affection.

The fact is, in our modern world, if you’re not in a romantic relationship, you likely suffer from touch starvation (this is a real thing).

We used to live in tribes where there was a lot of touch. You lived in (extremely) close proximity to family who braided your hair or patted you on the back or with whom you did tribal dances on the regular. In many cultures, everyone helped with the children, which meant a lot of hugging, changing the equivalent of diapers, and sleeping closely.

Now, unless you’re in a relationship, you almost never get touched.

A psychologist named Dr. Sidney Jourard once did a study of how often two friends touched one another during a conversation at a cafe in different countries.

In England, the two people touched each other exactly no times. In the U.S., they touched one another a whopping two times. In France, the number jumped to 110 times per hour. The grand prize winner? Puerto Rico. Friends there touched each other 180 times per hour.

A psychologist from Puerto Rico who has also lived in the U.S. had a fascinating take on it: “[T]here is a very different feeling in more collectivist cultures, such as those in Latin America. Social life feels more like the interaction of marshmallows—soft, full, sweet, and sticky, in contrast to being in mainstream US culture which feels more like the interaction of ping pong balls—every one is going about their own business in a slick, quick and flat sort of way, with little sense of connection to others.”

Among other things, this means if you are single and childless in the U.S. or U.K., you’re particularly vulnerable to ping ponging your way right into touch starvation.

With the exception of a hug from a friend (which usually lasts a measly 1-2 seconds, not even close to the 7 seconds required for oxytocin to start to release), you can go for days, weeks, sometimes months (years??) with no meaningful physical contact.

Last night, I was really upset. I had PMS in a big way – like one of those I-literally-hate-everyone-and-everything-right-now moods.

I didn’t really want to talk about it. What was there to say? I HATED EVERYONE. I HATED EVERYTHING. Of course there are things going on in my life and my brain is more than willing to blame my mood on. But while there are some things that aren’t perfect about my life, there a hell of a lot more that are going well and for which I am deeply, truly, really grateful.

That didn’t change the fact that in that particular moment, I just felt like shit.

Then something unexpected happened: A friend offered to play with my hair while we watched a movie.

Now let me tell you: It. Was. The. Bomb.

It was just what I needed. I didn’t need more words. I didn’t need more discussion or distraction.

I didn’t need to FaceTime with someone.

I didn’t need to drink alcohol.

I didn’t need to eat sugar.

I didn’t need to have someone tell me I was loved with their words.

I just needed touch.

As she played with my hair, a part of me relaxed. After ten minutes, a larger part of me relaxed. By the time the movie was halfway over, I stopped feeling so much like the raging bitch I’d been when it started, and more like the soft squishy me that I really love feeling.

Touch starvation is real, and it’s something we should all be mindful of.

We can likely all do a better job of being there for one another in more than just a text message kind of way.

When we’re physically together, we can make it a point to play with one another’s hair, scratch backs, give or receive light massages for a few minutes, or cuddle up on the couch.

Particularly if we’re in romantic relationships where we’re getting our touch needs met, we can be mindful of our single friends who may not have access to such affection. We can be even more sure to give affection to those friends when we’re with them.

If you do think you’re touch starved, experts have some suggestions for how to alleviate it, some of which are pretty good.

But to all of you fellow touch-started humans out there, let me just say this:

I feel you.

I feel for you.

If I could, I would give you a huge, long-lasting hug.

Then I’d play with your hair, or, if you’re bald, scratch your head lightly for the duration of a whole movie.

That Time I Accidentally Got On Tinder, Then Realized I Hate Everything About It

This past weekend, I got back on Tinder.

I had taken a just-under-2-year hiatus.

Now, to be clear, I don’t really have anything against Tinder. In fact, I had a very nice lay not long before I got off of it. We had epic hotel sex and I had no complaints. I even keep in touch with him (he was from out of town). We’ve gotten to be friends.

But after a while I just couldn’t, well, get it up for the app anymore. I matched with all kinds of guys who never messaged me, or with whom I messaged for quite a while before they ever asked me out, or who did ask me out but once we got together it became clear there just wasn’t that much chemistry.

This time, I didn’t really mean to get back on it. It wasn’t a conscious decision, a deliberate weighing of the pros and cons, an intentional exercise in wanting to meet new men or be truly met by someone.

Rather, someone randomly gave me a Tinder Plus or Tinder Select or some such invite. Suddenly I was back on the app, back scrolling through faces and profiles, first names and pictures, washboard abs and bearded dudes on surfboards, men who went to good schools who had linked their Instagram profiles, or not.

Like any good Tinder user, I started judging immediately.

Too douchey-looking, not good-looking enough, too hipster-y, too little info on his profile, too mean of a profile (“please be able to hold a conversation” … “be more than your social media” … “not looking for drama”).

Clever, funny, sarcastic, at-least-somewhat-athletic-looking, open-hearted-seeming men got swipes right.

Far-too-LA-model/actor-y, men with pictures where you couldn’t really see their faces, and serial-killer-looking-y dudes were swiped left.

And after not very long at all, I started feeling that familiar feeling:

Emptiness.

There is a special kind of loneliness that comes from Tindering (at least for me).

It’s not that there are bad guys on the app, or that no one makes an effort, or that the men on it are just out for sex and nothing else (some are, some aren’t, just like in real life).

No, it’s the depressing sameness of the “chill and laidback”, IPA-drinking, “love to travel” parade of mainstream men.

My friends and I call people who aren’t into consciousness work Muggles. It’s not derogatory exactly, just a helpful way for us to distinguish those who are like us from those who aren’t.

Muggles tend to be:

  • People who work at tech startups and believe statistics and science are more real than anything else
  • People who’ve never been to any kind of therapy
  • People who associate their net worth with their self-worth
  • People who think they’re fine until they have a breakdown and even then only consider the medical reason for it — not that it likely stemmed from an emotional one (or that it will recur until they deal with the emotional issue underlying it)
  • People who make decisions from their heads
  • People who’ve never explored how they handle anger, or why they’re passive aggressive when they are
  • People who do yoga for the exercise and nothing else
  • People who go to Burning Man for the drugs and the sex

Magical people tend to be:

  • People who meditate
  • People who consider how their relationship with their parents has affected their relationship with the opposite sex now
  • People who know their Myers Briggs and/or enneagram type
  • People who are familiar with their family of origin “issues” (even if they’re not over them, they’re aware of them)
  • People who attend or run workshops
  • People who acknowledge there is likely a spiritual reason they’re going through what they’re going through at work, and are open to talking about it
  • People who do yoga for both the physical and mindfulness aspects of it
  • People who do or have done psychedelics for consciousness purposes
  • People mindful of what they’re “working on” in life on an emotional level
  • People who understand that their consciousness is powerful and that they create much of their own reality
  • People whose shelves are full of books like Wired for Love, Way of the Superior Man, Integral Psychology, The Four Agreements, The Wisdom of the Enneagram

Now, to be clear, I don’t think one group is “better” than the other. I just find that one group is more conscious than the other.

Magical people have problems just like everyone else. They just seem to be more in relationship with them, with their origins, and want to explore them in a different way. Muggles have the same capacity to be “spiritual” as everyone else (everyone has a soul).

I just can’t talk to them about it openly.

Honestly, I’m pretty nervous about talking about this.

I’m pretty nervous some people will read it and think I’m judging them.

