How Meta-Communication Can Make You a Great Flirt (Even If You’re Shy)

For years, I said, “I’m a bad flirt!” when what I really meant was, “I’m too shy to flirt!”

Then I got better at it, but I still said, “I’m a bad flirt!” when what I really meant was, “My flirting style is dorky and non-traditional, but still charming!”

Nowadays, though, I’ve learned more about flirting and the various ways it can be done – and I finally recognize that my approach to flirting is both valid and effective. My eyes widened when I first encountered the term “meta-communication” – i.e. communicating about communicating – with regards to flirting, because that is totally what I do. It has worked for me, whether I was engaging in monogamous or polyamorous dating, and I think it can work for you too!

Here are some of my favorite tips for flirting via meta-communication…

Acknowledge your flirting as such. This is effective for the same reason that it works well to use the word “date” when you ask someone on a date: it makes your intentions crystal-clear, sets your flirtee’s anxieties and uncertainties at ease, and – when done well – makes you come across as a smooth, bold, fearless flirt.

Examples:
“Is this a good time to flirt with you?”
“I’m really enjoying flirting with you; maybe we could do this more later?”
“Sorry, I get really flirty when I’m [tipsy/happy/super into someone].”
“Can I try out a ridiculous pick-up line on you?”
[cartoonishly over-the-top eyelash-batting, smouldering glances, etc.]

Acknowledge how you’re feeling. Flirting is so often portrayed as a performance, where you have to be an actor or a puppeteer – but it can be even more delicious to let your flirtee see what’s behind the curtain. You come across as more human and real when you cop to your emotional processes – and this also helps build rapport and trust, because your flirtee knows if you own up to your feelings, you’re likely to also tell the truth about other things later on.

Examples:
“I get really nervous around you ’cause you’re so cute!”
“If I wasn’t so shy, I’d make a dirty joke about what you just said, but…”
“I really wanna flirt with you, but I’m not sure I’m getting that vibe from you, so I’ll back off.”
“If I wasn’t so [tired/anxious/busy], I’d be flirting so hard with you right now… Maybe next time?”
“Sorry if I seem unfocused; I just can’t stop thinking about how good-lookin’ you are!”

Propose a hypothetical. This is a low-pressure way to gauge your flirtee’s reaction to things you want to do or say, or just to you in general. You’re giving the other person space to turn you down if they want to – but also giving them space to respond positively if that’s how they’re feeling.

Examples:
“What would you say if I told you you look super handsome in that suit?”
“What would you do if I said I wanted to kiss you right now?”
“I wouldn’t be mad if you gave me your phone number… In fact, I might even be thrilled!”
“If someone wanted to flirt with you but was really shy, what would be the best way for them to do that?”

Give them an opportunity to take things further. Consent is just as important in flirting as it is in sex, and you want to give your flirtee the same freedom to express or revoke consent that you’d give them if the two of you were bangin’. Much like the first-kiss technique advocated in the movie Hitch (“Go 90% of the way, then let her come to you“), this type of flirting clearly expresses your interest in the other person but leaves them room to decide how far they want to take things.

Examples:
“There are a lot of saucy things I want to say to you right now, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate…”
“If I have another drink, I’ll probably get reeeal flirty with you… Think I should?”
“Let me know if you’d ever want to go out on a date sometime; I’d love that!”
“I bet you’re an excellent kisser. Maybe I’ll find out someday; who knows?”
“I have to go [talk to another friend/do something else], but come find me later if you want to be shamelessly flirted with some more!”

Here’s what’s important to keep in mind with all of these suggestions: flirting is very dependent on context, environment, and preexisting rapport. A lot of these lines won’t work if you just bust ’em out unprompted. But if you already have a good connection with someone, they seem potentially into you, and you want to express your interest in them without overwhelming them, some good meta-communicative flirting can be just the ticket!

