When Sex Isn’t Sex

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It amazes me that people are able to separate sex from emotions. I’ve tried having Friends With Benefits before with varying degrees of success, but invariably at some point my vagina convinces my brain that all of those endorphins must actually mean something, and I end up wanting more. Eventually the sex just isn’t enough. For me, this starts to occur around the third or fourth consecutive encounter with the same person. My vagina (which I like to personify with the name ‘Ophelia’) becomes increasingly despotic after each orgasm, and eventually she has me thinking things like, “Who cares if he’s a 21 year old factory worker who sells weed to pay for his Ketamine habit- I think we might actually have something special.” (NB this is an actual thought I have had when Ophelia was running the show. I legitimately considered starting a relationship with someone I would be ashamed to introduced to even my least judgemental friends.)

Of course once the spell is broken – in the case of my tranquilliser-addicted delinquent friend this was with the aid of a mutual case of “OMG, you gave me chlamydia!” – I am perfectly capable of objectively and rationally analysing the faults in Ophelia’s plans. At that point I usually want to die of embarrassment or slap myself in frustration – a classic “How the fuck did this happen again?” moment. But it does happen again. And it will happen again. Every time I sleep with someone who isn’t emotionally invested more than once.

I think part of the problem is the difference between what men and women take from intimacy. Generally speaking, I think guys commit acts of intimacy and affection because they feel nice, not because they mean something. Sometimes a dude just wants a cuddle, not a commitment. The issue is that acts of intimacy force me to lower my guard and make myself vulnerable, so a cuddle is never just a cuddle. It will always mean something to me because I’ve allowed someone in. And yes, I am aware of the irony in the fact that I find it more intimate to let someone in figuratively than to literally let them in (to my lady cave of wonders).

I see a big difference between sex and intimacy, and every time the two get mixed together I wind up in a stolen car halfway to Queensland watching my FWB dig a bullet out of his leg while Ophelia screams “Just drive, bitch!” (Okay, that one I made up. But you get my point.) Sex + intimacy = uh oh. As nice as it is, the hand holding/hair stroking/head kissing/face cupping/deep eye contact just creates way too much confusion.

The other sense of intimacy is the one that occurs naturally between platonic friends. It’s normal for a friend to rest their head on your shoulder, or text you to ask how your day was, or say something sweet to make you smile. But it stops feeling normal when the person doing all of these things is also doing all yo’ nasty bizness.

The verdict? It’s possible I could successfully maintain a FWB in the future. As long as he’s a mute with no arms who doesn’t own a phone and hates unnecessary physical contact. Bring on that guy. I’ll sex him good.

Peckish

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I’ve been single for almost a year now. I go out. I dance. I drink. I go home, sometimes alone, sometimes with company. I online date. I text dudes. I try to figure out where things are going. I break things off before they get awkward or serious. I check my phone six times a day waiting to see if he’s texted me yet. I juggle several prospects at once with varying levels of interest. I tease, test and ignore. I get let down occasionally and let others down gently. I run from the over-invested and chase the disinterested.

I don’t really know what I’m looking for, but I am looking. I’ve begun to try to overcome any misgivings about the men I date, ignoring  sexual incompatibility and such serious character flaws as selfishness, arrogance and diffidence in the hopes of finding some kind of ongoing companionship.

I wouldn’t say that I’m hungry for more, but I’m definitely a little peckish. I don’t want to rush into anything serious, but I do want someone to be nice to me, to want to spend time with me on occasion, to think I’m pretty even when I’m in my pyjamas, to spend the night every now and then, to take me out to dinner and let me pay for half, to catch up for Friday night drinks with my friends. I don’t want to meet parents, spend every night together, stop hanging out with my friends, have automatic plans for every Saturday night or go grocery shopping together. I just want to date.

I’m wondering if any mid-twenty-to-early-thirty-something men actually want to date. All I’ve found so far are those who want too much and those who want too little, and like some kind of Goldilocks I seem to jump from one to the other without finding anything that seems “just right.” Something casual without the vulgarity of having “no strings attached,” as though actually spending time with a person you’re having sex with is some kind of huge hassle.

I’m not looking for Mr Right, or Mr Just-For-One-Night. Surely there’s something in between. I’m determined to find it.

