How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘sexual apathy’ Category

Rule Nine: Beware the Monster That Is Habit

The less of routine, the more of life.
—A. B. Alcott

In a love affair, or in any relationship which is valued intrinsically, one needs continually to guard against that monster that devours everything, the monster of habit.

A blonde and glamorous and much married movie star was once asked   why she had divorced her latest husband. Waving a bejeweled and lacquered hand, she exclaimed, “But, darling, he made love to me on Wednesdays.” “And what is wrong with Wednesdays?” inquired the reporter. “Nothing is wrong with Wednesdays,” she exclaimed. “But, darling, he made love to me only on Wednesdays and always on Wednesdays. It was all just too predictable.”

When life’s great moments become just too predictable, they cease to be great moments. When people have to face great adversity, from physical handicaps to prison camps, they console themselves with the cliché that you can get used to anything.

Alas, you can also get used to anything that is good. If every night you have caviar, lobster, and champagne, eventually you groan, “Oh god, caviar again!” The jet-setters have learned, if nothing else, that contrast is everything. That cold of the ski slopes is crisper if you are still tanned from lying on a beach, the luxury of a grand hotel is grander if you have just returned from safari, and wallowing in a hot Jacuzzi is more relaxing if you have just survived ten days of testing your limits with Outward Bound.

The joy of a love affair is often that it’s something different from your ordinary life. The death of a love affair often begins when the difference becomes a routine part of one’s daily life.

The most exciting kind of lover is one who is aware of the somnolent effects of routines. Whether he has this sensitivity or not, you should yourself make sure that the habituation effects in an affair are minimized. Make it a
point to vary the experience, not just in terms of how you make love but also with regard to what you eat, what you talk about, where you go, whom you see, and where and when you see each other.

Someone once observed that young people love to take a vacation because it is a break in the routine, and old people hate to take a vacation for the same reason. In a love affair, try to maintain the youthful attitude and punctuate your routine as often as you can.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Safe Conduct: Guidelines for an Affair of the Heart

It’s a wise man who profits by his experience, but it’s a good deal wiser one who lets the rattlesnake bite the other fellow.
—Josh Billings

In times of war, when it is necessary to venture into hostile territory, one is sometimes issued a “safe conduct pass” which is supposed to assure that the bearer can pass through the danger zone unmolested. Women who venture into the uncertainty of new relationships based on new social norms don’t have any more guarantees of fulfillment than their grandmothers did. There are, however, some guidelines that can serve as a kind of safe conduct pass which, if followed, will help you to actualize as fully as possible your nascent affair with the new lover you have selected.

Love Affair (1939 film)

Love Affair (1939 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Logan Smith, the American epigrammatist, points out, “There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.” There is no foolproof formula for a perfect love affair. There are, however, guidelines which, like other kinds of safe conduct documents, may offer more protection. In the tradition of commandments, I’ve listed a Decalogue of rules which you would be wise to consider carefully when pursuing an affair of the heart. I will address each of them separately in future posts.

DECALOGUE: GUIDELINES FOR AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART

RULE ONE: ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE AFFAIR.
RULE TWO: ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR BIRTH CONTROL.
RULE THREE: BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR INTENTIONS.
RULE FOUR: PICK THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE RIGHT REASONS.
RULE FIVE: ACCEPT THE INEVITABILITY OF CHAUVINISM.
RULE SIX: DO YOUR PART TO MAKE THE AFFAIR SUCCESSFUL.
RULE SEVEN: RESPECT PRIVILEGED INFORMATION.
RULE EIGHT: MINIMIZE JEALOUSY.
RULE NINE: BEWARE THE MONSTER THAT IS HABIT.
RULE TEN: TAKE TIME TO SAVOR LOVE.

Don’t Be a Working Girl

The prostitute is the only honest woman left in America.
Ti-Grace Atkinson

While there may be nothing intrinsically wrong with selling your body, there is something wrong in ending up in an exchange of sexuality for some sort of gain when the situation occurs unintentionally.

