When you tell people you're a sex columnist, be prepared for the I-think-I'm-so-clever quip, "How do you do your research? Sleep with a ton of people?"
Although that comment usually engenders an eye-roll on my part (followed by a nice-to-have-met-you brush-off), I started thinking: Was I, in some way, using my job as an excuse to sleep with people? And while my bedroom is by no means a revolving door, I will admit that over the year, I've conducted quite a bit of "research." Pondering my sexual statistics, I took pen to paper and did something I hadn't done since my early twenties. I decided to make "The List" -- you know, of all the people you've done it with.
Usually reserved for bad rom-coms, frat boys and women who are just becoming familiar with the idea that they will probably sleep with multiple people before finding "The One," The List actually taught me a couple things about myself that I don't mind sharing (heck, I've shared with you some of my steamy anecdotal "research," this past year, so why not?)
1.) I found that I started The List off knowing first and last names. I even associated memories -- jokes, scents, foibles -- with these people. Early on in The List, even if the sex wasn't the greatest, I had a lot of pleasant reminders of my sexual past. Sex doesn't always have to be remarkable to be memorable; sometimes, nostalgia makes it all the more romantic in your head. Remember: The List is for you, so that's all that really counts. Of course, the people with whom I've had long-term relationships have more memories and attachments that go along with their notch, but I found the early ones quite endearing.
2.) As The List grew, there are a were a couple men I knew by first name only. There were two whose names I couldn't remember at all.
3.) Making The List, I was very careful not to categorize the experience with some pithy one-liner that would sum up the person like, "The Twink" (a cherubic-looking, youthful, effeminate man). Lists scare me for this very reason. I wouldn't want to downgrade any of my experiences -- even the not-so-great ones -- to a number or self-referential nickname. Going forward in my dating life, I'm going to be extra careful not to do this with men. Putting labels on men has made me distant from them. I'm looking to 2013 to get rid of these types of labels and enjoy people for the experiences we share, which I hope to be more authentic.
4.) There was a time when I didn't really make well-informed choices. Having sex with someone because I was too drunk, too lonely or too embarrassed to say "no" comprised a handful of men on The List. Every person I choose to take to bed from now on is going to be a result of an informed choice.
5.) Kissing a woman is strikingly similar to kissing a man, though softer (cliché, but true).
6.) Sex outdoors is much more romantic in theory than practice.
7.) Work and play tend to mix. It's true, being a sex columnist probably does up my number. But I think it's more the fact that as a journalist, I'm constantly meeting new people and am confident enough to hold my own in a conversation. Sometimes, well, once or twice, according to The List, my interviews served as foreplay. This year, a very hot male model/boxer stated, "I'm not going to answer any more of your questions unless you kiss me." Now, when this happens, fellow journalists, the proper thing to do is walk out. Or you can be unprofessional and add another name to your list.
8.) I'm going to be honest: While writing The List, I didn't just think of men (and the woman or two) but their, er, parts. I'd be lying if I wrote genital aesthetic doesn't matter to me. That said, it doesn't matter all that much. When you really like the person, your connection is about so much more than flesh. While writing The List, I'd get a shudder of excitement when thinking about a person with whom I'd shared an intense connection. That type of chemistry is so much more important than size or shape, etc. And you can't really force connections; they're either there (and usually immediately) or they're not.
9.) I ended up knowing ahead of time that I'd probably end up sleeping with the majority of people on The List. I'm not saying I sat at home, geolocated them and then went in for the kill. Maybe I just felt it an hour or so before it happened; maybe I felt it the moment we saw each other. The point is, I'm pretty good at knowing when I want someone, and that person wants me back. You know? And that's really hot to me.
10.) There are a couple names I wish were on The List but aren't. 2013? You never know ...
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It's too easy for us women to convince ourselves to settle for less. We're so helpful and accommodating, so eager to please and afraid of rejection that we're quick to give up the things we need, including when it comes to sex. What we need to see is that doing this will leave us chronically frustrated. While it's true that every relationship requires a certain amount of compromise, going without the things that we really need just doesn't work. We'll end up unhappy in the relationship or resentful toward our partner. The bottom line is, we need to know what we can't live without, sexually, and what we just can't live with. We ignore these non-negotiables at the expense of a fulfilling sex life.
If you can't ask them for what you want in bed, you shouldn't be sleeping with them. Good sex happens when we feel safe and at ease. If we're afraid to ask for something or to tell our partner that we don't like something, sex will never be more than mediocre. This second tip follows from the first one, in that once we identify what we want and don't want, we have to express these things clearly. It's unfair to expect our partner to be a mind-reader and "prove" that they care by somehow knowing what we want without our having to tell them. Healthy sex comes out of healthy communication.
We need to be in touch with our bodies; with what feels good, what feels not so good and what feels wrong. We also really need to stop judging ourselves in terms of our weight and our shape. Only a superficial dope would give us a hard time over our imperfections. If someone makes us feel bad about our physical selves, this is more a reflection of his inadequacies than of our own. Our negative self-talk has to stop. The running commentary on how fat we are, how much cellulite or how many wrinkles we have is guaranteed to kill the mood, often before it even starts. Feeling good about our bodies is crucial if we're going to let go and enjoy ourselves. Being physically self-conscious will keep us from experiencing the joyful abandon of great sex.
In the bad old days, some women were led to believe that the way to get a man to toe the line is to offer sex for good behavior or withhold it when the man has displeased them. Most of us today recognize this as hateful behaviour and a recipe for disaster. Men don't want to be controlled or punished, especially around sex. They don't want to be made to feel like little boys. When we're hurt or angry at our partner, we need to share our feelings with him in an adult way. We can even say that we're too upset for sex, right now. What we mustn't ever do is make him feel like we're deciding when he gets to have sex, based on whether he's been "good" or "bad." On the other hand, using sex as a reward turns us into sex objects and makes sex into a commodity for our partner to "earn." It's no longer two people being intimate or enjoying each other. Commodifying sex makes it into a business transaction and our bodies then become objects for trade.
We might love Fluffy or Rover, but they don't belong in the bedroom when we're being intimate. Our pets are very territorial and could get jealous or want to play, too. Dogs might bark or even growl. Cats might jump onto the bed and start walking around. We can avoid these disasters by remembering to shut the door and leave our four-legged friends outside.
Sex is about connection and intimacy, but also it's about having fun. It can be mind-blowingly great or occasionally, things can go wrong. Having a good sense of humor about sex will keep things in perspective. Being able to laugh at ourselves and at the comical aspects of sex will take the pressure off the whole experience. We might love and adore our partner, but we don't have to be so serious about making love to them. Humour relieves pressure and is a great way to connect.
The best sex is the kind in which each person is trying to please the other one. The sharing in sex is one of the things that make it great. It can be technically amazing, but when one person gets the impression that the other person really isn't there with them, it can ruin the whole experience. What makes someone a fantastic lover is not their technical ability or their repertoire of moves but their attentiveness and their efforts to make their partner happy. When both people show that they really care about meeting their partner's needs, sex becomes something wonderful.
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