How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘sex appeal’ Category

The Oldest Profession

It is a silly question to ask a prostitute why she does it. These are the highest paid “professional” women of America.
—Gail Sheehy, Hustling

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with selling your body. It is, after all, the oldest profession. And it is, after all, your body and you have a right to do with it what you will, including making some choices that others may think unpleasant or unwise.

There are a number of circumstances in which some or another variation of prostitution may be a rational choice. If you are young and powerless, if you are young and powerless and poor, then you use what you have. Eva Peron, who became a political icon in Argentina, was a major spokeswoman for los descamisados (the shirtless ones). She herself was born into a slum family and, it’s alleged, began her career as a teenage prostitute. Under such circumstances, when all that a woman has is an attractive body, it’s difficult to condemn her for doing the best she can with what she has.

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a less dramatic level, the trade-offs involved in sexual exchanges can be very useful. Using your sexuality for nonsexual goals is a question of individual choice and is often a legitimate way to get what you want. In Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos quite rightly points out that “kissing your hand may make you feel very good, but a diamond is a girl’s best friend.” It’s more or less acceptable for nice girls to prefer men of wealth. While they may be considered gold diggers, they are also considered smart.

Granting sexual favors may not be necessary for survival, but it can be expedient. If the sex acts involved are at least not unpleasant, then having sex can be a convenient way of paying for dinner or of being nice or of exerting control or of creating a useful obligation.

If you want to get money from men, then there is no question about the kind of lover you should pick. Pick a rich one. The richer, the better. If you want to get favors from men, then there is no question about the kind of lover you should pick. Pick an influential one.

The exchange of sexuality for other favors can have important consequences. The legendary Hollywood “casting couch” is based on reality and has its equivalent in many other industries. Television celebrity Barbara Walters assures young women, “I didn’t get ahead by sleeping with people. Girls, take heart!” Perhaps she did not, but many have.

Many young women have come to realize that like Sally Stanford, the last grand “madam” in San Francisco who later became mayor of Sausalito, they too are “sitting on a fortune.” The folk wisdom is full of references to such exchanges, which don’t involve explicit prostitution but which do involve the trading of sex for nonsexual considerations.

It’s not only that one is advised to “go along in order to get along.” Women are also advised to “give head in order to get ahead,” and that happens at all levels. In a 1981 book The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People, Irving Wallace reports that when Marilyn Monroe signed her first major contract, she is alleged to have exclaimed, “That’s the last cock I’ll have to suck.”

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Her Sexuality: His Sexuality

Show business is like sex. When it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful. But when it isn’t very good, it’s still all right.
—Max Wall, The Listener

Its true that the sexual revolution has led to an increased permissiveness regarding many kinds of sexual encounters, including relatively casual ones. The so-called new morality, however, doesn’t yet take into account all of the implications of the discrepancies between male and female patterns of sexual response.

Even if 90 percent of young women are now orgasmic and proud of it, there remains another fact of life to be taken into account. The sexual response patterns of most women are different from the sexual response patterns of most men. This difference may be innate, or it may be simply due to different socialization patterns. Whatever its origin, it is nonetheless real.

Generally speaking, men tend to be more sexual creatures than do women. His sex drive tends to be stronger than her sex drive; his sexual urges are more frequent and more urgent. The differences that men and women experience in erotic desire are most pronounced when you compare the rapacious enthusiasm which is often characteristic of teenage boys with the reticence often characteristic of teenage girls.

Most young women may very well seek love or affection or contact comfort; but they are, for the most part, less driven by the overt need for sexual release. While recent studies have shown that teenage girls have sex almost as often as teenage boys, they do so for very different reasons. Teenage girls are far more likely to have sex to please their boyfriends or to experiment or because of peer pressure or because they want to feel loved, whereas teenage boys are far more driven by an overarching physical desire for sex.

For the most part, men are more easily turned on than are women. Alex Comfort, the noted British sexologist, observes, “Male sexual response is far brisker and more automatic. It is triggered easily by things—like putting a quarter in a vending machine.” At seventeen, a young man may be turned on by anything vaguely suggestive although he may not be able to do anything very effective with all his erotic energy.

The discrepancy in sex drive tends to be less pronounced when you compare older men and women. With age and with lowering levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, a man’s sex drive becomes less compelling. With experience and perhaps with resulting loss of inhibition, a woman’s sexual responsiveness may increase with age. She may be more of a sexual creature at forty-five than she was at fifteen or at twenty-five. In spite of this rapprochement, however, for most men compared with most women, sex per se is more compelling and important.