There’s something decidedly wrong in selling your body when you are not fully aware of what you are doing. You’re being exploited when you’re conned or manipulated into a “deal” you didn’t want to make.

There is something decidedly unwise, and perhaps wrong, in selling your body when the rewards are slight and the exchange is unnecessary. Such selling is usually not worth the price in terms of its psychological and emotional costs.

The well-known feminist, Ti-Grace Atkinson, undoubtedly overstates her case when she claims that the prostitute is the only honest woman in America. However, it is valid to observe that there are many women who don’t think of  themselves as working girls who are dishonest about the extent to which they use their sexuality for nonsexual reasons. If you find yourself in a situation where you end up having sex for reasons other than the anticipation of a good sexual experience, then you are in fact acting like a working girl.

Working Girls (2010 film)

Working Girls (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Margaret Sanger pioneered the Planned Parenthood movement and fought for birth control to free women from the tyranny of pregnancy. However, she also fought for freedom from sexual coercion. Writing way back in 1917 when such sentiments were not usually expressed, she declared, “A mutual and satisfied sexual act is of great benefit to the average woman, the magnetism of it is health-giving. When it is not desired on the part of the woman and she has no response, it should not take place. This is an act of prostitution, and is degrading to the woman’s finer sensibility, all the marriage
certificates on earth to the contrary notwithstanding.”

What Sanger is talking about is nothing like rape in the usual and violent sense of the word. It’s nothing like prostitution in the stereotypical sense of streetwalkers standing under streetlights and taking on all comers. What Sanger refers to is the not uncommon practice of women going to bed as a result of feeling sexually intimidated.

Respectable women, who don’t think of themselves as working girls, may have sex for many nonsexy reasons: for protection, for a new diamond necklace, for drugs or a fix, for simple companionship. Many young women act like working girls without realizing it. And having accepted this role, they wonder why it is that under these conditions, they don’t enjoy sex very much. They’re not in helpless situations, yet they continue to use their sexuality as an informal medium of exchange. Or sometimes they continue to put out simply because they feel they don’t have a choice.

If a man asks you to have sex with him, you need not be offended, but neither need you be obliging. A working girl may have sex in the absence of desire and may be tactful and cheerful in putting up with men who are unappealing or who are simply inept lovers. As a non-working girl, you don’t have to, and you shouldn’t. If you don’t want to have sex, your negative reply should be as polite as possible but also firm and unambiguous. The absence of desire is in itself sufficient reason to decline.

The correct answer to continued pressure and harassment from someone you don’t feel passionate about is quite simple. “Harry, you’re a toad. I don’t sleep with toads!” But even if the Harry in question is a toad, nice girls are too considerate and nice to say so in quite those terms. They might even imply it and have Harry look so injured and tearful they then have to go to bed with him just to provide reassurance that he’s not a toad.

The correct answer may be that you would rather watch television. That the room is too hot or too cold, and you are too energized or too tired, and he’s too big or too small, too young or too old, too this or too that. In any case, the correct answer is simply, “No, thank you, I don’t want to.”

It’s fine to let yourself be seduced, if you decide that’s what you want to happen. It’s not so fine to let yourself be coerced by force or by emotional blackmail. It’s not so fine to let yourself be bribed by presents or trips or dinners or promises of introductions or other benefits. Real sexual freedom, instead of the ersatz kind, is the ability to say no for the simple reason that this particular person, at this particular time, is resistible. When responding to a man’s unwanted advances, Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl, had this witty response, “You’re really lovely, but do you honestly suppose I can sleep with every man who asks me?”

If you pick a man because he really does understand pork-belly futures and he has the Swiss bank accounts to prove it, then you don’t have a right to complain that those are the only bellies he understands, and that he couldn’t find a clitoris even if he had a global positioning system at his disposal. If you want to enjoy your own sexuality, don’t be a working girl.

