How to Convince a Woman that Sex is Bad: Part 5

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 5: THE SUSHING

I get to the party grounds on an empty lot with bunch of street fair-style tents where local makers are selling crystals—the kind that are supposed to come with magical powers. I scan the scene and don’t see Dylan, so I meander over to a structure that was probably built as a garage and now supports a makeshift bar where the door used to be. Half of the drinks are crossed out in chalk on the sandwich board, so I order a vodka with ginger ale. That’s the only drink-mixer combo they have left that won’t make me hurl. It’s transferred from a plastic handle and two-liter to the kind of plastic cup that water coolers dispense. I spot Brad and Teddy and decide to approach Brad, since it seems annoying to tag along with the host at their going away party. I say, “Hi, I’m Genie,” to the person Brad is standing with. He introduces himself as Arjun, and then I don’t know what to say. Arjun is one of Dylan’s friends I’ve been hearing about constantly. When I argue that I won’t let Dylan cook me dinner until things are more defined since it seems like too much of a romantic gesture, he counters that he cooks for Arjun.

I’m pretty sure that he’s not someone I want to get to know. He’s the only student who has ever been kicked out of their program, and not just for not doing his own work, but for failing to show up as a teacher and letting down roomfuls of students. He’s had falling-outs with nearly all his peers and professors and thinks he’s been unfairly maligned. Dylan continues to empathize with him. Though he recognizes there is something off. Arjun has never had sex with a woman more than once, when they ghost, he claims, “You know how women are—flakey.” He’s always asking Dylan for “tactics” to pick up chicks. Which of course doesn’t address how you get them to continue liking you. Um, how bout you treat a woman like a goddam human being with desires of her own; you don’t need to trick a woman into fucking you. What are you searching for, anyway, a “target” of non-consent? Before Dylan and I started dating, Arjun and I had matched on okcupid; there seemed to be something suspicious about his profile, besides his love of the Foo Fighters. He pitched himself as a “deeply passionate activist” and labeled himself as a feminist. But when you combed through the list of art he admired, he listed a fuckton of books, none written by women. You can’t be a feminist if you don’t value women’s worldviews. And fuck dudes who self-proclaim.

Our first direct social interaction is mega weird, because when I introduce myself at this party, there is no acknowledgement of who I am. No, “Oh, I’m Dylan’s friend Arjun.” No, “So how do you know Brad?” I’m not sure he’s ever heard of me, even though I know more than I’d like to about him. So I have to pretend he’s a stranger. I end up talking to a bunch of nightlife tourists from Delaware (Dele-where?). After waiting around for more than half an hour, I text Dylan, “I don’t see you here so I’m probably gonna wander home soon.” Miraculously he pops up, “You’re here!? So am I.” Uh? He approaches from a direction that doesn’t seem to be part of the lot. It seems suspicious. He hangs for a few minutes, not bothering to see whether Arjun and I have been properly introduced, then disappears again. I’m getting annoyed. This place is shutting down at 11, since it’s outdoors and noise ordinances, so I figure I’ll leave when everyone disperses.

He finally reappears and has an actual convo with me and Brad. He gushes about the mountaintop removal film we watched last night and tells Brad that I discovered it. I feel like he’s letting his friends know that I’m cool and we’re compatible, or something to that effect at least. He goes on to brag about all the connections he’s made that night, i.e. all the new people he’s met who he managed to jigsaw into preexisting circles. He says curtly, “Okay, I’m going to go mingle,” and disappears yet again. And it’s like, what the fuck, you’ve been telling me about so many of these folks for months, and now they’re all in the same place. You’d rather introduce mutual acquaintances to them than me? Am I not worthy of connection? And poor Brad, who was left as, like, my babysitter. Not that I don’t think he enjoys talking to me, or that there were other people he was vying to mingle with, just that I’m not his responsibility. And he was covering, yet again, for his friend being exceptionally inattentive and exclusionary. I feel like this was a lesson I learned when I was 5 years old. I’d invited everyone in my class and my cousin and my mom’s best friend’s daughter to my carnival birthday parties, and the two outliers were always in my activity group and always flanked me for cake time, since they didn’t know anyone else. Basic social inclusion. Was Dylan raised by a pack of wolves? But, like, at least his friends didn’t suck, right? At least they were considerate and that must mean good things about him by proxy?

Dylan circles back to brag some more about all these awesome people I’m never going to meet. “Guys, we’re in, like, a really radical space tonight.” He tells us that people are talking about blowing up the long-abandoned Apple Storage facility that was purchased by greedy ass developers—because fuck gentrifiers! To be fair, their marketing was spectacularly distasteful. They led with this bullshit about preserving original graffiti as an “authentic design feature.” Way worse, their ads featured sketches of white gentry with waxed mustaches posing in front of horses and buggies with the tagline “Go West”—as in let’s rough it through rocky trails and colonize this untamed historically black neighborhood. It’s cool to protest policies that stoke inequity and sabotage corporations that encourage plundering the poor and powerless. But torching individual rich people in their converted units is probably not an effective de-escalation strategy. No one deserves to be harmed for living comfortably, considering, ya know, housing and a sense of security is a human right. Oh, and one wee detail—these evil developers he speaks of owned my building when I moved in (and were actually reasonable, non-predatory landlords). So, like, torch me too, I guess, for inhabiting a comfortable square in the sky. Tell me how you really feel! No wonder he didn’t introduce me to his “radical” connections, didn’t want to sully his image as a man of the people and class warrior by admitting that he was sleeping with the enemy. Because, obviously, not having access to money is the pathway to moral purity.

When it’s time for us to filter out of the venue, he says he’s grabbing his bike, and is nowhere to been seen again. We start walking as a group in the direction of a late night neighborhood bar, and someone is like, “Hey, where’s Dylan.” Arjun says, “He’s finding a place to pee.” You guys, the garage structure had a fucking bathroom. That was clean. Where there was no line. Like, I thought it was weird that he was peeing in Brad’s bushes facing the street the other night, but thought, Meh, the bathroom’s on the second floor, this is more convenient. I thought it was weird that he always has an insulated water bottle of piss next to his bed, when there’s a bathroom nextdoor. But this is weird weird, going out if his way to do this in public in mixed company when there’s a fucking toilet a few strides away. It’s the grossest proclamation of male privilege—a puerile marking of territory.

***

I catch up with Rosie and thank her for the Mia Mingus recommendation. She says, “I’m glad you liked it, but like I mentioned, she does live in California. So if you want her for the conference, you might have to fly her out, and I’m not sure what her fee is or what kind of budget you have.” And I’m like, “Huh, what do you mean? I’m not organizing a conference.” She furrows her brow, “I thought you were.” “No, I’m just told you a story about a hilarious sex and disability symposium I went to a few months ago.” “Oh, right, sorry.” “It’s cool, you must be really busy packing and stuff.” “It must be Sigrid who is trying to put together a conference, then,” she half asks. “Wait, you know Sigrid!?” my eyes widen. “Yeah, I do. Do you know her?”

I tell Rosie about our missed connection. She dated my college friend EBF (environmental biologist friend?) in NYC for 6 months or so about 5 years ago. I met her once or twice. I think we went to a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show together. When they broke up, I was bummed because I felt like we had a lot in common professionally. We both began our academic journeys in social psychology, focusing on sex and gender, and have written about casual sex, stigma, and psychological outcomes. The field is so small that I’m surprised we hadn’t crossed paths again, other than the name of her dissertation advisor floating around feminist spaces. I’d forgotten about her until I moved to Philly. Her distinctive name popped up on the roster of students in my ceramics class. Except I’d missed the first class, since I was in NYC freezing my eggs, and she stopped coming a few weeks later, so I never got to reintroduce myself. “You know, Dylan knows her too,” Rosie points out. “Oh, really? Maybe our paths will cross again, then.” “You know, it’s funny,” Rosie says. “Because when Sigrid and I were talking about the conference, I told her Dylan’s person was doing something similar. I hadn’t realized you’d already met.” Dylan’s person—it’s so generous of her to put it that way, cautiously. But I can’t help cringing. Thinking about what an impersonal designation I’ve defaulted to. Like the most that can be said of me is that I’m a person. His person, it seems. His friends invite me and only me to stuff, as far as I can tell. And maybe even refer to me in conversation when I’m not present. But, still, oof.

We collect in front of the bar, and I approach Dylan to relay this info. I assume he will be equally excited by this CONNECTION. Isn’t it nice when it’s a small world after all? Except he flips the fuck out, because I uttered the phrase “Sigrid’s ex”? “You can’t talk about people’s exes!” he says, with a blaze brewing in his eyes. “Huh, do you know EBF?” I ask, genuinely confused. “Don’t talk about it!” he fires back. “Ummm, did something weird happen that I, uh, wouldn’t know about?” I don’t know what happened between them but I’m fairly certain it was nothing dramatic: my friend isn’t a creepy, they’re on speaking terms, and only dated for a short while anyway. Whatever, the details don’t really matter. I’m not sure what’s invoking so much fury. “Just don’t talk about it here, alright! Sigrid and Dan are together. And Jason and Alex are here tonight! They’re their good friends. You never know who you’re talking in front of. You can’t just say things about people’s exes,” he shakes his head like I’m some kind of idiot. So, like, what? Are Sigrid and Dan in an abusive relationship? It’s obvious that they dated other people before each other; we’re all in our thirties. And I literally just told the exact same story, in the exact same words, to Rosie in front of the same assorted strangers and it didn’t pique anybody’s interest; zero heads were turned. Because it’s commonly understood that people have pasts. And who cares? I doubt anyone here even knows EBF, so what the hell. Dylan explains, pedantically, that it doesn’t matter what happened between her and my friend, “People don’t like hearing about exes.” Okay, noted. He darts his eyes toward Jason and Alex whom I haven’t been introduced to, and says without irony, “Very important people are here tonight! Sigrid and Dan are pillars of our community. Why would you do that? Talk about her sex life like that.”

I wonder what commonality he’s referring to with the possessive pronoun “our.” You mean attendees of this party I never asked to be invited to? DSA? West Philly? I am not part of whatever this community is, and it appears that now I don’t want to be. And what the fresh fuck is he talking about with her sex life? If anything, he’s the one who is drawing attention to something scandalous I’m completely ignorant of. I know nothing of this person’s sex life other than she presumably had sex with my friend like 5 years ago, and I don’t really care to know more. My main interest in her was our overlapping professional interests, which is what I was trying to talk about in the first place. I was surprised that Dylan knew her too, apparently fairly well, and never thought to mention her to me. (Though, he never did ask me what I studied as an undergrad or in grad school.) The dude who had his dick in her 5 years ago was only our one-degree of separation; he was incidental to the attempted discussion.

It’s at this point in relaying this story to friends, that they always blitz me with their hypothesis—that Dylan had slept with her, and he is the one who didn’t want to hear about her being with other dudes, not her current boyfriend Dan. He has since denied this. And unless I hear otherwise, I believe him. It would really be the most logical explanation. Only my friends are infusing logic into a belligerent imbecile. Let me be clear that it doesn’t matter what I was about to say about Sigrid. I’m a fucking adult and I get to decide what I say, unless it’s going to put someone in acute danger (like if she were actually in an abusive relationship, which I doubt, and this might get back to her partner somehow). If people don’t like it, it’s up to the court of public opinion to deliver the verdict. He doesn’t get to pre-decide what I share, even if they are his people, even if they are very important people.

And back to what he thought I was going to say. Why would I want to be with someone who thinks I would publicly humiliate another woman (for her sexual history, nonetheless—as if!)? Why would I want to be with someone who treats me like a public embarrassment? I mean, I don’t take it personally because it’s only a reflection of his poor judgment, but even so. Why would I want to be with some drunk, who is overconfident that—on a day when he’s feeling emotional and drinking desperately—his judgment about social appropriateness supersedes that of two women who only had a single fucking drink between the two of us? Speaking of which, it was never his call. The day wasn’t about him. It was Teddy and Rosie’s going away party. He can’t override her decision. To treat my *gasp* revelation like it was totally fucking mundane.

I really can’t remember why I didn’t just go home then. When Rosie and I had started walking, I’d planned to continue on in the direction of my apartment when everyone else stopped off to get another drink. But after Dylan stormed off to speak with someone more socially appropriate, I got pulled back into a conversation with Dylan about the ambiguity of power-based relationship in academia, and how it’s robbing someone of her sexual agency to automatically assume the power differential made it non-consensual. So, for example, there is a difference between someone fucking her TA, and someone fucking her much older advisor on whom they are dependent for departmental approval and letters of rec. I agreed to one more drink, with some awkward exchange about how I couldn’t get the entire round and be paid back. I say I’ll stay for one more drink, and somehow when we enter the bar, the group splits in two, with Dylan, Brad, and I drinking together, and the rest settling across the street at an Indian restaurant.

***

The three of us have some awkward exchange of money, when Brad sidles up next to the bar, where I explain that wait actually I would ordinarily be okay with putting down all the cash and being venmo-d or paid back, but I need to pay my dog walker the next day. Dylan heads off to the bathroom (a real one this time) and when he comes back, I’m in the middle of telling a personal story about a totally consensual academic indiscretion. I was 20 and wanted to fuck the 24-year-old philosophy grad student who was teaching my summer class so bad, and got sooo close after being one of the two students in my class to show up at the end-of-semester party at Botanica. But I felt insulted and fucked over by him, as it became evident we had seriously different sexual practices, so I passed myself on to his roommate, instead. He was Austin Powers hairy and jerked off in front of me three times within a twelve-hour span. I felt like a sex doll. The Shag Rug is now married to one of his students from his class that summer—what a beautiful story! Except Dylan doesn’t think so. He looks at me disgusted and interrupts me before I even have a chance to get to the romantic part, pshhh. This is strange to me; he isn’t normally sexually possessive, which is one of many ways in which we are sexually compatible. So I’m like, “What, why are you being so weird? Am I not allowed to tell Brad about other dudes I’ve fucked?” And he’s like, “Genie, I cried tonight. I wasn’t there when you showed up because I needed to leave and find a place to cry.” So I guess he’s trying to guilt me out of sharing things about my exes and fucktoys with Brad? As a way to control the topic of yet another conversation? Whatever, we get our drinks and wander to the patio in the parking lot. Things pick up and the sentiment of the evening totally switches. Suddenly he’s sweet and sappy.

We chat a bit about online dating experiences. Brad just started dating again after his long-term relationship ended, and it was so nice to just go out and get a drink with a new person, with the door open to possibility. Dylan jests, “Be honest, is the sex better now that you and Nona are broken up?” And it’s kind of cool that I’m being treated like one of the boys and that I’m in on their friend group gossip, but also kind of gross locker room talk considering he’s equally friends with Nona and I get the impression he wouldn’t ask her the same. I forget what came next. At some point, Dylan looks at me and says, “I really like you, Genie.” I say “Mmmm, hmm.” And he repeats himself so I know it wasn’t some offhand, throwaway comment. Then he outlines how he wants to spend more time with me. Not just seeing me more often or going out at night, but in the morning. I say, “Ew, I fucking hate the morning, and you know I have trouble sleeping with people.” He says sleeping together is whatever, but when I wake up, whenever that is. He wants to spend time with me during the day. I think about how he told Sandy he couldn’t fully agree to date her until they spent time together sober, since they had only interacted in a very specific party context and he wasn’t sure that would translate to real life. We’d already hung out sober most of the time. Daytime hangs seemed like the next step.

But I shoot him down. Because I don’t have a lot of free time. And I’m not fully functional for several hours after I wake up. And he’s not my boyfriend, yet. So why would I blow what little time I have to expend on him on time I’m not even going to enjoy and why would I let someone who isn’t even my boyfriend see me at not my best? I mean, I have post-orgasm amnesia, he already sees me then and who knows what I say, but in the morning I can’t even remember the basics, I walk back and forth in my apartment repeatedly trying to figure out where I’d left items I swore I was just holding. “Okay,” he sighs. Then shakes his head and smirks, “I’ve never been in a relationship with anyone who’s as honest as you are. It took a bit to get used to, but I like knowing exactly what someone wants.” He tells me, or maybe Brad, it’s kind of directed at both of us, “Like, when we have sex, I always know that you actually want to have sex with me. Otherwise you would push me away in no uncertain terms…” I play gesture pushing him away like a bus. “It’s really nice.” And this would all be really nice, having him tell me he really likes me for the first time. Except that he did it when he was drunk and effusive and could rely on Brad as a buffer. The timing and environment diminished the moment. It made his confession feel less personal. Like, cool, cool, cool, big emotional escalation, only with the emotion tempered. I need someone who steps up and tells me directly without chemical or social lubricant. I need someone who can be raw and intimate—whose honesty matches mine. I felt like he was being sincere. But also cowardly.

I tell him about the writer Penelope Trunk, whose book Making Scenes—which she wrote under the alias Adrienne Eisen—is among my all time favorites. She has Asperger’s and wrote this article about how people assume they’ll love having sex with her because she’ll do basically anything, but they don’t realize that she’ll also say almost anything. And I’d imagine that sex with me is sort of the same (minus the not being able to read body language and needing explicit communication verbal communication part). Dylan gets what I mean. I tell him I’ll send the article to him later.

I start elaborating on my idiosyncratic relationship with my childhood best friend, Daria, but he gets sidetracked by Brad and keeps interrupting so I’m not sure how much I actually got through. What I meant to convey was that my now estranged BFF likely has undiagnosed Asperger’s, which I didn’t realize until she moved to San Francisco and started hanging out with people who have similar social deficits and started writing about her rules for navigating social interactions. Apparently she can’t read facial cues, body posture, and maybe even vocal modulation. So all those years when I assumed she was avoiding conflict because she was being wimpy and it was easier to make other people bring stuff up, she actually didn’t see it. She thought conflict didn’t exist in her life. I’m obviously extremely blunt compared to the average person. So I wonder whether we were compatible as friends because I meant what I said and I said what I meant an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent, no interpretation necessary, or whether I had adapted to her inability to respond to subtlety. It’s hard to say. We met when we were 5. But the weird thing is, I seem to have the opposite problem from her. She can’t read faces and I can’t make faces, at least not the ones I’m meant to express. And my vocal modulation is terrible (not to mention my Homeless Heidi/Tiffany Blum-Deckler-esque cadence).

I’ve been told by many guys I’ve dated, er, basically every guy I’ve dated, that I’m inscrutable. They mention my “poker face.” And I’m not trying to conceal anything. So it’s frustrating. Apparently people don’t believe you if say what you mean but your gestures tell a different tale. It’s invariably confusing to me because I think most people would describe me as an expressive, animated person. I have “personality.” I’m not monotone or flat. And this verbal/nonverbal discrepancy always creates problems in romantic relationships. I get irate that my partner won’t believe me. They are so used to hearing lies and euphemisms that they can’t identify the truth when it bites them in the ass. “Nope, I can always tell with you,” Dylan laughs. And that’s reassuring. But I want to talk more, when he’s not distracted, about how I can work my way out of this predicament, how I’ve been meaning to discuss it with Daria. She studied facial expression and posture. Is there a way from me to practice making my face coincide with my words? (Is this what acting is? Oh gosh, I cannot act.)

***

We walk across the street to join the rest of the group at the sidewalk table where they’re eating Indian food. Brad helps me drag chairs and an extra table from inside while Dylan balances his bike against the building. We push the two tables together and Dylan grabs handfuls of other people’s food. He brings up a park club that his roommate joined, and how maybe he should become a member too, so he can get a cool hat to cover his balding head. And I’m like, Oh, connection: EBF, my friend who used to work for NYC’s Department of Parks and Rec, and did geomapping, and plotted trees and I think you guys would really get along, is how I know Sigrid… but I guess I’m not allowed to say that because I can’t talk about people’s exes. He shakes his head at me, and flips the fuck out again about the important people who are here—people don’t want to hear about exes. Our conversation escalates from hats and trees to rules of social interaction because I faux pas-d with the word “ex.” I don’t get the progression at the time, turns out he mistook the verboten word for “Alex.” So he exclaims, “Why are you talking about Jason and Alex! They are right here!” And, for the eleventy billionth time, I’m like, “Huh?” And he says, “You can’t talk about people in front of them.” And, dude, this makes no sense, because I don’t know Jason and Alex. Dylan and I had established this earlier in the evening—even though they are local artists, and Jason is the type of person who knows everyone, and his name mayyybe sounds familiar from facebook, we’ve never met. This is the first time I’ve seen these complete randos, who are sitting a few heads down from me, so how could I possibly have anything to say about them. Besides, I thought his whole shtick was that I wasn’t allowed to talk about Sigrid in front of them—because Sigrid and Dan!—turns out I’m not allowed to talk about them in front of themselves. Oy vey. Brad rolls his eyes and I can tell he feels sorry for me.

The three of us stand up, so Dylan and Brad can smoke cigarettes a distance from the table. Dylan says he might have misunderstood what I was saying and is sorry he was being an asshole. Now Brad and I are both rolling our eyes. He goes on to mansplain that the reason I’m not allowed to talk about Sigrid and her relationship is because she isn’t here to tell her own story, blah blah blah, “personal narratives,” blah blah blah, “lived experiences.” Now this is rich—a white cishet raised-Christian dude preaching about who owns their stories. Because one is not allowed to tell a story about another without their consent, and he’s such a good guy, and the sanctity of his profession, he is going to take a moral stance and exercise his “right of refusal” to hear the story. Because I don’t have the right to tell this story and I am violating Sigrid’s right to tell or refrain from telling it, it’s up to him to swoop in as the hero and prevent a social atrocity from being committed. So, whoopdie fucking doo, now I’m not allowed to talk about people who are present or absent, which one is it—or am I just not allowed to speak at all? I can’t follow his fucking arbitrary social rules and refuse to abide by them. And that’s just it. It’s never about what a woman says or how she chooses to say it or even who is in her company, it’s about not giving women the chance to speak for themselves. Seriously, fuck him so hard for mansplaining the colonization of experiences and his pompous bullshit about how since he’s a sociologist, he’s an expert on patterns of relationships within social institutions. I guess his professional knowledge trumps my lived experience of being a woman (with a reputation, nonetheless!) and, ya know, my professional expertise as a social psychologist and stuff—which isn’t actually pertinent to the situation.

He is just making it up as he goes along and grasping at straws to override my authority. And can we talk about how paternalistic he’s being toward Sigrid by deciding for her how she is represented? How did he become the fucking gatekeeper of “our” West Philly community. A group I never asked to be part of! And you guys, like this is neither here nor there, but may I remind you that there was never any story to begin with!? I had nothing to tell about this person and certainly not about her sex life. The point was that Dylan should be friends with my friend that Sigrid knows, and, well, I didn’t ask for his permission, but I’m pretty sure EBF assents to my saying that he used to be an arboreal cartographer, though perhaps I should have texted him for some sort of story license before broaching the subject of his existence and professional proclivities. I’m getting exhausted arguing over these abstractions. I need to be at my clinical site at 8am tomorrow morning and meet a new preceptor in a location I’ve never been before. Now I reek of cigarettes and fury. I’m itching for my out.