It starts with her beauty in my eyes, it moves...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Differences in sex drive also relate to differences in sexual satisfaction. For men who are potent, which is most of them, achieving an orgasm is seldom a problem although postponing one may be. In contrast, for women, having an orgasm is something that has to be learned, and it is not always easily achieved. Except for the very lucky, doing what comes naturally just doesn’t work.

A woman, especially an inexperienced woman, often needs a longer time and a particular frame of mind to be able to achieve an orgasm. She needs a lover who is patient and sexually skilled enough to provide the right kind of stimulation. With time, she becomes experienced enough to know what she wants and comfortable enough to tell her partner what works for her. Most often, she also needs a partner whom she trusts enough so that she may feel psychologically secure.

Viewed from this perspective, the shopping list of a woman’s sexual “needs” is, in fact, quite extensive. Without all of these components present all at once, having sex may not be all that appealing to her and, on many occasions, she would really prefer not to have sex at all.

The British comedian Max Wall may think that, for him, “when it isn’t very good, it’s still all right.” But legions of women would disagree. For them, when it isn’t very good, it can be annoying, intrusive, degrading, painful, or just plain boring.

The New Courtship

The pleasure of love is in loving. We are happier with the passion we feel than in that we arouse.
—François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

For decades, for centuries, for a millennium, men have had the right and privilege of choosing as sex partners women who turned them on. If they wanted a partner who was young or mature, short or tall, blonde or dark, quiet or bold, curved or slender, they could pursue the women most pleasing to them.

Of course, not all men were successful in winning the kind of women they most preferred. And of course, some men didn’t allow themselves such indulgences but made pragmatic choices of wives who were heiresses or the daughters of bosses or women who were otherwise useful for disparate ends. Such marriages did not necessarily preclude their simultaneous quest for other women who would be mistresses. In most instances, the women selected as sex objects or as love objects were selected because they were judged to be sexy or lovable.

In contrast to this pattern, women for a millennium have selected men for practical considerations. A woman needed a provider for herself and a provider and father for her children. In most instances, the most valuable commodity a woman had, to negotiate with in the world, was her body. She used this marketable asset to her best advantage, offering virginity and then fidelity in exchange for protection and security.

It wasn’t so much that men had to be attractive as that they had to have attractive compensating features, such as money or power. For the good wife, sex was business, and sexual intercourse was work. Many good wives were happy in their work, but it was work all the same. If she refused her husband, she could be out of a job. In fact, she couldn’t refuse him. He provided for her, so he had a right to her body. She had been, in effect, sold to him and couldn’t be used by anyone else without his permission.

Supposedly, North America has experienced a social and sexual revolution over the past thirty years. Supposedly, there are now different options for women – compared to our grandmothers and mothers –  who are liberated in many new ways and who have given up old stereotypes. If this is indeed the case, then, shouldn’t we now think about sexual encounters from a new perspective.

sexual revolution

Photo credit: cdrummbks

Let’s assume for a start that the new woman is enough in tune with her body and its erotic potential to really like sex. Touching feels good, arousal feels good, and orgasms are nonproblematic. Sex for her is or can be joyous. Fun. Wonderful. At a minimum, nice.

Let’s further assume that the “new woman” is enough in charge of her life and destiny that she can make her own way. If she has enough resources to support herself and her children at a level she considers to be adequate, she can then afford the indulgence of evaluating men as sex objects in the same way that women have been evaluated over the centuries. Whether she works as an executive secretary or is herself an executive, she has a living wage which comes to her in some other way than trading her body for favors or protection.

Such a woman can afford to pick a lover because he’s sexy or lovable, not because he owns three apartment buildings in prime locations. She can try to find the kind of man most to her liking, using intrinsic rather than extrinsic criteria. She’ll have to pay her own bills, but in return, she has control of her own body and a wide range of opportunity for personal and erotic development.

The woman who is not physically or psychologically forced to have sex when she doesn’t want to has a new kind of freedom. She can opt for celibacy if she wants, but she can also opt to have sex for purely sexual reasons. For many that is a revolutionary idea. It’s an idea that is long overdue. It’s an idea whose time has come. It’s an idea that needs to be openly acknowledged.

I will explore this paradigm shift in female sexuality in future posts in greater detail.

Love, Oh Practically Perfect Love

Infatuation is when you think he’s as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Connors. Love is when you realize that he’s as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger, and nothing like Robert Redford—but you’ll take him anyway.
—Judith Viorst, Redbook

In the best of all possible worlds, it would be ideal to find that a lover who was just right for you in terms of emotion and affection was also just right for you in terms of erotic fulfillment. Unfortunately, in real life, that’s often not the case. The man with overtly tender and affectionate concern for you, the emotional marathoner, may not make love with you at all or may do so very seldom or may not do so very well when he does. The swordsman, who is turned on and gives of himself freely in bed, may not have much love or even much affection once dressed and out of bed.