Extra resources for flirting keeners:
• Reid Mihalko and Cathy Vartuli on being a better flirt, how to flirt when you’re shy, “the innuendo game,” and building rapport.
• Reid Mihalko talking about flirting on a swingers’ podcast.
• The School of Life on why, when, and how to flirt.
• Bex on being a flirting fetishist.
• Social anthropologist and “flirtologist” Jean Smith on the science of flirting.

Heads up: this post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.

How to Deal With Pre-Date Nervousness

Oh, I can just picture it now. It’s almost every first date I’ve ever been on. My anxiety swells. My heart pounds. I obsess about my outfit, hair, and makeup – like I’m trying to dress as a “cool girl” for Halloween. I debate whether to text my date upon leaving the house; maybe a “See you soon!” text isn’t chill enough, but maybe radio silence is too cold. So many choices!

As I walk up to the bar, my mind races. What if we start talking and he mentions that he thinks feminism is a waste of time? What if he only wants to “find some easy pussy” or “grab local slags here” and doesn’t actually find me interesting at all? What if – horror of horrors – he thinks Adam Sandler is funny?!

The thing is, while my anxiety disorder runs me through the wringer before every date, it doesn’t have to. The dates themselves are never as bad as I worry they will be – and this whole nervous rigamarole could be avoided, or at least mitigated, if I had a great pre-date ritual solidly in place. Here are 10 of my best tips for shaking your jitters before you walk out the door to meet a new potential beau!

Have some go-to date outfits on hand. This just makes everything so much easier. Prepare a “uniform” of sorts (or a few different ones) that you can grab in a hurry when getting ready for a date, so you won’t have to waste precious mental energy on outfit composition. Oh, the geeky sartorial bliss of it!

This ensemble should have a silhouette that flatters your shape and makes you feel babely as hell, and maybe one or two “conversation pieces” – unusual garments or accessories that a date is sure to ask about. (“Oh, this old thing? I bought this from a loud, flirty man on a beach in Gozo just before we leapt into the Mediterranean sea…!”)

If you want to get extra nerdy about it, you can have different date uniforms for different types of dates. For example, I’ll often wear a low-cut dress and a cardigan if I’m going on a fancy dinner date, or a tank top tucked into a skirt if we’re just ducking into a dive bar. If you show up at your date feeling hot and neither overdressed nor underdressed, you’ll have won half the battle already!

Listen to great music. So basic, yet so effective. I have a Spotify playlist of all my favorite pump-up tunes – mostly a lot of up-tempo pop and hiphop – and it helps ease me into a foxy, energetic brainspace. I love to shimmy into my panties and stockings to a sexy Drake jam, bop around doing my eyeshadow while One Direction croon at me, and fluff up my hair while Frank Sinatra sings compliments in my ear. Ah, what a dream.

Prep your bod. Whatever body-prep makes you feel attractive, desirable, and ready for sex (if that’s a potential item on your to-do list for the evening), do that. For me, this would involve showering, shaving, and moisturizing. When I’m all clean, smooth, and soft, I feel practically unconquerable.

Breathe. “Fear is just excitement without the breath,” according to psychotherapist Fritz Perls. I don’t know how much of this is hippie-dippie psychosomatic silliness versus an actual effective treatment (and, let’s be real, sometimes they are one and the same), but I find breathing deeply helps circulate my anxious energy all around my body and thereby diffuse it. Shallow, fast breaths are a classic sign of anxiety; you can trick yourself into calming down by elongating and deepening your breath. Oxygenate your body and brain!

Load up on conversation-starters. My conversational skills drastically improved when I went to journalism school, and I’m convinced it was partly because I had to read the news so often at that time, so I had plenty to talk about! Still to this day, before a date, I’ll take a look at trending stories before heading out the door (if I haven’t already encountered them that day on Twitter or in podcasts I listen to), so that if my date’s discussion skills leave something to be desired, I can pull out a fascinating new topic at a moment’s notice.

You can also glance at their online-dating profile again (if that’s where you met them) and mentally note a few points to ask them about. (“I see you went to school for English lit; how does that help you in your current job?” “You said you like The Office, but what did you think of the finale?” “Is that dog in your profile picture yours?!”)

