How to Convince a Woman that Sex is Bad: An Instruction Manual for Men who Feel Entitled to Undermine Women’s Feelings and Desires
PART 2: NEVER TRUST A SLUT
“she’s crafty// and she’s just my type”
On June 22nd we see a one-woman play at a local church, then meet up with his friends at a neighborhood bar for his acquaintance’s going away party. This is the first time I’ve been introduced to his friends, and it’s very informal except that one of them calls their mutual friend, whom I’d met for a hot sec when she was out running, so the two of us can be introduced formally. The implication being that I’m becoming an important person in Kyle’s life, so I should meet the people who are important to him, though it was unclear whether the rest of the crew knew of my existence prior to this bar hang. Anyway, it all goes to shit tonight. Spoiler alert: Kyle is an alcoholic. This is the first time I’ll see him drink, like really drink. You might wonder how I was so naïve as to have dated a dude for 2 months without becoming privy to his drinking problem. And I guess the answer is that I’m not a big drinker, myself, so I had always set the tone. We generally only had a drink or two together or none at all, and he only loses control after 3, he told me later–it’s like a “flip is switched.” His friends did not hold back, which in a way was good because I got a picture of him in a broader context. But it was also bad because I got exposed to too much too soon. The topic of his much maligned, still at hand, ex came up (let’s call her Lisa) and I was totally appalled by how he spoke of her.
A little background info on their relationship: They met on tinder in Philly, she worked for an NGO in Central America, she was only in town for like a week, so it was going to be a casual sex thing, except he doesn’t know how to run that script. He followed her to Central America for three months, they fought the whole time they were there, she was a stranger essentially. Before he came home to Philly he told her that he really liked her and if she ever returned (her family lives here) he’d like to make it more of a thing. Except he had already made the empty promise to a woman he was seeing in Philly that when he was back from Central America they would make their friend with benefits situation more of a relationship provided that they did more than drink and be party kids together (that woman no longer speaks to him). Lisa insisted she was never coming back to Philly, a month later she showed up on his doorstep and moved in with him immediately. They signed a year-long lease together, they never got along and never talked about it, allegedly due to of her “communication issues.” When their year-long lease was up he told her he wanted to move out but stay together, she said let’s just break up and they never really talked about it as they moved out. All of his friends and family were thrilled that she was gone, she had no personality. By the time she begged to get back together, it was too late because the important people in his life had already pointed out her flaws. He never wanted to break up in the first place.
I was a bit nervous about meeting Kyle’s friends because I was afraid of being scrutinized; they seemed like tough critics. I figured they would evaluate me on a continuum ranging from ‘as awful as Lisa’ to ‘not quite so bad as Lisa’ and laugh gleefully once it was over. He said a bunch of things that night that at very best implied that I was *like Lisa* and therefore a source of suspicion.
By this point in our “relationship,” Kyle didn’t know many specifics, but he was well aware of the overall arc of my sex life–how a lot of the sex I’d had was casual, by design. While tossing back drinks, he explained to me what had gone wrong in their relationship: Lisa was subtle in her verbal communication. She made big gestures like signing a year-long lease, and his friends thought he was an idiot for not interpreting that as a signal, but he was always insecure about her feelings for him. Sometimes you don’t have to say a thing, you just feel it, only with her he had to hear a thing. He was never sure because she had fucked a ton of dudes from tinder, was he just another one of those guys? Fair readers, in case this isn’t glaring, I’VE FUCKED A LOT OF DUDES FROM TINDER. AND OKCUPID. AND THE REAL WORLD. WHEREVER. GET OVER IT. MANY DUDES HAVE BEEN IN MY VAGINA. I WANTED HIM TO CONTINUE BEING IN MY VAGINA. MAYBE EXCLUSIVELY. I REALLY LIKED THIS GUY.
