Bad dates, Worse Sex

A couple of years ago a friend got me a laptop sticker that said “NO FAKE ORGASMS,” which adorned my MacBook until I got a real job.

I was often the person in our friend group lecturing everyone to stop faking it during sex.

“They’ll never learn what they’re doing wrong!” I’d shriek. “Don’t give them the satisfaction.”

Most of my friends who faked getting off said they did it to make the sex end quicker, which is just so bleak.

Every year I see a new survey or think piece explaining how many, how often, and why women fake it – and while I’m proud to say I’ve never done that – I’m guilty of worse. I’ve agreed to have sex when I really didn’t want to. I did this for a lot of reasons, and all of them were stupid.

Most of the time, these situations were rooted in bad dates and resulted in even worse sex.

Recently, I’ve noticed more nuanced descriptions of bad dates and bad sex come up in mainstream conversations, including the viral New Yorker short story, “Cat Person.” The piece by Kristen Roupenian follows a college student who musters through an evening of bad sex with a man because she feels like it’s too late to back out of it.

When published allegations against comedian Aziz Ansari, harmful bad dates were questioned again across media outlets.

The #MeToo Movement has carved out room to discuss coercion, harassment and assault, all of which exist on the same “spectrum of harm,” a term coined by writer Ashley Ford.

Women specifically may feel obligated to go through with sex at the end of a date because we’re conditioned to be polite. In hetero sex, it’s understood the probability of us actually enjoying it is low, and the patriarchy is happy to remind us that’s not the point. The man’s satisfaction is the only end goal here.

I don’t think any organization or university research team has collected data on how many men and women agree to sex they don’t actually want to have, but the next closest measurable act would be coercion.

"it’s understood the probability of us actually enjoying it is low"

The most recent CDC report on sexual violence defines coercion as unwanted sexual penetration that occurs after a person is pressured in a non-physical way.

While 86 percent of male rape survivors in the U.S. were attacked by other men, 81 percent of men who reported coercion said their perpetrators were women. However, in total, more women reported coercion than men, about 13 percent compared to 5.8 percent.

Toxic masculinity, I’m guessing, is one factor that pressures men to accept sex even if they aren’t into it. While men, of course, aren’t held to the same standards of manners as women, it is often reiterated to them in songs, shows, and movies that they should always want and enjoy sex.

In pop culture, we only ever see men turn women away when they aren’t perceived as conventionally beautiful or sexy. And every time, it’s done at the expense and humiliation of the woman.

In movies or TV shows, we never see men say “no” to sex just because he’s not in the mood, he’s tired or just because.

The man I’m seeing once jokingly told a mutual friend he blacks out when we have sex to “avoid critique.” Self-deprecating humor is fine, but there’s no way I could make a similar quip without raising red flags.

Some people prefer not to talk during sex, and that’s fine. Personally, I don’t get it, but it’s fine. I imagine being with a soft-spoken or shy partner can be nerve-racking. Not necessarily because it’s difficult to be the pursuer, but when the person you’re with doesn’t talk, there’s no real verbal affirmation or consent. Of course, there’s a difference between being shy and not consenting, so if the words “yes” or “no” haven’t been uttered yet, it’s important for someone to ask, “is this OK?”

I’ll ask, maybe several times in one night, if what we’re doing is OK. If it’s the first time I’m going out with someone, and it looks like we’re heading there, I’ll simply ask, “do you want to have sex?”

This applies to every identity and orientation. Anyone who is trying to have sex with anyone needs to ask, plain and simple. Ask – multiple times – if what you’re doing is OK. (Yes, your dorky freshman year RA was right. It doesn’t ruin the mood.)

If this seems like obvious advice, it’s because it should be. Still, it’s important to remember that being a woman who has sex with men isn’t a “get out of harassment” free card.

I’ll reiterate.

Men, I’m sure giving in to toxic masculinity is not easy, but you’re still not my main concern right now.

Of course, it’s not lost on me that I psychoanalyze the ways I pursue sexual relationships with men when I’m fairly certain most of them wouldn’t do the same for me.

I believe bad dates for men have more to do with them being honest with themselves and acknowledging what they want or don’t want, while bad dates for women have more to do with being heard, understood and respected by their partners.

Just as personal accounts of violent, uncomfortable or awkward experiences can help shed light on sexual wrongdoings, raising questions and offering advice can help to push the movement forward.

Ask yourself what you want, then ask your partner what they want. Is it the same thing?

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