How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sexual expression’

Beware of the Great Ghost Lover

There is sanctuary in reading, sanctuary in formal society, in the company of old friends, and in the giving of officious help to strangers, but there is no sanctuary in one bed from the memory of another.
—Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

There’s nothing quite so wondrous, quite so awesome, quite so interesting as the first time you fall in love. It may not be with the first man whom you take as a lover . . . indeed, such emotional monogamy is more likely the exception than the rule. The intensity is partly due to ignoring or refusing to accept the possibility that such a feeling can end—not only on his part but also on yours.

If, in addition, the thrill of first love is combined with the thrill of first making love and if that initiation is a satisfactory experience, then it sets up the conditions for a powerful kind of imprinting. Newly hatched goslings will imprint on any moving object they happen to see—a moving wooden cube, the heel of their keeper, a ball of wool—and they will follow that object with all the persistence and devotion that nature intended them to bestow on the mother goose that hatched them. In the same way, a woman whose first love experience coincides with her first sexual experience, or at least her
first erotic and wonderful sexual experience, may for the rest of her days be imprinted upon a certain kind of man.

The man who was your first love may provide an idealized model for masculinity in general. If the first eyes that you loved loved you back, and said so, were let’s say, slate gray, then twenty years later, slate-gray eyes across a crowded room will still seem more riveting than they actually are. If the first kisses of great passion were enclosed in a full beard, then twenty years later, a full beard is still a special male plumage of particular appeal. Whether he was tall or short, handsome or gnome-like, muscular or slender, there’s a body type, a body image, which continues to hold for your extraordinary potential appeal.

English: Man with beard sleeping.

English: Man with beard sleeping. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If, by chance, you meet someone who seems almost the same as your first great ghost lover from the past, he’ll almost win your heart just by standing there and breathing in and out. Beware. Looking the same doesn’t at all mean that he’s the same. You pick him not for what he is but for the man he reminds you of, which isn’t very flattering to him when he figures it out. You will then project on to him the other traits of the great ghost lover and will be duly disappointed when, quite naturally, he doesn’t live up to these uncanny expectations.

If you find your first great love reincarnated, recognize the source of your attraction. Talk to him if you can’t resist the temptation to do so or if you should want to spoil your illusion with a little reality shock. Take his picture. But don’t take him to your bed in an attempt to go back in time. Even if he looks the same, he won’t be the same and you’ll both be disappointed—you, by his failure to mimic a vanished man he has never met, and he, by your failure to appreciate the fine and unique person that he, in fact, is.

And while you are thinking about your great ghost lover, remember the words of warning from the often-quoted author Bill Vaughan: “It’s never safe to be nostalgic about something until you’re absolutely certain there’s no chance of it coming back.”

Incipient Divorce Potential

Though many, whose church forbids it, believe divorce is a sin, it may be said that aside from these groups, two marriages with a divorce are thought normal; among the rich, three are normal; and in Hollywood four are normal.
—Edmund Wilson, The Cold War and Income Tax

If you’re already married but are nevertheless contemplating an affair, you need to consider how you feel about maintaining your marriage.

Some women who aren’t very satisfied with their husbands are nevertheless determined to maintain their households intact. They have other considerations to think about. Often, the main marital glue is a child, but it can also be financial considerations or other family obligations. “How can I leave my husband?” a woman friend of mine lamented to me recently. “He’s paying for my mother’s nursing home care. I could never afford that, and what would become of her?” A fair and legitimate question for which I had no answer.  Then there are some women who are simply afraid of being single again and don’t think they can manage on their own.

Cover of "Love Affairs: Marriage & Infide...

Cover of Love Affairs: Marriage & Infidelity

An affair can be the first rebellious step on the way to a woman’s freedom. A woman I met at a cocktail party several months ago quipped to me, after hearing about my blog, “Wanting an open marriage is nature’s way of telling you that you need a divorce.”  An affair is one way for a woman to test her wings or to bide her time until an opportune moment arises. The wife of a close male friend of mine confided in me that she intended to leave her husband and that she had a definite timetable. She calculated she would be finished graduate school in fifteen more months and would then be graduated and gone in sixteen. Her departure would coincide almost to the day with her first paycheck. You can well imagine the dilemma this confession put me in. I found myself avoiding my male friend for the next sixteen months.

Some women contemplating an affair are already thinking about what a second husband would be like. Many others have had enough of marriage, at least for now, and are looking for a lover for the sake of a worthwhile affair and nothing more.

For a start, a first requirement that you owe your paramour is to be honest about the state and prospects of your marriage, at least as you understand them at the time. If you’re determined to maintain your marriage at all costs, then don’t let him hope that someday you’ll leave your husband and run away with him. Men tend to feel they’re irresistible, so if you’re serious about remaining married, you cannot stress it too much or too early in the relationship.