I got spooked. I thought Kyle would never believe in my developing feelings for him. I thought he needed me to be more explicit about my intentions. I didn’t want to become another Lisa. So that night when we were lying in bed, I was more explicit. It did NOT go over well. We spent until sunrise staggering his being awake with my being awake with both of us restless in a progression of not-quite-right synchronized positions. He asked if I was okay, and I said yes because I wasn’t ready to talk. I couldn’t quite ascertain what I was upset about, yet. He went home around 5am and it was such a relief, I was able to cry alone in my bed, tears streaking my sheets, puppy lapping up the salty pools, no more furtive reprieves in the bathroom. I slept for two hours, a soggy puffy mess. Before he left, he’d said something about how he felt bad about the way Lisa’s “communication issues” came up, that he hadn’t meant to compare us. I wasn’t sure that was quite it. At least he was emotionally attuned enough to sense that something was amiss, and tried to salvage it, so that was reassuring.
We had plans the next day and I doubted I could get through them without falling apart. I thought maybe we should cancel. I tried to back out. He insisted. And I started feeling a bit safer around him. Because my biggest fear is guys disposing of me when I start having feelings. There is that paradoxical insecurity of being too much and not enough simultaneously. I always assume guys will fall off once they realize that I, like all women, am complicated, not a monolithic agreeable fucktoy. Only he showed up, he estimated that I was worth the trouble. And thus commenced a predictable pattern of his being extra reliable and available, even when he knew I was upset with him. I was still leery, however, of our sexual history compatibility, or incompatibility as it were; he is a serial monogamist, ick, and I’ll never not be acutely suspicious of men who are “serious” about each woman, at the moment, and then flit right off to the next.
Me: I think you’re right that whatever you said about Lisa’s communication issues did make me sorta feel like shit. But I dont really wanna talk about it.
Kyle: Yeah, I was feeling bad about how I brought that up and I think that’s why I wasn’t sleeping well either. We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but I am sorry and we can totally talk about it again if and whenever you want.
Me: Soo I’ve been really looking forward to this movie. But how strong is your expectation that I make it through the night without crying? Because I only got 3 hrs or sleep and dont feel super. So if you’re gonna freak out if i cry maybe it’s a mistake for us to hang out tonight?
[He had complained that his last girlfriend cried all the time and it made him uncomfortable.]
Kyle: Let’s watch the movie!
Kyle: I’ll be there at 4:30!
Me: Ok I’ll meet you downstairs
On our tense trudge to SEPTA, he told me had had been thinking that we should have a talk about “where things were going” between us. I assumed this meant things were going somewhere or else why would he bring it up. I said I agreed but not now, when I had only gotten 3 hours of sleep and was still acutely upset, and the sleep deprivation could only exacerbate things. He was respectful of my space and let me approach him on my own terms. That night he helped me move my brother’s stuff out of my brother’s old apartment, and I gave him a bunch of clothes and assorted junk my brother and his girlfriend were throwing out. Back at my place, he tried to leave the haul behind, and I was fairly firm that that didn’t sound like “such a good idea.” He was like, “Why not, it’s not like I’m trying to move in here, I just can’t carry it all on my bike, it’s not like I’m never gonna be back.” My face turned an alarming shade of red, like tears were about to burst forth like the Kool-Aid Man through a brick wall. And he was like, “Oh…? Oh, wow.” I hadn’t meant to make it so obvious that this night might be our last. But I wasn’t sure we could get past this. When he got home, he immediately followed up.
Kyle: I know you’re busy during the week, so whenever you have the time and energy to talk let me know.
Kyle: I did have fun with you today, despite the lack of sleep and shitty context of last night… and I’m sorry [the] film was so weird.
Me: Yeah I’m busy during the week and might not wanna ruin next weekend. So we’ll see. I had fun with you today too once I got over the feeling like I was gonna cry thing. But that doesn’t mean that I think this situation is a good idea. I’m curious if you even know what about last night upset me?
Kyle: I definitely feel like there are a few things that could have upset you. And rightfully so. Let me know when you want to talk whenever you think is best. And no need to decide right now obviously.