Tell a friend what you’re up to. Before leaving on a date, I like to text the following info to a friend: my suitor’s full name (if I know it), phone number, any other relevant info I know about them (what they do, where they live, and so on), where and when I am meeting them, and what time I anticipate I’ll be home. I’ve been lucky enough that a date has never made me feel unsafe, but it certainly helps my anxiety if I know I have safety measures in place. And if the date’s not dangerous but just boring or awful, you can have your friend call you and fake an emergency you need to go attend to immediately.

Channelling my inner pinup girl.

Choose an alter-ego. This is not to say you should be inauthentic on your date, of course – but pretending you’re someone else can help you play up the best parts of your personality while banishing the parts that hold you back.

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m Amanda Palmer, Zooey Deschanel, or Rosa Diaz. How would they get ready for a date? How would they walk into a room? How would they greet a person they found attractive? Usually I hold my “character” in mind for the first little while, just until I get settled, and then I cast ’em off and let the real me shine through, unencumbered by anxiety.

Remind yourself what a catch you are. Glance at your most smokin’ selfies. Look through compliments people have given you in the past (I keep a file of mine!). Think about the best dates/makeouts/sex you’ve had, and remember that you are, at least partially, what made those experiences so fantastic!

This kind of mental reflection – whether you do it in a journal, out loud to a friend, or just in your head – can also help you get some perspective. This probably isn’t the last or most important date you’ll ever go on. If it doesn’t go well, it isn’t the end of the world. There are so many more people out there, and so many more experiences you’re gonna have. Go into every date with the attitude that it’ll be a fun adventure, and anything else that comes of it will just be a bonus.

Admit to your nervousness! This can be super charming and disarming in some contexts. If you and your date exchange some texts before meeting up, maybe tell them you’re a bit nervous because you find them so cute. Or, after you’ve showed up and talked for a few minutes, you could mention, “I get so nervous about first dates!” Good people will often try to reassure you when you make admissions like this – and at the very least, you’ve just backhandedly confessed that you find them attractive. Everyone wants to feel attractive. See – nervousness can be a plus!

What are your favorite tricks for mitigating pre-date jitters?

 

This post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!

Diary of a Ghosted Girl

Sunday night. I am depressed. I have been depressed for a solid week, with no hypomanic reprieve. Shit is dire.

I have guzzled more wine than I ought to’ve, and smoked more weed than is probably reasonable. There are one or two crusted tears on my cheeks, but mostly I’m numb. Aching to feel something; aching to ache.

A new OkCupid message lands in my inbox, and I open it with the characteristic slowness of a person weighed down by depression. “Fuck. This profile was an intensely enjoyable read that had me grinning like a total idiot,” it reads. “I don’t even know where to start except HEY (for now).” Then he asks me something about toxic jelly dildos, which I mention in my profile. My ears perk up, and so do I, a little.

I flick through his profile – pictures, paragraphs, compatibility question responses – and it achieves the rare thing of making him seem more interesting rather than less. (Most men are atrocious at writing online-dating profiles.) I message him back.

Our conversation kicks into high gear almost immediately. Jokes. Stories. Questions. All-caps shouts of “ME TOO!” and sparks of recognition. He likes my puns. I care if he likes my puns. I talk about my work and he doesn’t take it as an invitation to ask invasive questions about my sex life, as so many OkSuitors before him have. I am absurdly, miraculously, hastily hooked.

He tells me his full name – “incase you’d like to move this over to Facebook/creep me for mutual friends/affirm I am in fact a real person and not an elaborate cat-fishing account” – and, to my shock, it’s almost exactly the name of a person I used to be in love with. Their first names are as close as Lee and Leo, and they have the same surname. Intellectually, I understand that this doesn’t mean anything. Emotionally, it seems to mean quite a lot. It feels like the universe is shining a spotlight on this boy and shouting in my ear: Notice this person. Pay attention. He could be important.

We move things over to text. We talk about sex in a way that is flirty but not explicit – my favorite, when I don’t know someone well yet. He’s such a good flirt that I’m screaming and cackling at my phone – indeed so good that a friend christens him “Mr. Goodflirtz” when I relay the key points of our conversation later.

