10 Sexy Things About Men.

I love men. I love how they move, how they sit, how they kiss.

I love how they play air guitar, quote Wedding Crashers, man the grill and roughhouse together.

I love to hear them bitch about their sports team losing, observe them trying (and failing) to be subtle when checking me out, or watch them wrestle their dog. I love how they beat the steering wheel when they get really into a song, how they posture when a really hot girl walks by, and how most of them genuinely want to be good lovers. I love how different they are from me and how similar they are underneath.

And don’t get me wrong—I love a man with a six-pack, with that to-die-for body. But when it really comes down to it, the things that make a man sexy have very little to do with the packaging.

Here are the top 10 “non-packaging related” things I find sexy in a man.

….read more

3 Sex Problems as a Woman.

Let me start this out by making a couple wild generalizations about sex.

First, we’re all having it.

Of course, that’s not actually true; some of us haven’t had it yet, others are going through a drought and some choose not to have it at all. But in general, it’s a widespread phenomenon. Which is good, since it’s what leads to the propagation of the species.

Second, while it’s an extremely common experience, we don’t really talk about it.

We don’t talk about it with each other (as in, the actual people we’re having sex with), and we don’t talk about it with others, even those we’re close to. Again, yes, there are exceptions to this, but generally, not so much.

I humbly submit that this is a major issue. Because it’s easy for things that are kept hidden or secret (whether accidentally or on purpose) to lead to feelings of shame, confusion and hopelessness. Plus, what we don’t talk about, we can’t get support with. And we need support in this area; sex and sexuality are fundamental to who we are as human beings.

…Read more here

A Woman’s Biggest Fear

Yep, this is one of those times I make a wild generalization that I end up getting some flak for but more of the time, people agree with me.

I’m seeing someone. He’s great. Kind, funny, takes the lead, and the sex is great. It’s wonderful.

Normally, we get together and there’s no drama. It’s easy to set up, nice while it’s happening, and fun to look back on.

But the last time we were supposed to hang out, I was having a moment. I didn’t feel so happy. I was going through something.

I had a lot of anxiety about this.

Not about my actual moment (I mean, yes, I had anxiety about that, too, but that’s not what this is about). My anxiety stemmed from the fact that I didn’t know how this man would react to me not being in a good mood.

I was afraid to not be “happy” with him.

I believe society has trained us women to think that we’re only attractive or acceptable when we’re in a good mood. If we’re sad or irritable or God forbid actually angry, we’re not attractive.

When I’m in a bad mood, I’m a bitch.

I’m not necessarily a bitch, you understand — I’m saying that’s the perception.

Now, it’s true that sometimes I really am a bitch. Sometimes I’m ready to bite people’s heads off and it’s not OK and I do try to control myself.

But a lot of the time, I’m just sad and lonely. I’m feeling off.

So here’s what happened: My man texted me, wanting to know if I wanted to hang out. I honestly didn’t know what to say. What I really wanted to say was this:

“I’m afraid that if we see each other and I’m not chipper and excited, you’ll reject me.

I’m afraid that since in the time we’ve known each other I’ve almost always been in a good mood, if I’m in a bad mood, you won’t want to see me anymore.

I’m afraid you’re going to try to ‘fix’ the situation I’m in and I’m going to get irritated with you for that, when what I really need is just to be held.

I’m afraid you’ll judge me as crazy for having emotions.

I’m afraid I’m too much.”

I really, truly believe that this is a woman’s fundamental fear. That someone will not only reject or shame her for being too emotional (aka “crazy”), but that deep down, that person (man or woman, but I find the fear comes up much more when it’s a man) actually won’t be able to handle it.

In other words, they’ll throw their hands up and leave us in our stew of shame and anxiety and sadness because they won’t know how to handle the mess of it all. Or they’ll shut down because they don’t what to say or do, such that in some cases we’ll end up having to take care of them because they’re so freaked out by the concept of dealing with us. That because of something deep and ugly with us, we will overwhelm them, engulf them in our emotional turmoil juice, rendering them completely unable to function.

That we really are too much.

What I’m afraid my man would say:

“Oh, you’re upset?

OK … well … maybe I should come over another time?

Good luck and ummm … see you later.”

Implication: “I’m sort of afraid of you right now. I don’t know how you’re going to react. If you cry, I don’t know what I’ll do. You’re emotional at the moment so I want avoid you because I don’t really know how to handle it. You’re kind of too much.”

What I would have wanted my man to say:

“Hey, you’re having a moment.

It’s OK.

I want to see you anyway.

It’s fine if you cry — I don’t mind, really. I can handle it.

You just do you, and I’ll roll with it.

OK?”

 


 

On an unconscious level, I believe I’ve been trained to think I only deserve love when I’m “happy.”

That the standard really is still an upbeat 50s housewife.

Consciously, I know this is ridiculous. But I still feel unsure — really unsure, especially at the beginning of a relationship — whether I will be accepted for who I actually am.

So here’s the truth: I need to be reassured that I’m not too much for my man. That my emotions don’t scare him. That he doesn’t feel threatened.

That I don’t have to be chipper all the time.

I’m not a 50s housewife.