I’m pretty nervous I’ll be judged for being one of “those people” who’s into woo-woo shit and doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

I’m saying it anyway.

Because this is part of my shadow. It’s part of where I’m unconscious, and where unconsciousness will run this part of my life unless I get conscious around it.

My unconscious tells me: you’ll never find a man who’s both fuckable and into the same consciousness shit you are.

So my reality on Tinder is: there are no men who are both fuckable and into consciousness shit like I am.

I’m not the only one who does this kind of splitting. Lots of us have beliefs like:

  • “I’ll never find a job where I’m well paid and get to do creative stuff.”
  • “I’ll never find a place to rent that’s both affordable and in the neighborhood I want.”
  • “I’ll never find a guy who’s emotionally available and great in bed.”
  • “I’ll never find a woman who’s sexy and emotionally stable.”

Our unconscious tells us we’ll never get what we actually want because it’s impossible, too far out there, too much. That we’re deluded or greedy or selfish or ungrateful for even wanting it in the first place.

At my core, I don’t believe that.

So the real reason I deleted the app is simple: it triggers my fear that I’ll never have my and, and I don’t want to empower that.

In my better moments, in my better conversations, in my better state of mind, I can feel my and. I am receptive and powerful and ready for a man who can really meet me.

In the meantime, I’m swiping left on Tinder.

5 Ways I Want to Feel With My Future Man

[Photo by Bryan Brenneman]

This is an edgy piece for me to write right now.

First, because I feel self-conscious sharing it, as though I’m afraid someone will call me selfish or ungrateful or unrealistic for naming what I truly want.

Second, because I’m not even sure I want to be in a relationship at all. That’s not really true — a part of me really wants it. Another part is intensely afraid.

I’m writing it anyway.

Because as much as I’m afraid of being labeled selfish, and as much as I’m scared of getting into a relationship, I believe that where my deep desires live is also where my path lies.

That following my deepest desires is following my path.

Plus, ya know, talking about sexy men is kinda my jam, even if they’re not in my life yet.

So here are 6 ways I really, truly, deeply want to feel with my future man:

1. Wanted

I want to feel wanted. I want to feel desired. I want you to push me up against a wall because you just can’t stand it anymore (“that skirt tho”). I want to know that I affect you, that when you get near me you feel it in your cock, that your face gets flushed and you have to breathe extra deeply to steady yourself.

I want to see your eyes light up when you see me naked for the first time, when you catch a glimpse of my eyes flashing from across the room, when I show up a little tipsy after a night out with the girls and you have me keep my heels on for a while around the house.

I want to want you the same way. I want to feel pulled to you, drawn to you, magnetically attracted to your body, your strength, your masculinity, your essence. I want to lust after you. I want to want to jump you all the time, to straddle you, to not be able to wait to get you home when we’re out, to feel the electric tingle of your hands on my back and know exactly where else I want those hands.

2. Relaxed

I want you to be more grounded than me.

That’s the truth.

I want you to be the oak tree so I get to be the bright butterfly fluttering around you. I want you to pull me into this moment right here, right now, with the deep steadiness of your own presence.

I want you to remind me of the ocean spray and the salty sunlight and the bright, flowering rose in the yard because you are aware of them. I want you to pick the wildflower you see on your way home for me because you were present enough to notice that there was a wildflower growing there in the first place.

I want to feel more grounded, more present, more aware of heat and motion and the delicious sensations of my own body because you are. Under your gaze, I want to melt into the beauty and lucidity of myself, like a candle becoming soft and fluid and eternal.

3. Committed to me

Once, relatively early into dating, I wrote a boyfriend an email about something that had upset me. He had a really busy job, but you know what? He spent every single free moment he had that day, whether in the bathroom or the breakroom, responding to my email.

I felt honored.

I also felt respected. Cherished. Valued. This was a man who wanted to know how I felt. Unlike my previous, cold-hearted boyfriend, he didn’t shame me for communicating — he appreciated it.

More than anything, what I got was that he really, truly wanted to be in a relationship with me. He wanted to be committed. He wanted it all, and he wanted it with me.

Feeling his commitment helped me relax and let him in even more. I could lean into that steadiness, into that assurance, and rest in the security of knowing I was really, really important to him.

Perhaps paradoxically, it felt like freedom.

4. Met

I want to be fucking met.

I want to know you’re just as smart as me, and I’m not talking about book smart. I couldn’t care less about where you went to school or whether you have a fancy career or whether you’ve read Balzac.

No, smart as in able to meet me on the same plane of spiritual engagement.

I want to know you’ve done your work and that you continue to do it. I want to know you’re emotionally aware and not afraid to bring it. I want you to have a men’s group and mentors and a way for you to get outside of our relationship and outside of your own head on a regular basis. I want you to know what it means to be in your head.

And I want you to be able to challenge me and hold me to my own beliefs: that my people will come; I don’t have to force anything. That the universe will take care of me. And us. And all of us. That maybe my own unconscious bullshit is in the way of whatever it is we’re talking about right now, too. That I can open and receive and allow anything in, especially when I let go of the outcome.

That we are loved by something greater, that we are greater, that oneness is real, that peace is possible, that this is not the end.

5. Held

I want to know you’ve got me. I want to know you’ve got this (whatever “this” is). I want you to listen to me, yes, but I also want you to lead me. I want to follow your lead.

I want you to lead in the way you notice me, the way you track me, the way you draw me out. I want you to know when something is wrong or seems wrong, and ask me about it. I don’t want you to wait for me to bring it up. I want to feel held and protected and known and know that you want to do right by me even if you don’t get it right all the time.

In other words, I want you to trust and act on your deep masculine intuition, so that I can relax into my true feminine expression.

No biggie.

A parable:

“A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.

One is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, ‘Grandfather, which one wins?’

The grandfather quietly replies, ‘The one you feed.’”

This article was my attempt at feeding the good wolf.

My Biggest Fear When it Comes to Getting Into Another Relationship

I say I want a relationship, and I do. I’ve never had a truly healthy one and I’d really like live inside one, to know what it feels like, to grasp the joy and meaning of it, the growth and intimacy.

Given my real and true longing for this, it’s a little puzzling that I’ve never had one. It’s also strange that it’s been over a year since I’ve been in a serious relationship at all.

Or is it?

You know how sometimes you have flashes of insight that take you completely by surprise? That lay you flat with the force of their truth and power?

I had one of those the other night. It was so powerful it felt like a punch to the stomach.

I realized that as much as I want a relationship – as much as I ache for it, dream about it, yearn for it – there’s another part of me that feels a different kind of way about it:

It’s fucking terrified.

Yes, I intellectually and emotionally do want to Be With Someone. But in that moment I suddenly knew in my bones, in my cells, that a part of me is absolutely petrified of getting into a relationship … because I’m scared I will lose myself.

That I will lose myself.

Again.

I lost myself in my last serious relationship, and almost didn’t recover.

This is not uncommon. Many, many people – both women and men – list “losing myself” as one of the main reasons a relationship failed, or for their profound unhappiness.

In my research on top problems when it comes to sex, dating, and relationships, a lot of people talked about it as a primary issue in their relationships:

  • “The fear of losing myself when I’m in a relationship. Like stopping my dreams/plans for someone and conforming to what I think they want me to be like.”
  • “Being attentive to my partner’s needs without sacrificing my sense of self.”
  • “[L]learning how to sit with myself until a relationship fits naturally into my life rather than rearranging my life to fit a relationship.”
  • “I invest all of my time into the happiness of the other party such that I lose my humanity.”
  • “Not knowing who I am anymore.”