Me: Right but I wanna hear from you what you think they are first. (Like why you think they went over poorly.) Because I want to know what I’m dealing with.
Kyle: I’m kind of exhausted right now. But like you want to have the conversation over text instead of talking?
Me: Yeah. I’m mean I guess I feel like I’ve been really open with you. So I dont really feel like being more vulnerable.
Kyle: That’s fair. Is it okay if I send a longer text tomorrow evening?
Me: I’d rather you explain at least something tonight since I already feel shitty and like to consolidate bad feelings. But sure.
Kyle: Okay. But you do know that I’m terrible at texting and I’m worried about saying more stupid shit especially bcs I’m tired, but since you want me to explain something now I’ll try.
Me: [‘okay’ hand signal emoji]
Kyle: There was one point when I feel like you really opened up about a vulnerability and I didn’t respond well. This is different than the conversation about communication, but something that I think should also be addressed too. Sorry if I’m not addressing your main concern right now. But you told me that you get the feeling that you like me more than I like you… this was in the context of you trying to see how trash lamp was maybe a good idea. I understand how difficult it is to say that to someone and how shitty it can feel to feel that way. I didn’t directly respond to this and instead made a bad joke about lamps. I did later (and maybe I’m fucking up the exact order of how things went) talk about how I feel like I’ve jumped into relationships quickly. This comment was said without a lot of context and I think that how I said it probably made you go “well what the fuck does that mean?”. I think I need to talk to you about how insecure I feel about my future right now — finishing this degree, not quite knowing what I’m doing next year — and how these insecurities i think are what you’re picking up on when you feel like I like you less.
[Here is the scoop on the “trash lamp” or “sex lamp” thing that gets referenced recurrently. When Kyle and I did acid together, he told me he thought I needed a lamp in my room and he’d look on the street for one. I thought he would forget about it. What a weird thing to assume that you could just furnish someone else’s apartment, with a piece of curbside trash nonetheless. Only the next week, the night before trash day, he texted me to tell me he was going on the prowl, and I was like, Uhhh, what if I reject your trash offerings. He clarified whether I would reject all trash or only trash I deemed ugly, and didn’t seem too offended. Then I went out with an old friend and told him this bizarre story, how I was really into this guy and saw us having a future, but felt like it was a little invasive to assume you could just alter someone’s home environment without asking, like way more invasive than leaving a toothbrush—tres accelerated level of commitment. The upshot, though, as I told my friend, was that I’d been a little concerned that maybe I liked Kyle more than he liked me (not that I was getting that vibe from him specifically, just that that’s something I’m automatically insecure about any time I like a guy), and the lamp was evidence otherwise. Someone is sticking around for a bit if they are leaving an item in your apartment for their convenience. My friend agreed that this was a good sign and that it sounded like this guy was “nesting.” I liked imagining him as a bird collecting twigs. I relayed this exchange to Kyle while we were lying in bed that fateful night, in part to be like, “Boundaries: don’t make any decisions like that without asking next time,” and in part to be like, “Hey, I like you… so now you know,” Kyle’s response was that our (i.e. my and my friend’s) takes were wrong; he wasn’t acquiring a lamp to “nest.” He wanted to be able to see me better when we fucked, as he thought I was “really sexy,” but I always turned the overhead light off because, on my back, it shined directly into my eyes. Um, okay, but that’s besides the point; at very least, it means you plan to fuck me repeatedly, which is kind of a big deal, to me. I’m so used to the fuck and dispose trash life.]
Kyle: There is more to this too that I’d like to talk about, but I think an important thing for you to know. My insecurities are not coming from my relationship to you but my relationship to feeling generally not in control in other areas of my life at the moment.
Kyle: And I think this is all also related to you saying last night that you want to hang out more, and I made (another) terrible joke “what like 1.5 times a week? Haha” Not funny.