On the other hand, if you’re more or less looking for an excuse to get out of the marriage, and perhaps someone who is willing to act as a co-respondent in a divorce action should you be found out, then it’s only fair to say this as well. When later you do leave your husband, you have precluded any potential guilt on the part of your lover that he was a home wrecker who broke up an otherwise satisfactory marriage. Being honest here also warns him that you may not always take the need for discretion very seriously.

Love affairs do sometimes change things, and you may decide later that your initial intent needs to be revised. All you can do is to level with him about how you feel at the time.

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.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line: it is my bottom that has the honey pot!
—Jadah Vaughn, “The Bottom Line”

Throughout most of the recorded history of the Western world, there’s been an implicit assumption that men owned women and that men especially owned a woman’s sexuality.

In the beginning, fathers owned daughters; later in life, husbands owned wives who had been given away by their fathers. The wife was a chattel. It would be an overstatement to say she was a slave, but she was a possession. In effect, she sold her sexual services at the time of marriage for the rest of her life. If a husband was made a cuckold by some other man, he had a right to be aggrieved and sometimes even a right to sue for damages. The law gave him not only a right to his wife’s body at all times, and under all circumstances, but an exclusive right to it. The wife had control of the husband’s honor. If she was wayward, she brought disgrace to him as much as a wayward daughter would bring disgrace to her father. In some cultures today, “honor killings” are based on that assumption.

Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century, there remains a truism which still needs to be endlessly proclaimed. A woman owns her own body. She may decide to share it with a man, or she may not. She may promise to be sexually monogamous, or she may not. She may conceive a child if she wants, or she may not. Having conceived, she may carry that child to term, or she may not. A woman owns her own body.

Whose Body?

Whose Body? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you own your own body, then the decisions about what to do with it are in fact up to you. You may give your body to someone in an act of love, but you do not deed it to him for time and eternity.

Self-ownership involves two related principles. The first is that you don’t have to give your body to anyone if you don’t want to; it’s a form of rape, even if the man is your husband, if you are taken against your will. The second principle is that you have the right to give your body to whomever you want.

The bottom line: it’s your bottom that has the honeypot.

Keeping Score

How many arms have held you,
And hated to let you go?
How many, how many I wonder
But I really don’t want to know.
—Don Robertson, Howard Barnes

Sooner or later, everybody always asks, “How many men have you slept with? How many affairs have you had?”

If you are about to enter into your first affair and are still virgo intacta, then you probably should tell your prospective lover that you have chosen him for your first time. The loss of one’s maidenhead can be a momentous occasion, and if he knows of your innocence, he may be more solicitous of it.

If you have had one affair, you can say demurely, “Only one.” Nowadays, only a minority of men is likely to insist upon a virgin bride although they might prefer such a circumstance. Unless you are about to marry a Mormon missionary, admitting to one previous affair is probably safe.

The trouble with the more-or-less-acceptable answer of “only one” is that you can use it only once. When the truth is that there has been more than one previous lover, the truth becomes more treacherous. Under those circumstances, you might admit to “a passel.” This term is appropriately vague, referring to an indeterminate number. And if he insists upon a specific number, then there is only one correct answer, which is to give a range: more than one, less than five hundred.

Why does your man want to know? What difference does it make to him what your scorecard reads? Why does he want to view a scalp collection? Don’t buy the “I’m-just-curious” answer from anyone except a researcher from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, and then, only after you have seen his interviewer identification badge. The man to whom it’s not very important he will not press the issue; the man for whom it’s very important he will keep pressing, and that alone tells you that any answer will be the wrong answer.

Don’t be led into the trap of the man who confesses all (all?) of his affairs and then insists that since he has told you, so you must tell him. Wrong. If he wants to confess his sins or brag about his conquests or whatever he is doing for whatever reasons, fine, but that doesn’t obligate you to do the same. The entire game of “Did you ever . . . ?” is a dangerous one. It leads to other games like “Who all did you sleep with? Did you ever make it with Jack? Did you ever have a black man?” (Or a white man, depending on your race.) That leads to still more games like “Who was the best? Am I the best? Was Jack better than me?” Some conversations are just not worth having, and this is one of them.

Ashley Madison 74%

Ashley Madison 74% (Photo credit: thelampnyc)

It would be nice if teenagers could fall in love once and once only and then live happily ever after, remaining true to each other year after year for fifty years. It would be nice, and it does happen, but it isn’t the way to bet. Men, including husbands, have long retained the option of pursuing more than one woman. More recently, women in general, including wives, have begun to realize their potential to do the same. Evan Esar, the American humorist, predicts, “In the future, a woman who sticks to one man will be regarded as a monomaniac.”