Those last two really get me.

Now, in a way I love that this fear is a part of me, because it’s partly a reflection of just how awesome it has been having myself.

I don’t want to lose myself because I love myself.

I don’t just mean in that healthy self-love kind of way. I’m still learning how to do that.

I mean the little things.

I love going to the dollar store and lingering happily in the hair and beauty products aisle, treating myself to things I know I’d enjoy pampering myself with. I love watching I Know What You Did Last Summer on a random Wednesday with friends because I know I’ll laugh and maybe bite my nails and definitely giggle at those 90s outfits tho. I love picking out exotic cheeses at the store just for me, making dinners I know I’m really going to enjoy, with yummy splurges like the dark chocolate soufflés at Trader Joe’s (seriously, people, they taste just like restaurant lava cakes. Get them. Now.).

I do also mean in the healthy self-love way. In the way of forgiving myself for mistakes, for reminding myself that even if I forget a phone call or let someone down or snap at someone unfairly, I’m still not a bad person. That even if I don’t publish my blog post at EXACTLY THE RIGHT TIME or I give someone the silent treatment for a while or I forget someone’s birthday, I don’t have to be perfect.

I’m doing the best I can.

I’m better at this now than I ever have been, which means I’m more comfortable in my own skin than ever. I wonder if that’s partly because I’ve gotten to spend so much time by myself, with myself.

I don’t know.

My mother had Borderline Personality Disorder. She was extremely high-functioning. She never beat me or did anything egregious. But I learned to bow to her shape. I folded myself into the origami of what she wanted, to take care of her feelings to the detriment of my own. I was trained to grovel, to give up my own sense of identity if it ever seemed to piss her off, to walk on eggshells to make sure her feelings were taken care of. I was always, constantly, consistently, neverendingly on guard against “making her mad.”

Since this is how my nervous system was patterned, of course this dynamic showed up in my romantic relationships – we all recreate our family of origin issues in relationship.

Thus there’s a part of me that, in relationship, has constantly been afraid the other person is mad at me, or will be. I have self-censored what I said or did or how I acted or who I was with, to make sure it didn’t piss him off.

This isn’t just about a culture of patriarchy where women are oppressed. It’s about the small, young part of myself that wants to be loved. It’s about the hyper-vigilance that was part of my survival tool kit as a kid. There was a part of me that truly believed that if I made my mother angry, she would stop loving me forever. I would be completely alone, unloved and unwanted.

Now, of course, I know better. I’ve done my work. I’m woke to the pattern and conscious of its consequences. I’m know where it comes from and what its utility was and how it isn’t useful anymore.

But that doesn’t mean that little girl inside me will be comfortable when I need to say “no” to a new partner. It doesn’t mean she’ll feel OK doing something I need to do for me that I know will cause conflict with my partner. It doesn’t mean things will go well just because I know myself.

My point is this: my biggest fear when it comes to getting into another relationship is not unjustified. I’m scared that I’ll again make my partner into my mother, psychologically speaking.

I’m frightened of repeating the pattern of sacrificing myself for another. Of erasing the boundaries between what makes me, me, and what makes him feel OK.

I’m not sure how to retain my selfhood while remaining connected to another.

I’ve never done it.

I’ve rarely seen it done well.

I used to run a discussion group called Sex, Dating & Relating. One night, I made the theme Staying Grounded in Relationship. I wanted to talk about this (relatively common) phenomenon of losing oneself in a relationship. I wanted to see how others handled it.

First we went around and shared a time we’d “lost” ourselves in relationship. Both men and women shared; both men and women had experienced it. They talked about going on camping trips when they weren’t really into camping. They talked about staying in all the time with a partner when they were actually really social and wanted to go out. They talked about changing, subtly, over time, without even realizing it, until they barely recognized themselves.

They talked about resenting their partners despite the fact that they themselves were the ones making these choices, over and over.

Then I had everyone close their eyes and take a few deep breaths to ground in their own essence in the moment. Their own core. Their own self.

Silently, I asked them to name three things that help keep them grounded. Maybe meditating. Maybe hiking. Maybe baking while listening to oldies. Maybe going to the beach, walking on sand in bare feet with nowhere to go except into waves.

Whatever it is, I told people, let your intuition guide you. Let it give you the list. This won’t come from your head. It never does.

When they opened their eyes, each person shared one item from their list.

People said things like exercise, spending one-on-one time with their dog, painting, singing.

They said kneading bread, taking improv, going salsa dancing, having deep conversations with close friends.

They said time in nature, time alone reading a book, time songwriting, time in the bath.

After we had all gone around, we took another breath. We shared a moment of appreciating the simplicity of the question, and the power of the answers.

Then I remarked, almost on a whim, that wouldn’t it be great if when we first got into a relationship, we shared our list with our partners? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were actually partners in keeping one another grounded? If we colluded in each of us retaining our own identities? If we recognized that the issue of losing oneself in relationship is a very real one, and that we committed to supporting each other in retaining our sense of self?

Later, one of the discussion members shared with me that that very night, he had told his new girlfriend about the exercise, and that they’d done it.

It was one of the most gratifying moments of my life.

I believe it is my purpose to share both the best and “worst” of myself in order to serve. That it’s only by me getting intensely personal that I will help inspire the healing, growth, learning, and transformation I so desperately feel our world needs.

I don’t have this particular one worked out yet, but that’s exactly why I’m sharing it.

I have tools, of course, and plenty of support and people who love me. I have faith in a higher power that can make anything happen, including helping me stay me in a relationship. And I have some small sense that in a truly good relationship, there’s a way for each of the parties to grow into even more of who they are, instead of losing themselves.

I’m just not there yet.

Are you?

I Surveyed Over 1,000 People About Dating Problems. Here’s What They Said

[Photo credit: Cristina Souza]

I’m a member of a beach cleanup crew. We meet regularly. There is a cute guy on this crew, and a few weeks ago, we got to talking a little bit. When I got home that day, I saw that he’d friended me on Facebook. He has no girl in his photos and I think he may be single. However, I also think he *may* be dating one of the other girls on the crew, because they left together last week.

I don’t know what to do about it.

Do I assume they’re together, or do I ask him (or her) if they are? Is that weird? Do I just wait for him to reach out to me over Facebook? If he’s interested, he probably will (right)? If I’m the one to make the first move, is that un-sexy? And will that mean that I’m the first one to make the first move in the whole scenario? Would I have to be the first one to kiss him? That doesn’t really make me feel feminine …

And on and on.

I bring this up because it feels like a microcosm for the results I’m about to share with you.

Last year, I conducted a survey of both men and women, with the following questions:

  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to sex?
  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to dating?
  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to relationships?

This piece covers solely the dating results. For sex, go here. The relationships data will come out next week.

To be honest, the dating data was much more challenging to sort than the sex data. In this set, there was less agreement and more paradox. There were more categories and fewer generalizations.

It turns out dating is complicated. Who knew?!

