Sex, honesty, and what happens when you can handle them both.
*whew!* My last post, the lil update on T-Bone, sure did generate some interesting feedback. Translations of his e-mail ran the gamut from “he really likes you, he just wants to take it slow because he wants more than sex!” to “he totally is not into – why are you mad at him for it?” These responses echoed those I got from the few girlfriends I discussed this with (only one of which actually knows T-Bone, the rest never will).
Which was my entire point. These days, people can get away with responding to you in such a vague fashion, they can be interpreted all over the board. And I, for one, am sick of it. If you are going to do this, then yeah. I’m gonna question your cajones. Man or woman. Because it’s a fucking cop-out. You are asking someone else to do your work for you – to determine what you want, what to do next, how to handle things, so that you don’t have to. Sack up and say what you think/want, even if it’s “I don’t know.”
The flip side, of course, is that we all need to be ready to deal with honesty if we’re going to expect it from others. I’ve already talked about this, too.
However. Further thought and discussion about this with my dear friend Simone got me thinking a bit more about the reactions I received – specifically as they pertain to my final e-mail response. In our conversation, we did wander off a bit from addressing any specific comment (from readers or my friends) into how that e-mail might be perceived in more general terms.
I think that e-mail has significant potential to make a lot of people… slightly uncomfy.
Why? Well – two reasons:
- I was straight-up balls-out honest
- I directly addressed sex as a goal. Or rather, the goal. My goal. With no strings attached.
I am not sure, despite what it is we tell ourselves and each other, if either of these things go over well in our society in general, and especially in dating. Let me elaborate…
In my initial post on T-Bone? The overwhelming response was “just tell him what you want and see what happens!” After my update, I got the feeling, from some readers and a friend, that I came on too strong. I even questioned if I should have handled it differently…. But then I thought about what I actually wanted from/felt about this whole thing, and I think I did the right thing – I’m not interested in playing pretend in order to keep someone on the hook.
However. It did get me thinking: where is the line between “hey, I want this to be simple so I’m just gonna be honest about what I am looking for” and “woah that’s too much.” I mean… I don’t think being honest about what you want needs to be “too strong”. It can just be straightforward – especially if either any answer, as long as it’s similarly straightforward, is perfectly fine. No harm no foul – and no wasted time.
Simone had this to say:
I agree. And, honestly, I think the other thing is, WHERE IS THAT LINE? I’m sorry but “honesty” – in our culture – is perceived as “coming on too strong” in almost all cases. It’s only in really extreme situations (e.g. your best friend is dating some really skeevy, abusive guy; your sister’s an alcoholic, etc etc) that honesty is valued in relationship communication OR when you’re in a “serious relationship” (e.g. TELL him you really don’t like it when he leaves the toilet seat up! There’s probably something little he doesn’t like either that you could differently, too!). No one values honesty in the dating game. It just doesn’t work. It’s because people aren’t used to being real with others. They aren’t used to dealing with people’s real feelings or letting other people deal with theirs. Now, does this mean that we should all just avoid social practice in the future, just blurting out whatever we’re thinking, regardless? NO. But I DO think there is a place for open conversation at the BEGINNING of casual (and even going to remain casual) DATING scenarios. Otherwise, it’s just games as usual.
I have to agree with her. We say we want people to just tell us what they’re thinking/want… but, when faced with real honesty, we get uncomfortable. It seems too strong. We don’t know how to deal with it. Miss Feisty also made this point in the comments. Also in the comments, Moxie questioned whether I’d be “satisfied” if T-Bone had honestly told me he wasn’t interested. I think the assumption that other people can’t handle honesty is very telling – especially in this case. I think Moxie is coming from the place where women don’t accept blunt delivery, and overanalyze things to death when they don’t get the answer they want. Sure, some women do that, but to assume we’re all that way…? Plus – how better to learn to get over our shit than to have others be perfectly honest? A “no, I’m not interested” can only be misconstrued so many ways and so many times.