[I had told him that I knew he recognized that I was someone who needed a lot of personal space, and appreciated that he respected that space, but was wondering if we had similar preferences or he was simply trying to respect my preferences, because I would actually like less space. He answered by going on this terrible diatribe about how it’s important to respect each other’s space because he doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life, and he jumps from relationship to relationship without putting any thought into it. Over the past few years, he’s basically found the first person who will give him attention after breakups, and sticks with them for a bit, then off to the next one. After breaking up with his girlfriend of 7 years, he was in a 3-year thing, then a 1-year thing (with Lisa), then an extremely chaotic 3-month thing (the “craziest” relationship he has ever been in, with a hysterical woman who, no joke, studies Freud.) I felt extremely dismissed but mustered up the courage to timidly bring up that I’d like to hang out “marginally” more than once a week, which had roughly been our routine up until that point. And he made the quip, “What, like 1.5 times?” Which was in reference to my mentioning earlier in the evening that I went to my ceramics studio approximately 1.5 times per week, as in, sometimes once and sometimes twice. Ugh.]
Kyle: You really were vulnerable in saying that, and I’m sorry for not responding with the seriousness that you said it. That was shitty.
Kyle: The thing is: I do like you, and I like hanging out with you, and I’m down for something more serious, but there are these other insecurities that I have that are going to affect our relationship.
Me: Like past relationship securities? Or you dont know what you’re doing with your life insecurities? Isnt it kinda a given that humans are insecure and those insecurities affect all sorts of relationships with other people.
Kyle: Life insecurities. And yes, it’s a given, but I do think that there sometimes particularly acute moments when these are amplified in a person’s life. Or at least a particular configuration of insecurities at any moment, and the ones I’m feeling now are very much related to graduating from a program I’ve been in for a decade and not quite knowing what I’m doing next. Then, on top of it, the question of how to have honest, healthy, and meaningful relationships in this context.
Kyle: And I’m sorry for totally sucking at that question apparently
Me: Okay thanks for sharing. I think I’ve hit my awake wall for the evening. But I feel marginally to much better about this situation. You arent bad at text. It’s so much better when it’s all laid out in writing. And now I remember a few more things you said that made me feel bad and hopeless and horrified by the energy I’ve already invested in you. We’ll talk later this week. I really appreciate how unafraid of confrontation you are. Like you have really impressive conflict resolution skills. Goodnight.
Kyle: I’m crashing too. Goodnight
Kyle: And for the written record: I appreciate how good you are at communicating how you’re feeling, not being afraid of being vulnerable, but also not taking shit when I didn’t respond properly and making sure we address the shit.
Later that week, I shared what he did that hurt me most.
Me: Part 1: A few weeks ago we had that weird situation where you asked me if I liked having sex with you, and I was perplexed, and you thought you had said something that had really upset/triggered me rather than confused me. So we had that phone convo (which I loved!) where I explained that you basically said the opposite thing that other guys I’ve dated say so I didn’t really know where to file away your insecurities in my map of personal defects….
Me: To review, generally I date a guy for a few months, and when it’s time to have the where is this going convo they act incredulous that I could have wanted more than sex from them. Which is always infuriating because these are situations where I invest a significant amount of time in these guys as people and women dont need to pretend to court people/be interested in them as ppl to get fucked, as should be blatantly obvious given my sexual history. And also one of them wouldn’t even have sex with me!!! So I can only conclude that ppl arent reading my actions toward them and are basing their analysis on the sexist stereotype that women are either wife material or fuck toys and a woman who likes sex is devious and cant be trusted, the whole madonna/whore dichotomy. I’m like really great at making anything that happens with any guy a referendum about how no one will ever believe I really like them and I’ll never make any guy feel special because I’ve been such a slut and regardless of…
Me: How much of an alleged feminist a dude is I’ve essentially ruined myself. It’s super shitty that at the onset of any relationship I feel like I’m on probation and guys expect me to prove myself to them in a way they dont expect of normal women (and let’s face it men just want to be with normal women). So anyway I shared this insecurity with you and you said that you didnt think we were a just sex situation because I introduced you to my friend and stuff and we didnt have sex that day (though I dont want to have to withhold sex to feel like I’m making the point that I want things other than sex too)…
Me: Then we go out to [neighborhood bar] the other night and you talk about Lisa and her communication problems and how you could never tell how she felt about you–even though your friends thought you were an idiot because she made grand gestures like signing a year lease with you–BECAUSE SHE HAD FUCKED LOTS OF DUDES FROM TINDER. Like holy shit it doesnt feel any better to hear that said about another person. The implication being that you couldnt trust her intentions and didnt believe she was capable of having feelings because shes fucked lots of randos and women are sexual monoliths apparently. And like generally you dont say sexist shit to me which leads me to believe that either you’re smart enough to…
Kyle: Keep going.. but that is *not* what I said about Lisa
Me: (Okay I think it is but whatever.)