Pyramid

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Unshaven legs. Hairy underarms. Gross granny-panties with broken elastic and holes in them. Torn stockings. Black nail polish smeared on your upper thigh from where you tried to repair the torn stockings and prevent them from running. A black, highly-visible-from-the-right-angle chin hair that you keep forgetting to pluck. Giant (yes, giant) pimple on your bottom that just refuses to die. Unmade bed strewn with unpaid bills, dirty clothes and cosmetic paraphernalia from your rush to get ready. A black, highly-visible-from-the-right-angle nipple hair that you also keep forgetting to pluck. Hacking cough that is really hard to stop and sends your upper body into uncoordinated spasms. Used tissues on the bedside table. Gross breath from the Thai food you ate earlier. A weird rash on your left forearm that only appeared about an hour ago and is getting really itchy….

Things that will not prevent a man from having sex with you. (For those playing at home.)

Veal

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Finding oneself extraordinarily drunk in a well-known, seedy Melbourne bar at 2am seated opposite a group of much younger men can only lead to one thing: a sudden appetite for veal.

At 27, I hadn’t really considered myself old enough to seek out an affair with a lusty toy-boy, Desperate Housewives style. After a night of various highs and lows, Lucile and I found ourselves at Pony with a jug of cider. Seated at the edge of a long couch with a view to most of the male prospects in the room, things were looking dim. But there they were, at the other end of the long suede couch: young, fit, full of energy and obviously excited by the thought of chatting up older women. Lucile pointed them out first. I laughed and called them “teenagers,” which prompted Lucile to lean over and ask one of them his age. 21. She turned back to me, grinning, eyebrows raised triumphantly. “See? They’re not teenagers!” I glanced around once more for a reason not to, and then slid down to their end of the couch.

It was like being any female person walking into an IT server room. We felt like queens. They asked more things about us than they said about themselves. They thought our very ordinary jobs were “awesome,” and carefully guessed our ages as “mid-twenties.” They emptied the change from their pockets to buy us drinks.

After the initial group conversation I began sizing up our new-found dude-possy, like a cowboy sizing up a group of new steers, deciding which one he’s gonna hog-tie and brand. There was the Show-Off, who seemed incapable of going for more than a minute without interrupting a conversation to make a smart-arsed comment and couldn’t sit still; the Attached-but-Unattached, who said he had a girlfriend but was making no real effort to remove himself from a potentially relationship-threatening situation; the Runt, who sat silent and wide-eyed with his tail between his legs; and the fourth one who I couldn’t quite put a label on. Flirtatious without being crude or arrogant. A little nervous, but in an endearing way rather than a this-guy-is-going-to-wee-himself way. Cheeky sense of humour. Ready grin with a hint of a dimple on one side. Large, intense eyes. He leaned in and said something about wanting to get better at guitar, then stayed close to my face, drinking me in with those dark grey saucers, and murmured “your eyes are so pretty…”

His name was Joel, he lived in the outer eastern suburbs, and I didn’t feel the need to ask anything more about him. He was an excellent kisser- soft, sensual, just the right amount of tongue and no excess saliva- and had certainly lost all traces of his earlier nerves. Every now and then he would press his mouth to my ear to make yet another promise of what the night had in store for me. After about 40 minutes of kissing, grinding and generally grossing out the patrons sitting behind us (but who cares, it was Pony) we jumped in a cab headed to my place.

As he got out of the taxi and rolled a cigarette I noticed his nerves had returned. We chatted for a bit on my front door step before I led him through the house to my room. As we began kissing again I assured him that we didn’t have to do ‘everything’ if he didn’t feel comfortable. He stared at me like I’d just told him that my bed was made of cheese, then flashed that half-dimpled grin as his confidence came rushing back.

The guy was a natural. Every touch, kiss, caress and movement was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was as though he could read my mind. After a few hours of intense foreplay and so much incredible kissing I was afraid he was actually grating my chin with his stubble, we came to an impasse: no condoms. As was evidenced by my untidy room, my unmade bed and my ungroomed south-o’-the-border, I was not expecting company and had not thought to detour via the 7 Eleven for the necessary protective measures. When I asked why he didn’t have his own provisions he gave me another grin and simply shrugged, ‘Well I didn’t know someone was going to take me home…’

We spent hours in limbo, dozing flittingly between bouts of intense fervour, tangled in each other’s limbs for most of the night. As the daylight began to spill under my curtains, in the brief euphoria that comes an hour or two before the onset of a horrific hangover, I could take it no more. Action was required. Peeking first out the window at the empty car port to confirm that my housemate had left for work, I crept down the hallway wearing a shirt and no pants, a la Donald Duck. I paused at the threshold of his open bedroom door, momentarily weighted by the line I was about to cross. I knew it was wrong. I glanced back down the hall to my now light-filled bedroom, mentally tracing over the hours of teasing and foreplay that had led to this moment. And with my legs (and other parts of my lower body) trembling, I tiptoed through my housemate’s strewn belongings and nimbly plucked two condoms from his open bedside drawer.

