Diary of a Darklady
Dating and the Single Sex Writer: Online Personals & The Homoerotic Nature of Heterosexual Dating.
Because I’m both a sex educator and a member of the self-aware, tragically hip, on-the-rebound crowd, I often reflect upon relationship dynamics, social interactions, trust, honesty, communication, personal growth, gender roles, childhood issues, and many other topics done to death by self help book authors over the years. Perhaps I’m still so baffled by them all because I’ve read so few self help books. Or perhaps there are no easy answers, which is why there are so many self help books for me not to read. Somehow, regardless of how thorough or enlightened they may be, I suspect none of them address the special needs of sex writers and sex educators.
Sex writers particularly seem to have special needs. A sex educator, especially with a PhD or the word “doctor” in front of their name can get away with claiming that their work is a selfless gesture of outreach to a marginalized segment of society. And for a lot of academics, that’s probably an honest assessment. But for those of us primarily known for our writing and our social engineering skills – which I like to think of as “field research” — there’s a more complex game of 20 Questions involved when we meet people. Or maybe it’s just me.
On good days, people open up and share their own experiences of sexual experimentation and discovery, pose interesting questions, and maybe even teach me a thing or two. On not so good days, they assume I’m an absolute and utter slut who’ll fuck anyone and anything – meaning I’ll beg them to pop in some porn while I show them what amazing things I can do with my mouth and hands other than talk or write. On really bad days they walk out in the middle of a date or call down the wrath of god upon my head in hopes that I’ll change my sinful ways. Occasionally someone begs me to marry them. The really overly confident assure me that they’ll adore my honesty, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them. Ladies and gentlemen, be careful what you wish for. As one guest at my recent pre-Masturbate-a-thon (www.masturbate-a-thon.org) Carol Queen (www.carolqueen.com) Meet & Greet observed, it’s hard to know how he’d feel about dating someone he knew might turn around and write about him.
Since I haven’t had a book published yet, one of the first orders of business when I meet new people is delicately but accurately explaining what exactly it is that I do for a living — and what kind of person would do such a thing. As both a writing exercise of sorts and a tentative toe in the dating pool, I’ve taken out a new online personal ad and plan on sprucing up some of the older ones. More and more websites offer pop psychology tests, compatibility tests, and other fun things that give you an opportunity to think about what kind of person you are and what kind of person (or people) you’re looking for – and the immediacy of email means the very real possibility of super fast feedback, which is vital to the maintenance of a fragile artist’s ego. Fortunately for me, the demographics of most dating sites increases the chance that this fragile artist’s ego will get feedback especially fast. Men seem to outnumber women by at least four to one on these sites. With odds like that, you’d think that the men would be on their very best behavior when introducing themselves to potential girlfriends or even wives. Such is not always the case, however.
I’m always fascinated by personal ads and the people who respond to them. The vulnerability, the posturing, the passion, the confusion, the clarity, the horrible spelling, the rambling and run-on sentences, the assumptions, the promises, and the awkward introductory emails that illustrate the fact that there really is only one chance to make a good impression – but an almost endless number of ways to make a poor one. All of these things speak to the fragility and preciousness of the individual and how clumsy we all feel when trying to make a heart connection, or even a physical one. In spite of all the high tech extras, in some ways online dating is still a lot like more traditional dating, except that there’s more initial anonymity in the modern medium which makes it easier to cope with making mistakes – as well as easier to make them. Frankly, the more responses that I get from men, especially, the more homoerotic the entire experience feels to me.
Different kinds of dating or “encounter” services encourage different kinds of first connections. On more kink or sex oriented sites like Alt (www.alt.com) or Intimate Associates (www.intimateassociates.com/swingers), it’s not uncommon for men to send a photo of their penis before they send a photo of their face. It’s really quite delightfully bath house-ish, but not very useful for me personally when deciding who to write back. Usually, such correspondents just go right into my virtual round file, unless there’s something otherwise noteworthy about the profile. I’ve seen a lot of cocks within my personal and professional life, so I’m fairly unmoved by them when they’re offered as dating credentials. What’s more important is whether their owners have a clue how to use them – and are the kind of person I’d even want to get close enough to for a demonstration. Where did these guys get the impression that cock photos are a compelling way to woo a modern lady?
Now, services like Tickle (www.tickle.com), Yahoo Personals (personals.yahoo.com), or PolyMatchMaker (www.polymatchmaker.com) are less focused on sex and more focused on relationships, which means that the genital photography is far less common. But that doesn’t mean that the boys don’t still have their subtle but revealing ways of bringing up sex early in their correspondence. Without having seen more of me than a snapshot, men assure me that I am stunningly beautiful; that friendship sounds good, but seducing me sounds even better; that they have amazing endurance; and – surprisingly enough for ostensibly vanilla sites — that tying me up sounds absolutely fantastic. Some choose to discount my assessment of my own tastes or preferences. For instance, I’ve been assured that since I write about sex for a living, vanilla can’t possibly be my favorite flavor. Imagine my surprise. Some men don’t provide me with any information about themselves except an assurance that they’re the perfect match for me.
While trying to understand why men have felt that these comments and observations would make them more attractive to me, it occurred to me that in some ways they’re expecting me to be like them… or, at the very least, for me to be like women in their sexual fantasies. In gay male culture and, apparently, even straight male culture, the size and appearance of one’s genitals can be very important when selecting a partner. Since sex is an important ultimate result of dating for many men, it seems that they feel it’s important that I know what they feel their physical qualifications are. It logically follows, I suppose, that even if I can’t see their cock before the first date, I’ll be reassured to know that they’re looking forward to showing it off at the earliest opportunity. In reality, while I’m reassured to know that, in a world of blue pills, their cocks still work, I’m a lot more concerned about how they’re going to keep my mind stimulated – and how they’ll deal with my insane work schedule and other unusual elements of my life, including the fact that I really do like vanilla even though I promote responsible non-monogamy, have a lot of gay, bisexual, and transgendered friends, host large sex parties and sex-related events, hang out with porn stars when I travel, have meddled in politics, and don’t seem likely to have any time soon to devote to settling down long enough to enjoy the camping, hiking, golf games, and other blissful leisure time activities that the self-employed read about but rarely enjoy in person. Frankly, if these guys are so worried about whether or not they’re going to get wacky circus sex out of me, how do they even know I want to go fishing, hiking, to the golf course, or anywhere within a thousand square foot radius of them? I appreciate the fact that I live in the Pacific Northwest and there are a lot of outdoor activity options… but I’m a writer. I prefer to admire nature from a safe distance most of the time and, honestly, that’s about all I usually have time for.
It’s not the 70’s, you guys. If you’re looking for a glory hole party or circle jerk, go find a glory hole party or a circle jerk. If you take the time to actually find out if I want to go fishing, hiking, to the golf course, or anywhere within a thousand square foot radius of you, I can probably tell you where to find a glory hole party or a circle jerk. Heck, if I really like you, I might even host one for you.