Many a maiden is still dreaming of the perfect prince who will one day come, who will make her come, and who will love her at all levels all at once. But later, many a woman realizes that love in the many forms she desires isn’t to be found all at once in the arms of any one man. She gives up on the perfect prince and begins to look around for a make-do prince instead . . . maybe a mere duke, or maybe a mere commoner. The road to love is a series of compromises from the fantasy of girlhood to the world-weary cynicism of old age. There is Mr. Right, but there is also Mr. Right Now, Mr. Right for Me at this Moment, etc. Fortunately, in affairs of the heart, even mistakes can be glorious.

Cover of "Mr. Right Now"

Writer Suzanne Jordan is correct when she asserts that “the perfect mate, despite what Cosmopolitan magazine says, doesn’t exist no matter how many of those tests you take.” However, Merle Shain is also correct in asserting that “some men are more perfect than others.” What’s needed is a new oxymoron: things don’t have to be perfect; they only have to be perfect enough. A lover who is perfect enough is just fine. Finding him is a much easier task than finding the absolutely perfect man of your fantasies.

Our technology is so proficient that we can get quite carried away with our expectations of what we need—or think we need. With an imposed sixty-five-mile speed limit, we still delight in buying a car that can cruise at a hundred miles per hour without effort. Almost every kitchen has an eight-speed blender when most cooks only need one marked Fast and Slow. Home audio systems can be so elaborate and powerful that only your dog can hear the differences, and the speakers can never be turned up more than one-tenth of their volume capacity. A camera used for family snapshots nevertheless is selected because it is capable of shooting at one-thousandth of a second. This kind of technological overkill produces products which are far more perfect than necessary. A camera shooting at one-five-hundredth of a second produces satisfactory pictures for half the price. The man who isn’t perfect but who’s perfect enough may well be the one to love you throughout a lovely love affair.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is widely quoted as reflecting philosophically: “If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not, you will also regret it.” The same applies to your decision of whether to picking a lover. If you take a lover, you may regret it; if you don’t take a lover, you may also regret it.

The question you need to consider is this, when you are an old lady of ninety-two, reflecting on the past decades, which will you regret the most: the sins you committed or the sins you omitted? In my conversations with old ladies, guarded as they are, they usually suggest regret for opportunities lost, for time wasted, for doors not opened, and for experiences not enjoyed.

The poet Robert Herrick gives timeless advice, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” He is speaking “to the virgins, to make much of time,” but he might well speak to other women too. It’s healthy to enjoy the men of the world while they are as eager to enjoy you. It’s healthy to experience as much as you can of what life has to offer. And the devil take the hindmost, whatever that is. The philosopher Bertrand Russell offers a sound conclusion, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” If you must love, love bravely.

Love, Oh Love, Oh Perfect Love

The centipede was happy quite
Until a toad in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg goes after which?”
That worked her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in a ditch,
Considering how to run.
—Mrs. Edward Craster

Every day women meet men, women and men fall in love, and women and men declare themselves ecstatically happy and walk off holding hands and smiling. Yet when you think of what goes into a love affair, it is, in fact, so complex you wonder how it is that anyone pulls it off. Perhaps like the running centipede, one should not think too carefully too often.

Love Love Love

Photo credit: Gregory Jordan

When thinking of a love affair, you must take into account two major components: the affectionate and the erotic. Then you have to think of the affair as consisting of two actors, interacting and responding to each other. From the woman’s point of view, what’s the best of all possible worlds? In the first place, a woman wants a man for whom she feels affection. She must like him; it’s even better if she loves him. Unrequited affection makes her unhappy, so in the second place, he must be a man who returns her emotional feelings. Third, she wants a man for whom she has erotic feelings, a man who turns her on. Being turned on by herself is merely frustrating, so she also needs a fourth component, a man who responds to her erotically and finds her sexually desirable.

As if all these things were not difficult enough, she also wants to feel that the relationship is balanced. Her affection for him should be returned in the same degree, her desire for him reciprocated with equal passion. Ideally, each one feels for the other exactly the same amount and intensity of love. Moreover, each one starts to love at the same time. If love dies, each one stops loving at the same time. The more you think about it, the more complex and implausible it becomes.