First a few specifics on the population that was surveyed. If you’ve read the other pieces, obviously you can skip this part:

  1. Each respondent could give three separate responses to each question, so the percentages don’t add up to 100 (they still show the overall trends)
  2. The exact question was, “What are your top 3 problems when it comes to dating? (If you’re currently in a relationship, think back to when you were dating)” — so as not to exclude those currently in relationships

The demographics:

  • Total age range: 16-72, average age 37
  • Identified as female: 85%; male: 14%, “other”: ~1%
  • In committed relationships: 45%; single: 33%; “it’s complicated” or “other”: 22% (many said they were separated from spouse)
  • Identified as heterosexual: 85%; bisexual: 12%; gay: 1%; “other”: 3%

Thus people were mostly in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, mainly hetero, and about half were in relationships, while half were single/single-ish.

The top problems listed by the groups:

WOMEN’S TOP DATING PROBLEMS  

  1. Dis/honesty: 12%

  2. Finding the right fit: 7%

  3. Men only being interested in sex: 6%

  4. Where to meet men: 5%

  5. Game-playing (including knowing when to have sex): 4%

—-

MEN’S TOP DATING PROBLEMS       

  1. Finding the right fit: 21%

  2. Expectations/pressure: 15%

  3. Insecurity: 13%

  4. Mis/communication: 12%

  5. Reading signals: 11%

—-

Now, quickly back to the guy on the beach cleanup crew.

Let’s assume he does like me back. I don’t know him very well, but from the results of this survey, I’m going to go ahead and guess a few things: first, he isn’t sure whether I like him, either (he’s not 100% sure about about the “signs”). Second, he doesn’t want to get rejected, so he’s not sure about asking me out. What if I have a boyfriend? What if I don’t like him back? What if he asks me and I say yes and then he finds out he doesn’t actually like me? What if he hurts me?

And on and on.

I’m going to outline my biggest takeaways from the data now, but the two most overwhelming ones are these:

Humans are complicated.
When it comes to dating, we need to communicate with each other more.

More detailed takeaways (these are mainly hetero-normative, since the vast majority of the responses referred to hetero dating):

1. Nobody knows “the rules”

All actual responses:

  • “Lack of labels, always confused!” (woman)
  • “What are the current social norms?” (man)
  • “Never knowing when it’s okay to have sex without seeming like a slut or a prude.” (woman)
  • “Reading the situation, i.e. is she OK for me to kiss her? Etc.” (man)
  • “I never know if I should give into my sexual desires, even if it’s on the first date for fear I’ll come off as slutty. And fear that if I hold off for a few dates, and disregard my urges to gain their ‘respect,’ that they’ll actually get bored and lose interest.” (woman)
  • “Who pays the damn bill this time? ;)” (man)
  • “Sex – if you’re dating more than one person and no one exclusively, what’s the sex etiquette in that situation? Is it OK to assume that you are free to have sex with more than one person until you are dating an individual exclusively?” (woman)
  • “Timing. When to ask for sex the first time.” (man)
  • “I intend to sleep on the first date, some think I am a whore.” (woman)
  • “Reading ‘signs’” (man)
  • “Feeling a great connection and afraid to overwhelm the person. I come on pretty strong whenever I read energy that feels sexual. So, if I get that kind of vibe, I’m like, (in my head ~ NOT out loud!) ‘When do we get to the sex already???!!!’” (woman)
  • “I’m too old for games, when to text, what to say, don’t seem excited or desperate or interested. Who knows what’s going on?!” (woman)

I’ll tell you: Nobody knows what’s going on. If all these responses were written by a single individual, they’d be schizophrenic.

What came across more than anything was this: modern dating is confusing. It is. The social norms have changed. Everyone is fumblefucking their way through it, there are casualties along the way, and one of the biggest casualties seems to be clarity. Nothing is clear, which brings us to our next point:

2. More honest communication is needed

As you can see from the data, women listed their top problem as dis/honesty. Of course men want honesty, too, of course, but this was a big issue for women in particular. They said things like:

  • “Wondering how genuine [men] are. What their real intentions are.”
  • “Men who are not upfront about their intentions or desires. You want to be my fuckbuddy, cool, I’m human and we all have sexual needs. You want to date and get to know me and try to have a future together, awesome! But please, out of courtesy or respect, do not say one and mean the other.”
  • “Men are not clear in the communication. They say, ‘I’ll call you’ when they really mean ‘You are nice, but I don’t see us as a match.’”
  • “Men lying about what kind of relationship they really want just to have sex.”

A friend of mine hooked up with a guy she knew at a house party a few weeks ago, and it fell into that really confusing category of: what happens now? Is he going to text me? Are we going to date? Does he actually like me? What’s going on?

Then he did something classy. He sent her a long email (I know that doesn’t sound romantic, but bear with me). He was courteous and straightforward, saying he’d really enjoyed their time together and wanted to let her know what was going on on his end. He had just gotten out of something serious and was looking for a strictly physical relationship. He wasn’t sure that was a match for her. Was it?

It wasn’t. She told him, and that was that. She could stop wandering about in limbo, not knowing what was happening. It was also obvious from the email that he really did respect and care about her, and wanted her to know that.

This kind of straightforward communication is the exception right now, not the rule. And the lack of it is creating a lot of chaos, resentment, and bewilderment for both sides. To me, the overall lesson is this:

Be brave. Tell the truth.

3. Humans are complicated

One of my guy friends helped me with the data, and his interpretation of it all was both poetic and accurate:

“It was validating seeing all the contradictory responses, because it made the social matrix I’ve been navigating all my life visible. One woman says, ‘I hate that men want sex on the first date.’ Another says, ‘I want to have sex on the first date without feeling like a slut.’ One says, ‘I’m scared of feeling used.’ Another says, ‘I’m sick of guys being worried I’ll feel used. I can take care of my own feelings.’

We’re all walking around wanting and needing, fearing and feeling frustrated with different things, and we won’t necessarily know until we ask and have a conversation about it.”

He’s right. The data was full of paradoxes. Women said both:

“Men want sex right away. If they don’t get it, they move on.”
“Keeping my pants on.”

“Men telling you I love you too soon.”
“Picking ass clowns.”

“Being smothered and me having to pace the relationship.”
“Men do not want to take me anywhere but the bedroom.”

And men said:

“Wanting to get serious when they don’t.”
“Fear of hurting the one I’m dating emotionally in case I realize that she’s not for me.”

“Falling real hard for them when we did connect sexually.”
“Knowing if she is really into me.”

And on and on.

As with the last piece, I have much more to say about all this but I wanted to get this out. If you have any thoughts on all this, please do get me directly at melanie@pleaseherinbed.com. This is an ongoing project and I can use all the feedback I can get. Especially: if this is helping, I would love to know how.

I leave you with more prize responses:

  • “I’m just going to say it: I HATE dates. They feel way too artificial. I can’t help but feel that, on a date, both parties’ mindsets are, ‘OK, I’m running you and everything you say through a giant filter where if you slip up and say something wrong then the rest of this evening becomes me just being polite while I bide my time until I can leave and ghost on you.’” (man)
  • “Hard to find the right combo of “real man” and being emotionally available.” (woman)
  • “Dating apps that perpetuate a Candy Crush style of dating.” (man)?
  • “The fear of my body not being beautiful enough once we get intimate physically.” (woman)
  • “I’m quite sensitive and caring so women see me as weak but I am really passionate and am not afraid to get rough/dominate her once we are a little comfortable together.” (man)
  • “It was hard to find someone strong enough to handle me… Who didn’t want to conquer me.” (woman)
  • “Breaking the modern dating culture ‘act like you don’t care’ barrier.” (woman)
  • “Being judged for being nice. Fuck you, I’m a nice fucking guy, I’m opening your car door all the time, and buying you dinner, not because feel like I have to, or am trying to get you into bed. I’m doing these things because it’s nice to be nice to someone and I like treating human beings with kindness.” (man)
  • “How do I trust another man… ever? (After my heart has been so shredded)” (woman)
  • “Being presumed to be the sum of all previous boyfriends.” (man)
  • “Holding in a fart.” (woman)

The Secret Relationship Killer No One is Talking About

I broke up with my last boyfriend because of sex.