I send him a picture of me. Not a nude – just a cute selfie, where I’m pleased with how I look, and I look like the kind of girl that a man like him might be interested in. “Fuck,” he writes back. “…Fuuuuck. I mean you are just so fucking good-looking.” More cackling at my phone. More blushing, sweating, and covering my eyes. My heart is thudding.

But it’s late, and I have to get some sleep – which I laughingly tell him even as he’s still blowing up my phone with compliments in little green text bubbles. “Yes yes sorry,” he writes. “Good night.”

I do a thing I have done too many times, and have promised myself not to do again: I get over-invested. I turn his name and face over in my mind. I lie awake thinking about the dress I’ll wear on our first date, and what we’ll do after he tugs it off of me. Eventually, somehow, I fall asleep – and dream about his pretty mouth all night.

On Monday morning I am pinged awake by my phone’s text tone. “That picture was the first thing I saw this morning as it was still open on my phone,” I blink sleep out of my eyes to read. This is followed by some gratuitous information about how his dick is reacting to said photo and what he is doing about it – information I find charming, not alarming, because at this point I feel like I know him. He is a wizard with words. His words alone have made me want to kiss his face, suck his dick, build some kind of future. It’s ridiculous.

“I’d gladly take any other pictures you’d like to share,” he adds – politely, I think. But I have a boundary around this, which I explain to him: I don’t like to sext with people before I meet them in person. It often makes me lose interest in them, or feel weird, so I tend to avoid it, especially if I suspect I might actually like the person. “Fair enough,” he writes back. “Let’s hang soon, then.”

“I am free tonight or Thursday,” I tell him, and he replies, “Thursday is probably best, but mayyybe tonight.” We talk logistics – locations, times – and lapse once again into giggly half-sexts laced with wordplay. I’m still barely awake; I tell him I’m going back to sleep, and I’ll be in touch later.

That afternoon, I send him a selfie of me looking put-upon and adorable. “This is my ‘You should have drinks with me tonight’ face,” I caption it.

No answer. I try to keep myself occupied with other diversions. Four hours pass. I complain to my best friend, stare at my phone for far too long, then decide to take a nap, hoping I’ll wake up to a text notification.

I wake up a few hours later. “I’m dying of anxiety,” I tell Bex. “Why hasn’t he texted me back?!” Bex, the greatest friend anyone could hope for, replies: “You don’t know much about him. Maybe work got out of hand, maybe he has food poisoning, maybe something came up with his family, maybe a friend just went through a breakup, maybe he was up all night last night and fell asleep, maybe he got hit by a bus, maybe he’s secretly a superhero and is fighting his arch nemesis, maybe he burned all of his fingers making tacos and can’t use a phone, maybe his phone broke and he’s at the store trying to get it fixed, maybe Pennywise lured him into the sewers with the promise of all the pussy he could eat, maybe he is volunteering at an animal shelter and got distracted by all the puppies, maybe he got lost in that weird circus store y’all have and has no phone service and is wondering if he’s going to starve and should start eating his own arm… I could keep going.” I laugh, but I’m still sick with anxiety.

“Or maybe he’s a dick who decided to ghost after 12 hours,” Bex continues, “in which case, you dodged a bullet, because you don’t want to hang out with him, because he’s a dick.”

do want to hang out with him, is the thing.

My anxiety disorder has decided this is the most important thing in the world. I barely sleep, barely eat. I feel nauseous over the idea that not only does “Mr. Goodflirtz” not want me, but no one wants me, no one has ever wanted me, no one will want me ever again. I wonder if he was only ever looking for a sexting partner. I wonder if he Googled me and got scared off. I wonder if he was using fake pictures and fake information to solicit nudes from me. I wonder if he was an undercover creep from 4Chan or the Red Pill. I can’t stop wondering. My sleepless night is a whirlpool of uncontrollable wondering.

On Tuesday morning, I resolve that I will not text him.