Here’s where I get a bit snotty and confrontational and push limits. I’m not just gonna sit here, in front of an empty place setting, and eat shit.  I ask Dylan if, since I wasn’t allowed to discuss her relationships, whether I was allowed to discuss her shitty beliefs. If she is a “pillar” of the community her beliefs should not be beyond reproach. He retorts, “I agree with all of her beliefs.” And looks at Brad and speaks for him (dare I say tells his story—in front of him!), “And Brad agrees with all her beliefs.” Then generalizes, “Everyone here agrees with Sigrid.” First of all, that’s patently ridiculous. No one agrees completely with anyone else, as if he has any idea what shitty beliefs I’m referring to. If his friends’ beliefs are really that homogenized, he has a problem, and maybe they are. That’s the impression I get of DSA Bernie bros: it’s not about building a coalition of political support and effecting change, it’s about ideological purity and the self-righteousness of enduring as a permanent minority. More significantly, what a shitty Mean Girl thing for him to say to the one person at the table who is an outsider. And here I’d thought he invited me because he wanted to introduce me and incorporate me into his group of friends. Only I heard the message loud and clear: we’re a tightknit group and you don’t belong. Well, okay then! No need to invite me, announce novel social norms, and denounce me as a recalcitrant interloper for being out of line with them. I cannot wait to bolt. But it’s hard to escape from a sit-down dinner when people are settling their bills. Even though I hadn’t ordered anything and hadn’t eaten off of anybody’s plate.

***

Here’s what I remember about Sigrid’s shitty beliefs, and maybe she has evolved, but I think this is an accurate representation of what she told me and my friends like 5 years ago. Even though we both studied psychology through a “feminist” lens, we had opposing orientations with respect to sex work. She’s an anti-porn feminist: she believes porn is inherently wrong and oppressive to women, and was low-key annoyed that her boyfriend watched it. For me, the problem with mainstream porn is that we live in an unequal society and, as such, women are exploited in its creation; men own the means of production and distribution and stand to profit from women’s labor; and the depiction of sex is, on average, degrading to women and enforces toxic gender roles, body ideals, and models of pleasure and consent. For her, the problem is the commodification and consumption of sexuality, regardless of its social context. The way she sees it, only women stand to be harmed if a price tag is affixed to their sexuality. Which I find incredibly problematic since it implies that men and women are inherently unequal participants/agents in sexual encounters, it doesn’t leave room for queer sexuality, and doesn’t account for the enjoyment some women genuinely attain from being watched. It also places sex on a taboo plane, separating it from other forms of entertainment. We pay for all sorts of passive recreation, from sports games to music shows, commodifying physical attributes and abilities. Sigrid’s analysis cannot only apply to sex, unless sex is inherently debase and has less value than other activities. Personally, I find orgasms to be a high-value form of recreation, without greater costs except for the ones embedded in our shitty culture.

Really, what bothered me is that she looked down on me for wacking off to porn. Like, in her eyes, it would still be wrong for me to derive pleasure from other people’s bodies in a one-sided set-up if the porn was produced and acquired ethically. And, moreover, it would be wrong for me to sell my sex, even if I genuinely enjoyed producing porn and the prospect of being watched turned me on. Because women’s bodies are not to be consumed? I guess? Even with the endorsement of its content creator? I don’t know, it felt very moralistic to me, and also somewhat personal. Because if being a pornographer didn’t come with social and professional consequences, i.e. if we didn’t punish women for their sexuality, I might very well fuck on film or at least masturbate on film for money. Or just because I felt like it. And you better believe that the fluids coming out of me would be real. So, fuck stuck-up “feminists” so hard for policing our pleasure. Not really great to feed into the stereotype that sex is something women only do to please men or extract some other kind of value from them. Sex is something women seek!

My friend Sadie, who was a hipster stripper when Sigrid and EBF dated, took it even more personally; she was put off by Sigrid’s academic elite feminism. I remember her telling me that Sigrid had interrogated her about how much she made and if she planned to write about her experiences; she sought justification. The implication was that being a stripper must be so revolting that one would only do it if they made an exorbitant sum or had an ulterior motive such as mining for writing material. I can’t tell you my friend’s exact motivation for taking that job, like any job there were a confluence of factors that contributed. Among them, she was good at shaking money out of men, the hours gave her flexibility to take classes and have a life, she likes sex, she found the work less degrading than “respectable” service industry jobs like waitressing, and there was solidarity and camaraderie among many of her kickass coworkers. She was by no means doing this out of desperation or naivety or because the opportunity for so disproportionately lucrative she couldn’t pass up the material rewards. She could have easily qualified for and kept a more traditional job if that’s what she’d preferred.

A few months ago, I asked Sadie if she remembered this particular ex of EBF’s (like Dylan, he is a serial monogamist, so who can keep track). She didn’t. When I sprinkled in the detail about Sigrid’s morbid fascination with her motivations for stripping, she was like, “Oh yeah, she asked me if I’d read the theory of sex work. And I was like, Lol, why would I read the theory of my lived experience?” Sigrid, of course, would have found it more respectable if Sadie had grounded her work in academic analysis. I know from Sigrid’s current circle of friends (comrades?) and her presence on the internet that she’s invested in the labor movement, a movement notorious for omitting certain types of workers who evoke less sympathy (sex workers, disabled people, especially those who cannot work). And, like, I’m sure if you asked her she’d say sex work is work and all workers deserve fair compensation and protection. But I get the impression that she only thinks sex work is okay for those who don’t have other options (i.e. “survival sex workers;” that sex workers are either piteous or immoral. Because it takes an incredible amount of dissonance to parse not hating sex workers with believing sex work is inherently wrong.

***

After everyone settles their bills, people start going their separate ways. Dylan inquires about the next destination and everyone’s like, Uh, it’s 2am, we’re going to sleep. He keeps pushing, C’mon it’s your last night out. Rosie seems especially not amused. She tells him they have to get up to pack more tomorrow. He invites himself over to help. It’s clear that everybody is losing patience with him and his immoderate drinking. He finally convinces Brad to have more drinks and smokes in the park, which I think Brad partially agrees to, to take him off everybody else’s hands. People start walking and it’s my big break. I stride ahead with Rosie and make small talk.

As soon as I can hang a right toward my apartment, I say goodbye and wish her luck with her move. Everyone else continues straight. It’s then that Dylan notices I’ve slipped away. It’s 5 hours before I need to be up for work. He chases me up an incline and makes a scene. Oh god no. Just leave me the fuck alone. You’ve already done quite enough already! I can’t remember the last time I’ve drunkenly argued on the street, when I was in college? I used to watch curbside kerfuffles at the Fire Department-owned, bridge-and-tunnel bar across the street from my NYC apartment, like it was a ringside wrestling match. I am not this person. He apologizes, even though he doesn’t know what for, and I tell him I’m going home. He leans closer and raises his arms like he’s trying to hug me goodnight. “Ew, do I have to hug you?” “No, you don’t have to do anything,” he says. “You can push me away. Here, push me!” So I do, and walk on up the hill, hair flouncing behind me.

I go home and cry on my toilet. And cry in my bed. In various poses. I don’t bother to shower because my tear-streaked face is interminable. Why scrub off the pain and humiliation when the second you plug a leak another will spring. It’s like making your bed, a waste of time for people who like to pretend to be presentable. Almost immediately upon entering my apartment, I had deployed a text to preempt Dylan from fucking up my week any further with his petty, juvenile bullshit. Brad must have been with him when he received it.

I’m preemptively declining all future invitations to hang out with you and your friends when you’re drinking and idgaf if that means I see you less than 1.5 times a week. Tonight was super degrading. And no don’t call/text me to apologize. I’m super swamped this week and won’t feel like dealing with your bullshit. Goodnight.

I don’t hear back from him, so that’s a good sign. At least a baseline level of respect. But it will not, in fact, be a good night. I sleep zero hours before my 8am 10-hour clinical shift and “wake up” looking like an avalanche. It would be unprofessional to waft cigarettes as I lean over patients to take vitals, and my hair ties have never gripped my tendrils quite tight enough. So I pin up my musty hair in my mirror, then head out in my scrubs with my stethoscope wrapped around my neck like a skinny scarf. Perspiration pools around my collarbones.

Seven minutes away, and woah, what’s that!? I do a double take at a mythical chonky creature, who ran behind a tree and is eyeing me mistrustfully as I approach. I take a series of photos and google to confirm my hunch from watching too much Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell as a kid. Sir Stubbiness is a groundhog. Who must have scurried away from the local cemetery to conquer heaps of trash undergrads had slapdash strewn across the sidewalk when they moved out. I like to think about all the ground hogs surreptitiously staked out across the city, how their neckless heads pop up when they play the whisper-whisper-pass game of telephone with their friends to broadcast a real score. “Hey, dudes, these kids are the fucking grossest: partay on 40th and Pine!” Happening upon this little dude on my somber walk to work makes me hate Dylan a little less.

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How to Convince a Woman that Sex is Bad: Part 4

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 4: FIFTEEN DAYS

He does pursue me.

Two days after the unprotected sex check in, Dylan invites me to a 4th of July party at Nona and Brad’s place. I met the two of them separately on the night of Lisa the Slut. Nona had latched on to my vintage, teal, purple, and magenta Columbia windbreaker and matching glasses and scarf, and invited me to join her Mummers group, swearing it was socially conscious. Which is less bad than racist, but maybe a wee bit obnoxious. Brad and I had talked about our disparate experiences growing up on culturally opposite ends of the country, he in friends’ basements in the Midwest and me on a famous male prostitute block in NYC that was gentrified in waves as AIDS swept the city and finance pushed north post-911. Dylan retired from bopping here and there, taking drags off people’s cigarettes, and Nona decided to stir shit up. She had whipped out Lisa’s insta account and initiated a convo about how much Dylan still misses his ex’s floofy cat, Mr. Scruffles. It may have kicked off the night of misery that ensued, making him wistful for a woman he never felt was enough when he had her and making him doubt his feelings for me. Nevertheless, I liked Nona because she was a disobedient, cantankerous woman who spoke her mind and didn’t give a fuck about who it alienated.

Nona and Brad have just broken up after years together, not wholly unexpected, Dylan tells me. Brad’s family is Midwestern culturally Christian, Nona a dirty brown foreigner. He first and foremost had allegiance to his family, even though he looked down on their backward beliefs. She felt betrayed by his wussing out of standing up for her. Sure, he can’t help his family, but she deserves respect. She wants to be accepted as part of a family, not paraded around as a sign of social ascension and worldliness, a human gotcha. They are still having people over for their annual 4th of July BBQ, which Dylan takes as a good sign. I feel irate at this invitation. Like why is this fuckboy trying to integrate me into his life when he just said all this bullshit about how his isn’t sure about me. Friend shit is girlfriend duty and, yeah, he said he wants to get to know me better, but I want to get to know him less—who the fuck wants to spend time with a character straight outta a Seth Rogen movie or a Blink-182 song—well I guess this is growing up? I’m temped to say such as a cameo is way above my paygrade, but then I’m like fuck it. “Maybe I’ll stop by for a bit but probably do something else with the rest of my day,” I hedge. I feel soo fatalistic about this arrangement with this absolute joke of a thirty-five-year-old “man” that I might as well be agreeable, really agreeable, like a carefree fucktoy accessory. Nothing matters anymore. Be young, have fun, drink Pepsi.

“I know you’re probably really busy, but I have free time tonight or tomorrow if you want to hang,” he pushes, knowing I’m wiped out from my first day of clinical. I tell him I’m about to take a nap. A few hours later, I admit I’ve failed hard at this sleep thing. He hops on his bike and is at my place in five. We watch the sequel to the frogumentary. I plug my speakers into the USB port so we can hear each gurgle and splash vividly, as if the humidity filtering through my screened windows and sticking to our skin is The Outback. The speakers are underlit in a bright blue glow, like a tricked out car in a drag race. My bed becomes a lake, two tiny islands of sound treading. The sheets ripple every time we shift our weight. When the credits roll, I mount his back, squeezing his hips together with my thighs, locking my arms under his elbows so he can’t pivot. My chin tickles his bald spot. I joke about dropping swimmers down his spine to meet strings of goopy googly eyes, external fertilization style. “Does amplexus turn you on?” I whisper, pressing my lower lip against his earlobe. I imagine my neck puffing in and out, and trill my lips in a mating call. He giggles like when you blow on a baby’s tummy. “I don’t know,” he says. “Let me try.”

We switch places. He unties the drawstring to his yoga shorts and pulls the waistband down. His cock teetertotters. He presses it into me, searching then careening. His balls slap against my ass like a crescendo of claps, and I fling my body back at his. We come in a series of jolts, sink down to our stomachs, a stack of soggy bricks. Intermittently, one of us twitches, and then we twitch together, a domino effect of neuronal discharge. He feels like a slimy slug inside me, poking around with its feelers. When he pulls out, still pulsing, I feel the stream of eyeballs seep out of me. My sheets feel gummy. I grin with my glistening eyes and gulp down laughter. I scoot to the edge of my bed, then shimmy halfway into my cutoffs shorts. Standing to scoop my buttcheeks all the way in, it dribbles down my inner thighs, a thick coating. I blot with a tissue, bunch it up in my pussy, and throw the plug in the toilet on our way out. We take a nice steady midnight stroll around the neighborhood, wobbly from muscle fatigue and loopy from endorphins. He plucks a sour apple from a random tree like we’re archetypes in a bible story. The plague never comes.

Over the course of two weeks, things sort themselves out and the circumstances grow into what I’ve always wanted. It’s some sort of witchery. Or else he genuinely placated me with his penis, glued us together with our milky fluids. From his end, I’ll never know what transpired, whether there was a heart-to-heart that really got him thinking, a novel-worthy epiphany and subsequent character transformation. From my end, no longer caring about him made me forget my boundaries and self-preservation mechanisms, and suddenly he wanted to spend all of his time with me. Things felt more tangibly intimate. And I just rolled with it and eventually kinda stopped hating him.

***

He’s feeling kinda stressed out about all the work he has to get done, he texts in the morning, so he probably won’t go to the party until 5 or 6, even though it starts much earlier. I tell him I’ll be out back at my building barbeque. I can always dash back and forth between functions like Mrs. Doubtfire, switching attire and personalities. I don’t really need to alter either. Instead of the start spangled Old Navy pajama pants I’ve been donning annually since the 8th grade, I adorn myself in red white and blue Free People shorts with contrasting patch pockets and shag so long I had to trim it. I pair it with a royal blue camisole, lacy white vest, and latch a jangly necklace at the nape of my neck, lapis lazuli beads with turquoise heart charm plated in metal. My nails are a smokey barbeque sky with red glitter overlay like fireworks jumping exuberantly above a sizzling grill. Last night to paint them, I had folded myself up on my bathroom floor, separating my toes with rolled up snakes of toilet. I slip my feet into platform orthotic sandals smoothly, taking care not to nick them on the strap.

Climbing into my double-doored storage closet, with my camping gear and expired nursing uniforms, I rifle through a sailboat pattern insulated tote bag with nine jars of discarded salsa from the Food-of-the-Month club my mom sent to my brother and his now ex-gf as a Hannukah gift. Dylan and I had rescued this summer party kit essential from their give-away pile when we moved them out of their apartment. I remove six jars, hoist the WASP carrying case (beach towel and boat shoes, anyone?) over my shoulder, and clunk down to the corner store, where I add a couple cans of crisp cider and two Ziploc bags of Santiago’s homemade nachos. The afternoon will be spent with my neighbors, legs sprawled out in the sunkissed grass. Balancing a plastic plate on my knees, blocking food from tumbling over the edges, leaf-nibblers from creeping.

Soon after Dylan summons me, I wander the two blocks to meet him. He doesn’t give me an exact address. “It’s at [blank] and [blank]” he says. “We’re on the porch, you can’t miss us.” When I arrive, he’s leaning on a banister with two people I don’t recognize, deep in conversation, a can of beer contoured to his fist. I don’t want to interrupt, so I drift over to an empty seat across from Nona, gavel my remaining jar o’ the month onto the intervening table, an offering and verdict. I don’t think Dylan has brought anything. Scattered around us is wrapping, burnt tins, other evidence of food demolished. Crumbs of you have arrived to this party late. Nona does not acknowledge my redundant addition. I peel open the plastic zipper, crunch down on a perfectly salted nacho. “Rah rah, America,” she mocks my outfit.” “So patriotic.” As if I’m a gun-toting Walmartian, engaged in an earnest act of national pride. “She’s being sarcastic,” Dylan sidles up beside me in a button down shirt with mallard ducks. “Uh, duh,” I say. And wonder why they are having a laugh at my expense. They both know my affection for garish kitsch and festive costuming, that I love to use my body to write a story.

Besides, patriotism isn’t a thing New Yorkers have or express. We know only allegiance to our fair city, and our birthright or decade-earned claim to “real New Yorker” status. Fiye dolla I ❤ NY t-shirts clash with dirt road Americana, trucker hats lifted from road stops. Nona sincerely likes the lacey white vest, swaying from my shoulders like an attentive boyfriend. She can’t remember the word, so she wraps her fingers around her tank top straps like she’s adjusting a heavy knapsack. I take her as especially taciturn today, post break up. But Dylan has already warned me that she’s not polite. That she didn’t get up and walk away mid-conversation the night we met is a sign that she likes me. He joins us at the table and we drag our chairs in scrapey cacophony to make room. Every time I shift in my seat, the shag from my shorts brushes up against my inner thigh, like feather fine pubes sprouting suddenly, and I shiver in revulsion. It’s the me v. not-me feeling of unfamiliarity I had when my braces were removed and I slicked my tongue across the back of my teeth for the first time, only in reverse—an unrecognized intrusion. So I suppose more like having a safely tucked boob pop out of a bikini top. It’s a ‘hello there’ that you never want to greet you in public.

A few more people from his grad program gather round. They ask him what he’s up to, and he tells them about this documentary he shows his class of high school students, about the contested origin of General Tso’s chicken and its unlikely popularization across America. It’s fodder for discussion about cultural adaptation, appropriation, iconography, and consumerism. I tell them about this Instagram influencer Be Well With Arielle that I love to hate. She and her finance husband Lee (with whom I went to sleepaway camp as a teen) started a gluten-free, allergen-free, guilt-free Chinese restaurant, for “food-sensitive” clients, called Lucky Lee’s. Their tone-deaf PR swaggered about how their food is “clean” and “healthy,” as opposed to the gross Chinese food made by actual Chinese people (which, of course, is Americanized Chinese food made to be palatable to gross Americans, but whatever) that makes people feel “icky and bloated.” She is pretty and rich enough to profit from what is either sheltered cluelessness or willful ignorance. The restaurant was slammed in the press, which might be educational for a group of high schoolers learning about culture and society to read. Dylan and his friends are into this idea. Restaurant reviews are easy reading for restless teenagers.

I elaborate on this entrepreneur’s hustle and upbringing, her irritating “I Love Me” fine jewelry collection (starting at $295!!!) “infused with reiki healing energy” to inspire “self-love” among the female empowerment set (apparently care is only accessible to capitalists), how she persistently pointed to her and her husband’s Jewish-American heritage as a way to deflect attention from ragging on other marginalized cultures (as if to say, I can’t be racist, because I too am exotic), that predictably she was raised on the Upper East Side and I had reveled in schadenfreude glee upon discovering that she’d gone to a private school of Bravo’s NYC Prep caliber (i.e. you wouldn’t mention its name in polite company). Before they realize that I’m one of the rich and indelicate, and that he puts his class warrior body inside me, slurps me like wanton soup and tells me how delicious I taste, Dylan interrupts me brusquely. He cleaves the connection to my own grotesque private school upbringing, and steers the conversation elsewhere.

***

I branch off into discussion with someone who’s a rising second-year MD-PhD student. He’s perfectly pleasant. After a while we run out of words. Everyone else has cleared off the porch. I’m bored but feel stuck. Our commonalities end soon after having both gone to med school. Eventually I excuse myself, saying I’ve heard people are out back, I’m going to check it out. He’s welcome to join but lags behind. I follow the stream of sound past the garbage bins in between charming Victorian houses and witness a throng of people moving to Latin American pop music, hands clapping in the air and feet stomping on the ground. It’s Brad and Nona’s nextdoor neighbors. They know all the lyrics and sing at one another, call-an-response, duet. This must have been top 40 when they were teenagers. Brad appears in my periphery and motions me to come closer to the crowd. But I’m feeling sheepish and it’s not my place to crash this party. He senses my reticence and we fetch a drink from the cooler. He has no idea where Dylan’s gone, either. I wonder whether I arrived too late and should return to my backyard barbeque.

People trickle back to the porch. Dylan introduces me to the guy I got bored of and tells me how brilliant is. I say, “I know, we spoke, his research is really impressive.” Which is not a lie. He tries to impress the guy by bragging about all the secret spots on campus he’s acquired keys to over the years—dramatic balconies, exclusive collections—either in hard copy or via sweet talking janitors and administrators. “Just ask me if you ever wanna go, I can get you in,” he says, like he’s offering a backstage pass to Jingle Ball. “And, like, if you end up needing more than ten years, because of fieldwork, I know the loophole,” he adds. “I mean, don’t let it get to the point, like I did,” he let’s off a self-deprecating chuckle. “But if you do, there’s a workaround, I’m your guy.” It’s sweet that he’s holding out this olive branch, from the most senior person in the program to a fresh-faced newbie. But is he fucking kidding? No one is more ambitious and organized than med students. This guy will earn two degrees, one marketable, in 2/3 of the time he took for one. The way a college classmate who, like me, went to med school later in life, described it, “You know when you’re drinking or smoking weed with a bunch of friends, and someone’s like, ‘Hey, we should all go camping in the Catskills next weekend,’ then you forget about it because other shit is happening, and it sounds like kinda a hassle anyway when it comes down to it, best intentions or not. Well, in med school, your classmates show up with a rental car the next weekend, pick up the rest of the crew at timed intervals, and when you pile into the car, there’s enough tents, bug spray, and sunscreen for everyone, you’ve already charted out where you’re going to stop for gas and groceries along the way.”

This MD-PhD does not need Mr. Cool Guy, BA to show him the ropes, and especially not for career advice. This whole scene is starting to feel sort of sad. It reminds me of that Dazed and Confused quote, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” Except not creepy. So maybe more like those post-collegiate burnout movies, Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming where a group of friends stick around after they graduate and fail to launch, or Greta Gerwig’s Frances Ha where one friend is unable to move on, eternally miserable and rallying others to regress to a time they can only reminisce about. Every time I mention it to Dylan, his dawdling, he assures me it’s normal, he’s only a semester behind two of his classmates who started out in his original cohort. But the way that he talks, I feel like he’s been left behind, and wants some buddies to be held back with him. Nine months after we break up, I’ll come across his new and improved okcupid profile. The opening line sums up his alarmingly carefree vibe and the conflict in our relationship: “A student recently wrote ‘I wish he was my cool uncle.’” Nobody wants to date an Uncle Joey. Imagine a 35-year-old, 97% match rating or not, who is super awesome and fun and has a great personality but gives the kids back when they are misbehaving. It’s like the Nirvana lyric, “I tried hard to have a father/ but instead, I had a dad.”

***

Our conversation with MD-PhD tapers off, and we geek out at some of the cooler collections and presentations we’ve gotten the opportunity to see because institutional affiliation. Our intellectual connection has always been solid and I’m continually amazed by our theoretical overlap, coming from distinct social science traditions. On our second date he inquired into specifics of my egg freezing process, what hormones I had been injecting myself with. He knew about women’s health stuff because once upon a time he did field research on monkey’s estrous cycles, laying low in the muggy rainforest and waiting patiently for poop to fall from trees. He’d dive after swarms of flies and swat them off, bagging his precious prize to bring back to base camp. Later that night I told him about the “butt conference” I’d just attended, “Philadelphia’s 2nd Anal Health Symposium: Making Your Bottom a Top Health Priority.” The lecture that enlivened me most was about behaviorally congruent sexual health interventions, such as putting PrEP into douches, since that was a practice that MSM were engaging in as a pre- or post-sex ritual, in any event. The funniest reason study participants had given for douching was using it as time punctuator to get rid of a partner (i.e. “This was so much fun, I’m going to go douche now), like the in-person version of ending a phone call with an excuse (e.g. “I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing, I’m going to go eat dinner”). Dylan continued to act engaged when I reviewed the variables that might affect the safety of douching, such as timing (before v. after an encounter), deploying device, and steeping substance (certain corrosive fluids might strip the mucosa, leaving it more vulnerable). It was nice to spend time with someone who had an appreciation for science and research methods and seemed to be down with harm reduction.