The Seamless Seduction

Here is a perfect poem: to awaken a longing to develop it, to increase it, to stimulate it, and to gratify it.
—Honorè de Balzac

When one thinks of the verb “to seduce,” one thinks of it as something a man does to a woman. More stereotypically, you think of an unscrupulous man, perhaps a villain with a pencil-thin mustache, pressing his attentions upon a young and presumably innocent girl. He suggests, “Have some Madeira, my deara”; and muddled by Madeira and soft talk, she eventually fails to resist and he has his way with her.

In a different kind of world, women, however inexperienced, are not as innocent. Women today don’t and need not simply wait for a man to approach and seduce them. Rather, they can themselves select a man they think looks promising and initiate the next stage.

Some men are very indiscriminate and unselective. You can seduce them by the simple strategy of saying, “Wanna fuck?” And they will say, “Of course!” And do so immediately. And when you’re done, you’ll have been, well, fucked. For a man who is the kind of man who is likely to take love seriously, this approach would be, in most instances, a total turnoff.

The kind of man who will be a serious and attentive lover must be approached just as men should approach women: by creating a mood and an atmosphere conducive to the right kind of experience. That means that the communication must be subtle and indirect, with no connotation of obligation, and no suggestion of a need to perform.

Seduction is an invitation, not a command.

The offering of a seductive invitation should be done in such a way that it is possible for the man or the woman to decline gracefully, with neither party losing face. The person who is skilled in sexual matters will never make a pass at someone when the response to the pass is in any doubt. When the time comes to make a definite, unambiguous move, the other person isn’t going to be surprised and his or her reaction is certain to be positive rather than negative.

{12/365}

Photo credit: mattbeighton

Young people make a lot of mistakes in figuring out how to make a pass, how to see one coming, and how to accept or to deflect one. Older people who aren’t too experienced or those who come from a different tradition can also inflict considerable pain and embarrassment on each other because of their inability to “read” signals and passes.

The strategy for avoiding such confrontation isn’t all that difficult. In our culture, there are a number of sexual scripts as discussed earlier in previous posts. Think of the act of sexual intercourse as a kind of theatrical play with the man and woman being both actors and directors. A sexual interlude is a play with an overture at first curtain. It consists of three acts complete with intermissions and ends with a grand finale, followed by a period of denouement.

The sexual script starts with mutual looking. It proceeds, with or without words, to kissing and mutual touching. At each stage, the other person responds with an encouraging gesture (or sound) or a negative one. The skilled lover, male or female, listens to this conversation of gestures, murmurs, and moans and modifies his or her actions accordingly. There should be mutual, if unspoken, consent as to what happens next, if anything.

Because of sexual scripting, the sequence of erotic involvement is generally quite consistent. The man who is seen as a “wolf ” or the woman who is seen as “too fast” is merely someone who has skipped some of the expected steps. The sense of affront this creates may not be for the acts themselves but for the failure to prepare the other person by leading up to those acts in the right way. The actual time frame involved has less to do with the script than with the specific male and female involved. If the two are virgin teenagers who have been kept as innocent and uninformed as possible, it may take months; if they’re sophisticated New York swingers, it may take only a few hours. Since men aren’t as prepared as are women to have someone make a pass at them, it’s even more important that the sexual script be followed and that there be no surprises which might create a sense of threat and discomfort. The gestures involved proceed with very small increments and with great attention to the response they receive, if any. No one gesture should be so obvious that it must be acknowledged in a way which could prove awkward for either party.

If the gesture is declined, everyone should be able to walk away without embarrassment. If the gesture isn’t declined, the sexual interaction should flow smoothly and easily from one stage to the other—right through to the proverbial cigarette afterward.

Sharing The Initiative

Courtship consists of a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood.
—Lawrence Sterne

The person who makes the first move toward a relationship takes a certain amount of risk. He must declare himself in some way or another so that the stranger knows he’s interested in becoming better acquainted with her. If this is done very casually, then little of his self-image is at stake; if it’s done more seriously and more deliberately, then the person taking the risk is more vulnerable.

In traditional dating-based courtship, it fell to the man to take all of this emotional risk. The first move was always his. I doubt that this has changed very much even today. The very first move is still likely to be a male move, and both people may be more comfortable with that.

However, courtship is no longer only a one-way process, or it need not be. It is nice to be courted and to passively let a new friendship happen; it is also nice to court and to be more assertive about it. The very best scenario is when the two roles are interchangeable from one point in time to the next as they are when friendships are formed between same-sex friends.

Victor Hugo observed that the first symptom of love in a young man is timidity, but the first symptom of love in a young woman is boldness. The two sexes have a tendency to approach, and each assume the qualities of the other. This move toward androgyny and toward mutuality is certainly conducive to better relationships and to fewer misunderstandings. Yet how to go about it is often less than obvious.