On Tuesday afternoon, I text him. “Hey, would Thursday still be a good night to get drinks?” I hate myself immediately after pressing “send.”

By Tuesday night, he still hasn’t answered. I log onto OkCupid to stare longingly at our messages – and I see that he’s online. After fighting the urge to anxiety-puke, I fight the not-altogether-different urge to message him some variation of “Yo, what the fuck, bro?!” I have to physically close my computer and walk away from it to keep myself from doing this. It feels like the most difficult thing I’ve done in a very long time.

On Wednesday I go to a therapy appointment. I sniffle and sob while telling my endlessly compassionate therapist about this dumb boy and all the dumb feelings I’m feeling about him. It’s a double-whammy: I’m hurting because he disappeared, and because I’m embarrassed by how much this has hurt me. He didn’t owe me anything. I know that. And yet I can’t help feeling wronged. Dropped. Ghosted.

“You just lost your job, you’re still dealing with the fallout of unrequited love, and then this happened,” my therapist points out, reasonably. “You’ve been rejected a lot lately. Rejection hurts. But it’s not a reflection on you. It doesn’t mean you’re unloveable.”

Tears stream down my face. I know she’s right. But I don’t believe she’s right. They are two different things.

My phone’s been on Do Not Disturb mode for the duration of our appointment, like it always is – and as I walk out my therapist’s office door, I press the home button, blindly hoping. But nope. Still nothing. The ghost is still dead, and so, it seems, is my heart.

A fuckbuddy I was supposed to see on Wednesday night texts to say that he’s sick, and to ask if we can reschedule for next week. I know him well enough to know he isn’t lying, but my anxiety suspects he might be – because I distrust all men right now. If someone could be so enthusiastic about me and then disappear off the goddamn face of the earth, then everyone could be lying about everything. I ignore the anxious voices in my head and choose to accept that a request to reschedule is indeed a request to reschedule – not another rejection, perched upon my already precarious heap of recent rejections.

On Wednesday night, I spend hours in bed just numbly staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what I did wrong, what I can do differently going forward. I grab my phone and open Tinder. I know it’s bad. I know. It’s like an alcoholic trying to nix their “one last” hangover with “one last” hair of the dog.

But it makes me feel a bit better. I flirt with a few boys, until I find one I actually connect with on some level. We talk, and joke, and learn about each other, in the formulaic dance that early online-dating interactions all tend to follow. It’s not fiery with white-hot excitement like it was with Mr. Goodflirtz, but it’s something.

We schedule a date, and I go to sleep, dreaming of someone new.

I don’t think about my ghost much on Thursday. But late that evening, my phone’s text tone beeps, and my heart leaps into my throat. I claw the thing out of my purse at lightning speed.

“How are you feeling today?” a friend has texted to ask – and I’m so goddamn angry at myself for being disappointed.

We Deserve More Orgasms, Dammit

“How are you, Kate? What have you been up to lately?”

“I’m writing a magazine article about the orgasm gap and it is blowing my damn mind!!”

My friends are tired of hearing about it, I’m sure. There are more interesting things we could discuss, probably. But it’s an occupational hazard of journalism to become temporarily obsessed with whatever you’re currently covering. I’ve gone through these fixations before with other assignments: spanking, squirtingBenedict Cumberbatch. And though my focused fascination didn’t always last, I always learned something in the process that I took with me into my ensuing experiences, my work, my life.

One of my favorite editors sent me an email a couple months ago, saying two new books were coming out on female sexuality and I might want to review them for her magazine, or possibly write a feature on them. “Has women’s time finally cum?” she joked in the email. I agreed to write about the books, and she had them sent to my house.

The books, as it turned out, were Closer and Becoming Cliterate – two fabulous reads which assess the current state of sexual sociopolitics and women’s sexuality. They have a lot of commonalities – both mention the A-spot, to my great glee; both advocate masturbation and mindfulness as potential solutions to women’s sexual woes – but what struck me most was both books’ examinations of the orgasm gap.