On Scoring and Seduction

The worst sin—perhaps the only sin—passion can commit is to be joyless.
—Sayers

One of the biggest differences between the sexes is that, for him, a casual encounter is almost certainly going to be physically satisfying. Despite how he may feel psychologically, he will be turned on and he will come to a climax almost always. For her, however, a casual sexual encounter may or may not be one which leads to a climax. For many women, especially many young women, sex per se is not all that wonderful; the enjoyment derived from a casual encounter, if any, is often from some secondary aspect of the interaction rather than from the erotic part.

Film poster for Casual Sex? - Copyright 1988, ...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

And yet . . . young women do have sex with their young men and with old ones occasionally too. They lie down in parks and are awkwardly supine on the backseats of cars and hide in recreation rooms when no one is home. They are taken to cheap motels and smuggled into dorms. They are often not really being turned on, but neither are they being forcibly abducted. They are not willing, yet they go willingly. Why is that?

Young women have been taught, directly and indirectly, that it is more blessed to give then to receive and that sexual pleasure is something she can and should give to the man she loves. The man’s desire is for her, but her desire is often only to please him. If she loves him enough, or if she is generous enough, then his pleasure should be all the pleasure she needs.

Many times, women are not that generous. If a woman doesn’t want to give this gift to him when he requests or demands it but does it anyway, then men and women, in general, feel that she should expect some sort of compensation for the act. She is “putting out” for him, and he is “scoring” with her. What’s in it for her? The basis of the trading partnership becomes obvious.

Recently on a Los Angeles freeway, I passed a jazzy car adorned with a bumper sticker: “Gas or ass—nobody rides for free!” I didn’t notice the driver, but I am sure it was a man and I am equally sure he wouldn’t be the kind of man I would approve of for my sister, niece, or daughter. There are still many men in the world who believe that doing you a favor—be it giving you a ride to the local mall or buying you dinner—somehow entitles them to have free access to your body.

In her article “The Dating Game: The Dangers of Cash-Based Courtship,” Anne Morse recounts the dilemma experienced by a sixteen-year-old girl named Carrie after she had gone on her very first date ever with a young man named Trent, a senior she knew slightly at the large high school both attended. The pair went to a spaghetti house for dinner and then drove to the mall to see a movie. When the movie was over, they went to a restaurant for dessert. As Trent pulled his car into Carrie’s driveway, he asked Carrie for a kiss. Carrie didn’t want to go lips to lips with Trent (he was a little bit of a geek), but her first thought was, “He spent all that money on me!” In the end, she didn’t kiss him—and he never asked her out again.

Men who think of ordinary gestures on a quid pro quo basis aren’t usually as explicit as the man who puts up a sign saying Gas or Ass. Dealing with strangers might be somewhat easier if they did. The man who buys you dinner is entitled to polite attention during dinner and a polite thank-you afterward. He may hope for something else, but he is entitled to nothing more. Nevertheless, nice girls often find themselves putting out for many nonerotic reasons. They go to bed out of gratitude because a man has been nice to them. They go to bed out of sympathy because a man is sad or hurt or full of self-doubt. They go to bed out of boredom. Or as an alternative to being raped. They go to bed sometimes just to get a little peace, having been exhausted by the impossibility of maintaining an adequate defense against continuous pressure.

Lovers and would-be lovers offer a thousand and one reasons which amount to emotional blackmail but which are, nevertheless, effective. “Why not?” men used to wheedle. “If you get pregnant, I’ll marry you.” The offer of marriage was supposed to be the ultimate sacrifice. “Why not, you’re on the pill, aren’t you?” “Why not, we will use condoms?” “Why not, I’ll pull out just before I come?” “Why not, you’re not a virgin, it’s the twenty-first century for God’s sake!” “Why not, didn’t you like the dinner?” Etcetera. Unfortunately, the litany of reasons is quite familiar even to some fourteen-year-olds.

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.

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.

Tag Cloud