It was worth it. After almost 5 hours of foreplay we knew exactly when to move, when to stop, our exhausted bodies suddenly revived and renewed before collapsing in a stupor of pleasure. After a tangled powernap and a brief but enjoyable Round Two, he left in the haze of hangover onset. Wanting nothing more than to lie motionless in my bed for hours, I was presented with my next problem: I needed to replace that which I had taken before my housemate returned.

My first hurdle was the intense throbbing pain in my head and churning in my stomach that had all but paralysed my body and addled my brain. The second problem I faced was the absence of my car, which had spent the night at the station after we caught the train to the city. With no idea of my housemate’s ETA there was nothing for it – I was walking to the shops.

After a brief shower, during which I clutched my stomach and sobbed loudly to no one that the water was punching my brain through the top of my head and I wanted to sleep or maybe die, I dressed myself and headed out into the harsh light of day. My sunglasses, on the passenger seat of my car, were in no position to be of assistance, so I squinted into the overcast glare and icy headwind through bleary, miserable eyes and began forcing my legs to walk the 1.2km to the supermarket. Passing a church on the way as worshippers filtered out with an air of peace and satisfaction, I momentarily considered repenting and just calling it quits. The thought of actually having to admit my crime in my state of wretchedness was too much to bear, so I trudged on. My next round of punishment was in the purchase itself – an assortment of tacky colours, textures and flavours with names like “Raspberry Ripple” and “Bangin’ Banana” in order to replace the two purloined items with their identical kin.

My return journey was worse than the initial one, despite the procurement of some hot chips and a Coke. I shuffled miserably down my street with dead eyes, slowly chewing chips with an open mouth, a lone box of assorted coloured and flavoured condoms swinging mockingly in a plastic shopping bag that dangled from the crook of my elbow while my hand stuffed chips towards my face like an imbecile posting letters. The punishment fit the crime. My disgrace, self-pity and repugnance in this moment was equal in power to the hedonistic pleasure that had led to my transgression.

As I lay immobile on the couch later that day, determined to keep the chips on their descent through my digestive tract where they seemed to have found a foothold with which to climb back up, I received a text:

So tired. Can hardly move. Totally worth it x

He was right.

Four Things Men Should Know

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Boys, take note. Here are four essential truths about single women that you must heed, should you want to successfully date one.

1. WE LIKE MAKING PLANS

As a general rule, women like to have an idea of how they will be spending their time. As multi-tasking creatures, we will often make tentative plans in our mental calendar while going about our daily business. We like knowing what’s coming up ahead and generally behave more methodically and less instinctively than our male counterparts. If you are interested in seeing a girl, you need to give her the heads up early in the week so she can pencil you in (so that you can, er, pencil her in). We also like to look forward to things – half the fun is in the anticipation. Take that away and you’re drastically reducing your chances of under-the-blouse action.

2. DON’T BE A STRANGER

We (women) like to communicate with other human beings on a regular basis. Maybe you’ve made plans for next Sunday and you figure there’s no point in texting between now and then – you’d be surprised at how receptive she’ll be at a little unexpected midweek text. It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking, just a simple “Hey, how’s your week going?” will let her know that you are thinking of her. Women get bored and frustrated when you wait too long to contact them. Play it too cool or wait too long and she will lose interest. Guaranteed.

3. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

Women are intuitive and analytical by nature. We focus on body language, tone and context a lot more than men do; in fact, your lady-friend is less likely to take stock in the actual words you say than she is to focus on the way you say it. This can be a stumbling block for men who tend to do things in the moment because it feels good/right/comfortable. You told her you’re not sure you can commit to anything exclusive right now, but then you spent the night cuddling her in her sleep and kissing the curve of her neck. For her, it’s a sign of your desire for a deeper level of intimacy than your words suggest. For you, it’s probably just that sometimes it feels really nice to snuggle into a woman’s body (we’re soft and warm and curved and beautiful – who wouldn’t want to get in on that action?). I’m not saying you have to treat a woman like a drive-thru car wash, but it pays to be aware that obvious signs of intimacy (stroking, deep and sustained eye contact during sex, spooning, staying the night, sharing secrets), whether intended or not, will definitely be registered by your lady.