Closer quotes a 2015 Cosmopolitan study which found that only 57% of women usually reach orgasm with a partner, while their partners climax 95% of the time. Becoming Cliterate adds that in first-time hookups, only 4% of women say they usually reach orgasm, versus 55% of men. Yes, folks: we’re well into the 21st century and these sad stats are still true. It’s been over 50 years since the supposed sexual revolution of the ’60s and women’s orgasms are still trailing men’s. This is unacceptable.

I told my mom about this assignment, and the books I was reading for it, during an Uber ride to a family gathering. (The driver was probably judging us pretty hard. Oh well.) “Do you think that’s true?” she said, of the orgasm gap. I paused and furrowed my brow. “It’s scientifically proven. Yeah, it’s true,” I replied. Then she clarified: “No, I mean, is it personally true, for you?”

While I declined to answer that question when my mom asked it – hey, kids and parents have gotta set boundaries somewhere – she did get me thinking about orgasm disparity in my own life. Like the authors of the books I’ve mentioned, I also have access to scientific data. Mine’s just self-made and a lot more specific: my sex spreadsheets!

In reviewing my orgasm stats from 2016, here’s what I know:
• I came during 58% of my sexual encounters; my partners, comparatively, came 76% of the time.
• I’m statistically likeliest to come with partners I’ve banged at least a few times. I had eight first-time encounters in 2016, only two of which resulted in orgasm for me. (What was the common element between those two orgasmic successes? In both cases, the sex took place in my own bed and involved toys – a relative rarity for me in first-time encounters.)
• Multiple orgasms, while rare for me, are possible – with partners I’m suuuuper comfortable around. (My only multiple-orgasm sessions in 2016 were with a boyfriend I’d banged 13 times already, and a fuckbuddy I’d known for over a year and fucked 15 times before.)

Both Closer and Becoming Cliterate quote studies which’ve found that women are likelier to reach orgasm in ongoing relationships (whether romantic or just friends-with-benefits-esque) than in casual or one-off encounters. I can’t speak for other women, but I know why this is true for me: when I don’t know someone as well, I’m often too nervous, anxious, and insecure to ask for what will get me off. I’m trying to play the role of a “cool girl,” which includes being undemanding about my own sexual needs and just rolling with whatever my partner wants to do.

In more established relationships, though, that nervous magic wears off and is replaced by magic of a different sort. With my longest-term fuckbuddy, for example, I have no qualms about requesting he focus his fingers on my A-spot for a while instead of fucking me with his dick, and I know he’s super vibrator-positive so I’ll gladly grab my Tango or even my big bulky Magic Wand during sex with him, certain he won’t judge me or feel displaced.

Even with him, though – even though he’s made me come over a dozen times, knows exactly how to do it, and has never once balked at anything I’ve asked him to do in service of my orgasm – I still get hung up about “taking too long.” I’ll gladly spend ten or twenty minutes blowing him, because I genuinely love doing it and I find his pleasure deeply fulfilling, but if he spends more than three minutes focusing on my pleasure, I start to get anxious. “Are you getting tired?” I’ll ask, breathless with guilty arousal. “Do you want to stop?”

To his immense credit, he always reacts like this is a silly question – lovingly, of course. Hell, even the very first time we banged, he reminded me, “You’re getting in your head. Just relax and enjoy.” I’ve heard these words, or similar ones, come out of his mouth so many times since then. He’s exceptionally good at calming me down and helping me remember that pleasure is as much my right as it is his. But it’s sad that this is a rare talent among men. It’s sad that I feel I have to ask for this reassurance, rather than just receiving it by default or not needing it at all.

According to both the books I’ve read on it, the orgasm gap exists primarily because our culture still overvalues penile pleasure and undervalues clitoral pleasure. Though the penis and clitoris are anatomically analogous, and though stimulation of the clitoris is as necessary for its owners’ orgasms as stimulation of the penis is for its’ owners orgasms, and though this has been widely known for decades, the clit still doesn’t get its due attention in far too many hetero encounters. Focused clit stimulation is still mostly relegated to “foreplay,” while intercourse remains the conceptual centerpiece of straight sex, even though most women don’t get off from it without “extra” clit stim. The feminist babes who spearheaded the sexual revolution in the ’60s must be so sad and angry that it’s 2017 and women still aren’t getting off as often as we ought to.