It’s no wonder the course of true love never runs smooth. It’s amazing that any love affairs even happen at all! Fortunately, many wonderful things can and do happen with lovers who are less than perfect and in love affairs that come complete with glitches or more serious problems.

Picking a Lover: Taking Chances

Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?
—Frank Scully

The process of picking a lover is a process of prediction and projection. You think: “If I were to have Robert as a lover, how would he be? Would we fit well together? Would he make me happy? How would being with Robert compare with being with Michael? Who knows?”

Cupid

Cupid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one knows. It isn’t that we are left with an inexact science. We have no science at all. Cupid is, by definition, capricious and sometimes mischievously puts together two people who are complete opposites of each other. The most unlikely couples can be blissfully happy, drawn together by a magnetic attraction no one else can understand.

On the other hand, sometimes a marriage which seems made in heaven is, in fact, a private hell for the man and woman involved. Richard Needham, a former Canadian humor columnist for the Globe and Mail, puts it well when he points out, “You never know the truth about anyone else’s marriage; you only know the truth about your own, and you know exactly half of that.” Generalizations based on experience and common sense can suggest that some kinds of men are probably a better bet than others. There are guidelines about the kinds of men who might make better lovers for you than others. Alas, there are no guarantees.

Each man and woman is a complex individual; each relationship unfolds under unique circumstances. Since predictions must be made without the aid of a crystal ball, any advice which can be given is less than crystal clear. You could have selected some men for all the right reasons, men who had all the right attributes. Nevertheless, your choice led to a disastrous affair because something unforeseen happened. He crashed his car or lost his job or succumbed to a numbing midlife depression or encountered some other hazard no one could have predicted.

Or as often happens with young marriages, the man you picked may have been exactly right for you at the time, and then you grew up and changed your mind—or he did.

Sharing the experiences and perspectives of others will not give you absolute answers about what you should do next. It will, however, give you something to ponder as you sit by the phone, waiting for it to ring. Or in a bolder mood, as you scroll through your Blackberry or iphone address book, trying to decide whose number to call.

Finding Love: Making Mistakes

Love is like mushrooms: One doesn’t know if they belong to the bad sort until it is too late.
—Tristan Bernard

When you are assessing a man as a potential friend or lover, you unfortunately don’t have a crystal ball to tell you the truth about him. You cannot look into his past or know what he is thinking or use second sight to second-guess him. Nevertheless, you do form an impression; and right or wrong, you have to act on that impression.

Most often, your instinctive reactions to someone are sound; but sometimes, you will make a mistake. When you’re wrong, there are two kinds of mistakes you can make. Suppose, for a moment, that there was an omniscient person, a fairy godmother to advise and decide just which men out there are right for you and which are not. To keep it simple, let’s just divide them into good prospects and bad prospects.

One mistake you could make would be to pick a false positive—that is, you could pick someone who seemed like a good prospect but who, in fact, turns out to be a loser, a turkey, a real dud. The wonderful traits you thought you saw might have been wildly exaggerated in your mind or maybe even made up entirely. It ‘s in this sense that people say love is blind. It sees things that aren’t there and refuses to see alarming signals that are there.

English: A site and time specific stencil from...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Alternatively, a second kind of mistake you could make is to not pick a false negative—that is, you reject someone who would have been great. The fairy godmother is saying, “Go for it, girl! I conjured him up just for you.” You are saying, “Forget it! I can’t stand men with buckteeth!” A false negative is someone whom you reject before you have a chance to realize that he might have been a good prospect after all.

To put the same dilemma in a different way: with false positives, you start out thinking that someone is pure gold and then discover that he is actually made of brass. Not only made of brass but with feet of clay as well. You’ve said yes too soon, and you are disappointed and disillusioned. With false negatives, you reject a prospective lover who seems to be made of brass. Underneath, however, he’s really made of gold; and you never discovered it, or discovered it too late. If you had not been so quick to say no, you might have found a worthwhile friend, if not a lover.

Sadly, you never even get to know what you should have done because although you might wonder what would’ve happened if you had done this or done that, you can never know. The amount of risks you take depends on your personality and your options.

If you’re very attractive, sort of a princess who has many suitors swarming around, then you can be very picky. A few lost false negatives won’t bother you as there are many more where they came from, and you can be very
sure of not getting a false positive. However, if you are not quite a princess but rather an ordinary stepsister of a princess, then you may be more reluctant to waste your opportunities and more ready to take chances.

Taking chances involves taking risks, but as the American philosopher Elbert Hubbard, in his famous Scrap Book, warns, “The greatest mistake you can make is to be continually fearing that you will make a mistake.”

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