The Flirtation

The Flirtation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the initiation of relationships, as in other aspects of sexuality, there remain vestiges of the double standard. The first approach which is made shouldn’t be too forceful for either sex. But being obvious and blatant is more or less acceptable for almost all men—or at least all men who have a reasonable claim to being your social equal. While being blatant may be “acceptable,” it is becoming increasingly less enticing to women, and a more subtle approach is preferred. Being obvious and blatant is equally bad form for a woman—even an emancipated one. More importantly, it is unlikely to achieve your desired ends.

The woman who sets out to court a man has a double task: how to take the initiative, and how to take the initiative without seeming to take the initiative. She must be explicit without being obvious. She must be evocative without being provocative.

It’s no wonder women do not yet know how to act in this role, and men don’t know how to respond.

Freedom Of Choice, Freedom To Choose

You cannot decree women to be sexually free when they are not economically free.
Shere Hite

If you ask a young man his thoughts about being a gigolo, he would likely reply with some scorn that this isn’t a role for a “real man” and that the man who does take up such a role must not be good for anything else. The same young man, however, would be pleased if his sister were dating a rich man who was generous with her, even if that rich man was of questionable physical appeal and devoid of personality.

If you asked the same young man what he would think of finding a rich woman to marry, he would likely reply with some variation on the aphorism, “The man who marries for money earns it.”

Gold Diggers

Gold Diggers (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

For the man who thought of this homily, it was, perhaps, an insight. For women, however, marrying money and then having to “earn” it is a fact of life that every girl of sixteen has already considered to be a clear and present option as well as a clear and present danger. If she marries for money, she expects to earn it. She is expected to give up control of her life in exchange for a comfortable lifestyle which will be afforded her as long as she submits to her husband’s will.

The young man who arbitrarily rejects a money marriage for himself sees no inconsistency in his profound hope that his cherished little sister will have a “good” marriage, which means a marriage to a man of means even if he is a little dull. For the woman of few resources, a husband to take care of things may be the only solution. With limited education and paltry self-confidence, it may well be better for her to marry for money than to work for peanuts.

If a woman is financially dependent upon a man, she is in his power, no matter how generous he is with her. It’s the degree of financial dependence which determines, in large part, the degree of power. Women need to obtain their own resources and to be content to live on them, however modest. If they can achieve a minimum standard of living for themselves, then sexual barter is not necessary.

If a woman has sexual freedom and has a degree of financial and social independence, then she has a new option. She has the luxury of choosing someone to love, and perhaps to marry, not because he is rich and not because he desires her, but because she desires him. Or better still because they desire each other.

Billie Holiday says it well when she sings ruefully, “Mama may have, Papa may have, but God blessed the child who’s got her own.”

Putting Up With Putting Out

There are two things one should never do from a sense of duty, and the other one is to read a book.
—Richard Needham

Consider this cautionary tale.  A young woman I know was on the road trying to live as cheaply as possible, but by no means interested in casual hook ups, was  offered the opportunity to spend the night on a yacht and thereby save a hotel bill. Since the man in question was a friend of a friend and was by all accounts a respectable and benevolent guy, she took the offer at face value and showed up, backpack in hand.

She was enjoying the tranquility of watching the sun go down over the harbor and listening to the gulls when she suddenly realized that the captain of the boat considered that with overnight guests, he had a kind of droit du seigneur as far as all women were concerned. She could have screamed rape, but there was no one to hear, and she could not swim very well. Besides, the captain was quite sincere in his assumption and genuinely surprised at her reluctance.

“Well,” he said, pulling down the strap of her bra, “why did you agree to come out here then?” “Because it was a place to stay.” “And so it is,” he said, pulling down her other strap.She was surprised, confused, and helpless enough that, as they expressed it in Victorian novels, he “had his way with her.” She left the next day at dawn after a sleepless night, feeling bewildered and a little soiled, but a lot wiser. [As an aside, this may be what Paul Ryan and many other misguided Republican legislators consider “non-legitimate rape.”  To be clear, any time a woman’s freedom to chose whether or not she wants to have sex is violated – for whatever reason – it is rape.] If women’s sexual inclinations were assumed to be the same as men’s, with her wanting and needing the same kind of sex to the same degree that he does, the entire structure of male-female relationships would have to be rewritten.

The sexual revolution has led to many changes, but it has not yet altered this fundamental premise. Both men and women recognize, on a fundamental although implicit level, that for most people most of the time, she is not as sexually driven as he is. Even if she does enjoy having sex (and often she doesn’t) and even if she does have orgasms and cries out with delight (and often she doesn’t), she still doesn’t ordinarily enjoy it as much as he does. More importantly, even if she enjoys it as much, she doesn’t seem to need it as much.

We now classify women not so much in terms of whether or not they are sexually active but in terms of why they are sexually active. Good girls, and good women, are compensated for their sexuality by love and affection, by dances and dinners, and eventually, by marriage and children. Bad girls, and bad women, are compensated more directly by presents or favors or cold cash.

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.

Tag Cloud