I have a lot more to say on this subject, but to avoid wandering off, I’d just say it ties into our own insecurities and vulnerability, and honesty can challenge those things. Thus – it seems “too strong” when it’s only straight-forward. If that makes any sense…
In a culture literally steeped in sex – wanting it, getting it, having it, watching it – we are still so goddamn uncomfortable with it. As much as we are saturated in it, we still have a really hard time with sex for sex’s sake. With the act of sex – untethered to a relationship, or dating, or an image, or status, or power.
We put SO MUCH pressure on the ACT of SEX. I mean, I told T-Bone straight-up that’s what I was interested in. I have no question that alone made some people uncomfy. See, as a woman? It’s difficult for me to want, or god forbid ask, for sex alone, with no strings. At best I am “coming on too strong” and at worse, I’m a “slut.”
It’s no better for the dudes. As a dude who’s interested in sex, society automatically assumes you’re some level of douche. You “use” women. You’re a perv. A “player.”
Just because I find you attractive enough to want to bang you doesn’t mean I don’t respect you or think you’re a good person or want to get to know you better. Whether I am a chick or a dude.
And yet… that doesn’t translate. As a society, sex has become something that is a commodity, that needs to be traded, sold, bargained for, played for… As a woman, you need to get something – as a man? You had better put in some work.
If you refuse to view it that way and you’d rather just embrace sex for sex? Because it’s fun and damn but ain’t she fly? Our culture doesn’t understand that.
Why? With all our talk about sex, all our bravado – when someone says “ok let’s do it already!”
……….woah. The pressure! Chill out woman! Back off, DB!
However. I think the pressure we put on sex comes down more than the context society tells us is necessary, but also, again, to our own insecurities.
Sex is messy and smelly and awkward and omg bodily fluids and naked bodies! It ties into a lot of our inherent concerns about our bodies, about if we’re “good enough,” about what other people think, how we’re viewed, what they’ll say about us later…
So, yeah. Basically? We need to get over our fear of confrontation and of sex, and deal with our own insecurities that tie into both. However – saying that’s easier said that done is putting it lightly. It’s pretty damn difficult.
I will come back to the subject of our insecurities in the coming weeks. I’ve thought a lot on it, in terms of why we put pressure on our relationships, our sex, and even our monogamy (no kidding.)…
Anyway. Not sure if all that made sense but… I saved the best for last. I did indeed receive a reply from T-Bone hisself.
Sent: Tuesday March 8, 8:17pm
that wasn’t lost on me either… and to be blunt myself, i’m expressly not looking for sex right now — with anyone, not singling you out. my 17 year old self is looking at me in horror, but for now i’m decompressing from my last relationship and don’t feel like going beyond hugs and kisses. it’s a new thing for me, and if it changes i’ll let you know. absolutely up for friendship in the meantime.
*sigh*. Oh, T-Bone. Thank you for restoring my faith that there are attractive, rational, adult, Grown Ass Men who Can Handle Their Shit out there in the world. This isn’t to say I really thought they didn’t exist – it’s just… in my experience, and my girlfriend’s experiences, they can be few and far between.
Although… apparently your pinkie is still broken and… “hugs and kisses”? That’s a lil like “unspoken feelings”… makes me throw up a lil in my mouth. Yes, I know that makes me weird.
*This* is the kind of A+ reply that I completely and utterly respect and admire. As some of my readers know, I am a HUGE advocate for taking some serious time after a breakup to deal with your shit and set down your baggage – and, in my initial post on T-Bone, I wondered if I should avoid him for this very reason.
Hats off, sir. I am beyond apologetic that I ever questioned your cajones.
In conclusion – see what I mean about accepting honesty and being able to discuss sex a bit more frankly? Yes, it’s intimidating and we easily assume that I scared the crap out of him. But, guess what, I didn’t. Now I don’t waste time stalking T-Bone at hippie bars, wondering why we’re not banging already, and he isn’t trying to walk the fine line between being my friend and keeping me at bay (by cockblocking himself with his bro).
PS I did respond to tell him how much I respect him for his decision, how I completely agree with it, etc – and that if he ever wanted company he had my number and I’d leave the sex drive at the door. He wrote back this morning with his number, and that I can bring the sex drive, but not to be surprised if he doesn’t take me up on it. Which made me chuckle.