I didn’t tell him that, of course. I told him other things, things that were also true. So it’s not that I lied, but I didn’t share the full truth.

I didn’t tell him the full story for the same way a lot of people don’t tell … because we don’t want to “hurt each other’s feelings.”

I’m not alone in this. A lot of people end relationships in large part because of sex, while naming something else as the culprit.

I’m not saying sex isn’t cited. Often one person will say s/he wants it more (or less) than the other. One will say the other isn’t as “open-minded” as s/he wants.

But I don’t think we’re talking about the real, underlying reason behind the sexual dissatisfaction. It’s not that we could never satisfy each other. It’s not that we’re fundamentally different and fundamentally incapable of becoming compatible.

No.

I believe it’s because of something much more serious than we have given it credence for. I think it’s because of something that is just as much of a relationship-destroyer as cheating, yet remains something we rarely talk about. There’s a dirty little secret in most relationships, and that’s this:

We have no fucking clue how to talk to one another about sex.

I’m not talking about discussing frequency. I’m not talking about the, “Hey, it’s been a while since we had sex. Is everything cool?” conversation. I’m not even talking about the, “Hey, we need to talk about this … I feel like I want sex way more than you, and I’m afraid of what that means” thing.

No, not the how-often-we-have-it, not even details of whether or when you go down on me, or whether I am open to us having anal sex — I’m talking about the actual, down and dirty sex part.

What it feels like.

What I crave from you, and you from me.

Whether I trust you — really trust you.

Where I feel truly, extremely vulnerable sexually, and what that means for me.

Where you feel really, truly, extremely vulnerable sexually, and what that means for you.

Where we are meeting one another’s needs, and where we aren’t meeting one another’s needs.

In my case, I knew better. I knew what phenomenal, off-the-charts, haunting, mesmerizing, riveting, bed-shaking, earth-quaking sex felt like. I knew what it meant to be so totally absorbed by my my partner’s body, attention, and touch that I was rendered literally speechless.

I knew what truly great sex was, so I wasn’t willing to settle for “just OK.”

It’s not that I never tried to talk about it — at least in part. For example, I did bring up the idea of him being more gentle with his hands — a few times. He usually got more gentle for a few minutes (sometimes even one whole encounter) … then went back to doing it how he’d always done it.

After a few times, I let it go. I didn’t want to be perceived as a nag. I didn’t want to be perceived as demanding. I didn’t want to be told I was too sensitive or too much. I didn’t want to be shut down or shamed. So I let it go.

No, that’s the wrong phrase.

I gave up.

I recently conducted sex research on 1,000 people, and there were a lot of similar responses from the women. They said they’d tried to communicate with their partners about sex, then felt really discouraged when it didn’t “stick.”

So they did what I did: gave up. They’d grin and bear it, tolerate the pain when it happened, and just figure this was as good as it gets.

As good as it gets.

Now, to be fair to the men, my guess is that these women approached the conversation with as much trepidation as me, and without informing the men of the extent to which this was a problem. They probably didn’t say just how much it mattered, the same way I didn’t.

They didn’t give him the stakes.

For example: I said something like, “I would love a lighter touch. The more gentle you are with your hands, the more I feel. When it’s too much pressure, I numb out.”

The second time, I probably just said, “Lighter, lighter, lighter” — because he’d gone back to a pressure that hurt.

The third time, I squirmed and said, “Less pressure.”

The fourth time, I gave up.

Yet at no point did I say say:

“Listen, I’d love to talk to you about something really important. I’ve brought it up a few times, but I need to emphasize it: I really need a lighter touch when you touch my vulva with your fingers and hands. Right now, the pressure is often too much, and it hurts. The pain makes me cringe inside and tense my body, which then distracts me from any pleasure I might have been feeling. I end up feeling like I have to protect myself. This is really important to me. I want us to have beautiful, amazing, spectacular sex, and I want to enjoy every minute of it. In fact, it’s so important that if it doesn’t get better, I’m considering breaking up with you.”

Whoa.

Harsh.

Was I wrong to not say that?

Was I right to?

Was it my responsibility to make sure he understood the stakes, or was it his responsibility to take the direction I’d given (and not just forget about it by the next encounter)?

Whose “fault” was it?

I don’t know.

I do know that this is the dirty little secret in a LOT of relationships.

I do know that when you love someone, it’s hard to “criticize” them about something so inherently vulnerable.

I do know that when you don’t fully let yourself go during sex, it damages the intimacy of the whole relationship …  and that that is the beginning of the end.

So I want to know: How do you talk about sex with a partner (if at all)? Have you ever broken up with someone because of sex? Ever talked about it with someone and had it go well?

I’m conducting a survey about this to help understand the extent of the issue and the possible solutions. If you’re willing to share (anonymously), please do.

Let’s talk about how to talk about sex.

It’s time.

Take the survey: Sex Talk.

 

I Really Love That He Did This After Our Date

There is something deliciously, marvelously, exquisitely sexy about a man who pursues.

I met a guy at a party recently who Friended me that night on Facebook. He hit me up the next day, asking how I was, etc., and we chatted for a day or two before he asked for my number. It flowed in the conversation and he used the opportunity to also ask if I’d want to go see a movie sometime that we’d been talking about.

“Sure!” I said.

The next day he texted, “Good morning!” and we texted a bit about our days. Later that day, he said, “Good evening!” and said that if I wasn’t busy later, maybe we could talk on the phone?

I thought that was adorable. We talked for an hour.

Then the next day he texted to see whether we could get together the next week. We hung out in person a few days later, and had a nice, mellow date. The next day? Another text. Another reminder that he liked me, that he was interested, that he wanted to know how I was, that I mattered.

I felt pursued. And I loved it.

Now contrast this with a guy I went out with a few months ago who didn’t pursue me at all. We had an amazing date, I mean making-out-for-two-hours, hot-and-heavy-in-the-car, fantastic-conversation-and-chemistry, great fucking date.

After which I texted him a few times and got enthusiastic responses … but no pursuing on his part. No him texting first, asking me out, or even just seeing how I was. And while one could write this off as him just not being interested, I really don’t think that was it. I think it’s that he just … doesn’t … pursue. He’s more passive.

I’m not going to spend the rest of this article lamenting the many, many, MANY times I’ve been not pursued by men. I’m not going to list the number of times I’ve known a guy was into me by how he was looking at me, how he acted around me, how he told his friend he was into it … but then did nothing about it.

No, I’m simply going to wax poetic about how fucking awesome it is when a guy does pursue.

I went out with a man once who I was planning on just sleeping with and ditching (I’d literally gone out that evening like, “I’m going to find a guy to bang” … and I did).

But after I’d picked him up at 11pm on a Saturday night and we were in bed and it was time for sex, he said, “I actually like you … let’s wait.” So we did. All of 8 hours. We did it the next morning and then he insisted on taking me out to brunch.

