In a long-overdue relaxing dinner with a good friend, the topic came up – as often happens with liberal cis white males – of the various versions of sexual assault and bad sex and inappropriate behavior that have filled the news of late.
In talking about one particular article, about the gauche and clumsy actions of a supposedly in-touch writer and actor, my friend said “Thing is, it kinda just sounded like a bad date.
Unfortunately for him, I had spent a good portion of the day reading critiques and commentary and opinion pieces about that subject, and so he was subjected to a long earful ranging from contemporary feminism to (literally) the beginning of human mating.
See, mansplaining does not only happen to women.
But the thing is, upon later consideration, I have to say: he’s right.
Going From Worse to Bad
But I’m not going to belabor it, because if there’s one thing this particular discussion doesn’t need, it’s some dude’s opinion. What I will do is point you towards wiser heads than me, such as KatiKate, who summed it up nicely:
Women have had so much bad sex that our scale for sex has been skewed so it shows every shitty sex encounter as 10 pounds less shitty than it was.
That’s the thing. The truly awful awkwardness between two initially-consenting-and-eager adults is just an example of bad dates.
And there’s the sound of thousands of sex educators shaking their heads in silent frustration, saying “It doesn’t have to be this way.
My friend kind of thought that it did, because that’s how most people in our particular segment of society learned about sex. Fumbling, ignorant, desperate not to appear as clueless as we actually were.
That’s bad enough, but think how it was for people who never got to “explore.” Who never figured anything out until they were expected to fulfill marital obligations.
That was worse. What he and I were talking about – and what, apparently, is still far too common – is bad. And it’s the fault of one particular sin: taking love for granted.
Doin’ a-what comes naturally!
Have you seen the way animals copulate? Isabella Rossellini could tell you a thing or two (that’s a mostly work-safe link, though the praying mantis isn’t wearing any clothes). “Doing it naturally” is — far too often — “nasty, brutish, and short.” And certainly not consensually pleasurable in many cases — dolphins are particularly known for being bullying and coercive, often in groups, when it comes to mating.
What this means is that we need to not just assume that our biology will tell us how to turn these chemical urges into constructive emotional experiences. That’s not a “natural” way to do it — in fact, if you’re going with nature, there’s a lot of evidence towards the idea that constructive emotions are not only unnecessary but a hindrance to the biological imperative (Sex at Dawn makes for entertaining reading at the very least).
So rather than do it naturally…take the time to be unnatural for your partners. Talk about desire, about fear, about vulnerability. Talk about closeness. Talk about everything, even if or when you get to the point of doing things.
Because it’s not natural.
It’s much more complicated than that.