We hold a lot of compatible, unpopular opinions. We both see “self-care” as an industry and instrument of capitalist oppression, shifting the onus on individuals for personal upkeep and blaming them when they are unable to perform additional tasks, instead of tackling the culture of productivity that squeezes people for output and pits members of communities against one another. In an early text message conversation, Dylan told me that he has students call him by his first name because he’s so “young and hip.” I interjected, “It’s not about being young and hip so much as social hierarchies and power dynamics,” and explained, “One of my favorite things about being NP rather than MD is not having a hegemony-enforcing title.” Meaning, when you call a medical provider “doctor” and they call you by your first name, it maintains a dynamic wherein the provider is viewed as an immutable authority figure, whereas if you address each other as equals, it sets the tone for collaborative care. He agreed, “I was joking about the young and hip comment! I use it as a way to discuss the role of language in maintaining social hierarchies, how sociology is a field where we learn about social structures that empower or oppress people, and how I want our classroom to be about learning together rather than a top-down structure where my knowledge is privileged.” Swoooon.

His answer to the okcupid question “Do you put more weight in faith or science?” had also stood out to me. He answered, “science,” obviously, then added the qualifier, “But we should decolonize what counts as science.” One of my biggest gripes with academia, is that we’re only presented with information generated by those who have obtained big fancy degrees, and this type of achievement is only accessible to certain types of people, who are often intellectually detached from what they purport to be experts in. Philadelphia’s Fight’s annual AIDS/HIV conference is one of my favorite events. Besides adding social workers, public health officials, and other “professionals” to the mix, they include sex workers, activists, journalists, people without degrees who work at social service organizations, and people living with HIV/AIDS. They consider people to be experts on their own communities and lived experiences. This is an ethos that Dylan and I share, one that is strikingly uncommon among those who are havers of said degrees—especially among women and other marginalized folks who feel they deserve respect for all the bullshit they’ve had to put up with, like men talking over them and claiming credit for their work. Once they’ve shattered the glass ceiling, they want to stab others with it, a sort of hazing to make them feel like their effort wasn’t in vain. A long time ago, when I was in between social psych grad school and formal training to become a health care professional, I wrote in my okcupid profile that I was looking for somebody who knows how to use the words, “hegemony” and “Other.” It sounds snobbish and was obviously kind of a joke at the time, but I do miss being among social scientists. I think I’ve finally found that somebody. Plus, we both listened to Nirvana as kids, so our cultural overlap is significant.

Tonight we talk about socially constructed things that have been codified incorrectly as biological differences. I tell him about this Dorothy Roberts (law professor and author of Killing the Black Body and Fatal Intervention, among others) lecture where I learned why laboratories list a different reference range for glomerular filtration rate (a measure of kidney function) in African Americans. It turns out the baseline range was adjusted under the antiquated assumption that black people have greater muscle mass, as per their history of “jobs” in manual labor, and GFR is a measure of the breakdown of muscle protein. Consistently overestimating kidney function has had huge implications for receiving timely care for end-organ damage. The origin of the raced-based correction for pulmonary function that’s built into spirometers is even more disturbing. Then there were the Lise Eliot and Rebecca Jordan-Young lectures problematizing that girl brain/boy brain junk neuroscience that’s become so popularized. I forget precisely what the issues were in the methodology supporting sex differences, it’s been a while. “You should talk to my friend,” Dylan says. “Sure, it sounds like we’d like each other, but she probably already knows these people.” “No, you’ve mentioned some measures that I don’t think she’s considered.” To me, this feels like a critical juncture in our relationship. Not only are we on the same side when it comes to the intersection of science and social issues, but he values my knowledge base and opinion enough to want me to spread it to his friends and colleagues. I’ve made it!

***

His “buddy” Teddy shows up with a case of beer and bag of ice, which he clinks into to the cooler like coins out of a slot machine. I met Teddy and his partner Rosie briefly at PorchFest, a DIY neighborhood music festival where pedestrians roam idly seeking music and missed connections. He’s one of those people with an almost childlike cheerful disposition, and he had approached me by unfolding his tie-dyed palm to present me with a handful of dripping cherries, before explaining, “Hi, I’m Teddy,” and then nodding to Dylan for confirmation, “It’s alright, we know each other.” Dylan and Brad go inside to put some stuff away, and we’re now left to make smalltalk. Teddy and Rosie are about to embark on a journey to the West Coast, to join her sister and start a life together. So I inquire about where they plan to stop along the way. He tells me Rosie’s family is uncharacteristically obsessed with Dolly Parton. They’re driving a bit off their path for Dollywood. I tell him this sounds fun. Then, out of nowhere, he says something so strange, I have no idea where to file it. “How do you feel about Dylan’s drinking?” he asks, eyeing the cooler. In the way that you might ask someone if they prefer vanilla or chocolate or if they’ve checked the weather forecast for tomorrow yet. I want to ask, What drinking? But I don’t. I don’t want to sound naïve. And, look, retelling this story, I have to confess that I have no idea what came next, because I was so flummoxed, everything evaporated around those words. I know I recovered easily. I must have laughed and redirected the conversation somehow, maybe told a joke about how Jews suck at drinking, how when I was a teenager I had a friend whose dad peer pressured my dad into drinking too much and he would always get sick after, how it was easy to steal vodka from that family’s kitchen cabinet because who would notice a few drops missing from a Costco-style family-sized bonus bottle, how the pathological liar daughter tried to convince me “tonic water” would make me strong like Popeye for gymnastics.

When Brad and Dylan reappear, I become privy to the drinking he’s referring to, or at least get a preview of it. Dylan holds a group of us hostage, giving a twenty-minute lecture on Philly waterways and infrastructure, a topic no one else gives any fucks about. Teddy, eternally cheerful, plays along. It seems he’s attended a primer beforehand. He may be a confederate, planted in the audience to engage an unwitting class of listless school children, nodding off at desks, gnawing on pencils, folding notes into paper airplanes. Our class adjourns and everyone except me, Brad, and Teddy is dismissed, school’s out for summer, they go the fuck home or else to a better party. We break off into paired conversations and Dylan aggressively interrupts me. Maybe no more than the average overconfident guy, but still extremely annoying. I do get one interesting piece of information out of him.

On our third date, over upscale pizza and no booze, he told me about the end of his 3-year relationship. It was mutual, he’d said. He relocated to DC for her and that’s when all the cracks in their relationship started surfacing. She wanted to live in a neighborhood that was convenient to her job. He was commuting back to Philly occasionally but otherwise had no geographical restrictions. The neighborhood nearest her office was where weapons manufacturers dwelled. He didn’t want to live among those people. He wanted to be able to hang in coffee shops, drink in bars, chat with neighbors, the kind who ride bikes and shop at thrift stores. She wanted to live in a “nice place” and expected him to pay half the rent, even though her salary was significantly greater than his grad student stipend. He didn’t like DC. He was disgusted to learn that politicians have no convictions. At the end of the day, Republicans and Democrats loosened their ties and dined together like old friends. On the House and Senate floors, they voted any way they needed to please their constituents. It was all about reelection, a job like any other. He was even more disgusted to learn that none of this bothered her. She herself had taken a job as a data analyst, with a major corporation. He understood that everyone needed a job, and sometimes you have to take one you don’t agree with, and she especially needed a job to get approved for an H1-B visa to extend her stay in the country. So he wasn’t upset that she was working for a company that made software to steal user data for advertising algorithms, or that she was helping with this project. What upset him was that she thought the project was really cool. She didn’t care about the breach of privacy, the ethics. It was all about how impressive the technology as, the results it yielded, the advertising. He couldn’t date someone who was proud to participate in that system.

I’d found it strange, at the time, when he told me this. Sure, sometimes couples have disparate values or lifestyles mismatches. But how could it have taken three years for them to discover these blatant and fundamental incompatibilities? Why did they stay together for so long? They’re happier apart, he had claimed then and reiterates tonight. Except this time he adds context for their breakup. It wasn’t just about the move to DC. He had proposed to her. I ask if he means for citizenship or because he wanted to get married (we’ve never honestly shared our beliefs about marriage). He laughs, “Oh, for citizenship, obviously.” “But it was believable?” I ask. “Oh yeah, we’d been dating forever, three years.” She didn’t want to marry him, though. She wanted to make it on her own, she’d said, not just because she’d met an American man. Now I understood. She had rejected him and he was rationalizing it not working out. He didn’t want her anyway, there were deep chasms in their belief systems, he looked down on her capitalist aspirations—better off without each other. There had been a pained hesitation before he affirmed the purpose of the proposed not-a-sham marriage, though. I felt kind of sorry for him. Brad had proposed to Nona too, also rejected.

Teddy announces that Rosie’s joining, she’s on her way, walking over. Dylan, who is relieving himself in the front yard, should hurry up and stuff his dick back in his pants. Now that it’s the five of us, I’m having a much better time. I feel like we’re his core. Rosie apologizes profusely for the awkward text she sent earlier. She wanted to do yoga in Dylan’s spare room, but didn’t mean to apply that she didn’t want him there, just that she wasn’t trying to do yoga with him. “It’s fine,” he says. You can come over whenever you want—the space is open to you. I get it, your place is packed in boxes and covered in clutter. Don’t even think about it. Teddy will give you the key.” They all draw cigarettes. I scoot my chair back into the corner. I’m bobbing in a sea of smoke, sifting through mid-summer air. I know it will cling to my clothes like a tangle of seaweed caught up in toes.

We talk about petty disputes with quirky neighbors then get back into the politics of academia. Brad translates jargon for me. ASA is the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. It’s an expensive conference, on top of air travel. Dylan doesn’t know if he can afford it this year, unless he sleeps as a troll under a bridge. He asks Brad what he thinks of “land rights” at the beginning of sessions. I ask whether he means when the presenter acknowledges that we are occupying Lenape territory. He does. “Ew, it’s so performative,” I say. They agree. Particularly if the talk has nothing to do with settler colonialism, acknowledgment is nothing aside from a self-serving show of wokeness. If I didn’t run in similar social justice circles, where people snap their fingers to signal approval or resonance, I wouldn’t even know this was a thing. It’s hard to see the value in a practice that is so niche that it’s elitist.

The number of beers Dylan pounds in a row is stunning. The cooler is emptying out quickly, the repetitive sequence of sound—the crisp tstsizzle of his thumb popping the tab, the crunch of his consolidating the hollow metal in his fist, the bing of his tossing it back into a case full of empties, a graveyard of consumption, the flick of the lighter igniting the tips of his cigarettes. I haven’t seen binging like this since I was a camp counselor and we had curfews to make, the pressure of getting it in before the deadline. Even more troubling than the quantity is the fact that Dylan doesn’t seem all that drunk. He isn’t stumbling or slurring or anything. Just being loquacious and lofty and discourteous. I start to wonder what he does on the nights when we aren’t together.

Dylan flicks his cigarette in my direction, and tells me to tell Rosie about my work on sex and disability. I feel a bit put on the spot. But, again, I feel like he is proud of my work. He thinks I’m worthy of his friends. I wonder why he thinks she, specifically, will be interested. She isn’t a medical person.

***

I tell Rosie about how when I was really sick with ulcerative colitis, my rectum was filled with ulcers and penetration hurt. On top of that, the steroids I was put on annihilated my sex drive. And no doctor ever asked or warned about sexual side effects, or so much as acknowledged that my illness could be impairing my sex life and that could be a legitimate concern of mine that might affect treatment. Doctors pretend like they don’t bring it up because they don’t want to make patients uncomfortable. But I’ve talked to many other patients about this at support groups. And the general consensus seems to be that doctors are projecting their discomfort on us, and their silence only serves to reinforce the stigma, and they are the ones who set the tone for the appointment. People love talking about sex! And they want to feel like their concerns are normal and non-trivial. So, I haven’t done work on this in an official capacity, per se, but I’ve kind of made it my mission to built awareness around this among my classmates. That poor health impacts sex, and sex impacts well-being, and that it’s our job as health care providers to address health holistically and not just throw drugs at the presenting problem, like people’s body parts work in isolation.

Besides individual providers being squeamish or prudish or uneasy that they might get reprimanded for being inappropriate in the workplace, there are covert ways in which sex has been dismissed from discourse on a systemic level. One thing that was blaringly obvious to me, that might be imperceptible to most people, maybe because I’m more obsessed with sex than most people, or maybe because I realized there was something seriously wrong with my spine when I threw my back out every time I had sex, is that sex isn’t included on forms that ask about activities of daily living. So, after I’m done with all my colon surgery and recovery from that and think I’m getting better, suddenly I throw out my back every time I have sex, with a bunch of different partners, so it wasn’t like some weird move we were doing, and it’s to the point where I can hardly walk. I have my mom drive me to acupuncture because I literally cannot walk to my street corner to hail a cab. Finally my colorectal surgeon refers me to an orthopedic surgeon and I have a bunch of 3-D xrays done in the machine with light beams that’s something out of the Jetsons and I fill out all these forms asking about specific activities that I can or can’t do, how much pain I experience while doing them, how much my back pain is impacting my ability. There are the truly necessary ones like bathing, feeding myself, etc. Then there are things like shopping for groceries and gardening. Seriously, gardening. I live in fucking Midtown Manhattan. Gardening is not a thing. But sex does not appear anywhere on these forms. Sex, the thing that signaled that something was off-kilter. Sex, an activity that pretty much everyone does and that is fundamental to so many people’s happiness. Definitely mine! That’s almost how I measured how well I was doing when I was sick, like did sex still work? Imagine how different conversations between patients and providers would look if this form were tweaked. Such a simple solution. And it’s something that people are just not talking about. So, yeah, I’m interested in sex and disability. Maybe from a selfish perspective. But I think it’s something that’s important to a lot of people and chronically sick and disabled people deserve that quality of life.

I actually went to a symposium on sex and disability a few months ago, that was geared towards disabled people, and I had hoped to meet some allies. But it ended up being sort of hilariously, ill-conceived, the symposium. So, first of all, I get there and look around and pick the person I think is coolest and ask if I can sit with her. She has spikey hair and glitter eye makeup and basically looks like she’s out of one of those Bongo adds from Teen Magazine, striped crop top and everything. Maybe it’s weird that I even ask permission, very middle school cafeteria. Like of course she isn’t going to say, “No, this table is reserved.” Anyway, turns out I picked right, because she works at that sex store on South Street, Passional Boutique and Sexploratorium, and has a master’s in sex education. Right before the first presentation begins, this girl rolls up in a wheelchair with a tiara and sash and her bottle blond mom in tow. As soon as they’re settled, the mom eyes Mx. Sex Ed suspiciously, and goes, “Why are you here? Isn’t this supposed to be for people with disabilities.” She’s like, “Uh, yeah, I’m a sex educator. I’m speaking later on about sex toys for disabled people.” Then the mom looks over at me, another faker, and I’m like, “Well, I’m training to be a health care professional, but also I have a chronic illness. And you can’t tell how healthy or able someone is just by looking at them, so you should never make assumptions, about people, based on how they look. I might look totally normal, but I’ve actually been through a lot. And my illness totally changed everything about my sex life. It changed everything. So I’m here as a health care professional, but mostly as a disabled person.”

Turns out they’re here on business; to them, this is a campaign stop, we’re their photo-op. This tiara-d person is Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania. They ask me if I’ve ever heard of it, the competition. And I’m like, “Oh, is it, like, a beauty pageant?” Mind you, this chick does not look like beauty pageant material. I’m mean she’s nice looking, or whatever, but totally average, and looks straight out of a New Jersey mall. But I guess all bodies are beach bodies, or whatever, so cool. Let a girl dream. “No,” her mom contests my accusation, insulted. “It’s much deeper than that.” “I won because of my platform.” the girl chimes in. “I want to make a difference.” I, say, “Oh, wow, sorry, that’s so cool.” I think about all the 1-minute clips I’ve watched about world peace, or not being able to find the US on a world map because not everyone has a map with South Africa on it. And I ask what her platform is. In her small town in Eastern PA, a lot of the buildings are old and don’t have ramps. It’s hard for her to go to stores and restaurants. She’s fighting for accessibility, for herself, in her town. If she won on that platform, and this is a contest exclusively for wheelchair users, it’s literally called Ms. Wheelchair PA, I wonder, what everyone else’s platform was. Is her small town less accessible than everyone else’s small town, so she could make the biggest difference? Was her story more sympathetic, somehow?

It gets so much more ridiculous, though. The mom proceeds to make every topic about herself. Like during the talk about consent and how people with disabilities are often more vulnerable to getting taken advantage of, the mom talks about here and her ex husband who was a bit of a sex pest. And then at one point the girl goes to the bathroom and the mom slips us her business card, all glittery and pink, and probably not age appropriate. But, like, regardless of how hideous the card is, it’s like what the fuck, there is nothing wrong with your daughter, her legs don’t work, that’s it, otherwise she’s totally functional and capable. If she wants to self promo, she can do it herself. Stop speaking for her and doing shit behind her back. What are you, her manager? Like, for someone who took so much offense at the suggestion, she was the ultimate overbearing pageant mom. But, that’s the other thing, I think disability was really poorly defined at this event. So, something I’m kinda insulated from and honestly pretty naïve about is developmental disabilities. And, sure, some people fit in multiple categories, like there are people with cerebral palsy who have mechanical and intellectual deficits. But the collection of people who ended up at this event just didn’t work together, and some people probably needed greater support, and it was not thought out very well at all. One of the big oof moments was during a talk on HIV. The facilitator asked the crowd about modes of transmission and told them to think about body fluids, and one person shouted out, “poop!” It was so hard to not laugh out loud. But he had meant it totally earnestly. Then when the facilitator asked, more broadly, how you got HIV, several people said, “Hookers!” Which was just so darkly comedic to me as someone so used to social justice environments, where “sex worker” is the accepted term. But it just shows you that you have to meet people where they are! And developmentally disabled people deserve sex education too.

It turned out to be really cool, though, and I’m glad I went to the symposium. In spite of the absurd cast of characters. The sex toy demonstration was incredible. Mx. Sex Ed set up a display of toys and other items from her store that could accommodate people with different deficits. For people who had trouble gripping or limited dexterity, there were toys with no hand contact, for people with muscle weakness there was a dildo that thrust by itself, there were straps to hold body parts in place, wedge pillows—all sorts of things. It was really creative and impressive and showed how may workarounds there are. And acknowledged that disabled people are sexual beings with a plethora of preferences and desires and abilities. Which is what medical professionals need to get on. I really wish this was part of our training, specifically gyn providers we’re the ones who need these presentations, so we can help out patients figure it out. And not just pretend that it’s someone else’s problem and out of our scope of practice.

***

I break up the 4th of July festivities by announcing that I need to go home to walk my pup. Since I only live two blocks away, if they’re gonna be out much longer, I can always come back. They say, “Oh, no, no, it’s getting late,” and get their bearings to disperse. We drag the furniture around, separate trash from stuff worth saving, I scoop the untouched salsa-of-the-month and plunk it back into my sailboat tote. We say goodnight to Brad and hope he isn’t too sad sleeping alone, in his second bedroom, cats askance. Dylan and I head out with Teddy and Rosie. They’re walking home in the same direction. Rosie and I rekindle our conversation, and she tells me about this disability justice writer, Mia Mingus, that she read back when she was at Berkley. I tell her I’ll check her out. We get to my apartment and I think I’m saying goodbye to her for the last time, since they’re moving cross country in a week or so, but she invites me to their going away party on their porch the following weekend. I say, Thanks, I’ll try to make it. I think, Meh, prolly not since what’s the point in going to a send off for someone you just met. And even though she’s smart and thoughtful, I didn’t feel like I especially connected with her or Teddy.

Dylan does this weird thing where I have to ask him if he’s coming over, in front of his friends, since he doesn’t “want to assume.” It makes me feel like he isn’t really jazzed to fuck me, and only says yes because it’s expected as an end-of-evening ritual in lieu of Nick at Nite and a warm glass of milk. If I didn’t ask, “You coming over?” I bet he wouldn’t even try to obtain an invite. This is an untested theory; I’ve never not asked. I’m scared to find out. We take my pup to the dog run behind my building, which first involves her excitement peeing all over my floor, then running through it like it’s a fire hydrant in the summer, then sweeping it with her tail like she’s the sprinkler system, and finally jumping up and down patting Dylan with her pee paws, before I manage to leash her. The “dog run” is a novelty-sized litter box with red pebbles that dye fur and clothing when it rains. He’s in a playful mood and rolls around outside, tossing tennis balls and faking her out. I’m disgusted. It’s bad enough that I had to watch him squash beers and devour cigarettes and give a sermon about water infrastructure, now I have to wrangle him like he’s an actual fucking puppy? I know I said I wanted for him to smell more like an animal, but not like this. I swipe us back into the building with my fob and we stand on opposite ends of the elevator for the duration of our ride.

Scolding him at the threshold of my door, I instruct him to take off all his clothes and drop them at his feet and not touch anything and go straight to the shower and scrub with my fucking shower gel that looks like semen and wash the smoke out of his mouth. He tries to be all cutesy patoosie about it, giving his best puppy dog whimper, and asks me to join him. I think he might jump up and down on my leg so I scowl, “This is not a sexy shower!” He puts his leg between his tail and whines. I remove my funky shoes, leave a towel hanging from the back of the bathroom door, and climb into bed with my actual puppy who runs up her 3-step staircase and pounces on me playfully. He climbs in damp a few minutes later and I instruct him, this time, to drop the towel. He gives me such a deep, slow dicking, I forget how embarrassed I am on his behalf. Predictably, he can’t cum cause he’s drunk. But I feel completely held, pinned against the sheets with each pump. He’s sliding further and further in, literally and metaphorically. He can fuck me forever, as far as I’m concerned, until I get bored. At dawn, I look over at him peacefully breathing under my covers. He and my pup have tertised their bodies together, with adjacent angles. For once I feel contented, having someone sleep in my bed. He absorbs our energy.

The next day Dylan texts and I’m reminded that I forgot to give him acid so he and Teddy can participate in a rite of passage. I’ll be home studying all weekend, so he can stop by whenever. I wonder why he never tries to fuck me in the morning. I want him to disrupt me, for us to be rabid and unkempt. He says he’ll swing by after Teddy and Rosie’s porch sale, where their impending loss will solidify with the items being cast off for the price of colored stickers. I open my door and lead him to my freezer. It contains a stray film canister and a tall stack of Haagen Dazs empties, which collect there because I’m eccentrically efficient about consolidating non-smelly trash to leave space in the garbage bin for items that should be shuttled to the shoot quickly. I pop open the film canister and extract a wad of tin foil crumpled around a folded plastic baggie. Peak cliché Grateful Dead bear blotter paper squares peek out like tiny size Chiclets. As I rewrap one pink bear and one orange bear to-go, he fishes a pin out of his pocket that he’s been saving since after our second date. He thought of me when he saw it (aw) but it was “too soon.” It says “Season of the Bitch,” which I assume to be a snarky pastel goth phrase like, “Bad Vibes” or “Resting Witch Face” (check out CreepyGirlClub on etsy if that’s your aesthetic). Later on I’ll google and discover it’s a socialist feminist podcast and be impressed by how accurately he clocked my taste so early on. I say, “No way,” and go to my bedroom to retrieve a pin I got at the Sinkhole Dragshow earlier in the week. It had an illustration of the infamous Baltimore Avenue sinkhole, which he had drunkenly spelunked in after hours and sent me photographs of the next day. He was proud that he’d pulled of peeing into a sewer pipe that was a tributary to Mill Creek, because, Woooah, cool, water infrastructure.