Insisted on taking me to brunch.

Then he texted me later that day to see how I was doing and what I was up to. We ended up having dinner together and I took him home again.

The next day, he texted me again. “How are you?” “What’s up?” etc. He wasn’t just about the sex. He wanted to know who I was. He wanted to know how I was. He wanted to see me and he told me so. He pursued.

This man eventually became my boyfriend, and we learned a lot together. But the thing I’ll remember the most is how it felt to be pursued by him:

I felt happy.

I felt desired.

I felt feminine.

The fact is, I feel most in my feminine when I get to follow a man’s lead. When I am the one reaching out, pursuing, or going after it, I can feel feminine in a different kind of way (assertive, vixen-y, etc)., but that only lasts a short time for me. I’ve found that I feel happiest, most relaxed, and most excited when I get to follow his lead.

He has to lead, so I get to follow.

I remember having a conversation with a boy at a party in college and marveling at his comment: “I respect women, so I don’t want to bother them. If I’m interested, I generally keep it to myself.”

Wtf??

I blurted out, “But respecting women doesn’t mean ignoring them!”

Respecting women doesn’t mean ignoring them.

Guys, of course you are free to do whatever you like when it comes to the ladies. But if I could give you a small piece of advice when it comes to the leading/following game, it would be this:

If you like a woman, pursue her. Text her first. Ask her out. Text her again. (Lay off if it’s obvious she doesn’t want you to anymore, but you get what I’m saying.)

Pursue her … and watch her light up.

Survey Results: Over One Thousand People Weigh in About Sex, Dating & Relationships

[Photo credit: Tony Fischer]

About a year ago, I wrote a piece called My Top 3 Sex Problems As A Woman.

I did it to promote transparency and openness. I did it because I think we should talk about sex more, and more honestly. I did it because the better we feel about our sexuality, the better we are to ourselves. And others.

In that spirit, at the end of the article I invited people to participate by taking a survey. The questions were very simple:

  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to sex?
  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to dating?
  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to relationships?

I wanted to see whether I was alone in my sex problems as a woman. I wanted to know what men would say. I wanted to see what trends would emerge.

I wanted the truth.

I thought I’d be lucky to get 100 responses. You can imagine my shock, then, when over 1,000 people responded. Then I read them and was even more shocked by their depth, range, vulnerability, and, yes, truth.

Get excited, because I’m going to share the results with you now.

First, a few notes on the data:

  1. Since each respondent could give 3 separate answers to each question, you’ll notice the percentages don’t add up to 100 (don’t worry, they still show the critical trends)
  2. I’m including only the sex results in this article. I’ll do separate pieces for the dating and relationship questions. They’re equally as fascinating

And a few quick demographics on who responded:

  • The total age range was 16-72, with an average age of 37
  • 85% identified as female, 14% male, and ~1% as “other”
  • 85% identified as heterosexual; 12% as bisexual; 1% as gay; 3% as “other”
  • 45% were in committed relationships, 33% were single, and 22% fell into the categories of “it’s complicated” or “other” (many of these said they were currently separated from spouse)

So we’re talking about people mostly in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, primarily hetero, roughly half of whom were in a relationship, and half of whom were single/single-ish.

Without further ado, here are the top problems listed by the groups:

—-

WOMEN’S TOP SEX PROBLEMS  

  1. Trouble orgasming: 24%

  2. Pain/It hurts: 23%

  3. Communication: 18%

  4. Not enough foreplay: 18%

  5. Relaxing/letting go: 4%

—–

MEN’S TOP SEX PROBLEMS       

  1. Pleasing partner: 17%

  2. Partner not initiating: 17%

  3. Performance anxiety: 12%

  4. My sex drive is higher: 9%

  5. Not having/getting it enough: 8%

—–

If you’re a woman for whom orgasming is challenging, or a man who isn’t exactly sure how to please your partner, the biggest thing to know is that you’re not alone.

Here are a few more of my biggest takeaways (note: these are hetero-normative for the most part, as the vast majority of the responses referred to hetero sex).

1. For a lot of women, sex hurts

It’s hard to talk about this one. First, because a number of women said their biggest sexual issue was figuring out how to enjoy sex after rape or other sexual trauma, and that is, frankly, heartbreaking. Not only were these women violated either as girls, teens, or adults, but now sex is painful for them and while they desperately want to enjoy it, they don’t (yet). I have much to say about this, which I will save for a different article, but for now will simply say this: one of my closest friends is a survivor of sexual abuse, and she has scorchingly hot sex with her fiancé now. It IS possible, you CAN get there, and you DESERVE to get there.

Next: for a lot of women, it’s not necessarily that sex hurts all the time, but that many of the men with whom they have it, hurt them (probably unwittingly). Thus:

  • “Painful intercourse”
  • “Too much pressure/too rough”
  • “Fear (like I need to protect my body from painful and unwelcome stuff)”
  • “Fingering too rough causing anxiety rather than stimulation”
  • “Men are rough. I call it porn sex.”

I’ve got to be honest: It was a little depressing to read response after response like this. But it also gave me hope, because I feel like much of this is fixable with the right information and communication. Especially because …

2. Men really want to know how to please women

Apparently, for many men, figuring out how to please a woman is a puzzling mystery wrapped in the shroud of an enigma:

  •   “I can’t tell whether what I’m doing is working.”
  •   “I don’t know how to tell if I gave a woman an orgasm or not. This is compounded by the fact that I can’t get feedback because asking if it happened is a turn-off (e.g. showing a lack of sexual prowess), which results in no orgasms anyhow. I’ve also heard the conventional wisdom, ‘If you don’t know if you’ve given a girl an orgasm, then you probably haven’t’ – which makes me even more insecure.”
  •   “If what I’m doing actually turns her on.”
  •   “A lot of women I’ve met almost seem like they expect me to know how to please them, but it requires a little direction. Don’t be afraid to tell me you don’t like something, or would rather me do something else. Guide me. Not everything I like do will appeal to every partner I have. Direct me, and show me the way. This is a mutual thing, and if only one of us enjoys it, what’s the point of having sex?”

I really feel for men here. For many of them, it sounds like determining how to successfully pleasure a woman is like trying to escape a dark room with a lot of furniture in it. You do your best while you stumble around, hoping not to run into anything bad and eventually find the right door that leads to the holy land.

As a woman who has sex with men, I was also touched by the responses in this category. It was a good reminder that most men really do want women to enjoy themselves during sex. They’re not just looking to “score” – they care that she’s having a good time.

Which makes the next point even more poignant:

3. Women struggle with how to talk about sex with men

Over and over, women mentioned wanting to give their partners feedback about sex but feeling like if they brought something up, they’d hurt him. They said things like:

  • “I struggle to express what I want during sex. I’m afraid of making the other person feel inadequate.”
  • “Communication! Speaking up in bed while trying to balance pleasing myself and not hurting my partner’s ego.”
  • “My partner likes going down on me, but he’s not very good at it. I don’t think he knows where to focus the energy and stimulation. I try to tell him but don’t want to hurt his feelings or ego.”
  • “Not wanting to tell my partner when he does something I don’t like. Men take it personally and seem to think because they’ve successfully pleasured one woman with something that it should/will work with all women.”
  • “How to communicate when I don’t like something without shutting my partner down.”

I can’t tell you the number of responses that sounded like these. This is a HUGE issue for women.

