On Mansplaining, Aziz Ansari and Sex A la Carte...
LA is an interesting place. Winter is 80 degrees and sunny, there's a raccoon eating out of our bins and sex has always been and always will be currency here.
I've been in meetings most of the week and everyone has a view on the Aziz story on babe.net. To say that opinion is divided is a massive understatement. New York Times says just bad sex, Atlantic goes harder, Guardian and Huff Post have a different take again and Samantha Bee says that if Aziz is a feminist, he should fuck like one.
In true Carrie Bradshaw style... "It got me thinking..."
While it's clear that this experience caused someone enough pain to describe it in these terms, and that cannot and should not be dismissed, it's opened up a bunch of interesting conversations on the subject of sex itself, a number of those I've had between the older, domesticated guys I know and love and their female partners, including my own. I said to a friend when it first broke that I was glad I'm not dating now. He and others cautioned both his own gut responses and mine with the refrain that this is a story that only women can write about. "No uterus, no opinion" as the immortal Friends line goes.
This is sound advice that I'm ignoring mainly because I'm completely fascinated by this story and haven't seen too many men willing to address it. (Probably because all the sensible men are hiding until this goes away)
So here goes. I'm 34 years old - the same age as Aziz. I have been in relationships for a while and my days of one night stands are thankfully, dimly remembered at best. The memory though is usually of nights that felt fast, for the most part fun and fuelled by alcohol, a level of inexperience and in many cases, young male desperation on my part. And if they did get as far as the full 'stand', the sex was almost always mediocre at best to awkward and fairly rubbish at worst.
Why? Well probably for a number of fairly logical reasons. Maybe because we didn't really know each other and had no idea what the other person was thinking. We were probably too wasted to engage in much planning or comparison of wants, needs and desires. We were nervous, maybe inexperienced and each had an idea that sex should be spontaneous, intuitive and should 'just happen' rather than being something that required an exel spreadsheet. (Nothing spreads sheets like a... Yeah I went there... This is probably why guys shouldn't write about this)
And why should spontaneous sex not be the best sex? The passion is supposed to take over like in the TV shows and we'd bounce off the walls, leaving that elegantly debauched trail of clothes leading to the big bed with the great sheets where we'd crash down. Then there would be a cutaway to a sort of elegant highlights reel of artistic and flatteringly lit best moments (Luckily without Match of the Day sports post analysis of our mutual 'leaky defence') and then it would cut to the morning where we'd lie together and awake spooning in a way that would make sleep impossible before one of us would leave the other, plant a gentle goodbye kiss on their beau's cheek and make a regretful longing exit, usually through a window or via a drain pipe.
I can safely say that though I may have bounced off a wall or two, I never had this experience... and the older you get, the more you realise (because women tell you) that the assumption that the nature and quality of a hetrosexual encounter should be entirely dictated by a man and experienced (or suffered) by a woman is the dumbest idea you ever had in the pursuit of sexual gratification.
It's sad that the experience in the babe article was clearly so traumatic for one of the parties and is likely to be damaging for both. The conversation it raises is interesting. Feminism has done so much, creating at the very least, the impression of greater choice and freedom. Freedom to approach a guy at a party, to go on a date with him, to go back to his on the first night. But maybe the next barrier to overcome in the age of porn addiction and hypersexualisation of everything from Coca Cola to detergent is the idea that sex is something that happens to women, or something that is done to them by men.
I read the article. I cringe a little at the tone while totally sympathising with the frankly weird and unpleasant stuff said to have been perpetuated (The claw? That's blow up doll level s**t) before it came to an undignified halt and tears in the Uber. I do wonder though what the goal of the evening actually was. I won't go through every last phase of how the night evolved but I think it's relatively clear that as is her right as an independent woman in the 21st century, Grace was open to and perhaps even intending the prospect of some sort of sex.
Just not that sex. And eew.
And here's where it gets even more depressing because I'm becoming my grandma. If the goal was 'quality sex' or even, the kind, sensitive, quirky, fun sex that you might legitimately have with an Aziz character from a Netflix show, then the other decisions, upon reflection don't look best suited. Sex on the first date is not usually a path to quality sex. Sex after wine... often not the best. Sex with someone you don't know at all and who maybe already gave you the wiggins to some degree earlier in the evening... none of this looks, objectively and pragmatically like path to great sex.
Maybe this is the start of a backlash. I was born in the 80s and came of age in the late 90s when drinking and sex to excess were how we were supposed to pass into adulthood according to every aspect of the culture. Young people now statistically drink less and have less sex than we all said we did back then. And maybe this can be the start of something great. A realisation that sex is not something that you do to a willing but hesitant, partially inebriated victim for gratification, (or have done to you) but something you approach collaboratively with someone you actually know, with fun and imagination and occasionally, costumes and props... ;-)
And sometimes, men who are bad at sex (And some women too) need help to be collaborative. It starts, I think (And this is where I'm gonna get killed by my female friends) with both genders ordering the wine they actually like at the restaurant and if our night evolves that way, try to keep the menu handy for what happens back at their place... and put in our order before they just serve us the house special.
(Actually, Food metaphors are still too gross with this in my mind. 'The claw??' Seriously??)
I know (Because women have told me and because I'm a human capable of empathy) that in the moment, and especially for women, this is far from easy, and there are a few thousand years of cultural BS to dig through. But maybe we owe this, at least to babe.net. This story helps us to ask the question, yes of consent and non verbal cues and looking out for each other, especially when we're in a situation of some power. But maybe also we should ask ourselves if an evening's events taken objectively in sequence point to a night with an 86% probability of ending in sub-par depressing sex is even one we want to have at all?
If the answer is no, (like most 34 year old guys who love someone come to realise), then the whole culture of fast dating might just be in for a change... and that can only be a good thing.