Dylan thanks me for the pin and I’m like, “Oh, by the way, I googled this writer Mia Mingus that Rosie recommended. Tell her thanks for the rec; I just skimmed so far but it looks awesome.” And he’s like, “Uh, why don’t you thank her yourself at their party next weekend.” We survey the goods exchanged and have this awkward transition where he giggles about how he feels so weird stopping by just to pick up drugs, and I assure him it’s no big deal he’s welcome to stop by whenever. Then I add, “But I can chill for a bit before getting back to work, if that’s what you want.” It is. We settle on my couch and start making out. I unzip the modern day version of cargo shorts, slither down his torso, nestle between his knees, and give him our first start-to-finish blowjob. “Genie, you’re gonna make me cum,” he pants and I feel legs tense up. I grip onto his thighs harder, push my face down further, and pull him out as it’s happening, letting the salt spurt around my puffed lips. A few seconds later his eyes roll back into his head and he purrs, “Thaaank you.” I gleam up at him, face shiny from spit and slime, and catch the globs sliding down his stomach in a cupped hand. I marinate on how fucking grateful I am to be in a real thing so I can regress back to The Oral Phase. It’s oh so lovely once things are informal and frequent enough so you don’t feel obligated to make a night out of each encounter and aren’t fiending to extract maximal sexual value out of he whose dick is now infinitely available.

The day after that Dylan asks if I want to come over to make dinner. I politely decline. It’s a bit more than 1.5 times, I joke. He quantifies the time it will take for food and any bonus time redeemed in International Hangout Units. I explain, because I like being specific when it comes to people I care about, that it isn’t that I’m having a bad time, it just seems like tomorrow is too much too soon, we’ve already seen each other 3 out of 7 days and this is a precipitous ramping up in contact. I need some time to myself before I’m pummeled with work over the upcoming week.

***

I guess this is where I stop to explain how the logistics have changed since we started dating. And, yes, this is as boring and unsexy as it sounds. In March, when we met, I was in the middle of a semester off that was built into my program so my cohort could pass our nursing boards and deal with the bureaucratic nonsense that is applying for a license in multiple states with disparate and equally ancient systems. I got fingerprinted no fewer than five times. During the in-between epoch, I travelled back home to NYC for my last 2 of 3 rounds of fatiguing then ferocious egg freezing. Eerily convenient considering the FBI would accept inked sets of my flesh spirals from only the NYPD HQs. For leisure, and because my dearth of social and pleasant physical contact began to feel like a palpable excavation, I took ceramics classes at my neighborhood studio. Which is to say, I had oodles of time. Dylan had recently begun writing his dissertation and was teaching one class that he’d taught numerous times. We had infinite unstructured time to get to know each other.

Everything changed mid-May when my grad program started up. Suddenly I was taking a full course load, including the very technical pathophysiology, where we memorized physics equations associated with blood vessel compliance, and because 15 weeks were compressed into 12, it was extra accelerated. The week of July 4th, an extra element was added: a once-weekly clinical placement. In my case, the Kafkaesque onboarding process cost as much time and energy as the rotation itself. Because my assigned preceptor hadn’t conveyed that she’d be out of town for 2/3 of our time together, this meant weeks of stressful communication, followed by a sampler where I hopped from primary care to ED to nephrology, each with different hours, outfits, and expectations for participation. Navigating this on top of routine academic demands and getting into the groove with new professors and classmates was a challenge. As my relationship with Dylan progressed, March though August, its shape had to morph with my availability. He was aware of my outside commitments, and I thought he respected them.

***

Back to the week when he wants to see me four times, and I say, Woah, baby, clutch the breaks. I ask if it would be weird if I watch the documentary about General Tso’s that he screens in class to stimulate conversation among high school students. I follow up with links to scathing articles about controversial Lucky Lee, as well as screenshots of my fav love-to-hate influencer Be Well With Arielle’s insta account. Her handle casting health as an aspiration and lifestyle choice really tells you all you need to know. This post about the unattainability (read: inaccessibility) of culinary purity is truly one for the ages.

The following text accompanies a photo of her cooking in an expensive dress with her hair done:

“Don’t become orthorexic over your baby’s food,” she said to me when I was introducing solids to Gemma. WHOA! At first I was so alarmed by her comment. Then it soon became one of my greatest lessons as a new mom. I had been delaying feeding my baby her first solid food (egg yolk) because I preferred to give her the best quality possible. Most conventional eggs that you find at the supermarket are weeks old… As a health coach who strives to ‘live well,’ it was important to me to feed my baby the best eggs that I had access to – fresh, local, humanely treated and pasture-raised from my nearby farmers market. But every time I visited my favorite farmer, there were no cartons left! So I waited and waited… When I saw my friend… wow did she put me in my place!… I so didn’t want to be that crazy mom… so the next day I ran out to my corner grocery store… Gemma ate them with excitement and to my surprise, I felt more liberated that ever feeding my baby supermarket egg.” (emphasis mine)

Imagine thinking that feeding your kid ordinary food (which you consider toxic, poor person food) os some kind of extraordinary political act. And I get it, I do. As a recovering bulimarexic, I resonated with Abra Fortune Chernik’s “The Body Politic,” where she posits, “Gaining weight and getting my head out of the toilet bowl was the most political act I have ever committed.” Which show you how little power women, even filthy rich women, really have. But this person is parody.

“No,” Dylan says. “Not weird at all. It’s a great film.” “OMG,” he reacts to the screenshots. Then, apropos of nothing, he bamboozles me with the ambiguous and ostensibly urgent, “I know you have a super busy day tomorrow, but wanna talk for a few minutes?” This seems fishy. Normally Thursdays are jammed packed with class from 12pm to 8pm. Tomorrow my profs stuffed an extra lecture into the morning slot, making my day 11 hours long! He knows this. So, no, I don’t want to talk when I get home. I’m not sure whether my ‘fuck it, ima destroy this situation with irresponsible sex’ attitude worked or backfired or whatever but I definitely hadn’t felt like we needed to have any more “talks” any time soon. Now I’m getting anxious. I’ve been waking up from bad dreams panicked about Dylan, feeling paralyzed, almost. I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t trust my instincts. This past week and a half has felt like a real relationship, and it feels too good to be true. Before this he’d told me all he could give was his word that he wanted to get to know me better, and before that he’d told me preserving space was key because he’d jumped from relationship to relationship absentmindedly. Something is not quite right, right? I’m deluding myself? I’ve gotten caught up in a fantasy where someone’s acting like we’re something but claims the opposite. And now maybe he’s dumping me? Because what the fuck could he possibly have to talk about that can’t wait for some other time when I’m not gonna be totally beat?

“About what?” I ask suspicious. “That sounds ominous.” I tell him I have a few mins to talk on the phone now or I have study break time this weekend. “Ha!” he says. “Nothing in particular. Was gonna mainly ask about plans this weekend, etc. I’m exhausted this week too.” “So do you wanna hang out this weekend or are you just being weird?” I clarify, still suspicious. “Yes I do!” “I’m partly being weird bcs I’ve slept like 4 hours over the last two days.” I don’t know why I share this, possibly due to the sleep deprivation, maybe I shouldn’t have, but I commiserate, “I’ve slept in like 3 hour spurts and had very weird possibly ominous dreams about you.” It’s like my id has been priming me to run but my superego intervenes, Maybe you just aren’t used to things working out with a guy. Maybe you are trying to kill a good thing. He says that sucks I haven’t been sleeping either and he’s curious to hear about the bad dreams. He gives me a preview of the weekend: Friday is Teddy’s bday, Saturday is the going away party, he’s hanging both nights and I’m welcome to come but no pressure if I don’t want to. I tell him I’ll text him after my 11 hours of class if I wouldn’t prefer to hibernate and die first.

***

I guess I relax about our relationship. The next morning at 8:55am, on my way to class number one of three, I stop to snap a pic of tree porn and send it to him. It’s a PECO lightpole log lying parallel with the curb, waiting to be erected on a residential street. Stapled to its base is a tag with its forest of origin, somewhere in Brierfield, Alabama. One can visit via google satellite. I figure this squares with his fascination with forestry, specifically the journey from colonialism and land rights, to ownership and industry, to location and use of final product, for instance lumber for white flight suburban homes. I’m heeding his “reservation” that I hadn’t asked him anything about himself on our first date. I want him to know that I’m making an effort to engage in his interests. Besides, it’s always nice to know that someone thought of you at 8:45 am, as they were dragging their sleepy ass to class.

Around lunch, he expresses gratitude for the tree porn, which, by the way, I’ve been sending since my trip to Colorado, early on in our relationship. I joke that it’s “Weird to see evidence of its journey from the South to the dildo-adorned streets of W Philly.” Discarded street dils are a neighborhood mystery and local delicacy. He asks how I’m holding up. I’ll prob need to nap when I get home but might be down to hang after. He’s going out to celebrate his friend’s dissertation defense and will keep me posted. After midnight, he checks in, dependable as per usual. He’s still with old friends, he may never see again, and professors. He’s feeling kinda good because when he told the profs about his work they were all, “How have you not published a book already?” I do not think this is a compliment. To me, it sounds less like, “You’re so brilliant you could be a published author by now,” and more like, “How is it that you’ve been here an entire decade without producing a single thing.” I do not share my unkind interpretation.

We meet up Friday afternoon before he goes out for Teddy’s birthday. It turns out to be an intimate family dinner. I decide it would be awkward for me to join, and Dylan agrees. He offers to come back later, depending on when things wrap up. While he’s gone, I happen to get a text from a guy I’d hooked up with once before; the backstory is that Tabitha, our mutual friend, had mentioned on a facebook thread that someone he’d been with had referred to him as a “sex wizard.” In a PM, he asked her to be more specific about the origin of this knighthood, and took the answer as an auspicious sign for a future encounter with me. Tonight isn’t a good night, I tell him, but he should consider me in the future. I submit some homework and take a break to research a documentary I’d heard about that Dylan and I might enjoy watching together. When he texts me to say things are winding down, I’m still plugging away on an assignment. I say sure come over in like half an hour, but I might ignore you for like ten minutes while I finish something up. I’ll leave the door unlocked.

He enters, and makes a beeline for my bed. The foyeur meet-and-greet ritual relocates. Glenda zooms up her staircase and wags her tail maniacally, wiggling on her hindlegs, then dropping down to all fours. He puts one butt cheek on the edge and leans over to pet her, trying not to disturb me as keep my eyes fixed on my computer screen. “Oops, that’s a little wet,” he flicks his fingers. I look over at them, and she’s squatting. A puddle forms around her feet and travels in my direction. “Oh shit, she’s peeing,” I say, hands still on the keyboard. “Oh god, she’s really peeing. Get off, I don’t want it to soak through the mattress,” he says, frenzied, tugging on the sheets. “It’s cool, I have a mattress protector and pad under here. We shoo Glenda off, and undress my bed, flipping the four corners toward each other and rolling them inward to form a nest. I leash her to take her out, since that’s what you’re supposed to do when your dog pees in the wrong place, even if there’s nothing left inside them, and tuck the bedding under my other arm. When we get down to my lobby, Dylan offers, “Here, I’ll toss that in, while you take her.” “Thanks,” I say, and lift my elbow so he can grab the fabric. I hear the door to the laundry room swing open, as I drag her outside. Two minutes later, we’re back. He’s still crouching on the ground, fiddling with the buttons, can’t figure out how the machine works. I push the bubble of the astronaut helmet door until it clicks. “There, the door wasn’t closed all the way. Now press the button again,” I say. “Ohhww,” he smirks and shakes his head. “Aw, such a good house husband,” I tease, rumpling his hair with my hand.

Back in my apartment, we fling a temporary top sheet open across the bed, borders hanging overboard, a baseline level of protection. We bump Glenda’s staircase back up against the bulky frame, so she can scurry up without leaping across a moat. She rolls over on her back to be petted. “It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean to pee the bed,” he says lovingly. I reach for my laptop from my bedside table. Slated to be a quirky consummation of Dylan’s passion for conservation and my affection for queer kitsch, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story is a tale of economic opportunity, ecological destruction, health disparities, and activism against mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia coal country. Feminist porn icon Annie Sprinkle’s partner Beth Stephens was born and raised there, and they directed the documentary together, offering a rare look from an insider and outsider’s perspective. Dylan is impressed and puzzled that I’ve managed to discover such an unorthodox masterpiece. It has us in stitches throughout. Closing the film with a sing along to their silly wedding chapel song, we agree to watch Desiree Akhavan’s TV show The Bisexual next. It shapes up to be the most intimate night we’ve had together. I rock back and forth mashing my butt into him, subtly, as we’re spooning. His dick squirms like a caterpillar. I flip him over and shove him back down on the sheets when he cranes his neck and paws at me. We make out for the first time. I tease him with my hand. I slither down, again, and lick him from base to tip methodically. He erupts all over himself, and I’m so charmed and satisfied I don’t want anything in return. I like feeling the want swell between my lips knowing it will persist.

Saturday, he texts on-and-off with updates and other fodder. Teddy and Rosie’s party is relocating to a pop-up beer garden, I can come whenever works for me or we can head over together. I tell him I’m deep in the powerpoints and don’t know when I’ll be able to hang. He says no worries I can join them later. Later, he says, “It just hit me that I’m kinda bummed Teddy and Rosie are moving. I hope I don’t cry tonight.” And adds as series of photos of souvenirs he collected from various locations where he and Teddy spent quality time together. Perhaps this is an omen, possibly a threat. He’s not the only one who will end up crying and taking relationship inventory tonight. I text him around 9:30 when I’m heading in his direction. Within 5 hours, our relationship will effectively be over before it officially began. How can you grieve something that never existed, explicitly? All we have to show for it, whatever it was, is a collection of exactly two pins between us.

 

 

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How to Convince a Woman that Sex is Bad: Part 3

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 3: FUCKBOY FRIDAY

 

DISCLAIMERS ABOUT THIS SERIES OF POSTS

If I were a better writer, I’d write complete scenes and sneak in foreshadowing snippets, then callback to them in the future when their significance unearths. Or else I’d start writing as if we’d already reached the halfway point in the story and have flashbacks to contextualize the present on as as-needed basis. But I’m lazy, and wrote PART 1 and PART 2 eight months ago, and don’t really remember why I set up the story like I did back then (probably because I was so tired of hearing Dylan’s fuckboy shit that I didn’t feel like writing and reliving it). So I’m not going to hold off on the humiliating contents of BIG TALK (#1) any longer. I’m going to blow my load now and do the undoing of this relationship in chronological order. And I’m mostly going to include the sections that are pivotal to understanding the sequence of how everything unfolds, which I know is boring; in real life you never get to know which parts are going to matter in advance. You miss all sorts of critical cues. I missed all sorts of critical cues, which could have gone either way, and that’s why we are where we are today, my friends.

Oh, and if you are rereading PART 1 and PART 2 and are scratching your head, I made slight edits for clarity, ease, and exposition—nothing big and structural. I’ve decided not to be so precious about preserving my past. I used to be an obsessive archivist, fixated with producing memories that were unadulterated by what came thereafter. I had to cede control to work through the world as a working document, adapting to updates. In the process I became a less reliable narrator, so believe what you will. Here’s the thing with prevailing as a faithful archivist: I used to pour all 15 dollars per week of my allowance money into concerts (fleeting and indelible) and rarities: B sides, imports, soundtracks with a single important song. And now the internet exists and we all have access to Nirvana and Weezer’s entire catalogs, so my collection has been made worthless (like, I mean, I personally still break out the liner notes and smell them every so often, but no one thinks I’m cool!). I just, maybe have trouble seeing the value in holding on to anything nowadays. Maybe that’s fatalistic, and maybe the Smashing Pumpkins lyrics still stand, the more you change the less you feel.

 

RELATIONSHIP ASPIRATIONS

Let’s rewind a sec, and I’ll take you through how I was feeling leading up to the BIG TALK. You will feel sorry for me, audience, when you learn what I was angling for on The Night of Lisa Who Fucked All the Dudes from Tinder, before it all went to shit, and my angle was rendered, well, more like a flat line. But nevertheless, I persisted.

I had that now immortalized conversation with my old friend who I went to the Japanese psychedelic show with and, by the way, that friend was Parker, of my pillow buddy fame. We allegedly talked about the trashlamp and how even though I felt a lamp was too high of a level of commitment I was happy about its symbolism because I felt really strongly about Dylan and was glad to know he felt like a permanent enough installation in my life that he could make my apartment into some found object interactive art piece, called like, “Wednesday mornings with Dylan” or whatever, because I think Tuesday is trash day. Cute, right? Except that’s not really what happened. Here’s a pretty accurate replica of the opening of my conversation with Parker. The stuff about the trashlamp was postscript.

“So… like… how bad is it if I want to get rid of condoms with this guy I’ve been seeing, and it’s not a monogamous situation, though we’ve been seeing each other for a few months and I’d be actually really surprised if he were sleeping with other people, but that isn’t really the point, it’s not that I’d never want to be monogamous with him, just that we’re going to have the conversations in the wrong order, I want to get rid of the condoms first, is that terrible? Am I going to fuck this up? Like, is it bad to have that conversation, forgetting about diseases and stuff, which I’m not really concerned about?”

Two nights after Kikaguku Moyo, I went to a [work] barbeque and people were talking about asking dudes to get tested for them, and how they wouldn’t fuck someone who hadn’t. One girl shared this horror story about how she went on a date with a guy in his late 20s/early 30s who had only gotten tested twice. The first time he had chlamydia. The second time was the 3-month follow up to rule out reinfection. Ew. Not about the chlamydia. About only having gotten tested essentially once in his 30-something years on earth. I shared with them, maybe too optimistically, “I’m about to have that conversation with the guy I’ve been seeing. We have to get rid of the condoms. He doesn’t know yet. I know he’s going to say he doesn’t have health insurance and doesn’t have money to get tested. But I’ll pay for it.” To which they replied, “Health Center 1: getting tested in Philly is free.” I wasn’t concerned about the logistics.

 Fast forward a single fucking night and I’m all poised to tell him I want him inside me and there’s just one knee-height hoop to jump through first, and then the shit about Lisa happens, and we spend the night adjusting our positions, calf-to-shin, elbow-to-shoulder, pins and needles-to-body parts, until we give up on sleeping, and then it’s a week until I have time to wade through the weeds with him and have “the talk” on my roof.

 

I HAVE RESERVATIONS

I scheduled BIG TALK (#1) for a few hours before I was supposed to meet up with my friend Tabitha at PEX’s Magic Garden Party at One Art Community Center. That way I had an out and a friend to decompress with if things went badly, and the timing just happened to work out that way. Originally I had planned to invite Dylan and offer to pay for his ticket, and initiate a conversation about whether it was okay with him if I paid for activities that were marginally out of his price range that I wanted his company for. But with things on the rocks between us, I had considered selling my ticket and was happy and relieved when Tabby got the night off work and could accompany me instead.

Dylan and I cut through the grass on my building’s rooftop garden and I spread my picnic blanket under the most steady, shady tree. The last time we were here was when we were on acid and everything felt a hair too highlighted, the breeze biting at our skin. This time we came equipped with booze to blunt the emotional discomfort. I think we’re convening to talk about how he wants to be with me but how things are complicated in his life and the circumstances are going to affect our relationship. Except he pulls a bait and switch from “My insecurities are not coming from my relationship to you but my relationship to feeling generally not in control of other areas of my life at the moment” to “I have some reservations about you.

He digs way back more than three months and brings up that during our first date I didn’t ask him any questions about himself. Which seems weird to me because he talked about himself plenty—about how he comes from a Catholic family of nurses and Trump supporters, he moved during high school and became a skater to make friends, he went to a public college and people in academia said snobby things to him about it, his childhood pet hamster died tragically at his birthday party, his student status had recently changed, etc. Maybe I didn’t inquire further myself because he was so forthcoming? Maybe he offered such standard, uncontroversial first date fare his stories didn’t lend themselves to deeper delving? Why would he keep dating me if I were self-centered as he seemed to be implying?

Then he goes all #notallmen on me, groaaaan. He complains about my calling him out for giving arrogant, unsolicited advice and labeling it as shitty male behavior. On our 3rd date I’d asked, out of curiosity, if he was voting in the local election, which I could have researched myself if I were so inclined. The next day he texted a photo of a political flyer and said his friends Rosie and Teddy, who are much more involved in politics than he is, recommended just voting for that slate. Indignant, I attempted to wave him off by sending a googledoc with rationales, compiled by someone I trusted as a source, and said I’d probably just use that voter’s guide thankyouverymuch. Besides, the flyer he’d sent only included “at large seats,” nothing about the contentious election in our district. Sure, he said, the flyer was citywide only. He added the caveat that so many candidates were running that there was some disagreement even among his “circle” and appended a guide pointed to by several people he trusts. As if I’d hold in high regard the 3rd-hand political opinion of some dude I’d hung out with only 3 times. This reminded me of when a dude I’d dated offered to edit my NP program admissions essays and later gave me “notes” on personal writing I’d shown him to, ya know, share something personal. He was neither a writer/editor nor a healthcare professional. I’ve seldom had a woman assume she was being helpful by sharing her unsolicited expertise, and I’ve seldom had a woman share her expertise without being an expert or providing a disclaimer.

Dylan also complained about my joking, also on our 3rd date, that some Nora Zeale Hurston tome he randomly plucked from his bookshelf and started lecturing me about was his showpiece to get laid. Like, bro, do you know how many fucking guys pull that shit to impress women? It’s not as if he related the book to me and my passions; it was like, “Here’s a big book I read ima tell you about… buzzword… indigenous woman!” Maybe instead of ragging on women for deeming male behavior problematic, he should have spent more time imploring men to stop being so awful so we don’t all assume the worst. And, as someone without the lived experience, he isn’t an arbiter of what constitutes sexism, benevolent or not; he doesn’t and will never have that barometer. So, sure, sure, women have to deal with men explaining things to them and pretending to be more informed and unbiased and it’s terrible, but when he does it, it isn’t part of a larger pattern; it’s just him misreading social cues and misjudging a situation, and he’s so not like that—he’s willing to learn from me! Ooof, fucking spare me from that #notallmen bullshit. Needless to say, I didn’t engage in that “reservation.” Not gonna apologize for call outs. Because drawing attention to oppression isn’t divisive; sexism, racism, and other systems of oppression are divisive. If he actually cares about being an ally, and is dedicated to showing up and not just showing off, he can deal with pushback from women. And, lol, funny thing about the election. Turns out we’d sent each the same voter’s guide. I’d say that’s a sign of compatibility. He didn’t see it that way.