So in general, we have men who want their women to enjoy sex, and women who are terrified of being honest about what’s not working and therefore don’t speak up about it, to the point of tolerating quite a bit of pain.

While that may sound ridiculous, I can say without a doubt that I’ve done it many times.

I have about a bajillion more things to say on this topic, but this piece is already long and I don’t want to overwhelm.

So expect more – much more – from me about all this. I am DETERMINED to improve our sex lives, people. HOT SEX FOR EVERYONE IN 2017 – who’s with me?!

I leave you with a few highlights from the responses (these respondents gave their consent that their words could be shared (anonymously)):

  • “Fear my partner will lose interest if I’m too ‘difficult.’ That is, if I take too long or if I don’t orgasm.” – Female, 48
  • “Being afraid to ask for something in fear she’ll think you are weird or gross.” – Male, 44
  • “Focusing too much about meeting his needs and not enjoying myself and our sexy time.” – Female, 30
  • “Broaching the subject without feeling pushy or apologizing.” – Male, 29
  • “I have no problems telling a partner to touch me lighter, but they don’t always get it. Then it takes a while, I get frustrated, I feel he’s frustrated, then I just don’t want to anymore. I unfortunately don’t have a lot of sex, I think I have a low drive, too. All things put together, I often feel ‘broken.’” – Female, 42
  • “Feeling insecure about initiating sex ALL the time and not waiting to come across as demanding. Trying to be a man ravishing my lover but still being sensitive to her needs and desires.” – Male, 60
  • “People thinking ‘bisexual’ automatically means ‘promiscuous.’” – Female, 45
  • “Always be hard – Like don’t lose the underwear until ready to impress, and never droop so she won’t feel I’m bored.” – Male, 40
  • “Am I doing it right ? Am I doing something wrong? Am I bad at sex?” Female, 44
  • “[Women being like] starfishes – no positions, lay there and no noise, makes you feel like a rapist.” – Male, 39
  • “What if the one day she actually initiates is the one day I just want to take a nap?” – Male, 40
  • “Inability to obtain or pay attention to quality feedback. ‘Porn-style’ vocal feedback is the only thing they use to judge success, in other words, jab something until the girl makes a sound, versus exploring and watching and feeling for subtle clues of pleasure.” – Female, 47
  • “Top problem: A SMALL CHILD THAT INVADES OUR BEDROOM.” – Female, 35

NOTE: If you aren’t on my list yet but want to be alerted when the next two parts of the survey come out (dating and relationships), sign up here.

P.S. I think the data from this sex survey lends itself to visual representation and would love to see an infographic made of these results. If you’re interested in making that happen, get in touch: 80laysbook@gmail.com (I can pay).

The Man I Really Want, Part I

I was on a second date the other day, when my date said something that almost knocked me to my knees.

We were at a gallery opening, the kind of event less about the art itself than the scene: free wine and cheese, a DJ spinning trendy, Euro-trash EDM, and enough goodlooking people to keep everyone talking about everyone else. After we discussed the paintings for a while, I seized the opportunity to ask the guy I was with one of my favorite questions:

“What’s your type?”

I like to do this for several reasons. One, it’s just an interesting question. Two, I like to see whether a guy gets uncomfortable at my suggestion that he would be attracted to people other than just me, and what he does with that. Finally, I like to see whether he attempts to woo or flatter me by describing his type as a woman who looks just like me.

In other words, I want to see whether he’ll lie.

This guy immediately looked around with interest, which I appreciated, since the question was also an obvious call to scan the room and see who he’d bang if I weren’t there. He then described his type as usually being tall, lithe brunettes, of which there were pretty much none in the room (and also happens to be a description that’s pretty much the opposite of me). He ended the exchange by gazing at me and saying something to the effect of how he was happy to be there with me, and did I need another drink?

Doesn’t really get better than that.

Except that when he came back with my drink, he turned things around. “So,” he said, sipping his microbrew. “What’s your type?”

I paused. I wasn’t threatened in the least that I wasn’t a tall, lithe brunette; I know enough to know that even if I’m not someone’s ‘type,’ I can still be attractive to him. It’s just a type, not a mold. But I had a feeling he’d be threatened that he wasn’t my type. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I wanted to be honest.

So there was the question, hanging in the air.

And there I was, hanging on the other side of it.

Finally, I took a deep breath and told the truth. Just the teensiest bit guiltily, I said, “Jocks. Jocks are my type.”

 

He laughed (he wasn’t really a jock).

“Jocks who can talk about feelings,” I clarified. “You know … communicative, self-aware jocks.”

He laughed again, then:

“So you’re willing to compromise on the jock part, right?”

Whoo. I felt the room spin a little bit. Then I almost put my hands on my knees to keep from collapsing. Because this comment, this remark that seemed so innocuous, confirmed all my nastiest fears, all my most convincing, disheartening, and demoralizing beliefs about what is possible when it comes to me and men.

Worse still, after a short moment of the smile being suddenly and completely wiped from my face, I actually agreed with him.

“Yeah…” I said. “If it came down to it … that’s what I’d compromise on.”

But even as I said it, a part of me died inside.

 

 

If I had to choose – if, at some point in my life, it really did come down to selecting a mate that was fuckable versus relationship-able, I would pick the latter. And there’s a large part of me that believes that’s what I’ll end up with: a wonderful man who can provide what I need on an emotional/intellectual level, but doesn’t actually turn me on.

But if I’m honest with myself about what I really want, it’s all that stuff plus a hard body. I can’t help it – I like muscles. I like guys that work out, the kinds of men who lift and run and used to be on rugby teams or football teams or do martial arts or played lacrosse. My whole body responds to a man I know can flip me about without even thinking about it, can fuck for hours standing up, holding me up while I straddle him with my arms around his neck.

*Swoon.*

But I also really want someone who knows how he feels and can express that. Who is grounded and present. Who doesn’t get defensive when we talk about our relationship and his part in it (and who’s actually into the prospect of being in a relationship). Who can hang when I talk about the nature of the universe. Who actually forwards me articles about relationships (or at least responds thoughtfully when I send them to him).

The problem is, I almost always meet dudes who are either/or. They’re either sensitive new age types in tune with and expressive of their feelings, all about learning about relationships and how to be with women, but who I’d never fuck in a zillion years. Or they’re bro-y jocks I’d love to bang, but who I strongly doubt would be able to actually work through conflict in a relationship. I also question whether they’d know how to listen to me truly madly deeply, which is how I fall in love.

It wasn’t until that moment that I truly grasped the extent to which I believed that at some point, someday, I will be forced to give up this very real desire for a partner that has both. There’s a part of me that truly believes that on some unnamed date in the future, I will have to give up, admit defeat, and voluntarily kill my own dream.

In fact, the whole thing left me so distraught that I eventually left his place, later that night, literally in tears. I begged off, saying I was overwhelmed by life events, but really it was that one comment:

“So you’re willing to compromise on the jock part, right?”

Stay tuned for Part II…

 

 

 

 

10 Things To Avoid Doing When Hitting On Me

Being a moderately attractive young woman, I get hit on a fair amount, and I see some of the same mistakes being made by men over and over. In an effort to spare both you, my fine male friends (not to mention myself), I’m going to break it down for you. Because chances are, right now some of the girls you’ve been going after probably prefer their Adam and Eve toys to what you have to offer. Here’s what to stop doing:

 

10. Don’t neg

This terrible trend in pick up is more than just obnoxious – it’s obnoxious and obvious. Negging, also known as “negative comments” (which really just means insulting women), is praised by pick up artists everywhere, based on the assumption that negging a woman forces her to try to ‘prove’ herself. This, in turn, supposedly puts the man in the power position, so that he can get her to ‘do the work’ rather than have to prove himself to her.

