DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 24 year old male from an expat family who moved to the Bay Area about three years ago from SE Asia and am now attending college as an undergrad.
American dating has mostly been an exercise in frustration for me, with success sprinkled here and there in the form of one off dates and even a three month mini-relationship. I could take you and the reader through the ups and downs of these various meetings but I want to avoid ossifying the entire Dr. NL readership so I’ll abstain. In any case, it’s the most recent girl I’ve been interested in that will be the focus of this letter.
I’ve been talking to (hanging out with, dating, labels are real fluid here) a cute, bright, driven 21 year old girl from one of my classes for the past week and a bit. We had talked before last semester but this is the first time we’ve really interacted on a personal level. We haven’t slept together, though we have made out, and it’s the issues surrounding this tension that I’d like to explore. See Doc, I think I’m what they call a square. I’ve always felt like a middle aged man trapped inside a young body; everything from my word choice to the way I dress makes me feel really out of touch with my class mates. This girl had to tell me what snapchat was and how to use it, and I’ve never felt older in my life. Another example was how I offered to walk her back to her flat (apartment) and she sarcastically quipped about what a gentleman I was. Do people not do this anymore?
The girl I’ve been seeing has never gone more than a fortnight without intimacy, and she’s been a pretty dedicated serial monogamist for a long time. Contrast this with a serious dearth of any activity on my part for the better portion of two years, and we have an issue. She is also into some kink and rough sex (choking, hitting, hair pulling, even to the point of bruising apparently), while I’ve had a very vanilla sexual history and I’m very slow and tender in bed (read, boring). It’s not that I have a fragile male ego that is threatened by her experience, on the contrary, I find it exciting and attractive.
The problem is she tends to point out and tease my squareness, and this makes me nervous around her, and of course that doesn’t make for comfortable making out. When we were kissing recently, she said I thought too much about the act and that I treated her like a china doll, and that she was into rough play. Of course upon hearing this, I got hella (new word I learned) nervous, and if anything became more incompetent. Another part of the equation is that she has had a string of fairly toxic and abusive relationships, and she tells me she doesn’t want to rush into something she’ll regret with me, ergo, no sleeping together until she feels comfortable with it.
So what we have is a situation where she’s hinting at me to be more masculine, more direct, and yet we’re holding off on sex. Now I absolutely don’t mind holding off on sex, but when it does happen, I’m really worried I’m going to disappoint her, and the longer we go without trying it and defusing the tension, the bigger the disappointment is going to be for her. I know good sex is about communication, but do you think this situation is resolvable? I’d like to add that I’m perfectly ok with changing my sexual style – I just don’t know whether I’ll be able to overcome that inculcated aversion to striking someone else, especially a woman.
I’ve never really though of myself as a prude until now. Am I, Doc? I know we have a sex positive feminist readership here, so I’m leaning towards the yes. I’d really like to expand my sexual horizons, I’m just horribly anxious about it and I feel like if it turns out to be a bad sexual experience and she calls the relationship, it will reinforce deeply held beliefs of mine about not being masculine enough.
Apologies for the wall of text, and I hope everyone who suffered through that has a good day.
– A Square in SF
DEAR A SQUARE IN SF: think the biggest problem here, ASSF, is that you keep describing yourself as being a loser and a square because… well, I’m not entirely sure. OK, so you haven’t had much sexual experience and you’re not terribly kinky. That’s not a bad thing, that’s not a good thing, that’s just how you roll. The fact that you’re framing these as a negative is causing more issues than the fact that you’re fairly vanilla; you’re setting yourself up to be uncomfortable and awkward because you think that you’re somehow deficient and inferior to someone who’s had more and/or different sex than you.
(Incidentally, I really dislike using “vanilla” to describe standard or non-kinky sex or people. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good replacement for it. Anyone who has a suggestion for a different word is welcome to send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org)
This actually gets into a common misconception people have when it comes to the topic of sex positivity; they assume that sex positivity is all about letting your freak flag fly and being into all kinds of outré and exotic kink and that people who aren’t into it are being sex negative. This isn’t true – sex positivity is about everyone being cool with what they’re into or not into, as long as it’s safe, sane and consensual. You’re straight vanilla? Awesome. You’re into being blindfolded and suspended from the ceiling by your nipples? Well, hope you’ve got safety measures built in, but ok cool, you do you. You’ve slept with a hundred people? Cool, high five! You’re a virgin? Cool, high five for you too!
But I digress…
The issue you’re having is primarily in your head; you’re so hung up on whether or not you CAN please this woman that you’re not giving yourself the chance to TRY. From everything you’ve said, she’s telling you how she wants you to kiss her – to be more aggressive and rougher. Now, if that’s just not your thing, then more power to you; odds are that the two of you aren’t going to be sexually compatible and you can just peace-out. But if it’s something you’re willing to give a shot… well, why aren’t you giving it a shot? She’s given you the green light. Are you afraid of not doing it perfectly off the bat? OK, I get that. Thing is, you don’t need to be perfect. The first time you have sex with someone isn’t a pass/fail audition that’s going to end the relationship if you don’t get it precisely right, especially if the two of you have been dating for a while before you sleep together. The first time with anyone is going to be awkward to one degree or another and 99.999% of adults understand that. Everyone has their patterns, their likes and dislikes that it takes a bit of practice to get your respective styles to mesh. Sometimes you synch up right off the bat because you’re pretty similar. Sometimes it takes a time or two and some awkward giggling to get things right. That’s not a flaw in somebody’s technique, that’s just sex.
Your aversion to hitting someone is admirable, but as with most things in life, it requires context. You’re not striking a woman in anger, you’re being ASKED by someone to spank her and pull her hair because she gets off on it. It’s a very different situation.
(Choking is another matter, mostly because choking and breath play is INCREDIBLY GODDAMN DANGEROUS. That’s not varsity level sex, that’s a couple levels above varsity.)
So, how do you resolve this? Well, you use your words. You’ve not done anything like this before, so TELL her. Ask her what she wants you to do and then do it. She wants you to bite her? Cool, where? How hard? Done right, it’s a fun, sexy game; all you need is an open mind and a can-do attitude and a willingness to push your own envelope a little. If it works, then you’ve opened a new avenue for yourself – enjoy this sexual adventure. If it doesn’t work, then all that’s happened is that you’ve learned something about what you are and aren’t into and the people you’re compatible with. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad or boring or “unmasculine” (for bulls--t definitions of masculine), you just didn’t click with this person, which happens.
The only thing I would be careful about is how she treats your inexperience. You say that she teases you about being a “square”. As long as this is affectionate teasing, all is well; if she’s being mean about it or implying you’re a bad person for not being into the same things she’s into? That’s not cool and a pretty reliable sign that you should find someone who’s not an asshole about sex.
But in the meantime: use your words and take some risks. Ask her what she wants, to give you some pointers and try getting a little wilder.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com