Me: …Not believe sexist shit or you’re smart enough to know what not to say in front of me. Because sure we all internalize the toxic patriarchal values were bombarded with constantly. I was just a little surprised by how insensitive it was considering what I told I you I worried about….
Me: Part 2… Then we get back to my place and the whole trash lamp/1.5 times per week fiasco happens where I tell you that I felt invaded my the idea of your assuming you could furnish my house with trash but I was less annoyed by it because it made me feel like maybe you actually like me (my friend described it as “hes nesting”) when I had been nervous that maybe I like you more than you liked me. And you deflected what I guess we can describe as my emotional advances with shitty jokes. And I felt a bit mocked about the trash lamp thing, like you felt like my feelings about being invaded were stupid when I was just trying to set boundaries which I think is a good thing. But fine I could have survived that and I would have been patient and waited it out because things take diff amounts of time to progress for people and I did think you were worth it. But then it got worse…
Me: I said that I wasnt sure if we had similar preferences for space or if you were being extra careful and not suffocating me (I didn’t use that word but that’s how I often feel with men) because you knew I needed a lot of independence. Then I was gonna make the point that I wanted to see you marginally more often (and I really did just mean marginally more often). But you launched into this whole speech about how important it is for us to respect each others space…
Me: Part 3…. so you tell me about how you’ve jumped from relationship to relationship, each progressively shorter, and how after your last failed mini relationship you joined okcupid and guess how many girls you’ve gone out with from okcupid, just me that’s it! Which made me feel like I was just one in a progression of women you’ve largely ended up with by default (one you cant say a single nice thing about) because you always need to have someone around or whatever….
Me: I dont want to be that person! I dont want to date someone who is with me because no one else responds to them on okcupid because their profile is weird and they’re hotter in person. I dont want to be with someone who has sex fomo. If you wanna be single and explore you should do that, nothing would make me feel worse than feeling like I’m someone’s constraint. Maybe we’re at spots in our respective lives that dont really coincide, dating is like 50 percent timing. Or maybe a serial monogamist could only make me miserable regardless of the timing.
Me: Okay part 4…. I asked you in advance (my thought process was like were already having this shitty convo anyway let’s get all the weird uncomfortable shit out of the way at once) how youd feel if we were still seeing each other in August and I went away on vacation to Hawaii with my casual friend you know ive fucked compulsively because I like the way he smells (lol). And your answer was so nonchalant that it made me feel bad. Look I know it was a loaded question, and I didnt ask it to be manipulative, but it’s one of those embarrassing circumstances where I feel like a bad feminist because my intellectual and emotional stances dont allign. So intellectually I wanted you to be like do whatever you’re a free woman but emotionally I wanted it to be more like the good ol okcupid “not thrilled but go ahead.”