So many times, I have told a partner, “Making me come is difficult,” when what I meant was, “I know exactly what’s required for me to get off, but I’m scared you don’t care enough to learn how to make it happen, so I’m not even going to try to teach you.” I have often said, “Don’t worry about making me come, I’m fine,” when what I meant was, “I don’t feel entitled to pleasure, even though I believe you are.” I still often say, “It’s probably not going to happen tonight,” when what I mean is, “It could happen if you did what it takes to make it happen, but I’m too embarrassed to show you how to do that, or to ask you to work that hard for me.” Meanwhile, I’m still giving diligent blowjobs left and right, time and effort be damned. It’s inequitable and it’s unacceptable.

I recently hooked up with someone at a sex club whom I’d just met an hour before, and to my immense surprise, he made me come. This, as I’ve mentioned, almost never happens to me – it’s one of the key reasons I decided to eschew one-night stands in 2017. But on that particular night, I’d smoked a little weed, so my sensitivity was high and my inhibitions were low. My hookup also kept emphasizing how much he wanted to please me, which helped. Teaching him to fingerbang me properly felt fun and exciting, rather than intimidating like it usually does with new partners.

Mid-encounter, I realized – as I often do – that my orgasm would remain out of reach unless I brought a vibrator into the mix. So I stole a line Bex once recommended I use: “Do you wanna see me come?” No halfway-decent partner would ever say no to that. When I got the affirmative reply I wanted, I went and fetched a vibe from my locker – and when I pressed it to my clit while his fingers resumed their magic inside me, my orgasm transformed from elusive to impending. And then it happened, more quickly and easily than I even expected, my muscles wetly clenching around his hand. “Oh my god, I can’t believe you made me come,” I slurred as I floated back to earth.

The truth is, it’s not hard for me to come with new partners; it’s hard for me to feel brave enough to make sure I come. The actual mechanics of my orgasm are not difficult. If I can muster the courage to give a partner thirty seconds of verbal instruction, or even to grab their hand and show them what to do, they usually figure it out pretty quick. And what’s more, they’re usually thrilled to put the work in, rather than seeming inconvenienced. It’s partnered sex; we’re there for each other, not for ourselves. Most of the joy of fucking another human is their reactions, and knowing your own role in those reactions. I know this to be true from my own perspective, but it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that my partners feel that way, too.

As easy as it would be to blame sociocultural forces for denying me orgasms, ultimately I have the power to overcome those forces in my sexual interactions. It’s as simple as asking for what I want, or just stimulating my clit during sex myself without waiting for “permission” to do so. Men typically have no qualms about expecting that they will get off at some point during sex, and taking steps to make sure that it happens. I need to practice adopting that same attitude, in the same guiltless and casual way, so that I can start getting off more consistently. Because I fucking deserve that.

What are your experiences with the “orgasm gap”? Got any tips for getting over anxiety about expecting or deserving an orgasm?

Strange Self-Care in a Time of Terror

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The day after the election, like many of you, I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t wash the previous night’s tear-streaked eyeliner off my face, or brush my teeth, or get dressed.

What I could do, and what I did do, was as follows: I put on some lipstick, watched YouTube videos and blowjob porn, and cried.

Self-care – or coping, because sometimes they are one and the same – is so unique from person to person. What’s comforting to you might be scary or weird to me, and vice versa. But with that caveat, here are some things I’ve been doing to take care of myself during what feels like a global depressive spell. I hope some of these suggestions help you, or at least inspire you to do what you can do for yourself.

img_5056Lipstick. If you ever see me wearing just lipstick and no other makeup, you’ll know I’m either feeling minimalistic in a French-starlet kind of way, or I’m depressed. It’s the easiest cosmetic to slick on when I barely have the emotional energy to look in a mirror. It doesn’t require the patience of liquid eyeliner, the precision of eyebrow pencil, the fastidiousness of foundation. It’s a simple, quick burst of color. It signals to my body and my brain that I am beginning my day, even if my pajamas and unbrushed hair say otherwise.