It gets more odious than “not all men” though. Another reason he’s skeptical about us is an answer to an okcupid question that goes something like, “How do you feel about love?” Among the prospective answers are “I love it and want it very much” and “I just like to let things happen.” Because I picked the former and he picked the latter, I must have some kind of agenda that is incompatible with his life goals and circumstances. He doesn’t know where he’s going to be 6 months from now. He might have to take a job in China for all he knows. They go wild for Ivy PhDs there because Asians love brand names. He’s not going to consider me when he’s looking for jobs. I find this insulting, not because I believe I’m his priority, but because he’s stating the obvious as though it’s going to land as a revelation, implying that I’m some delusional woman who wants so badly to believe in the power of fairytale romance that I assume someone I met three months ago is going to restructure his life around mine. And, like, I know a thing or two about dating under uncertain circumstances. There were several junctions in my life when I was applying to programs or had already gotten into programs far far away, as I was trying to maintain some semblance of a social and sex life, and I didn’t just cease human contact because things weren’t going to be forever, Men were happy to continue dating me knowing there was a prescribed limit. I’m a big fucking girl, I can handle an untimely end. Most relationships end, anyway, regardless of geographical barriers. And, this is gonna sound fucked, but honestly a relationship that died of external causes would be a godsend to me, because I have never been in an adult relationship and a manless woman is a source of suspicion and social pariah. I’m worried that I’m eternally undateable due to my track record, or lack thereof. It’s the whole can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job conundrum. No one would attribute the end of things upon the introduction of an ocean between us to my incapability of maintaining a long-term relationship; they would commiserate about the cruelties of academic life. Loss is sympathetic. He would have been a great starter boyfriend. Lol, and a month later, after things really go to shit, my friend will be like, “Genie, you don’t need to stay with this guy to build your resume.” But sort of I did.

 

DESTABALIZE ME

“Don’t you want something stable?” Dylan asks me, still suspicious about my answer to the okcupid question. “No!” I insist. Stability is such a nebulous, ableist concept. It implies that the world is a predictable, safe place. It denies that relationships are dynamic interactions that adapt or destruct, rather than static pairings independent of time and space. And it seems like Dylan is willfully ignoring what he knows to be true about my history: that he is far from the first person I’ve met on okcupid. I’m not with him by default or because I’ve succumbed to ennui. I’ve been out with approximately 25 dudes in the past two years since moving to Philly. None of them captured my interest, unless you count a fortuitous friendhip pairing. I’ve fucked approximately 10 in that time span, between internet dating and real world connections. And, I didn’t tell him this at the time (or maybe I did?), because I didn’t want to creep him out, but he’s the only one I had sex with more than once. What if I let him go, because he may move to China six months from now (which is an improbable, worst-case scenario), and he ends up staying in Philly after all? We would have wasted time when we could have been together in the service of staving off pain. What if by the time he moves we’re in a serious relationship and I want to go with him? Lives can change in a short amount of time, which pretty much anyone with a chronic illness agrees is not a romantic concept. What if we’ve broken up before six months from now anyway, so it’s a moot point and who fucking cares? I can’t make decisions based on a future nobody can predict. What I do know for certain, based on bountiful past experience, is that I’m picky AF and a niche market, and okcupid is wont to become an emotionally spendy time suck, where the sex and superficial connection generally isn’t worth the effort and fallout. If I pass him up because it might present a challenge later on, I’ll most likely go through 25 more guys before I land on one who clicks. And does hopping from stationary dick to stationary dick really constitute “stability”? I should think not!

“But don’t you want someone more stable than me?” Dylan reiterates. “There are tons of guys in Philly, who at very least are still going to be in Philly next year.” Stability, stability, if there were ever a time in our relationship where future Genie should have swooped in and issued a warning it would have been here. I would have keyed in on that word and advised, a la Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Now here is where I get heated about his emergent Seth Rogen-style manchild fuckboy bullshit. It wasn’t as if things started getting shaky between us and in an attempt to decode, Dylan flipped through my okcupid profile and was like, “A ha! There’s the disconnect!” He had fucking scruntinized my profile and made frequent references to passages so obscure I had forgotten I’d included them. He was more fluent in my dating beliefs and goals than I was. Just so we’re clear, here’s what was in the body of my profile, under the “What I’m actually looking for” and “The most private thing I’m willing to admit” sections:

“What I’m actually looking for”

  • Want: a primary partner who is guileless, eschews social formalities, respects desires and boundaries, fosters intimacy at the risk of vulnerability. Friends are nice, too! Bring me to shows and readings with you.
  • Need: a service top, unambiguous communication, keenness to defer to women as arbiters and experts.
  • Wish: ppl didn’t use “fun” as a proxy for disposable sex.

“The most private thing I’m willing to admit”

  • I’m surprisingly traditional when it comes romantic relationships. Though I only enjoy unconventional people. I’m looking for something monogamish, a relationship structure that okcupid doesn’t yet recognize and one that has the foresight to accommodate for life’s conditions being unpredictable and in flux.

Does it sound like I expect a fucking fairytale with some clean-cut cookie cutter, and surprise he can’t provide that? Is it possible that he didn’t know what he was getting himself into? Look, people are looking for different things on the internets and you have to respect that. Sometimes you come across a profile and someone looks otherwise compatible (they love thrift stores and records and art–yay!) but turns out they don’t want kids so you keep it pushing. Sometimes you are seeking the same life landmarks but you are not each other’s person so you keep it pushing. But you can’t date a 35-year old woman who is exceedingly transparent about what she wants and say all this wishy washy bullshit about where you are in your life—which has literally nothing to do with what she is to you and is just a fugitive fuckboy excuse—and treat her resolution like it is a character defect. I will not have someone insinuate I’m some basic sheep who needs to achieve status symbol facebook-ready milestones to feel accomplished and on track with her peers, especially when my life choices have demonstrated basically the opposite. Like, fuck him so hard for saying that if I’m looking for something stable, I should look elsewhere. Give me more credit. I was a fucking academic myself before I switched career paths. I know what position I’m applying for. I’m not interested in some boring dude with a marketing career, pension, and picket fence. Even if I could live more comfortably that way or whatever.

And like what the fuck does he know about stability, anyway? Does he have any idea what my life has been? I’m 35 and I’ve never been able to support myself financially, which fucking sucks, and not because I chose a career that wasn’t lucrative. I haven’t had the foresight to know whether I’m going to be alive or seriously crippled, nevertheless whether my life will magically coincide with someone else’s. I worry all the time about the what ifs, like what if I got really sick and had to take more time off school and my record would once again be marred and I had to work my way up from the bottom, what if I was in a relationship and my illness overtook me and the person I allowed myself to depend on left me or even worse I felt guilty all the time about being a burden and spoiled things, what if I went on endless job interviews and no one ever took a chance on me because forever a liability forever alone. So if that was what I wanted, because I was so tired of being terrified all the time, he shouldn’t fucking judge me for it. Stability isn’t some superficial thing for unimaginative normies. But I don’t need the stability of a guy who has been at the same job for 15 years and will take care of me financially; I need the stability of knowing that a guy wants to be with me. That someone is going to be kind and consistent. And that’s a reasonable expectation.

Let’s acknowledge how gendered this “what you’re looking for” paradigm is and how much fucking gender privilege he has in our dynamic. He could be a total washed up loser at 50, someone who peaked at 25 when he published three articles, and still have impressive, stable 35-year-olds lined up to marry him. I don’t have that luxury. I’m basically expired in the eyes of society. And I don’t even have the main biological clock constraints that most women have since my reproductive future is on ice. It took me a long time to build courage to be emotionally honest and direct with men even when it’s considered deeply unchill and makes women unlikeable and leaves us open to accusations of desperation. I love Alana Massey’s essay Against Chill:

“Chill has now slithered into our romantic lives and forced those among us who would like to exchange feelings and accountability to compete in the Blasé Olympics with whomever we are dating. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean whomever we are “hanging out with.” Whomever we are “talking to.” Chill asks us to remove the language of courtship and desire lest we appear invested somehow in other human beings. To even acknowledge that there might be an emotional dimension to talking or dating or hanging out or coming over or fucking or whatever the kids are calling it all these days feels forbidden. It is a game of chicken where the first person to confess their frustration or confusion loses.

But Chill is not the opposite of uptight. It is the opposite of demanding accountability. Chill is a sinister refashioning of “Calm down!” from an enraging and highly gendered command into an admirable attitude.”

I’ve always said that NYC dating is a contest of pretending to give the fewest fucks—an emotional standoff. One must affect aloofness, with the stony precision only a true New Yorker can muster, to win. The catch is, winning means saving face but gaining nothing. And I’m fucking tired of that bullshit. When you fail to acknowledge your feelings for people, they can never be reciprocated and you are always left wondering what could have been if you only let your guard down and put yourself up for auction. Having feelings for other people is not embarrassing, because having feelings isn’t embarrassing, it’s a basic part of human nature and it should be celebrated! I’m not going to let some 35-year-old fuckboy, who has been waffling in a PhD program for 10+ years and refuses to make any kind of decision—because he is so chill that he just likes to “let things happen” and because he estimates mundane life transitions to be seismic shifts but really because he is paralyzed out of fear of failure—undo my emotional progress. Like Alana Massey says, “Indecision is not a noble virtue.” Being suspended in state of manmade uncertainty is untenable; it puts me and only me in a compromising position and is less fair than flat-out rejection. Imagine enduring an emotionally toiling trial to be hammered with the verdict of hung jury. It imbues every subsequent time we hang out with artificial importance, as if each encounter is subject to diagnosis and prognosis. It creates an unequal power dynamic, nominating him as the sole keeper of the terms and conditions. It prohibits me from acting based on defined knowledge. Again, Alana Massey, “putting labels on things are how people find the exit during a fire and make sure they’re adding vanilla extract to the cake instead of arsenic.” Refusing to define things is a fucked up form of control that passes for latitude.

 And, yes, women aren’t a monolith so it’s maybe plausible that he could find a woman who put the “let things happen” answer and isn’t lying. But most 35-year-old women aren’t just sitting around jerking off waiting for dudes to grow up so I’m guessing that like 95% of women who tolerate his bullshit are just lying because they’re scared of rejection and being completely alone. Which I’m quite obviously really not. And, by the way, “I like love and want it very much” or however it was phrased and “I just like to let things happen” aren’t fundamentally incompatible; they aren’t mutually exclusive. I’d like to be in a loving, committed relationship, but I’m not forcing things with people I’m not really into; I’m letting them evolve organically. Like, duhhh, if I wanted to play by the rules and cuff some dude or whatever you kids are calling it these days I wouldn’t have been single for the past decade. It isn’t as if I truly believe I’m undateable. Thought I definitely have irrational insecurities about that. A certain breed of nerdy boy, the kind who looks like his mom still dresses him, finds me enticing and would be proud to parade me around (what a score!). I could easily tone it down and be a bit less weird and snag one. But I don’t want to me less weird. I want to be with someone who is compatibly weird. Perhaps someone who thinks it’s clever and not gross that under okcupid’s “I spend a lot of time thinking about” heading, I put “Body horror grindcore band names like Frank Blood and the Fecal Occult.” Perhaps someone who thinks it’s precious and not creepy that under okcupid’s “When I die, I will” heading, I put “Live on as disembodied organs in another human’s body. A morsel of cadaver is lodged in my spine. It was listed on my itemized receipt as an add-on item, like a condiment. A morsel of cadaver, a dollop of sour cream. I want to be someone’s condiment.” Definitely someone who, like Dylan, invited me to an art show consisting of natural artifacts that had been destroyed in elegant patterns by invasive species. Definitely someone who, like Dylan, sent me an article about sacrificial bugs exploding then anxiously obsessed over the semen-evocative title.

I’ve been exceedingly flexible about what I’m looking for based on the person I’m presented with. From okcupid and the real world, I’ve acquired friends, and friends with benefits, and fuck buddies and fledgling romantic relationships, in many iterations. The next new person I hooked up with after Dylan, also named Dylan (lol), articulated his philosophy about dating in a way that was so succinct and neatly congruent with mine that I’m going to share it:

“What I’m actually looking for”

  • “Ultimately I’d like to find a long-term, committed partner. But along the way, I’m open to different types of connections depending on what feels right with a particular person, which could include more casual relationships, hook-ups, or friendships. Most important for me is open and direct communication about what each of us is feeling and wanting from one another.”

Dylan number two delivered: we communicated openly about what was working/not working and what we wanted. We weren’t each other’s person, but I didn’t feel misled.

Regardless of what I may be looking for or open to in general, my relationship with Dylan number one was never structured as casual; it was always set up like we were exploring the possibility of a romantic relationship. And he’s the serial monogamist, for christsake! One of the aspects of his profile that attracted me was his answer to the question, “Are you looking for something casual?” He elaborated, “I’m open to it, but not ideally.” A bit similar to Dylan number two’s sentiment, right? I gathered that he wasn’t seeking something random, fleeting, or circumscribed. And everything about our relationship up until the night of Lisa the Slut reified my assumption. See, the problem is, he spent three months acting very boyfriendly. There is no fucking reason to invest so much time in someone, and when you fuck up and are cornered into a “where is this going conversation,” suddenly drop it on her that what she was seeking was always implausible; you never respected her and were always skeptical of her genuine affinity for you. It’s fucked up and super dishonest and like OMG why would he do that!? What could he possibly be getting out of it? Of course I have no idea how he behaves with other women, I only have myself as context, but it seems to me like even if he is theoretically “open” to the possibility of having a casual relationship, he doesn’t know how to run that script. And speaking of someone whose actions and words don’t align (see: Lisa the Slut who made big gestures but didn’t express feelings verbally), it’s damaging for me to be in a situation with someone who acts like my boyfriend but lets me know in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t want to be that person, at least not yet, and thinks what I want is stupid. He can’t have it both ways; he can’t have me at his convenience and toss me aside when he feels scared.

So, no, I was never dating him because I’m some desperate geezer who needs to tie a man down before her ovaries atrophy and her boobs graze her waits, or because he fit some generic prototype of what a man should be so he’ll do!! I mean, on paper he’s fucking terrible. He’s been in the same program for longer than you’re technically allowed to be; he talks about his high school days like he’s some jock who peaked at puberty; he has no money and his monetary prospects are minimal even if he meets success and publishes an acclaimed book; his family is Catholic and doesn’t believe in women’s rights; he has a dad bod, is balding, and his face is objectively less attractive than mine (but I’m attracted to him and his body has always felt just right in a Goldilocks and the Three Bears way so who cares); and yeah then there’s that minor detail about not knowing where he’ll be in six months. But dating isn’t about meeting someone who ticks all the boxes (sorry to get all Carrie Bradshaw on you). It’s about meeting someone you like being with enough so you can get caught up and forget about what you’re “looking for.” And I’m stealing this from some internet stranger (named “Weaver”) on okcupid because it’s fucking beautiful (and if this is yours and you want to be credited in some other way or made more anonymous obviously holler at me):

“the thing about it is i say all this stuff on okcupid about what i’m looking for, but the truth is what I want is the person who’s the exception to everything

the person who makes the specifics not matter, the person with whom the future is not at all clear except that i know i want to share it with them

that’s part of what sucks, you can’t type character traits or values or life goals in a search, you kind of just have to do your thing till such a person magically appears

at which point they probably upend your whole deal

but that’s exactly how you know they stand out from all the rest”

The word “ineffable” comes to mind. But the thing is, even if you can’t verbalize the specific qualities that make someone that person for you, it has to be explicit that you are designating them that person, and they you. Dating is about meeting someone you feel solid enough about to allow them to destabilize you; it’s about picking the person THEN letting it happen. And, so, his complaint was ultimately ironic, because I was the one who was open to LETTING IT HAPPEN. Not because I was naïve about his flaws and didn’t have reservations of my own, and oh god did I ever have reservations. But because I don’t believe that living in what-if worst-case scenarios and halting everything with anticipatory anxiety without a plan for resolution is qualitatively more secure than jumping in the deep end. I guess it’s a tradeoff between traversing the unknown and slumping into shit, and after years of the latter the former seems like a better deal. It’s funny, but not haha funny, every time he referred to my being “vulnerable” with him, it felt viscerally wrong. Sharing my positive feelings for him didn’t make me feel vulnerable; it made me feel hopeful. After all those years, playing chicken made me feel cowardly and pathetic and like I was stunting my growth in the service of false safety; I used to joke that that I should hang a sign at the entrance of my vagina that read, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” At least that way it would have been clear to everyone that they were smashing against a wall.

 

SPILLED MILK AND MESSES MADE

Our conversation veers into past relationship territory. We speak of funny mishaps, situations that poked at our boundaries, those we we’re still reeling from and that left us permanently altered, those that might shape the way we approach and treat future partners—questions, regrets, and things left unsaid.

He tells me about the time he went on a date to some party with a spanking station, and how he told his date he’d catch up with her later since he wasn’t comfortable with that display and finds S&M to be hilarious rather than sexy. He tells me about how one ex was a black belt in some martial art and insisted on fighting him before every time they fucked. He goes into a great amount of detail about the Lisa/Sandy saga. The way he pitches it is concerning in his lack of insight into his contribution to the dramarama and his impulsivity in following a woman he’s hooked up with once to another continent for her work.

I find this willfully ignorant attitude to be common in people who practice “ethical non-monogamy” or are in “open relationships.” A note on the term ENM: my main objection is it’s supposed to connote moral superiority. Like, if someone lists “nonmonogamous” in a dating profile, it’s obvious that they aren’t advertising being a cheater. So prefacing it with a value descriptor is redundant and nothing but a holier-than-thou affectation. Many people in such situations, and I find people in the Burning Man community to be extreme offenders, cast nonmonogamy and its participants as more “enlightened” in their lack of possessiveness and nonadherence to social norms. And this is a tactic that sleazy men, who weaponize the term “sex positive,” employ to guilt/pressure women into doing things they’re not comfortable doing. Like, I can’t even tell you how many guys have tried to convince me that I’m a prude (lol) and unevolved as incentive to fuck them, as in fucking them was some shortcut pathway to feminist liberation. When, like, people are allowed to have preferences and honor their preferences and no relationship structure is boundless or imbued with morality; it’s how you practice within the structure of the defined relationship.

Which brings us to the next point about “ethical non-monogamy.” People often treat such an arrangement as an excuse to ignore multiple people’s feelings (usually in a gendered way). An absence of consent is inherently unethical but presence of consent doesn’t necessarily make nonmonogamy ethical. No one can predict how they are going to feel when their partner has sex with other people. Being hurt by or feeling complicated about the situation doesn’t make them the bad guy for voiding a contract and doesn’t mean they entered into it in bad faith. It’s never okay to continue in an arrangement that is actively and continually harmful to a participant under the justification that they voluntarily and mutually agreed to it upfront. Consent is a working document. Feelings change. Complications surface. And it is up to both parties to recognize that and adjust. I think this is a concept a lot of men struggle with, and I hear this resistance a lot in discussions about consent and sexual assault—our shitty litigious society is largely to blame for making men defensive and casting it as a black and white issue with a perpetrator and target. There needs to be nuanced discussion, beyond blame, about how sex is intense and people can be harmed and that harm deserves acknowledgment and repair even if the perpetrator of harm didn’t knowingly disregard or trample the person who got hurt. More on that in a future post.

Anyway, the way Dylan described this clusterfuck in which he and Lisa agreed to be in an open relationship but never talk about it (it was a “don’t ask don’t tell” joint)—and how he didn’t understand why she “had to” fuck so many dudes from tinder when they were having sex regularly and she was also having sex with her roommate Tony, and how it was hypocritical and unfair that Lisa was upset by the romantic nature of his relationship with Sandy, and how he had promised Sandy more even though it was never realistic because all they did was party together (“she was wild; sometimes she did a little coke”), and how now Sandy refuses to talk to him because she felt deceived, even though Lisa knew about Sandy and Sandy knew about Lisa so everything was above board and copacetic—made me fear for his ability to be accountable. Maybe I wouldn’t have found his behavior to be a red flag if he were 25 when this happened, because people do stupid shit when they’re figuring things out. Or even if this went down last year and he felt dumb about it and attributed his irresponsibility to acting out at the culmination of back-to-back long-term relationships; I consciously make stupid decisions too. But that was very much not how he processed it. He acted like wooah, some clusterfuck randomly befell him, a superchill dude, because women are wild and Sandy was the one who was doing all the drinking/drugging and Lisa was the one with fucking all the dudes. When in fact he was an active, heedless participant and left a lot of angry women in his wake. Reminds me of a quotation from Jade Sharma’s Problems (RIP, JADE):

“Behind every crazy woman is a man sitting very quietly, saying ‘What? I’m not doing anything.’”

Look, categorically I don’t trust people who are in “don’t ask, don’t tell” situations. An agreement to not discuss potentially heated/loaded things is the epitome of emotional dishonestly, even if it’s allegedly in the service of preserving situational honesty (i.e. we’re not lying about fucking other people because we’re transparent that it’s is an option). I mean, it was fine when Dylan and I were gauging whether and in what capacity we wanted to be together. But beyond that, there’s a slew of reasons why this configuration would have been impractical and unhealthy on a continuing basis. First, there is a clumsy concealing of details when your partner asks what you’re doing on a particular night and the answer is “hanging out with another dude.” Next, what happens if that other dude impacts you negatively and you need someone to talk to but can’t lean on your partner because “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Finally, how do you explain when complicated feelings from your sidedude expand into your primary relationship, and your partner attributes whatever weirdness is happening to the functionality of your relationship (i.e. thinks it’s about them) and erroneously questions how things are going.

I need a partner who can communicate directly and approach challenges head-on when things don’t feel quite right, not someone whose communication ends at managing terms of service and whose orientation is, Shrug, they signed off on it, what did I do? Like, sure, Dylan showed up when he threw a wrench in things, and he continued showing up very reliably. But was he doing just enough damage control to keep me around? By the end of the night I would start to worry that he reveled in ambiguity and discontent. He’d told me the night of Lisa the Slut that Lisa texted him every day and he wasn’t interested but didn’t say anything because she should be able to “take the hint” and he doesn’t want to “have to break up with her again.” As if he is doing her a favor by stringing her along and keeping her around on his terms, while ignoring her suggestions. I don’t want a relationship built on hints and suggestions; I need transparency. Fuckboys like Dylan refuse to act definitively because they don’t want their decisions to reflect badly on them. They fail to commit their dissertations to paper because they are afraid of failure. But inaction is a form of action, and it is neither commendable nor sustainable.

I tell Dylan about my most dramatic break up of all time, with that vengeful dweeb of a lawyer who threatened to sue me for intellectual property theft for posting his artless cruel emails on my blog even though I hadn’t included any identifying information and we don’t know any of the same people, since he had no friends. I referred to him in ubiquities like “28-year old Jewish lawyer,” i.e. 1/10th of Manhattan. When I initiated the “I’m not sure if this is working” convo, he told me the sex between us was “mechanical,” which hurt my feelings because guys always insinuate that I have no feelings and I wasn’t sure what he expected of me so early on in our relationship in terms of tone. As we ruminated on whether we could work things out, he told me that the first time we hooked up I gave him the worst head he’s ever received, and that he found sex with me “odd and degrading” since I gave him instructions and “fucking me was like his mom telling him to do his chores” (he hated his mom). It was so intentionally mean and outrageous that I thought it was funny and sent our convos to all of my friends before posting them for public consumption. Once things got contentious (what did he expect!), he concluded that I was just upset to find out “[I] wasn’t so good at the only thing that defines [me]”—ouch!

In fact, I was upset, not because someone didn’t think I was a sexual genius, but because I felt duped. J.D. Douchebagg, J.D. explained the reason he hadn’t given blowjob feedback, when I’d asked explicitly for it multiple times since things took longer than I’d been hoping, is that women are sensitive about that sort of thing. As if it was better to allow me to continue to humiliate myself and for him to accrue resentments than to speak up and attempt to correct things. Did he think I relished doing a bad job or I was such a disaster it was unfixable? The odd thing is, the way in which he formulated his complaints about how I like to conduct my sexual encounters (i.e. with instructions so my partner could get things right), indicated that he believed it to be a universally understood truth that my sexual style was revolting, and anyone who acted otherwise was only humoring me. He acted as if he were fucking me as a favor and must have enjoyed hoarding resentments to have something to hold over me when things deteriorated. But this was no favor.