Me: Independently this may not have gone over so poorly but the confluence of factors just made me think wow this guy gives zero fucks about me. Hes fine with me going on vacay with my fuck toy because he doesnt even like me…. So, in conclusion, I want to believe your intentions but I’m deeply skeptical. It feels like now you’re just saying what you think I wanna hear because you think you’re getting dumped otherwise. On the other hand, thus far you’ve handled this situation really well, which makes me have a little more faith in you, and you’ve been stunningly reliable. That’s all!
Kyle: All of this makes sense. I clearly need to respond. How would you like me to do it? I’d prefer talking either on the phone or in person at this point, but it’s up to you.
Kyle: Like if you prefer text then I’ll just suck it up and text
Me: You can come over if you want.
Kyle: Ummm… does like now work?
Kyle: Oh, and for the written record: thank you for sharing all of that with me.
Kyle came over and we had a BIG TALK and I’m not going to go into all the details and his emotional fuckery and how he basically retracted everything he’d just said, because ohhh god his emotional inconsistencies and fuck boihood are the subject of another 15-page post. I will relay his explanation about the Lisa situation though, and why he didn’t trust her. Apparently their relationship was more of a careless trainwreck than he had let on; they were both fucking other people and neither were okay with it but they never discussed their misgivings because everyone had technically agreed to the configuration (making it “ethically non-monogamous”: barf), so everything was hunky-dory, right? When he’d followed her to Central America she was living with and occasional fucking this guy Tony, who was just her roommate and not her boyfriend, and she was also fucking Kyle and multiple other guys on the side. So when she surprise showed up in Philly and moved in with him right away, he wondered, “Am I just another Tony?” because the terms of their relationship were never explicit, and he never bothered to ask–presumably he was too scared to hear the answer. He chalked up the lack of communication to her character flaw, rather than his own; apparently, a woman must intuit a guy’s insecurities and do all of the emotional labor. Another thing that made him unsure about the situation is that instead of framing moving in in a positive way, as in, “I want to live with you,” she framed it in terms of not wanting to live with her parents. As if he was her least bad option and the rent was so good she couldn’t resist. “The girl is crafty like ice is cold!”
Kyle assured me I was far less subtle than Lisa (even when I wasn’t being explicit and blunt) and that he had no trouble discerning my communication. Later on in our relationship, he would tell me how much he appreciated how honest I was, both in my expressing what I wanted from him and what I didn’t want. He always felt like if I was doing a thing with him, for example sex, it was because I wanted to do that thing; if I didn’t, I would push him away in “no uncertain terms.” He liked knowing where we stood; it simplified things. He also promised me that he didn’t have sex FOMO. He didn’t like fucking randos, he liked having sex with one person and getting to know them better. And it seemed true. Our emotional and sexual intimacy increased in step, and I felt deeply gratified.
So I suppose he allayed my fears about his hating sluts. We felt like equals in our relationship. Sex was no longer an “incompatibility,” or a source of suspicion. Our histories were irrelevant in the context of our shared present. Once we did begin sharing a little bit more about our personal lives (yes, some things about my past are precious to me) and how our experiences were formative to us, he never acted like his “serious” long-term relationships were more significant or worthy of discussion than my “casual” short-term ones. He didn’t assume that sex was a frivolous youthful folly that I could laugh at now but had grown past. And I believed that he knew I really liked him, that he wasn’t just another “Tony.” There is no way I could have pulled off what we were doing together otherwise. Until we broke up and he kicked me where he knew it would hurt. And all that I had given him felt “taken.” In the way that women are ruined, and slutty women are discounted as worthless. Every time this happens, I wish sex was just a frivolous pastime, and I could fuck and dispose blithely, and I truly was incapable of caring for and getting attached to men, because then I wouldn’t feel disregarded and depreciated by their defensive, preemptive rejection.
It always comes true for insecure men, the self-fulfilling prophesy: they excise themselves because they assume I don’t like them very much and they’re too intimidated by me to ask, and inadvertently they turn themselves into just another man who has failed and underestimated and distrusted me, who has ignored what I’ve said distinctly with my words and my body, and then… poof, I really don’t like them very much after all.