I’m a strong and vulnerable woman.

I really, really want to be loved for that, even when I’m afraid I never will be.

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.

My Top 10 Pros & Cons for Getting Into a Relationship (as a Woman)

Ahhhh, relationships. That most fraught territory in the realm of human experience. That place where we crash and burn, where we are lifted up into a bliss and connection beyond our conscious mind’s capacity … and where we are smashed into the earth with a velocity that often leaves us bloody and broken, whimpering into the abyss.

Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about my “stated” desire to get into a relationship and the uncomfortable truth underneath it: there are reasons I dread getting into one, too.

I figured I’d apply the same tried-and-true pro and con list thing to this knotty issue, just as I have to more minor problems like whether to take a certain apartment or pick a certain school.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 reasons for and against getting into a relationship:

CONS

  1. The isolation and despair and grief and inevitable disappointment I will feel when you let me down, since you are human and I am human and we are most definitely going to fuck up sometimes
  2. Dealing with morning breath (yours or mine)
  3. The feeling of being boxed in, like I’ll never be able to be truly free or expressed with respect to my sexuality again
  4. The anxiety of wondering when or if you’ll text
  5. The anxiety of wondering whether you’ll cheat on me
  6. The crushing heartbreak that will happen if/when you shut down or turn away from me
  7. The fear of losing hold of my practices (like morning journaling) because you will always around and I won’t be strong enough to hold my boundaries
  8. Feeling inhibited at parties because if I’m too flirty, you’ll be angry with me and give me the silent treatment in the car ride home instead of addressing it directly
  9. The resurfacing of core wounds and issues. Yeah, they come up to be resolved but right before they’re resolved they HURT LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER and isn’t it also true that some of them never go away?
  10. Because what if I go on a vacation and meet a really cute guy and can’t hook up with him (not even a little bit) because I’m committed to you?

PROS

  1. Cuddling. Regular spooning. Spooning that leads to sex. Sex in general
  2. Looking at you from across the room knowing you’re thinking the same thing I am and smiling at how much fun we’re going to have debriefing this moment later
  3. Smart, funny, witty text banter. Inside jokes. Sending and receiving #relationshipgoals memes with someone with whom I’m actually in a relationship
  4. You coming up behind me in the kitchen and nuzzling my neck, rubbing against me and getting me hot and wet
  5. Holding hands fingers intertwined. Affection and attention and being noticed and responded to and cared for
  6. The way you pull me in tight when we’re having a fight and we’ve gotten to that point where we’re stuck
  7. The closeness of “I’m thinking about you” “I’m thinking about you too”
  8. Looking around at a sea of men and thinking, “None of you is as good in bed as my man. It’s not even worth it.”
  9. Learning how it feels to have conflict and then actually resolve it, becoming stronger and more resilient as a team
  10. Because it’s one of life’s very greatest offerings
  11. Finally having a wedding date I actually want to bang

What’s on your list?

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)

Vixen Manifesto (the original)

Vixen Manifesto

1. It is possible for every single person alive to have amazing, passionate, mind-altering sex. In fact, as human beings it is not only possible, it is our birthright.

2. Everyone should have a relationship with her/his sexuality completely separate from any other (romantic or otherwise). Your sexuality doesn’t depend on anyone else, and it is a vital part of who you are: it can be a source of power.

3. Monogamy isn’t for everyone. It’s time to be realistic about that and start dealing with it, instead of pretending it works for everybody. It doesn’t.

4. Not all relationships are meant to last – even long-term ones. If we aren’t learning and growing within a relationship, it’s time to get out. Having been together for a long time is NOT a reason to stay together.

5. One in four girls and one in six boys are survivors of sexual abuse, a huge factor in one’s current sexual reality. If you are one, know the following: 1. You are not alone. 2. It wasn’t your fault. 3. Help is available. 4. If you haven’t yet dealt with it, it’s time.

6. It is absolutely impossible for one person to fulfill all of your needs. Problematically, this is the current model for romantic relationships in our culture. We need a new one.

7. The way people receive love is different: some people feel loved when they are told aloud; others want to be shown, with gifts or acts of service. Social science shows us that over and over, people assume that others are like them. They’re not. Understanding fundamental personality differences like these can make or break relationships.

8. Relationship Ed should be taught in schools the way Sex Ed is.

9. Unresolved trauma is the root cause of most issues in relationship. Many times relationships force us to confront our deepest Family Of Origin (FOO) “issues.” So let’s confront them, instead of just unconsciously repeating old patterns. Let’s all be FOO fighters.

10. World peace will only be achieved when every person is raised in a healthy, loving, functional family system.* By learning to have healthy relationships, we actually do have the power to change the world – literally.

 

*healthy does not necessarily mean traditional nuclear family, nor does it mean “perfect.”

Note: This blog is hetero-normative. It excludes a lot of relationship concerns, including gay/lesbian/transgender and others. There are fascinating discussions to be had on these topic, I just don’t cover them. Also, I occasionally utilize sentence fragments. Before the Grammar Police get their panties in a bunch, please know that I realize I’m doing so. I just like to use them for effect. Note that I didn’t say “affect.”