Amazingly, I can find people who enjoy fucking me and actually prefer how upfront I am about my wants—it removes the clumsy guessing game of getting to know a new person’s body and reassures them I’m sincerely pleased. In withholding his gripes, J.D. Douchebagg, J.D. was keeping me from finding a mutually rewarding situation; it felt selfish. What really really bothered me about this situation, though, what shook me to the core, was how violated I felt. The entire time we were fucking I assumed it was mutually enjoyed (why else would he keep doing it!?); I don’t want to have sex with people who don’t want to have sex with me. I wouldn’t have consented to it had I know. Also, he told me he’d offered to cum on me and not complain about it—even though he thinks cum is “hot, sticky, and smells bad” and doesn’t want it anywhere near him—because he finds it rude when a dining partner directs “ew” at something he’s eating. But that’s not how sex works. Again, sex is a mutual experience; I can’t enjoy myself if the other person is grossed out by an act and putting up with it to please me. Cum is high on the list of things I’m unwilling to negotiate about sexually and the vast majority of men are not disgusted by their own semen; why should I stay with someone who is fundamentally incompatible when my preference isn’t so niche that it would require a fetlife account to conscript an appreciative partner?

And, quite obviously, I was horrified that a guy who I’d been having more than just sex with for several months considered sex to be the only thing that defined me. Sure, how I present my sexuality distinguishes me from most other women, but I’d like to think I’m worth more than that. Of course, by that point I’d assumed he was just being as mean as possible, but still, that part actually wounded me.

 

CYA SEX

It felt humanizing to joke with Dylan about milk spilled and messes made, like we were past the point of keeping up appearances. But as our conversation was winding down and the time I was supposed to meet up with Tabitha was bearing down on us, I was at a complete loss. We had managed to warm up to each other but obfuscate what we *were* to each other. Things felt even more distant and misaligned, like we were only separated by a semester in graduation dates but ten years apart in life experience. I couldn’t believe he had gone from “I thought we should talk about where things were going” between us and “I’m down for something more serious” to “All I can [commit to you] is to keep getting to know each other better” and [insert a bunch of fuckboy excuses I hadn’t heard since my early 20s here]. Seriously, he said this “getting to know each other” line like it was a great sacrifice and concession. Or maybe like when administrators “offer you the opportunity” to work for free. Why would someone instigate a conversation about how they wanted things to continue as is? Like, we were already continuing to get to know each other better, as was implied by our not ceasing to hang out, so what was the point of announcing it? In such a way as to get my hopes up. As to suggest something more was coming. And that I should stick around for it. I felt taken for a ride. Our relationship had veered out of focus.

I needed to recenter our conversation around its initial purpose: to define the relationship. So, as a last ditch desperate fucking effort, I gave him a projection for how things were going to go if they continued haphazardly as is. And, in retrospect, I’m horrified by how I framed this, because ultimatums are the death knell of relationships, but really a relationship is over once it gets to the point where you have to threaten to end things if someone doesn’t get their shit together and step the fuck up. I already happened to have a convenient point in time plotted out, though putting the pin in the map prior to our BIG TALK had been entirely incidental, as in, the opportunity to travel with Clyde arose when it did impervious to the trajectory of our nascent relationship. Way back when, I genuinely wanted to consider Dylan’s future feelings; now I had to redirect his attention to this arbitrary time limit that had to be set if I weren’t to get jerked around indefinitely.

When I’d fielded how Dylan would feel about my prospectively going on a vacation with another guy further along in our romance, I saw the junction of before and after as positive marker—something to look forward to, rather than something to avoid bumping into. I had it in my mind that if we were still seeing each other and things had progressed in step, I would be grateful not to be tempted by Clyde, or at least would be happy to not act on temptation. It would be a test of how magnetic my pull for Dylan, and the restraint seemed decadent AF. Honestly, when I’m having regular sex with someone I’m into, I’m not spending a ton of time fantasizing about other dudes or going out of my way to attain armfuls of dick. The restraint would be less about my deprivation in refraining from Clyde and more about the longing engendered by our geographical partition. I remembered how horny I got during my week in Colorado, when things were just starting up between us, and we texted about mate competition and not showering to prep for our future fucks. That anticipatory excitement would be compounded months later, once our relationship had developed, and the contrast between Clyde and Dylan was laid bare. I would spend a week scenting sex on Clyde, and it would remind me that all he ever was to me, was a fragrant topography of flesh and flora. I had chosen Dylan, even though his scent was neutral.

By the end of the evening, the idea that we’d be anything to each other by the end of the summer was remote and risky in a decidedly unsexy way. So I summarized the state of affairs as a stale practicality, “Just so you know, if we’re not in a monogamous relationship by the end of the summer, like by the time I go to Hawaii with Clyde, I’m going to be bored.” He got it. Then, fuck it, we were already so far gone, such a lost cause, I had to say the one thing I had meant to say before I was backed into this defensive corner, “And also… I really hate condoms.” It was a functional reason for monogamy, among all the nicer mushier ones. What I like about raw sex, besides it feels good, is that it accelerates emotional intimacy; I had been ready to entrust him with the power to hurt me and to let the pain feel personal and cut deep, as of the time we tripped on acid together and became neon gnomes in a domestic forest. Only now it was blatantly apparent that condoms were the least substantive barrier to our bonding. The noncommittal things he’d said and how they reversed my feelings for him nearly voided my request to ditch the protection. A month and a half from now, if we weren’t operating as a cohesive unit and I couldn’t be granted the privilege of having his trashdick directly inside me, I was super fucking gone. But what kind of loser even pines for this manchild’s trashdick? Has it really come to this, at age 35, in the year of our Lord 2019? Like, I’m begging for a dickin from some dude who “just likes to let is happen”!? Oh god. How humiliating.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to see him again, tbh. TBD. So I invited him upstairs. Because I was fucking horny and I’m bad at life and after all the shit he said I thought, just in case, might as well shake the last bit of sex out of him I can get. I’m pretty sure he saw it as conciliatory and I saw it as cya sex. But it wasn’t bad, and I didn’t feel bad about it, lol. He’s the one who pushed us into this perfunctory purgatory where everything was touch and go. And, for the first time with him, I felt wanted. There was a sudden sense of urgency, maybe because he knew I needed to change my clothes and slather on make up and head out soon, maybe because emotional tumult fed us and begged for tidy chemical resolution, maybe because he knew our connection was precarious and ephemeral and he needed to get it in while he still could. Whatever the reason, I didn’t give a fuck; I wanted his sloppy cock inside me before I broke character and came to my senses. He shoved me against the wall in my foyeur, hoisted me up, and deposited me on my back across my mattress. We grabbed handfuls of each other and unlatched our clothes. I swung my torso over the side of my bed to reach for the handle of my built-in condom drawer. “Hold on,” he said, and I popped back up, dropping the shiny wrapper on a deflated pillow beside him. “Do you wanna try it without a condom this time?” he asked. I couldn’t fucking believe it. Here he was offering me The Holy Grail of Sex. The one thing I had wanted. And now I didn’t even really. Because the circumstances had changed and I didn’t need to have unprotected sex with this trashhuman I was mega wary of and probs never gonna see again and it’s totes not worth the risk for a one-time thing. But how could I resist?

Everything else had gone so terribly. I felt dejected. And he could fix it in one fell swoop! It felt too good to be true. I flashed back to a few weeks earlier when we were on acid and he looked like a benevolent gnome with irradiated glints of hair and skin, and the finest features of his dick were accentuated and I wanted it in me so bad I could practically feel it prying me open as I tugged on it. I pictured myself pancaked on my back against the sheets, legs pinned together, with him looming over me. With each thick breath, his dick twitched through the arc of my palm, inhale and exhale, shallower and deeper. I couldn’t ask for it then, now matter how bad I wanted the approach to keep sliding before swerving to retreat, because we were on drugs and that would be an unfair consent process.

“Do you get tested, ever?” I asked, this time. Pretending to cobble together what play-acted as cautious but was more like resigned. Instead of the centimeters between us collapsing like an accordion, as our bodies pumped in concert, our timeline compressed to the present. “Yeah, of course,” he said. “Like when?” “After Lisa… So only Anna.” [As in, Anna was the only person he’s slept with that since getting tested.] “Me too. I’ve only slept with one person since I got tested in December. And only once. He seemed low risk and we used protection.” “Yeah, Anna and I always used protection too.” She was a “lesbian” before she dated him (though I’m not sure she identified as such since she’d dated a transman), so she seemed very low risk. “Okay,” I nod. “I’m fine with that. So, do you want to?” “Yeah, I mean, if you do.” I brushed the shiny wrapper off the side of the pillow, and mounted him. He flipped me over and really rammed into me. It would have seemed too good to be true, except, as Kevin Kelly says in 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice, “Anything real begins with the fiction of what could be. Imagination is therefore the most potent force in the universe, and a skill you can get better at. It’s the one skill in life that benefits from ignoring what everyone else knows.”

 

MORE THAN FAIR

I meet up with Tabby at the party and spill everything, how things seemed to be going well until he turned into a total fuckboy, and oops I had unprotected sex with him. Which I wanted, but not like that. We discuss birth control (she also works in sexual health), and how maybe if I were going to continue fucking him without protection, I’d switch to a more reliable method. Perhaps a NuvaRing, which only has to be dealt with approximately once per month, not daily like the pill. But I’m for sure not putting anymore effort into “getting to know him better,” as he’s projected for the foreseeable future. If he wants me, he can pursue me. I’ve had enough of taking initiative only to be hemmed and hawed and talked in circles until I’m dizzy. I ask if I’m totally insane and naïve for even considering seeing him again, and what Tabby tells me might be the tipping point. She says, “No. I’m really impressed by how much you’re communicating with someone you haven’t known for very long.” And it’s true, the communication does feel really good and calm and considerate. He doesn’t shy away and avoid conflict, which always ends up hurting me more in its implicit rejection. Showing up is a form of care within itself; it connotes that your feelings are valid enough to be worth engaging with. But here’s the thing: someone can show up repeatedly after they do hurtful things and field your feelings and it does show a certain amount of care and possibly even respect, but if they keep doing those things knowingly, it harms you regardless of whether they feel sorry for the pain they are causing. It chips away at your self-worth.

The next afternoon Dylan and I have the following conversation about boundaries:

Me: To follow up on last night, if you wanna keep having unprotected sex with me and you’re sleeping with other people, I don’t need to hear about it or want to hear about it, but you do have to use protection with them. Fair?

Dylan: More than fair. That was the first time I’ve had unprotected sex in a really long time. Like years. Just so you have a better sense of my habits.

Dylan: I assume that you’ll follow that rule too. Right?

Me: Ok good to know

Me: Ha, yes

Dylan: Also, I keep thinking about last night and getting really turned on

Dylan: Not just because there was no condom, but it overall felt really good for me

Me: I liked that you were a little more physically dominant than you normally are

[he’s such a natural bottom, groan]

Dylan: Noted

I can’t believe it’s so easy. Sometimes he’s so reasonable I’m stunned, and concurrently puzzled by how difficult past partners have been to negotiate with, how resistant they’ve been. Like really this is all that it took to get what I wanted? Unbelievable. Maybe this is how things look when you’ve found the right person. Or maybe this feels resolute compared to how wishy washy and fickle he was last night. Something doesn’t quite add up? Oh, and this is besides the point, but we’re not having sex with other people. I’m pretty sure of it. Which makes it even worse that he can’t commit to me.

After that, I scale it back and become a passive participant in our relationship. I have no expectations. If he wants to pursue me, that’s his prerogative.

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How to Convince a Woman that Sex is Bad: Part 2

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 about a NICU mother who jailbreaks her daughter “AMA,” 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 Dylan’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 (weirdly, I had never heard of them). Anyway, it all goes to shit tonight. Spoiler alert: Dylan is an alcoholic. This is the first time I’ll see him drink, like really drink, as in shovel a succession of beers down the hatch and chain smoke cigs extracted from others’ chest pockets, then lined up behind his ears so all his fuel was at his fingertips. You might wonder how I was so naïve as to have dated a dude for 3 months without becoming privy to his drinking (and smoking) 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, in close physical proximity. 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. He would forever after look at her as the one who got away.

The way he had introduced me to to concept of her in the first place was bizarre. He didn’t call her an ex; he referred to her as “this girl I travelled with.” And maybe it’s like when you’re talking about a trans friend and you knew them before the transition, so when you tell the story, do you use the name they were going by and the way they were presenting at the time, or their anachronistic chosen name and appearance? Except it kept happening, after I already knew who Lisa was and knew sordid details about what had transpired between them. He once explained how “this girl I lived with” (um, like a roommate?) had a dog with terrible separation anxiety because it was once a street dog in Central America (ding, ding, ring a bell now?) and couldn’t adapt to being left alone during the day. By then, he needn’t have referred to her with a general descriptor like “an ex;” he could have simply labeled the bad tenant “Lisa’s dog” and avoided ambiguity. I could never quite figure it out, how and why he chose to compartmentalize and parse their relationship past. Which I would find out, on this very night, was some sort of relationship present–apparently she texted him every day and he didn’t want her to but didn’t tell her to stop either? Because he didn’t want to “break up with her again”???

I had been bit nervous about meeting Dylan’s friends because I was afraid of being scrutinized; from what he’d told me 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 ended up saying a bunch of things that night that at very best implied I was *like Lisa* and, therefore, a source of suspicion. It’s almost the opposite of having a lot to live up to; I had a lot to live down.

By this point in our “relationship,” Dylan 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. He took a break from sipping on cigarettes his friends spotted him and squared his metal frame chair with mine to explain 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 DIDN’T CARE ABOUT ALL THE VAGINA SPELUNKERS PAST, WHY SHOULD HE!?

I got spooked. I thought Dylan 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. I didn’t want to become another significant other once removed referred to by general descriptors, as a mechanism of psychological distancing and diminishing. 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, and woke up to my nagging alarm, with crust collected in the pillow creases slashed across my cheeks and chin. 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 that 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–bad ones, that I feel compelled to express. 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.

Dylan: 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.]

Dylan: Let’s watch the movie!

Me: Ok

Dylan: 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. We had a grand old time playing 90s music trivia in the Uber van. 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, tears were about to burst forth like the Kool-Aid Man through a brick wall. And he was like, “Oh…? Oh, wow.” And almost looked like he might cry. 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.

Dylan: I know you’re busy during the week, so whenever you have the time and energy to talk let me know.

Dylan: 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?

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: 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]

Dylan: 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 Dylan and I did acid together, he told me he thought I needed a lamp in my room and he’d scrounge on the street for one. I thought he would forget about it; he said it when he was on drugs. What a weird thing to assume that you could just furnish someone else’s apartment, with a piece of curbside rubbish 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 to see a Japanese psychedelic band 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 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 Dylan 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–what if my feelings are wrong!), 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 wispy feathered bird foraging for twigs. I relayed this exchange to Dylan 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.” Which felt important in light of his earlier accusations about Lisa and his suggestion that he needed to hear a thing. Dylan’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, he thought I was “really sexy” and I always turned the overhead light off. 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 and indefinitely, which is kind of a big deal, TO ME. Sad but true, I’m so used to the fuck and dispose-of-like-trash life.]

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: 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.) He phrased it really flippantly like, “In December I broke up with Anna and got back on okcupid and guess how many people I’ve gone out with since… One! Just you. You were the first person I met. And my relationships keep getting briefer and briefer.” I felt dismissed and like our situation was precarious, but mustered up the courage to bring up what I’d intended to originally–that I would 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.]

Dylan: You really were vulnerable in saying that, and I’m sorry for not responding with the seriousness that you said it. That was shitty.

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: I’m crashing too. Goodnight

Dylan: 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…

Dylan: 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….

[In sharp contrast to my situation where he was, like, the 25th person I met since last being with anyone special, so I probably landed on him for a reason.]

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!

Dylan: 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.

Dylan: Like if you prefer text then I’ll just suck it up and text

Me: You can come over if you want.

Dylan: Ummm… does like now work?

Dylan: Oh, and for the written record: thank you for sharing all of that with me.

Dylan 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 fuckboyhood 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 Dylan 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?” The terms of their relationship were never explicit, and he never bothered to ask (likely, he never cared to find out). 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!”

Dylan 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. A few weeks later, he would get drunk and wistful at another going away party, and announce in front of his close friend, Brad, how much he appreciated how forthcoming I was in expressing both what I wanted and what I didn’t. He’d never “been in a relationship with anyone else so honest.” He always knew that when we had sex, I wanted it, or else I would push him away ” in no uncertain terms.” For him, knowing where we stood simplified things. I felt like I had successfully lived down my comparison to Lisa. During out BIG TALK, he also promised that he didn’t have sex FOMO. He didn’t like fucking randos; he liked having sex with one person and getting to know her better, like we were doing. 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 particular 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 sex was a frivolous youthful folly that I could laugh at now but had grown past. And I believed he knew that I really liked him, that he wasn’t just another “Tony.” Until we broke up and he kicked me where he knew it would hurt most. And all that I had given him felt “taken.” In the way that women are ruined, and slutty women are discounted as expired. 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, too intimidated to ask, they inadvertently turn themselves into one more flounder in a sea of flailing men who have failed and underestimated and distrusted, who have ignored what I’ve said distinctly with my words and my body, and then… poof, just like that, I really don’t like them very much after all. And we sputter and sink.

Posted in how to convince a woman that sex is bad: part 2 | Leave a comment

How to Convince a Woman that Sex is Bad: Part 1

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 1: DO YOU LIKE HAVING SEX?

“I want to fuck you like an animal// I want to feel you from the inside”

What do you do when someone dumps you (or, more accurately, when you ask him if you need to stop seeing each other and he angrily concurs) and willfully agitates the wound that has been primed by so many bitter, insecure men before him. What do you do when you’re an unapologetically sexual woman who lives in a world where men don’t like women who love sex, where men don’t trust women who love sex, where men don’t stay with women who love sex—because suspicious. What do you do when you realize the sex you were having was consensual but most definitely not mutual.

How do you come to terms with your station when you feel taken advantage of, like guys don’t mind taking advantage of girls like you, because your value is so low anyway there is nothing left to devalue. How do you make peace with yourself when you feel underappreciated, like someone defaced something beautiful and pure, putting a sinister spin on it. How do you keep trying when you worry no one will ever really like you, because underneath it all, underneath the woke façade, men don’t think sexual women are really capable of having feelings for men. I really had feelings for this particular man. I loved having sex with him because, well, I maybe didn’t love him quite yet, but felt very strongly about him and the sex was very good and seemed collective at the time, and I did think that I would grow to love him and we would grow together.

This is, in part, the story of the emotionally abusive mini-relationship I escaped from recently (though I still feel emotionally impounded), but mostly the story of the same shitty set up I’ve been struggling with for more than a decade. What do you do when your biggest baggage, your deepest insecurity, is entirely founded and confirmed recurrently? Because society is a swamp monster and everyone has internalized its very worst stereotypes and scripts, whether they align with our progressive values or not. What do you do when you’re scared to have sex because you’re scared to get hurt, and sex mostly seems like a liability for you?

All I want is for sex to be a commonality. All I want is for somebody to love me holistically. And that does not involve pitting sex and activities against one another, privileging minds over bodies, as if physical chemistry is lesser than or separable from or more slippery than everything else that fastens us. Right now, the prospect of fucking someone new fucking disgusts me. I feel cagey, I feel no connection to my body; I want to scratch it off me. I mash my palm into my clit and dip the tips of my fingers into my introitus and sniff them and search for myself, and I don’t smell me. How can I not disassociate from the thing that no one trusts, the thing that casts doubt on all else in its dominance. How the fuck can someone not trust something as truthful as a body.

***

I’ll start with our first mini-conflict of sorts. It was more of a source of confusion that needed clarification. It needed clarification because I liked him enough so that I didn’t want to let insidious feelings linger; what if it was just a miscommunication and not a cause for concern?

We met for the first time in late March. I was out of town and out of commission for a month because I went home to NYC to freeze my eggs. He kept in touch loosely. Impressing me with a suitably bizarre article, about sacrificial insect death for the sake of the nest, entitled “Exploding Aphids Plaster Holes in Their Homes With Bodily Fluids;” he was uninformed about my penchant for semen at the time and was worried that maybe I’d be horrified by the reference to “eruption” (mmmm).

We fucked on our second date in late April. I was still a bit traumatized by what had happened with the last guy (he went all incel on me: said I was being manipulative and “withholding sex” when I wouldn’t fuck him on demand). I was also a bit nervous about the state of affairs of my internal organs (they were still healing from my egg freezing procedure). The last time I’d touched myself before our date, it kind of hurt, even though it was technically a day or two after the 2-week post-procedural no-go period. It’s hard to talk about your masturbatory status on a second date. We prepared to say our goodbyes as we were nearing my building and I felt some ambivalence, so I asked, “Do you want to come over and not have sex?… Is that reasonable?” He repeated “Is that reasonable?” as if it were a ridiculous question. He accepted. Ten minutes later, I leaned in and straddled him on my couch. He then clarified, as one should, “What do you mean by you don’t want to have sex?” So I explained, I wasn’t quite sure what I meant, maybe sexual things just not penis-in-vagina sex, things felt weird in there last time I checked. And then we got more naked. And I was quite obviously way more aroused than I get on my own. So I was ready for him, internally, if not for myself. I asked if he wanted to have sex but be gentle. It was a positive experience overall.

The sex was meh, drunken sex is always meh. But he was respectful of my boundaries and followed my instructions and that’s most of what matters anyway. Then it came to me fucking myself. I asked if I could use toys, which is a test of sorts but wasn’t meant to be, and there was no hesitation, it was like duh of course whatever you want. And he exclaimed, “Oh god, that’s so hot,” repeatedly, as he watched me fuck my dildo husband, a threeway I tried to incorporate him into. It was nice and affirming the first two times then it felt porny, like he thought I was “performing” for him, barf. I wondered if I might have to get rid of him for objectifying me. But he cooled it over time and seemed genuinely appreciative of my ease with myself and my proactivity in attaining pleasure. He mentioned a bunch of times, later on, how refreshing it was (without using that specific word that people have used to describe me since I was 16). Other women had touched themselves while they had sex, but I had a higher level of “comfort.” That felt flattering.

The second time was equally meh and drunken and maybe the positions were a bit more ambitious and egregious than normal but I didn’t think much of it. After that, I went away on a weeklong vacation to Colorado, ate one weed gummy per day, and fucked myself to him constantly. Including on my 35th birthday, when I posted on-brand, coming-of-age tweets about how on the precipice of my cultural expiration, I felt more “unfuckwithable” than “unfuckable,” and I was spending my big day thinking wistfully about all the dicks that smelled like home (his didn’t yet). Even though we had just started seeing each other, the thought of coming home to him excited me. In anticipation, I told him to smell worse.

Me: [photo of tree destruction porn that I took on a hike with the caption “remains”]

Dylan: Ooooo I like that. I’m going to be super nerdy for a second if that’s cool. If you zoom in on the lower trunk you can see little hole. Those come from a borer beetle most likely. Seems like this tree had a pretty nasty infection. It’s probably what killed it.

Me: I was just gonna say the roots evoked the tentacles of the sea creature tattooed on last night’s waitress’ arm.

Me: So like speaking of gross animals… would you think it was weird if I asked you not to shower before the next time we fucked?

Dylan: I won’t even wear deodorant 😉

Dylan: I was also thinking I’m not gonna jerk off for a few days before too so I cum a lot

Me: So thoughtful

Dylan: “Speaking of gross animals”

Me: Is it weird that it sorta turned me on that you rationalized your girlfriend cheating by saying that monogamous monkeys are never really monogamous? I guess I was supposed to find it degrading that you were comparing woman to monkey. But if I were gonna cheat it would definitely be with a guy I thought smelled the best.