4. JUST BE HONEST

There seems to be a general perception out there in the dating world that women can’t handle the truth. You’d be surprised – most of us actually appreciate honesty, even if the outcome of a conversation is not what we envisaged it being. And we’re not too fragile to cop it on the chin either; the female ego is a hardy and resilient thing. So if you’re not interested, just tell her, rather than ignoring her, sending mono-syllabic responses to her texts or cancelling time and time again. We also like it when you’re up front about what you actually want. If you know that you just want a friends-with-benefits type situation, let her know; that way she won’t waste her time trying to figure out where things are headed. If you want to keep seeing each other casually and be free to go out and meet other people, make sure she knows that so she can be out getting her sexy freak on as regularly as you are – it’s only fair!

While these four ideas may not apply to every woman in the entire world, my discussions with my single-and-dating female peers have led me to believe that they are at least somewhat universal. Chances are that every instance in which you stopped dating a woman because she came across as needy, controlling or just plain old bat-shit crazy could have been avioded by following these mantras. Look, it may not be gospel, but at the very least it gives you fellas a slightly better chance of relating to – if not completely understanding – your current or future squeeze.

6 Career Choices That Won’t Get You Laid

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Magician

Lets start with an obvious one. Magicians are creepy dudes. David Copperfield circa 1996 aside, anyone who devotes his life to illusion and mystique is not going to be beating off the ladies with a big stick. As much as I love me a man in a top hat and tails, I can do without the rabbits, doves and smoke effects. And while I do admire a man who can make something disappear, then reappear, then disappear, then reappear, I’d prefer that he didn’t preface this trick with a myriad of hand gestures to ‘The Final Countdown.’

 

Fishmonger

While his intimate knowledge of clams and molluscs might indeed prove useful, I just don’t want a man who spends his day ankle-deep in fish guts getting balls-deep in mine. Then there’s the rubber apron and gumboots to contend with – it’s just not bed-worthy apparel. And I can’t help but feel that one day he’d be bringing home the tail end of a giant gummy shark for some kind of mermaid role-play.

Jockey

I like to be steeple-chased as much as the next girl, but, just like the Scenic Railway at Luna Park, you must be at least this tall (let’s call it anywhere in the vicinity of typical adult height) to board this ride. There’s just no way I’m giving up the goods to one of nature’s little pranks in silk pyjamas. And while it’s true that he would have access to some pretty exciting hardware, I’d rather not have to provide a step-ladder in order for him to use it.

Elderly Care Nurse

This one might be a little unfair, but a dude who changes adult diapers all day and comes home smelling of old-man scalp and camphor is just not getting the business from me. Old people are awesome, but god dammit, they kind of smell like dying. And there’s always that slight chance that he loves his job a little too much, and I’m not at a place in my life where I’m willing to receive sponge-baths.

Clown

Do I even need to elaborate here? The make up. The wigs. The oversized shoes. The colour clashing. Oh god, the humanity! Ok, so I might be a little impressed if he fashioned a few blown-up condoms into a ferris-wheel, but there is just no way I’m letting Bobo put his honker anywhere near me. And as for the fake flower trick, any guy who makes a living out of squirting unsuspecting people in the face needs to have his motives questioned.

Computer-Systems-Something-Or-Other (I stopped listening after you said Computer)

I think my vagina just fell asleep. Seriously, are these guys actually allergic to the sun, social normality and human contact? It doesn’t matter how much RAM you’ve got in that hard drive buddy, at the end of the day you’ll be at home playing with your dongle…alone. Not to mention the possibility of a virus. Let’s just say you’re not getting your Intel inside.

The Point of No Return

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Meet Dan: Skilful texter. Better-than-average conversationalist. Interested in me.

We met online, and when I met him face to face he was a fair bit larger than his pictures had suggested, but I was determined to be the type of person who puts the aforementioned three attributes above anything as shallow as physical appearance or body shape.

Date three was due to happen over the weekend, but we had conflicting schedules. The first date had been spent getting acquainted over drinks in the mid-evening hours of a weeknight, where the verbal chemistry built over two weeks of texting did not disappoint. The second, after discovering our mutual appreciation of fine culinary experiences (I believe I used the word “foodgasm”), was dinner in a trendy Japanese restaurant. After the tattooed waitress delivered the bill he walked me to my car where he pulled me in for a goodnight kiss. It was decent – medium pressure, slightly open mouth, soft lips, no tongue – on paper, everything a second date kiss should be. But there was no flutter in my lady-business. Not even a tingle.