Does it work? Sure. The real question is: who does it work on?

It works on women still seeking love and approval at all costs from the world, from their substitute father figure, or from themselves. It works on women who will second guess their choices or clothes or the school they’re thinking of going to, based on an annoying comment by some guy at a bar. It works on women who don’t know themselves well enough to know that they shouldn’t waste their time with men who think they have to neg in order to not feel helpless in front of the opposite sex.

In other words, it works on women who suffer from low self-esteem. This means that in fact, negging is manipulative, underhanded, and in some cases downright mean.

I, on the other hand, will not respond well to you insulting my outfit, hair or drink of choice. Not only is it annoying, it makes it SCREAMINGLY OBVIOUS that you are trying to run game on me.

So neg if you want to simultaneously attract a woman who doesn’t know who she is (and is potentially a hot mess), and repel women you might actually be able to want to be with for longer than one night.

Sounds like a solid strategy to me.

 

9. Don’t lead with your money

I don’t really care how much money you make or what kind of car you drive. I mean, I care, but I don’t care that much. 

Want to know what I do care about? You telling me about it. Straight up, it’s weird. And again, this strategy may work on other women, but it doesn’t work on ones who have their shit together, can take care of themselves, and who value EI over IQ.

To me, telling me your salary says two things: 1. You’re probably lying; 2. You’re scared that you don’t have anything more important to offer.

(Incidentally, you’re  the same guy who is going to get mad when the girl you’re dating expects you to pay for everything. Gonna lead with money? Don’t be surprised when she expects you to spend it on her.)

 

8. Don’t put yourself down

There’s nothing sexier than a man who insults himself before you even know him… NOT.

I’ve had guys tell me they weren’t smart, good looking or successful. I get that you’re going for the self-depracating thing, but there’s only so far you can take it before I start to believe you.

Plus I hate feeling like I have to reassure you, even in jest. “No, no, I’m sure you do just fine with the ladies.” It’s tiring. And if you’re already using me to reassure you now, what would you be like in a relationship?

Don’t be afraid to be confident. It’s not going to scare me away.

Finally, don’t kill the mystery. Give me a chance to figure out that you suck on my own. Seriously – we all have the things we suck at; in fact, true intimacy is getting an insider’s glimpse into the things someone else sucks at and accepting them anyway.

This is also known as love.

 

7. Don’t be cocky

I don’t care if you bench 300lbs, hang out with famous people, or pick up models. In fact, as a rule, don’t talk to me about all the other women you’ve hit on successfully. Again, unless it’s within a specific context, it’s just fucking weird. And please don’t name drop. I hate that shit.

It takes more than muscles, a Volcom shirt, a wallet, and the fact that you’ve “totally been to the Playboy mansion” to impress me. It takes heart and soul and vulnerability and desire and groundedness and a sense of purpose and humility.

Cocky men are obsessed with the outside because deep down they’re afraid they don’t have anything of worth on the inside. Confident men know they have value, so they have the space to actually think about someone else – in this case, me. Cocky men are busy talking about themselves in order to impress me.

Guess which one I’m actually impressed with?

 

6. Don’t get handsy

Unless it’s obvious that I’m really into you, stop touching my lower back, elbow or shoulders! It’s not that this is unpleasant, it’s just that it’s so obvious that this is something else you read in Pickup 101! Seriously? I just told you I’m a sex and dating coach. Do you really think I haven’t read The Game?

It’s *literally* my job.

 

5. Don’t inflate your good deeds

It’s nice that you mentor underprivileged youth or donate to Save the Children. But (again) if you tell me about it directly, it makes me feel like you’re trying to prove something. All I hear is, “See what a good guy I am? Now don’t you want to fuck me?”

No. What I want is for you to relax and stop trying to prove yourself so that I can get a glimpse into who you actually are.

 

4. Don’t make fun of my friends

Period.

Maybe one of my friends is a little heavier, maybe one is drunk and loud and maybe one doesn’t dress that well. It doesn’t matter. You can’t make fun of them.

Not only is this unattractive, it has me distrust you like crazy. Are you going to talk behind my back about me? Probably. I’m creeped out just thinking about it.

Now, as with other things on this list, this may work on certain types of people. But I live and die by my friends. I’m fiercely loyal and you trying to dis them isn’t going to earn you any favors – in fact, you’ll be lucky to emerge unscathed. My wit is as sharp as the talons I wear on these dainty little feet of mine. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of either one.

Trust me.

 

3. Don’t leave your sexuality at the door

There have been tons of men apparently hitting on me who I only realized later were attempting to do so. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been stunned – stunned – to discover that a guy was interested in me sexually.

Guys: if you aren’t owning and feeling your sexuality, I’m not gonna feel it. And you wanna know what that’s gonna get ya? A one-way ticket to the Friend Zone.

In other words, you trying to hide the fact that you feel sexual about me in order to ‘make me comfortable’ might make me so ‘comfortable’ that I miss the fact that you’re dtf. Because when you act all buddy buddy with me, I’m going to assume you actually just want to be my buddy.

Nobody wants to fuck Mr. Nice Guy. So stop being him if you want to fuck.

 

 

 

2. Don’t coddle me because I’m a girl

This one is similar to negging, because it is insulting. Don’t assume I don’t like whiskey or that I don’t know anything about cars because I’m a girl.

Now, I happen to hate whiskey and know next to nothing about cars – but I don’t like you assuming this is true! Doing so makes you look closed-minded and occasionally misogynistic. Get to know me before you jump to conclusions – I’m smart, sarcastic, sweet, well-meaning, unsure, and racy. Yes, some of those counteract each other and/or are paradoxical. Hi. Have you met me? I’m a woman.

 

1. Please don’t take it personally if I say no

You could avoid all 9 of these other tips and still get shut down. It happens. It happens every day, and it’s not fun – I’m not going to sugarcoat that. And I have mad respect for men who hit on women – you’re twenty times better than the guy who stands in the corner and does nothing. Even if you do everything wrong, I salute you for being a man.

That said, your efforts as a man are not always going to pan out. Sometimes women are going to say no – myself included. And if I do, please don’t take it personally and then take it out on me. Hint: yelling, “Why you gotta be like that!?” really isn’t helping make your case.

In addition, some of the men I respect the most – and some of the strongest friendships I’ve forged – are with those who asked me out and I turned down. When I said no and they took it in stride, I had so much respect, faith and trust that they were able to handle themselves, I wanted to be around them. I wanted to hang out with them. I wanted to show them aspects of myself that they never would have been privy to if I hadn’t known that they wouldn’t shame me for not happening to want to fuck them.

The truth is, attraction is a mystery. You could do everything ‘right’ and still get rejected. You could do everything ‘wrong’ and still get a date. The only thing we can all do is show up fully as ourselves and see if there’s a match.

So show up as you. You are not how much you make or what you do or who you know or where you hang out. I want YOU: goofy, funny, clumsy, exhausted, honest, frustrated, sexual, introverted, excitable you.

Hit on me with all that, and I might even hit you back.