Dylan: Is it weird that it turned me on hearing that that turned you on? Hahahaha

Me: Is it weird that I start all my sentences with the disclaimer “is it weird that…”

Dylan: Yes, but I like it

Dylan: Weird in the good way

Dylan: But it also turned me on when you asked me not to shower. For the record.

Me: It’s just impossible to actually start to like someone if they dont smell like sex. Like how do scentless people even lure partners to a second time. They have no signature.

[He asked for clarification after I said something about someone I bumped into out of context not recognizing me because I wasn’t wearing my “signature” glasses.]

Me: Smell is sexual incentive. There are a number of “signature” things one could offer to incentivize repeated sex. And without that distinguishing factor a particular partner doesnt have much value because sex is everywhere. Style is a social signature. It doesnt have the same utility because continued social interactions arent as simplistic. Like no one is gonna make compromising decisions to hang out with someone because they look cool but ppl will do almost anything for another dose of a sexual stimulus that has been imprinted on them.

Dylan: I was joking. But also view the relationship between the relationship between sexual attraction and smell as different than you do. I think olfactory communication and it’s relationship to sex is super interesting. Not quite convinced it plays that big of a role in human mate choice as you do. But hey, you wanna smell me more? Consider it done.

[He later explained that monkeys have much more elaborate nasal apparatus than humans. And I explained that I’m obsessed with the MHC/HLA and human sexual attraction studies, and also the suggestion that humans may be able to distinguish arousal sweat, fear sweat, etc.]

***

When I got back from Colorado, he told me he was beat and wanted a pizza and movie kinda night. And, of course, we didn’t watch a movie, and the sex was fucking incredible. I mean, actually, it was a bit of a false start, he did such magic with his tongue that I squirmed away, afraid I was gonna cum basically immediately, then he stopped himself from cumming quickly inside me, and it was an unwelcomed disruption, but whatever dudes, the sex was fucking hot, we were sober, it was intimate. I wanted to bone more. And, well, I’m just gonna be a weirdo and put fucking dates on this so you get why his line of questioning (i.e. infusing doubt) creeped me out. May 19th was great sex part one. And May 28th was great sex part two. Part of what made the sex suddenly super excellent is we were juuust past the obligatory going out and doing activities together phase so we were sober and present and the other part is we were at his place so my curious playful puppy wasn’t constantly interrupting us, jumping up and down on her hindlegs begging to join us in bed, and his room was very small so we were sort of crammed together in such a way that forces figurative proximity and literal heat exchange. I think maybe we fucked one time after that, and then this fucking weirdass question…

Lying in bed post-coital, but not directly after, he pondered ALOUD, “Genie, do you like having sex with me?” I was stunned, because DUH. Duh because why would I keep doing it if not. Sex is important to me! I could fuck around a bit with a meh sex guy who I was already friends with or really wanted to become friend with, but I’m not gonna get in a relationship track thing with someone who cannot fulfill this very important function that is integral to my identity and well-being. Like, the main difference between romantic relationships and other relationships is sex. Sex is the distinguishing factor. Duh also because we were having great sex! At least I thought we were. Should I have been concerned that he wasn’t enjoying it as much as I was?

But wait, that doesn’t even make any sense, because on May 29th, a day after we had incredible sex part 2 on his floor mattress, we had the following conversation.

Dylan: [Sends me a bio of an artist we were planning to see together.]

Me: Cant wait to read. Also cant stop thinking about how good last night felt. [i.e. I’ve been jizzing all over my fingers all day; help I can’t get anything else accomplished.]

Dylan: That just turned me on

Me: Feeling you come inside me when I was still throbbing was the best kind of sensory overload. Goodnight.

Dylan (the next morning): I could feel you squeezing me as I came. So fucking hot.

Dylan: I’m gonna be distracted for the rest of the day now.

Me: Today I had the weirdest (faux)rectal exam ever. [As in, I have a fake rectum.] They made me supplicate on a church kneeler. Am I Catholic yet!??

Me: Did i ruin the previous imagery?

Dylan: When you were kneeling, were you answering personal questions so that it felt like confession? If so, you’re definitely closer to being Catholic

Dylan: Did not ruin the previous imagery though. If you wanna accomplish that you’re gonna have to sent the texts closer together

Me: Hahahaha

church kneeler

Get down on your knees… and pray

Pretty sure we’d just alluded to how we couldn’t stop fucking ourselves to each other so I guess the sex was pretty good? I craved more. So much moar. At very least.

So, May 19th and May 29th, hotsex, want moar. June 1st, we’re lying in floorbed together and he asks whether I even like that sex with him (WUT!?) June 4th, I’m still weirded out by this bizarre inquiry so we have our FIRST REAL TALK. I get all vulnerable and shit. I tell him about my insecurities. Wait for it.

***

Background info for this text exchange: we were having weird problems with sex positions, specifically doggy style. Dylan insisted that our hips didn’t align properly so he ended up squatting like a frog (instead of kneeling on his knees). He looked hideous, which I told him. We had also watched a series of campy documentaries about cane toads together [Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (1988), followed by its sequel Cane Toads: The Conquest (2010)]. 10/10 would recommend.

Me: I think I found the solution to our mechanical issue, ignore the muppet in the photo [photo of me draped over my “boyfriend pillow” such that my hips are lower than my shoulders, curious puppy photobombing]

Dylan: I don’t get what’s wrong with froggie style

Me: [tears streaming out of face emoji]

Me: When I googled “frog sex,” “frog security blanket” was the first thing that popped up. Is that weird?

Me: So, can you explain to me again why you asked if I liked having sex with you? I’m not trying to imply it was a bad weird thing to ask. Like I actually think many probs would be avoided by ppl being honest abt their doubts. It just kinda weirded me out?

Dylan: Did it weird you out more than the frog security blanket?

Me: I’m serious. It’s almost the opposite of the ominous thing guys always say to me but I still cant wrap my head around it.

Dylan: And yeah, it probably was a weird thing to ask! I mean, I’m pretty secure with myself so it wasn’t really coming from a place of insecurity. Mainly curiosity i guess? We talk about sex a lot, and as I’m learning some of your preferences I’ve been curious.

Me: So first of all I might regret sharing this later but the ominous thing guys always say to me is that they assumed their only value to me is sexual. It’s super triggering and makes me feel completely worthless and I dont think I’ve ever successfully recovered a situation in which that was stated or implied. But the converse is equally weird if not personally offensive.

Me: Like I guess I’m confused as to why you think I would continue hanging out with you in this context if i didnt like having sex with you. Sex is pretty important to me so if I felt meh about it and didnt think it would improve, I’d try to transition the situation.

Me: By the way I also strongly prefer sober sex. Like I thought the two times at your place were pretty incredible and the other times pretty average but subject to improvement. You’ve definitely adjusted to what I want. And I really appreciate that after you orgasm you ask, “what do you want me to do?” Its such a simple, direct, and effective communication that I’m almost aghast that not everyone says exactly that.

Me: For example, i was gonna tell you that I basically only like positions where our bodies are at 90 degree angles but you naturally kinda figured it out and stopped leaning forward so much without our having to do any math! Are there any preferences that have surprised you?

Me: Also… another reason your q seemed very weird is because youd just sent me that article about Alyssa Milano [about women going on “sex strike” to protest abortion laws] and said you thought it perpetuated (presumably mostly baseless) gender stereotypes. So it was like, “Does he think I’m trading sex for his attention/some other resource?” So confusing.

feminist sex strike

[A good friend of his had also posted Ijeoma Oluo’s take on Alyssa Milano’s misguided “activism” on her fb.]

Dylan: I’m sorry I weirded you out! Didn’t intent to trigger any negative emotions, and in asking I didn’t mean to imply that the only value we see in each other is sexual. The Milano piece I sent weeks ago was about bullshit stereotypes, so, no, I don’t think you’re trading sex for anything! I kind of want to laugh at that but you seem rom what I recall the context of me asking was during you’re recounting stories of bad sex you’ve had and making fun of the shapes of guys dicks (could you imagine if the conversation was reversed?). [Yes, I could, and it wouldn’t be the same because men haven’t been shamed for their genitals their whole lives.] I also have different experiences than you with regards to continuing to have sex with someone when the sex was below average.

frogging

Centerpiece at Tattooed Mom

He misinterpreted the “only value we see in each other is sexual thing” but we clarified my insecurities over the phone (I love dudes who wanna talk on the phone in the year of our lord 2019, like we’re not scared shitless of human contact). In case it still isn’t clear to you, fair reader, guys generally assume that I ONLY want sex from them and, for whatever reason, Dylan questioned whether I EVEN liked sex with him—so sort of opposite problems. The next day we discussed further via text.

Me: I meant to mention this last night, I think you’re one of the only ppl I’ve come across who answered no to that okcup q that’s something like “if you were in a relationship that would last the rest of your life would it have to be the best sex you’ve ever had.”

Dylan: And that surprises me about the best sex question.

Me: Why, bc plenty of ppl in LTRs have shitty sex so you know ppl are lying about the importance?

Dylan: I mean, I guess that’s part of the reason. I also agree with your explanation for why you put no. [That sex with different people is different and people aren’t rankable.]

Me: I also put no because I think my body processes pleasure as something with a ceiling. Like the last time we hung out at your place I was like this is the best I’ve ever felt. But there are obviously other times when I’ve thought the same thing. And it’s sorta nonsensical to determine which “best” was better. Since ppl have other personal qualities that are important. And like 50 percent of what makes me happy w someone sexually is how comfortable and safe I feel w them and how sexually accepted I feel by them, so what does “best sex” even mean? I usually file ppl into the broad categories of good, meh (like they’re replaceable/disposable), and BAD (like they did active harm to me or have the sexual skills of a 15 yr old because they’ve never accepted feedback.).

Dylan: The caveat is hilarious

Hello, my name is Genie and I used to be a sex blogger. I just admitted that sex is a feelings thing for me now, sex is better with feeelings, because I’m a haggard old lady at the ripe old age of 35, and I refuse to repent for it. I was *happy* with this guy sexually, and was mostly happy with him more generally. Until he said this weird thing about his slutty ex gf, which felt decidedly personal. It doesn’t feel any better when you hear it said about another woman, it makes you feel a kinship to her and feel defensive for her or whoever you imagine her to be. It’s still like, ‘Oh, right, men are trash. Even “good,” modern men judge the character of women by their sexual availability.’

Posted in how to convince a woman that sex is bad: part 1 | Leave a comment

Foodstuff, body humiliation, and fingering trauma

TRAUMA SEEPING OUT OF CREVICES

This guy who broke up with me recently (let’s call him Dylan) gave me a list of complaints (which of course should have been rendered while we were still together, when they were actionable), stuff that he assumed reflected my “sucking,” stuff that he assumed I wouldn’t be willing to work on or didn’t want to fix. What he didn’t get (because he couldn’t be bothered to put effort into understanding my preferences and, instead, wrote me off hastily), is that the origins of my reticence to do mundane, normal person stuff are trauma-based. As I explained in response to his categorizing my suffering as “some really terrible years when you got sick,” what he was “touching” wasn’t a few terrible years, it was decades of trauma. I got sick when I was 14 and never graduated from high school. I’m now 35. My life has been vastly different from most everyone else’s because of my chronic illness. It will continue to be foreign and it will continue to be a dividing factor in all of my relationships which fucking sucks. I will always feel like a liability.

For outsiders it’s hard to grasp that one could be unable to attend high school (and go on to attend grad school); for people who were raised working class it’s hard to comprehend that, to some, working is a privilege; for those who have only met me recently, during a period of relative rest and good fortune, it’s hard to estimate how monumental my illness has been—that it’s been a defining factor and organizing principle in every area in my life. It’s challenging to impossible to see all these things, it’s challenging to impossible to truly see me, because it’s technically impossible to see an invisible disability—directly.

But my illness comes out in everything, from how worn I feel after a day of work (which I am grateful I’m now able to take on), to how unwelcomed I feel in an academic environment when I read a course syllabus with built-in microaggressions, to how reluctant I feel to have a simple meal with a guy I’m dating. I have upsets and anxieties that peek out from every fold and corner. I accommodate these encroachments on my functioning via avoidance and alternative options. Only these seemingly imperceptible sidesteppings inevitably creep up on my relationships. And how I feel, when a guy I’m dating miscategorizes the impact of my illness or fails to recognize my peculiar behavior as stemming from and stepping around an underlying agony, is how could I have allowed someone access to my body who denies its history. How could I have let him touch me so deep.

EXCERPT FROM DYLAN’S LETTER TO ME ABOUT WHAT WASN’T WORKING

But I was having serious reservations about being with you, and it never seemed to me that you would really change anything. I mean, [conflict we had about him looking for a discarded lamp for my apartment without asking me if I wanted one] was so weird to me that god forbid I ask you if I can cook you dinner again (one time when I invited you and you declined you did so by saying “that sounds disgusting.” I realize that’s your sense of humor, but it also makes me think you suck a little)…. Those were some things that weren’t working for me. Others are more about some basic compatibility. I like cooking and cooking together, but you don’t know how to cook and don’t seem interested in even entertaining the idea of cooking together. Maybe I should have asked more directly or told you I was serious, but you laughed at me the one time I vaguely suggested it, so fuck it.

MY RESPONSE AS TO WHY I AVOIDED COOKING WITH HIM

My relationship with food is complicated, and not the kind of complicated that most women mean because society sucks and food is bodies and we have extra pressure about what our bodies look like. My relationship with food has 25% to do with privilege and 75% to do with my meat casing attacking itself and, by extension, my seeing food as the enemy even though there is nothing intrinsic to the ulcerative colitis process whereby food triggers an immune response. My relationship with food is illogical because trauma responses are illogical. Food takes up a prohibitive percentage of my day. I try to eliminate it by making food consumption as fast and divorced from the food making process as possible. I know if you knew what I am about to tell you, you wouldn’t say “you suck” in response to my rejecting your plans to cook with me. You don’t have to feel bad about what you said, but you do have to listen to what I’m about to tell you and accept that my reaction to your request has nothing to do with “fundamental incompatibilities” and everything to do with the fact that my body doesn’t function normally and everything about food is going to be arranged around that humiliation.

At first I was annoyed by your annoyance. Like who is Dylan to tell me that I should eat the specific food he wants to feed me. People have preferences! This reminded me of a boyfriend who bought me a necklace, which I accepted graciously when he gave it to me because the timing and effort he put into considering my preferences were thoughtful, and it resurfaced months later and I confessed to appreciating him but hating it, and he told me I should like it because it should remind me of him (his dick was in my mouth almost constantly, I didn’t need a trinket to remind me of him!) and my rejecting it was some fundamental rejection of him. The point of doing something nice for someone is not about the gratification you derive from it. At first I was annoyed by your annoyance but I was also like, Oh, I said something weird and irritating about food, that tracks. I also tortured the last guy I dated who wanted to cook for me, there was a lot of miffed miscommunication around it.

So, here’s the deal. I spend a large percentage of my time thinking about “ins” and “outs.” In the way that a diabetic would think about sugar and insulin. In the way that a bulimic would think about items swallowed versus items barfed out. You wouldn’t think I have massive issues around food because I’m not very self-conscious about the way my body looks, and when people think of women’s food issues they think of “superficial” aspects. You wouldn’t think I have massive issues around food because my eating habits are fairly unremarkable; I don’t eat obsessively healthily or “clean” and I don’t scarf down total junk. You wouldn’t think I have massive issues around food because it goes against the rest of my personality; I’m the girl who fucks dildos on second dates, I like my body. You wouldn’t think I have massive issue around food because I work with bodies all day. It is my literal job to convince people that their body functions are perfectly “normal” and perfectly “healthy,” and I even believe it; it is rare that a patient grosses me out. I’m humiliated by my body and humiliated by my being humiliated by my body. It is a compound issue. It makes me feel like a bad feminist. It makes me feel disgusting. You are interacting with someone on a very intimate level who deep down thinks her body is disgusting.

And look, if you want evidence of how deep this pathology lies, I’m sure you remember this story, because who the fuck would forget this story, why would I even tell you this story. I told you about how when I lived in Ireland and the food there was shit, I used to go to Tesco, the most revolting supermarket, and wander the aisles and immediately overwhelm and think about how I’d rather fuck myself than go grocery shopping and actually consider that I could masturbate instead of eat and it would satisfy me for at least 15 minutes. During that time period, I ate a lot of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough, even though it’s a mediocre flavor, because it’s uncontroversial. And familiar. And thoughtless. When I realized how much I dreaded the trip to the supermarket, I restrategized and started fucking myself before I headed to the grocery store, so bolting wouldn’t be as enticing. Unpleasant activities aren’t quite so noxious when you’re filled with endorphins. And once I was there I would fill my basket with Cully and Scully shepherd’s pie, which looks like literal shit with mashed potatoes on top, because if I was spending all my time contemplating “ins and outs” and what foodstuff would look like once it was transformed into shit, I might as well preempt it with repugnant imagery. What’s one more cardboard tub of shit when you have toilet bowls full!? It became a ritual, the whole supermarket masturbation racket. Which I could finally drop once I moved to Philly. Oh god don’t be one of the people on [contentious neighborhood blog] who yells about groceries and gentrification and racism, don’t @ me! [Food coop] is small and I can handle navigating it without any “prep,” yet I still purchase food there that requires minimal prep because food gives me cognitive overload. The whole supermarket masturbation thing is so weird and deeply personal and I said it for laughs. Because I like joking about the strange things that make me feel uncomfortable in and alienated from my own body. I seek acceptance. Thanks for accepting me.

I talk about my GI issues, and I’m getting a colon caterpillar tattoo for christ sake, and we can laugh about my GI issues to some extent, and it’s no secret, and I seek to confront stigma via lack of secrecy, but talking about my psych issues around my GI issues is a whole other level of personal, and we weren’t quite there yet. Though I did share with you that I went to an IBD psychiatrist who referred me to an anxiety clinic. So we were *almost* there. Another aspect of “we weren’t quite there yet” is talking about the realtime state of affairs of my intestines and how exactly my anxieties around my GI issues versus my physical digestive differences manifest in my daily habits. I’m extremely self-conscious about my shitting problems. I hated that when we were on acid I shat literally about 20 times. I love that in your house the bathroom is on another floor so you never have to hear me shit. The last time a guy tried to cook for me, all I could think about was that we would eat and then he would want to fuck me right away and I’d have to be like hold on let me process and shit this food out first, there is no room for your dick inside me rn. Once we brought take out food back to his place and he made some snarky joke about how I was gonna shit in his apartment then go home, and it wasn’t his fault because he didn’t know how self-conscious I was, but I found it more embarrassing than funny. Instead of getting a toothbrush in [his] bathroom, I asked him to purchase me more substantial toilet paper as [a] token of his devotion; you have substantial toilet paper already—good job! I’ve shat in your apartment and you’ve shat in mine. We haven’t concealed our body functions from each other. Organizing food and toileting for me is such a big deal that I remember that the time we had pizza at [local restaurant] together I debated whether I should shit there or in your apartment and decided that I might as well wait until your place because by that time all the food would be ready to come out at once. Do you remember how you organized that day around eating and shitting? Probably not, because it’s mundane for basically every other human.

When I think about cooking together at your place, I think about shitting at your place. I think of the possibility that you might want to fuck me after I’ve just eaten. I think about talking about the foods you are making for me and how they will sit in my stomach. It is nonsensical because regardless of whether we eat at [local restaurant] or at your place, it will happen in your presence, but when we’re at your place cooking, that means my evening is more centered around food and body functions and it feels somehow inescapable. Now, I know logically that you don’t actually care about my bathroom habits and you’ve been nice about recognizing food that I can’t eat and understanding that it is a medical issue and not just entitled pickiness. I know you’re not squeamish and my lack of colon doesn’t make me any less attractive to you. You recognize women as humans. You come from a family of sisters and duh women shit because humans shit. I know that [] my lack of colon doesn’t make you want to *fuck me* any less. You kind of like my weirdness and grossness, I think. Nevertheless, I’ve been socialized as a woman and will never escape the harmful social norms I’ve internalized. Even if we lived in a society where no one equated concealing body functions with femininity, and no one was concerned about being unladylike, I would still be anxious and self-conscious about this stuff.

I spent every day of my life for years living in well-founded, palpable fear that I would shit my pants. Even if you are alone at home, the insight that you have no control over your bowels is mortifying and humbling. It sort of bothers me that you’ve brought up shitting in bed with [your ex who you travelled in South America with] so many times, which of course you think is funny, because it is for a normal person. It felt really ableist; it felt like a humblebrag. [Like why would you keep making jokes about your “accident” to someone who for years wasn’t able to control their bowels. To commiserate? You think I can relate? It really just diminishes what I’ve been through.] Even though I can generally take jokes at my expense, if I ever shat my pants around you it’s something we could never ever joke about. It’s something you could never tell your friends about. Which is sort of besides the point because there is basically a zero percent chance of me shitting my pants now; I have physical control. But I still think about it constantly. My day is organized in increments around when I last shat, what I’ve eaten recently, where the nearby bathrooms are, how hydrated I am. The thing about trauma, is that even when the threat is removed, the fear lingers—it rears its head at inconvenient times; it bleeds into areas of your life that are otherwise benign. When we started seeing each other, I told you I didn’t sleep with guys I was fucking because I’m a terrible sleeper, which is true, I’ve always had trouble falling asleep and another human exacerbates the situation by adding an extra stimulus. Pretty early on, I started liking the idea of waking up next to you and *asked* for you to stay over. You are a good, non-tumultuous sleeper. You were a calming presence. I was comfortable enough with you so you didn’t seem like a foreign stimulus. But I had this big problem that prevented me from falling asleep. I’m usually unable to fart; it’s physically impossible for me because liquid shit propels itself with air backlighting it. Lying on my stomach to go to sleep is the only time when I can fart, something about the gravity [settling] and air rising, my abdomen compression squishing [the air] out. Except, I can’t fart with you in my bed, so I had to get up to go to the bathroom periodically and had tons of anxiety around it. I know, this is more than you bargained for when you invited me over for dinner. I am more than you bargained for.

Food was complicated even before my body collapsed. I told you I had an eating disorder when I was younger. You probably are rolling your eyes at the dumb little rich girl entitlement of having an eating disorder and are gleeful that I got what was coming to me. Once I got better and stopped investing my time obsessing over the math of food, I couldn’t spend time thinking about food prep anymore. Even though I am fully recovered and no longer have distorted cognitions around food and body image, habits linger. You noticed the way I handle garbage is peculiar and sometimes people who are familiar with eating disorders comment on the method by which I disassemble my food. Even though I am fully recovered, regimens around food (such as measuring ingredients) can be triggering. Eating disorders are ritualistic and so too is cooking. I know other people who had eating disorders also try their hardest not to engage with food and totally tune out when people offer recipes. There is a reason I eat ice cream, bananas, and peanut butter; it’s thoughtless and marginally nutritionally complete. A more commonplace reason I don’t cook is that cooking when you’re single is inefficient and unrewarding. It’s just a chore.

I thought back to what I could have said to you that you thought might be a reflection of my weird sense of humor, and I didn’t just say “Ew, gross.” I said something about cauliflower’s lack of nutritional value and high “fart index.” I was trying to make light of something that isn’t funny to me. I would have cooked with you, Dylan. I would have cooked with you if I knew it was important. But since I didn’t know that, since you didn’t tell me, it was easier to make weird jokes about cauliflower and farting. I’m sorry I suck. You keep saying you like my honesty and how direct I am about what I want. When we were with [your friend] at [neighborhood bar], you said you had never been a relationship with anyone else who was so honest before, and you appreciate that you always know when I want to have sex, because otherwise I would shove you off in no uncertain terms. But there are some times that you don’t want me to be disagreeable; this is apparent now. And you never expressed when those times are. We never had established a mechanism for “I don’t want to do this, but I will because it matters to you and you matter to me.” You avoided supposed conflict over things that I could have easily rallied around and that wouldn’t have been a big deal. And you accrued resentment toward me for not attending to your unstated needs. This sucks.