Mundane activities. If I can manage to get out of bed when depressed, I may be able to (slowly) work up to cleaning, doing laundry, or other boring day-to-day tasks. They are small and not terribly significant in the grand scheme of things, but they are something I can do, and it feels good to be able to do something when you’re depressed. My friend Sarah likes to bake, for similar reasons; she says doing something with her hands feels useful when depression makes it hard for her to move her body a lot. The other day I went to the mall with a friend because he needed to return a shirt he’d bought, and it was the sweetest banal respite. Sometimes going grocery shopping or stepping out for a coffee feels oddly affirming when I’m depressed. It’s okay to do small things when you can’t manage the big ones.

lBlowjob porn. I’m aware that this is unconventional, but that’s the point of this post, after all. While watching Heather Harmon porn in a weed-induced stupor the other day, I became aware that it was calming me down and comforting me. Part of that is simply that her porn is familiar to me; I know the rhythms and features of it, the noises I can expect from her husband Jim, the predictable cumshot at the end. And blowjobs are, historically, a calming activity for me. The love between Heather and Jim really comes through (no pun intended!) in their videos, and that helps, too. There is something so sweet and simple about a loving blowjob. When Heather does it, it is a gift without expectations of reciprocation. It is a pure expression of affection. In a world that feels cold and heartless, it can be nice to remember that there are still people who love each other that selflessly, somewhere; that there are still people who want to see their loved ones experience pleasure for pleasure’s sake.

Funny podcasts. I sing the praises of the McElroy brothers at any given opportunity. Their humor is goofy, fresh, and relentlessly kind. Whether I’m puzzling through advice questions with the brothers on MBMBaM, immersing myself in the fantasy world they’ve built in The Adventure Zone, or laughing til I cry at the weird creations of Monster Factory, I’m hardly thinking about my problems or worries when I’m mired in a McElroy show. It’s not hyperbole to say that these boys may have saved my life on many occasions.

3647718646_7d503c3a99_oMaking music. My songs are predominantly about romantic rejections and unrequited love – phenomena that feel huge when they’re happening to you, but pale in comparison to, say, the impending threat of a global economic collapse and the xenophobic mass ejection of immigrants. When the big things feel too scary to contemplate, it can help to whine about the small things for a while. And if perfectionism doesn’t make your anxiety worse, it can give you a concrete task to work on when the world’s issues feel unsolvable. I showed my friend Brent a song I wrote recently, and he – a seasoned songwriting teacher – gave me detailed notes about structure, syllables, melody and arrangement. Working toward perfection, even within the small world of a single song, felt fuelling when I would’ve otherwise been crushed by the weight of the global problems I cannot solve.

Scary media. Stephen King novels, American Horror Story, bad slasher films on Netflix – whatever works. There is some evidence that horror movies alleviate anxiety for some of us, and I’ve definitely experienced that. It’s comforting to feel that there is an actual, concrete reason for your fear, instead of just letting your nonspecific dread run rampant. And when the story resolves, some of your terror might, too. For similar reasons, my friend Sarah says reading erotica helps her anxiety. Don’t judge yourself for the seemingly strange self-care strategies you employ. If it works, it’s worth doing.

Marijuana. Some would say it’s not healthy to rely on substances to get you through tough times. I say that sometimes substances are the only things that can get you through and that may not be ideal but it’s still okay. Weed blurs my brain a little, forcing me to think one thought at a time instead of losing myself in worry. And it also reawakens my libido even at the unsexiest of times (more on that in a post coming out on Monday), enabling me to masturbate when I otherwise would’ve been too depressed to do so. Masturbation can be, for me, an important medicine, flooding my body with uplifting neurotransmitters and re-affirming my love for myself, so any impetus to do it more often is a good thing.

What are your unconventional self-care methods?

 

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