Ordinarily, by this stage I would have stopped fighting my obvious lack of physical attraction and moved on to new pastures. But Dan was a specific breed of man: a master of the text. He adeptly balanced humour, intelligence and playful teasing in every message. He was really quite charming, and I was beguiled by the mischievous nature of our banter.

There was another reason I hesitated in calling things off, a social experiment of sorts. My personal experience, coupled with anecdotal evidence garnered from close friends, has led me to the generalisation that men with more typically attractive faces and physically ‘perfect’ bodies often make unsatisfying lovers. I wondered if the opposite would be true – whether Dan, more-than-solidly built with a beard that most likely disguised a weak or double chin, would be attentive, selfless and gifted where men more beautiful than he were not.

So date three was set – a late night rendezvous at my house for “wine and a movie.” The true intentions of the evening were thinly veiled and did not elude him, however when he arrived by taxi from his dinner on the other side of the city I did pour him a glass of wine and sit through an hour of Iron Man before a move was made. The first moves were promising. My six glasses of wine (four of them consumed before he arrived) had made me fairly amorous, and he was a good kisser. After around fifteen minutes of making out, when things had begun to drift into dry-humping territory, I suggested we move things to the bedroom.

Things began to go awry when I made a fatal mistake when deciding on the lighting levels. Ordinarily my bedside lamp with its 20 watt bulb is my lighting of choice for such events. Candlelight, though flattering, is too intimate, and I find complete darkness makes things more awkward somehow, what with all the fumbling and the odd accidental headbutt or kneeing. However, as I removed one article of clothing after another while Dan remained fully clothed, I became acutely aware of the discrepancy between our confidence levels. Alas, this was not the only problem. It seemed my theory regarding the sexual prowess of the chunky man was to be disproved in a most convincing way.

After having my breasts squeezed and twisted in a manner reminiscent of an over-excited and inexperienced teenager, I was treated to five minutes of being probed, sucked, prodded and furiously rubbed before I put a stop to it for fear of having part of my vagina chafed off. By this stage I held little hope for a positive outcome, but thought that it might just be possible if I took the reins with a firm hand. So I proceeded to remove his pants.

I was immediately struck by two things. The first was that his pork sword, standing in the shadow of his hefty torso, was really little more than a dagger. And the second was that there was a smell. A violent odour of urine and scrotum-sweat punched me in the nostrils, stinging my eyes and provoking the gag reflex I had spent much of my adult life learning to suppress. With my face at ball-level I was in full olfactory assault. I glanced up to see expectant eyes gauging the distance between my mouth and the offensive smelling love-baton and I realised I was at the point of no return.

I put it in my mouth. My tongue recoiled in horror, desperately pressing my soft palate in search of escape. My eyes watered. I’m sure it was no more than 90 seconds, but it felt like an hour. My every muscle was focused on resisting the urge to throw up. I resurfaced like a dolphin leaping from the water, furiously licking and kissing his bearded neck and cheek, trying to scrape the sensory memory from my tongue.

The rest of our uglies were bumped swiftly and without fanfare. I was in shock. There had been nothing at all in Dan’s otherwise impeccable personal hygiene to suggest that such a sinus-piercing odour was lurking below. Clearly unaware of his repulsive affliction and otherwise underwhelming performance, he lay blissfully motionless. After thoroughly rinsing my mouth and washing my face, I became fearful that he would assume he was welcome to spend the night, and began picking up his clothes and piling them on the bed in a gesture of helpfulness as I returned from the ensuite.

This was evidently too subtle, as he pulled at my arm to come back to bed and began to roll over into a comfortable sleeping position. I coughed pointedly and asked what he was doing in the morning. Nothing much. What about you? Oh, I told him, I had heaps to do on Saturday so I should probably get some sleep. Ok, so we should go to sleep then. Umm, I said, I kind of have this thing about guys staying over…

As we waited awkwardly in the lounge room for his taxi, both aware that the level of regard for one another had become undoubtedly one-sided, I tried to remind myself that there were two guilty parties here. Sure, I was perhaps a little callous and detached following our no-pants-dance, but after all, I had  just been blind sided by the stench of rotting manhood and what I can only assume was a pungent remainder of some asparagus consumed 4-6 hours earlier.

So, what have we learned? Ladies, if you plan on heading south of the border, make sure it doesn’t smell like a Mexican sewer first. And if it does…vamonos!