Posted in foodstuff, body humiliation, and fingering trauma | Leave a comment

Semen Achieved

Martin Shkreli is the philanthropist who keeps on giving. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s harness humility and say grace for the substance I am most thankful for: semen. Not his.

Below is a conversation I had with The Man Writer featured in Keepsake nearly a year and a half before Martin became wayyy more famous than him. (Debatably, than he.) For those of you who patiently pined to know what dating/fucking The Most Hated Man In America was like, here is your bread and manbutter.

The style is in the substance. The style is in the substance. Chant with me, my friends and frenemies and straight up enemies. And ex lovers who fear me, and ex lovers who wanna be me.

Semen Achieved

(August 24th, 2014)

In which I fuck and suck a preacher’s son for his glorious bounty.

Red Semen Achieved 1

Red Semen Achieved 2

So bizarre. Before Martin, I always assumed shower meant automatic cleanup. And presumptive discretion.

Martin Business Week Article.jpg

Red Semen Achieved 3

Always figured he bought the rights to oxytocin nasal spray, Novartis’ Syntocinon, so when he failed to please women he could placate them instead.

Trouble breastfeeding. Trouble sucking women dry.

Hashtag settling.

Red Semen Achieved 4

Red Semen Achieved 5.jpg

The novice Peter North I’m referring to is The Minnesotan from BJ Haterz Need Not Apply.

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**my college boyfriend

This refers to the guy I dated senior year of college. I talk about him in The Series of One-Oh-Eight and  Hippies Think Bodies are Beautiful and The Inevitable Downfall of a Sexual Narcissist.

Wonderfully weird eyeball vagina youtube video.

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Red Semen Achieved 9

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Only someone who has watched a lot of porn would specify such time intervals.

Red Semen Achieved 11

Hashtag nosedrugs.

We just say sex.

How divorced are we from animal instinct that we have to specify cream pie. I weeeeep for society. Civilization and its motherfucking discontents.

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Hashtag younglove.

Brains Out

(May 17th, 2014)

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Red Brains Out 2

Hashtag blessed.

 

 

 

 

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The Champagne and Cocaine Crowd

We are to meet up at the 6 stop on 86th and Lex, focal point of my adolescence. Spence, my snobfest all-girls elementary thru high school, located just a few blocks away off Museum Mile. Every time I come back, I get all sorts of feels. Memories. Hormones. Emotions. A momentary relapse into being pimple-faced and metal-mouthed, perhaps, or maybe it’s the sensation of my instincts welling up behind my internalized surveillance. Pressure. Suppression. The entire act of being among them is one of self-monitoring, sucking in one’s stomach, literally, figuratively. I never belonged there, arrived via ERB scores, no blue blood coursing through my veins. My parents, impervious to the power of connections and influence, harbored a haughty disdain for those with social aspirations, never ventured to meet the Right People; ergo, like Odysseus, I was Nobody. Stood no chance at a social standing. Sink swim or ride, it’s a forced choice proposition if you don’t have a Hamptons or Connecticut house; if you summer in the city and live East of Park Avenue year-round; if your parents haven’t hired personal shoppers to dress you, tutors to do your homework, and drivers to usher you from appointment to appointment; if they haven’t started a lifestyle company in your name to pad your college apps. What are you to make of yourself, if you haven’t come packaged?

Nodding, manners, smiles, silence, sliding in where an opening clears: survival skills I assimilated early on. My existence in their social sphere so tenuous, I misspent my youth quaking in fear of being reprimanded for a petty faux pas, nevermind channeling the precocious sophistication to know what “faux pas” meant. Two years ago, emerging from illness, I staggered into a Spence Young Almuni Event reflexively. Reminding myself of who I was, once, and never wanted to be. Planted firmly on my traction biker boots, I assumed the defensive mental posture of subway stance, one foot in front of the other, knees slightly bent for instant transition. Staring steely-eyed from the rim of my basin-bellied wine glass, insulating myself against trips and spills. This time, instead of fading into a wallflower corner, paralyzed at the sidelines of popularity, simultaneously hoping and not hoping that someone would ask me to dance at Goddard Gaieties, I found myself in the whirlwind of a receiving line with nary a firm handshake rehearsed. Gracefully greeting young women in tidy yuppie costumes, the grown-up iteration of pleated uniforms and pennied pleather loafers. Once record-breaking rebellious, jeering the authorities with their back talking bravado and brash refusal to comply with the school dress code, The OG Preppy Handbook, now they were muted. Understated black silhouettes flanked by men’s last names. From holding convictions, to part of the system.

Medically quarantined, I had become a source of intrigue. Chronic disease disaffect beckoning with understated mystery. You look great, they said and meant it. They, who worked in marketing and fashion merchandising, repping lifestyle brands by way of Harvard Business School—the PR-pitch friendly, modern-day Mrs. Degree. They wanted to know how I had lost the weight. About the curly hair. The clean skin. Pesky bacteria be damned, eradicated with every last trace of my homely existence. Except for my impetus to appear before the High Court for the brutalist of judgment. The girl who would not fail to show up, the girl who would not shut the fuck up.

That conquest impulse zipped me into my Betsey Johnson dress and paraded me down to the elite underground. Whether they lacked the taste or social acuity eludes me. Either way, they lavished me with praise for my inexplicable weight loss, knowing full well about the glamorous eating disorder I had struggled with as a shy, skittish adolescent. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Swallowing a bite of food, an act of political defiance more powerful than exercising one’s right to vote, in our closed circles. “Chemo drugs,” I deadpanned. “Saying goodbye to my colon,” more specific. My panacea punchline. My dirty little secret. My swath of lucky bitchdom. Mine.

Sincere enough, were their condolences and well wishes. Once they realized the faux pas they had committed—judging a bookish girl by her cover, caught without the right platitudes, no ad copy to cover nuance. Perhaps I would have reveled in the influx of attention, perhaps I should have, except for being plagued with wonder: Would they have been equally apologetic if I had emerged before my time? Dared to look disheveled in public? Only a year before I had dropped out of our ten-year high school reunion, pregnant with steroids, tethered to a toilet, unrecognizable in face and demeanor even to myself. It wasn’t the fat, per se. I wasn’t cute chubby like a tween anticipating a growth spurt, unbuttoning my low-rise jeans for burger and milkshake breathing room. The weight had distributed unevenly and cruelly: depositing in my cheeks, chin, and stomach; skipping my chicken limbs entirely. Triple chin, unsightly folds, I was packed to the brim like Mama June in Here Comes Honey Boo. A slouchy kangaroo pouch strapped to my middle portion where a minimalist belly used to reside. Its defiant squatter rights foreshadowing the installation of my sloppy ileostomy bag, swinging pendulous, uniboobed down with tube top spandex.

If I hadn’t felt bad enough about the utter defilement of my form and function, I was doubly guilty for caring, having internalized the toxic social norms for which I derided the compulsory perfectionists of the UES. The double bind of being a woman: valueless if you’re fat or ugly; frivolous, even unfeminist, if you take pains to attend to your appearance. It wasn’t vanity, exactly, that kept me indoors, under covers, solitary; it was the visible manifestation of a body slipping away from itself, it’s impertinent refusal to cooperate. The conventionally attractive privilege I had been born into no match for the capricious sac of skin, bones, and flesh I was becoming.

Just a year after my courageous comeback, I marched through TriBeCa clunking down with confidence, on my way to the annual Young Alumnae Party at a “seasonably inspired” restaurant featuring “hand-crafted” cocktails. Only to discover spring collection 2013 had been rotated out of style, washed up with last year’s news cycle, acid-washed jeans, ankle boots. Arriving at the unmarked entrance fashionably late, a pack of girls I hadn’t seen in over a decade, sprinkled with a few who fawned over me last year, passed me by with purpose, barely a whiff of acknowledgment. Like the pretty pony with blinders attitude you’re instructed to emulate in those Stranger Danger school-wide assemblies everyone sleeps through, backpacks as pillows, light as a feather stiff as a board. No longer a source of thinspiration for them, miraculous transformation debunked, once again, I had become inert. Will never be Tai from Clueless, not even some rich girl’s “project.”

Approaching various groups, angling to break in. My wine glass tipped toward their laughter and language, my noise muffled by the bad acoustics. The awkwardness of being ignored as an adult in a room full of people you know, on the outskirts of eye contact. I reverted three decades to an out-of-touch parent in a sitcom, tin can telephone pressed up against child’s door, shut off from communication. Pretending to loaf into an amorphous group, an emphatic gesture of impression management, I scrolled through my phone and checked my texts, repeatedly, as if to indicate I had someplace better to be, I knew people who enjoyed my company, even requested it. I knew people. Welp! Deflated, yet somehow still taking up too much space, I resigned to give up and move on. Turning toward the exit, tracing the flight of stairs up and out, I was met by a familiar and friendly pair of eyes: Lana nodded me over. After the wave of relief settled my shoulders, stature rising like a turtle’s head popping out of its shell, my first thought: What was her transgression? Being black, no doubt. No other explanation for her sitting alone, barstool balancing. Also searching. Or maybe she just hated those bitches as much as I did.

We commiserated about the glaring lack of food at all Spence events. Miniature cornbread with a dollop of cream cheese, the skimpy appetizer du jour circling ironclad cliques. “Artisanal” what rich people call food they appropriate, to justify its consumption, make it quaint, those adorable poors and their staples. Put a toothpick flag in it.

“Next time I come, Ima shove a sandwich in my purse,” she joked.

“Don’t even be discreet about it. Flaunt that shit. Something needs to be done.”

“Seriously, with all this free booze. They’re tryna get us drunk. So we donate.”

“As if I have anything to donate. Contribute to these people,” I chortle out of my noise, more respiratory depression than postnasal drip. “What. Tha. Fuck. Let’s bring a meat platter,” I up the ante. Raise you a baloney to their BS!

Meat platter, “charcuterie,” as the champagne and cocaine crowd designates it, dignifying grass-fed Oscar Meyer cold cuts apportioned into infinitesimal bits. For placement on gluten-free crackers enriched with flax. For those who are “sensitive.” Those who didn’t need to attend high school, because they had magazine internships that turned into real estate jobs, because they had buildings named after them before they were legally old enough to change their own name. Who needs sustenance, anyway, when everyone knows rich people harvest their energy from Soul Cycle. Shovel refined powders up their nostrils with Quinn Morgendorffer really cute pores, but hold the bread, eating paleo is like eating consciousness.

Forget about cornbread. That’s for savages. Coarse, unrefined.

“Might as well serve crumbs, and call it caviar,” we both laugh. Like we are old chums. Though we first connected at an event a few years ago. When we felt left out.

Cocaine. Crumbs. Cocaine. Crumbs. Let us have cake. (But not in public.)

The best part of being an outsider: some people make you feel like you belong. To a secret society of underdogs with our own outreach handshake, a strict admissions policy: Don’t be an asshole. Acknowledge others, as if they exist. As if they know what faux pas means. Even if they opted out of taking the language of educated young ladies, even though they don’t have any hired “help” to direct in Español.

“All that tuition money and they give us a side to Kraft mac ‘n cheese. Beg for our continued ‘support’ and frown upon panhandlers, obviously. I never even graduated from high school,” I paused. Punctuated with a hearty laugh. Raised my puppy eyes toward her for approval.

“Do they even know?” she asked, intuitive.

Just nod if you can hear me…

To be noticed for the wrong thing, not to be noticed, to stand out, to be invisible. Worse than being reprimanded or eliciting a glare is to be shunned. The codified behavior that Upper East Siders adopt to connote “not me.” Traveling in packs, standing in tight circles, backs blockading the masses of plebes, pretending those who fail to stay in the subtly suggested lines aren’t worth acknowledging. Always poised, always polite, always proper, they simply look right through you. Eyes fixed, nose up, hair flip. Dismiss.

To go back to the Upper East Side is to be under constant surveillance. Simultaneously invisible. The paradox of scrutiny. Pressure. Suppression.

Posted in champagne and cocaine crowd | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

10k Q & A: Part 1

YOU SEEM SO OUT OF CONTEXT IN THIS GAUDY APARTMENT COMPLEX

This is like hearing a sample of a sound bite of a conversation and coming to a conclusion. We do not know what lead up to this exchange or what followed… this could very well have been a contentious exchange between the two that she instigated and he turned it into a sarcastic sexual thing.

Oldnewbie on reddit

Yes, for the sake of brevity and relevance, I only included one chuck of our most recent correspondence. If you must know, the rest of our faceboook exchanges consisted of his persistent and unrequited attempts to see me, his requesting a “three-way” between his cats and my cat, his claiming I like to pretend I’m different since getting a new boyfriend but he knows I’m still just a slut, and his refusing to acknowledge my new boyfriend as legitimate impediment to my fucking other people. Still think I’m selectively editing to my advantage and his detriment? If you read the rest of my blog, you’d realize it’s curated, as any distillation of a large body of information must be, yet not especially flattering. Deliberately not so.

“Note the ‘I know you’ve got nothing better to do’ part which is him indicating she has no life.”

Oldnewbie on reddit

LOL. If the archives of my blog are any indication, I beg to differ. Assuming having bountiful reserves of men at my disposal constitutes a life. “I know you’ve got nothing better to do” is a figure of speech, a weak and transparent attempt at persuasion. A gentle neg.

 

KNOCKOFFS

 “Buying counterfeit bags is illegal.”

 —Broad City

As much as I want to join in on the circle-jerk and grab my pitchfork, keep in mind that Business Insider only said: ‘A woman claiming to be Shkreli’s ex-girlfriend said he sent her a series of Facebook messages…’ So this entire conversation is still unverified and can very easily be faked. Don’t rule out the possibility that this “Katie” person is just trying to get her blog numbers up. All because Business Insider ‘reported’ on it does not mean it is a verified source.

naxypoo on reddit

Of course you wouldn’t believe a woman. Especially a slutty one. Girls who like to fuck can’t be trusted. Are pathological. How many women had to speak up and how many men needed to be vocal in their support before anyone believed Bill Cosby, wholesome-as-pie sitcom dad, is a serial rapist… Oh hey, got you to look: feminist agenda forwarded! And my boobs are real too.

FYI, Business Insider is not Perez Hilton. While screenshots were the bulk of the materials I sent them, I also forwarded an email from Martin’s old work account in which he begs for my continued acquaintance. Can one fake a forwarded email? Maybe. Doubtful. I definitely don’t have those kinda skillz. Got my high school equivalency diploma from the NY State skool of hard knocks, after all.

I will henceforth only respond to “The Woman Who Would Give Her Name Only As ‘Katie.’”

 

DEFECATION

Oh god. Does she know what a defamation suit is?

hip_hop_opotimus on reddit

Yeah, bro. It’s when you tarnish someone’s reputation by spreading lies. I’m insulated against such a charge because truth. Ya know, freedom of press. ‘Murica, fuck yeah.

 

IMPLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY

“What I’m having right now is an inappropriate physical reaction to my total joy for you…”

–Hannah Horvath, Girls

As with the other accusations against him, Shkreli dismissed Katie’s claims about his behavior. He told Business Insider “we don’t know the context” of their conversation. Shkreli also suggested the screenshots posted by Katie could have been “fabricated.”

“You can see it, but perhaps there’s some, you know, back and forth that you don’t have on an email address or something,” Shkreli said of the screenshots posted by Katie. “Maybe I’m referring to something else. You know, it’s possible that it’s not what you think. It’s also possible it’s fabricated. I don’t know. I don’t have them. It’s from 2009. It’s a jilted lover or vice versa. It just doesn’t seem that meaningful.”

—Business Insider, The Hedge Funder at the Center of the Drug-Increase Controversy has a Long History of Alleged Bad Behavior

I’ll defer to wise reddit commenters for this one:

That reaction, and the details from her blog post make me pretty comfortable believing that this is a genuine exchange between the two.

Is it possible that it’s faked? Sure. But think about the verified, true things that you know about his behavior and demeanor. Does it seem likely to you that this is faked?

Now, I feel it’s poor taste to blog about such an exchange. I mean, I think most people have had conversations with [ex]significant others that would be interpreted as wildly inappropriate if presented to someone… who wasn’t familiar with the relationship…

Still, I feel like the exchange itself is real, and it’s her life (and blog) to post about, and she pretty clearly feels like he’s a scumbag, which is hard to argue.

James_Bolivar_DiGriz on reddit

I appreciate his point that, though he believes sharing details about a past partner to be distasteful, (every non-fiction writer’s plight,) it is my story to tell. Too often someone who has interacted with a famous or would-be famous person gets shafted into the opportunistic “proximity to fame” category, when they are compelling in their own right. Forever after they are recognized as an accessory to another’s story, instead of the subject of their own. Is it sleazy to bask in someone else’s spotlight? It takes hustling and thriftiness to get one’s material together on another’s news-cycle clock, that’s for sure.

Yeah, I think the normal person’s reaction to a false accusation that they tried to pay 10k to lick someone’s genitals would be to laugh in the face of the person confronting you and just say, you know, obviously something so insane could only be fake.

The fact that he can’t just deny it like a normal person is a pretty big flag that, yeah it happened.

hithazel on reddit

Nailed it. Sorta like how when my Lit-Theater college boyfriend reacted with rage, instead of amusement, when I solemnly inquired as to whether he miiight be gay, I interpreted it as a confirmation rather than a denial.

 

I THINK HER NAME IS LUCY BUT THEY ALL CALL HER LOOSE

She’s clearly a class act as well.

RedeemingVices on reddit

If you believe that sex—or recreational sex—is trashy, then I’m as trashy as they come, gladly. Thankfully I don’t believe in the illusory correlation between sex and social class. Check your self-righteousness.

 

THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION

Probably has an immaculate box.

—hambonejackson on Barstool Sports

Nope, not if we’re going by porno standards of attractiveness. To be a traditional (mainstream?) porn star, I’d be required to book a date at the salon for a labia trim, since sexual desirability for women is typified by minimalism, coyness, hush hush. Then again, Playboy is no longer hosting nudes of women so altered with plastic surgery, airbrushing and artifice they no longer resemble living breathing human beings. Awaiting the headline: Humans Prefer to Wank to Life Forms Immediately Recognizable as Human Beings than those Styled as Real Sex Dolls. All of this is to say, I have big, flappy lips that make smacking sounds when happy. If you wanna be “vagina swallowed” as Ilana from Broad City would phrase it, I’m your gal. Messy pussy as a boutique sex act, mmmm. If you wanna get high fived for scoring a perfect ten, nice ‘n tidy, not so much.

You sound like a gem, referring to a woman’s interactive body parts in the most objectifying language possible. Box: a receptive object used to stuff stuff into things. Snoochie boochies!

I need a visual. Is she hot?

oldschoolfl on reddit

Not 10k worth. Average for an attractive person. Won’t turn heads. Rarely gets turned down. Know how to get what I want. Amateur is sorta trending right now, tho? Solid GFE.

I need pics of this “Katie.” Can’t put this dude on blast and refuse to show your face.

—oberyn on Barstool Sports

Hold up, so I should suffer for his bad behavior? My sex life may be prolific, but my misdeeds pale in comparison to his, will never have a devastating, nevertheless potentially deadly, impact on thousands of vulnerable people. More mischief than misconduct, that’s meee. And do you understand the disproportionate repercussions women face professionally on account of their personal lives? Anyone remember Monica? That intelligent woman who became a public punching bag and eternal punchline for opening her orifices to a man in power. But let’s crucify witches, lady adulterers, and those who a long time ago in a galaxy far far away had sex with an inconspicuous white-collar criminal in-training. Let’s fucking blow whistles in whistleblowers’ ears REAL LOUD. That’ll teach ‘em. For opening their slut traps, and their mouths.

 

CAN I GET JUST A LITTLE BIT OF POWER

If I were rich I would definitely pay exes for sex, then proceed to call them dumb whores as I came in their eye. Power moves only.

—tcsewell3 on Barstool Sports

Ha! Exactly the tone he was going for. Pitch perfect.

“I wonder if it’s a power thing for guys like him. For ten thousand dollars he could probably find girls far hotter than his ex that would do wayyy more but for some reason he feels the need to harass her. Maybe it’s some sort of fetish I just don’t get but it’s rude as hell.”

KakaKrabbyPatties on reddit

Yup, he could get way hotter than me. And more willing to put on a show for money. For $10k even the most repulsive loser could find a decent woman to feign enthusiasm and tolerate his company. When we were dating and still in touch, he was all about checking things off an imaginary list, whittling notches in the belt holding up his UFOs (as long as his hands didn’t get dirty!)—nevermind pleasure. The more extreme or hard-to-come-by the more points, I suppose. Sex points, scene points. Justification of effort dictates levels of satisfaction with one’s accomplishment? Figured it was just a phase, that adolescent acquisitive thing. Mostly I was game. Until I objected. Until he became too objectionable.

“It’s all about getting his ex to do something she doesn’t want. It’s all about the power and his money status. Dude is weird. If it were about sex he’d do what you said n find a different chick.”

mostdope28 on reddit

You nailed it. It’s about humiliation, hegemony, and maybe a lil’ bit o’ revenge served stale on a silver platter. I doubt paying for sex is ever really about the sex unless it’s a really boutique sex act. Or one finds themself compelled to explore explicit sexual transactions by an idle curiosity, a journalistic sense of duty to extract EXPERIENCE and TRUTH. More curiosity than compulsion. (Though I’m open to suggestion otherwise.)

Just like rape is not about the sex. (Not that I’m equating rape and non-coercive financial exchanges in the slightest.) Because nobody CAN’T get laid. Martin isn’t THAT prima facie repugnant and red flaggy. A decade+ ago he didn’t have enough institutional power to be that punchable.

Posted in 10k q&a: part 1 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

10k Addendum

Remember how I said I couldn’t post uncensored screenshots of Martin Shkreli and my facebook correspondence because facebook was holding them prisoner? Well, lucky for me, facebook has released his account from investigation and restored access to the incriminating messages he once tossed off into the gaping void. See what I did there?

A few of you have suggested the shots I previously posted couldn’t possibly be real, must be a shoddy Photoshop job, as Facebook Chat never appeared in that format. One of those three allegations is true. These conversations were NOT from Facebook Chat, which was introduced but not yet mandatory in 2008, according to this press release. Notice the boldface of “statistics” and “vday” below? That indicates they are the subject lines of what were once classified as Private Messages, before Chat and Inbox were merged.

A few of you do not remember, or are too young to remember, how the internet worked in the Golden Age of Anarchy and Innovation, back when people revealed their innermost goth on livejournal, lavished their friends with inside joke-ladden praise in Friendster’s “testimonials,” shared their liberal arts school projects on DeviantArt, posed for SuicideGirls in front of graffiti walls, pirated Belle and Sebastian from Kazaa and Limewire, connected to other political activist types via IndyMedia, called each other from-dorm-room-to-door-room using landlines with 4-digit extensions, wrote facebook updates in the third person, life updates on white boards gum-tacked to their unlocked doors, and carried their key cards in their Vicky Secret water bras. Ahh, that was fun reminiscing from my lumbar spine-supporting rolly chair and geriatric slippers.

Alas, Martin Uncensored:

Redacted MS1

Redacted MS2

Redacted MS3

Redacted MS4

Stay tuned for a Q and A (or comment and critique) where I attempt to respond to your feedback and coverage of this news story en masse.

Posted in 10k addendum, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments