Cougar Hunters

“I’m looking for a sexy cougar to be with tonight.”

It was my debut on Skout, my very first online dating app, and for the past two hours my phone had barely stopped beeping. Notifications were coming thick and fast. I was fresh blood in a modern-day meat market. Alex’s proposition was blunt and I soon learned that was exactly his style. In my naivety, I admitted to not even knowing what a cougar was and he enlightened me: “You’re a sexy older woman, so you’re a cougar.”

Charming as his request was, I declined since I was home with my children and night times for me were out. Instead, relaxing on my couch by the fire, I suggested that I might be interested in exploring options with him another time. Alex took the bait with fervour.

Over the coming days I discovered that we had a good verbal rapport. Alex was not just cute and sexy but I liked his directness, his lack of pretension and his no-nonsense flirting. He wasn’t on Skout much and he didn’t waste much time chatting. He had a busy life and limited free time. We swapped mobile numbers and tension grew as we decided to meet for a kissing date – to test the pheromones and whether we found each other attractive. This was all so new to me that I needed to ease myself into it. I spent my days trying not to obsess about Alex while I worked and went about my ‘other’ life beyond the mobile phone screen. I did examine his several photos in great detail though.

I was fairly certain that I’d find him attractive but as a newbie I was nowhere near ready to arrange a sex date with a man without meeting him first. No dangerous or compromising situations for me! I was going to be sensible. There was also the small matter of my own self confidence. Like many women, I had a few body image issues and underneath the wide, friendly smile, a tenuous grip on my sexuality and potential appeal to men. After all, I’d been monogamous with one person my whole adult life. I had my training wheels on as I was learning how to be a single, mature woman seeking out adventure, excitement and, if possible, great sex.

So I wasn’t entirely sure that Alex would find me attractive, after all at 28 he was considerably my junior. It was noteworthy that he felt obligated to stress, over several text messages, that if we were to proceed with any sexual arrangement, it would most definitely NOT be a ‘relationship’. He would not go out with me in public, or be involved with me in any other way. He had a big family and he didn’t want the hassle of having to explain himself in case he bumped into any of them. It became a bit of banter between us, as I made a stream of jokes about burkas, hiding in bushes and not revealing my face.

With mild hysteria on both sides for the preceding two days, we finally arrived at the ‘date’. Some might consider 9.30 in the morning an unusual time to go on a kissing date, but I was realistic; I didn’t get too many opportunities for free time, and we were both snatching it while we could.

It was pelting with icy rain, bitterly cold and hazardous driving for us to be meeting at a mountain-top national park half way between our homes. Between showers, the air hung heavy with cool mist. We’d agreed on the location because it was both public and private – and beautiful into the bargain. I had visions of us strolling the lush herbaceous paths, finding a secluded seat on which to trial our mutual interest in passionate kissing.

But he got lost and so we ended up speaking on the phone before we actually met. It was a quick, slightly nervous chat about where he’d gone wrong and how to reach me, sitting in my car in the deluge and patiently waiting. He had a nice voice, friendly and manly, but also suggesting a quiet confidence. I was the only person in the car park, watching the steady drip-drip on the windscreen. By the time he arrived a few minutes later, the rain had stopped and with small butterflies in my belly, I climbed out of my car to greet him.

I liked him on sight in that heart-thumping way that shows a genuine and instant physical attraction. He greeted me with a warm smile and wide open arms. After a friendly hug, as if it was the most natural thing in the world he tucked me under his arm and we strolled down a pathway. We made conversation about his work (a tradie) and a few other inconsequentials that I promptly forgot.

We made a beeline for a gazebo since it was starting to drizzle again and our polite conversation continued to flow smoothly, serving to conceal my slight nervousness at the unfamiliarity of the situation. He’d been chewing gum as we walked arm in arm and as we sat on a picnic bench with table, he searched for a bin to deposit the gum. I quickly took in this motion; his legs straddling the bench and his eyes roving lazily over my body.

I sat tall, a wrap draped over my lightweight (but figure-hugging) layers against the damp chill. I turned to face him on the bench and, with a natural authority, he gestured to me to move closer to him. I lifted my long skirt above my knees and did so. He grinned and smoothly pulled me into an embrace, simultaneously seeking out my mouth.

Sensations overtook me: he tasted faintly of mint mixed with tobacco, his lips were sensual and his kiss both exploratory and sexual.

I knew after a few hungry seconds that he was without doubt the best kisser of my life to date. I’d been kiss-starved for an awfully long time.

As I moaned in little kitten purrs and pressed myself against him, he wrapped himself around me and stroked my back, waist and breasts. He was claiming me and I felt safe to willingly offer myself. It was the sort of tender but unambiguously sexual kiss that could have gone on and on. He was showing me that his stamina was every bit as fierce as mine.

When we eventually came up for air he smiled broadly and said, “Mmmm, boobies – they’re so big!” His appreciation was tangible. “See, I knew we wouldn’t have a problem,” he announced.

“So you mean that your standards are so low it wouldn’t have mattered what I look like?” My smile was guileless but underneath I was deadly serious.

He cast me a sideways glance and said, “No. I just know what I like, and I knew I’d like you.”

We kissed and touched some more and it was divine and delectable. I’d never felt so physically charged by such a sexy man – and I’d never met such a young man who was so obviously comfortable in his own skin, and secure and confident in his sexuality. He had good reason to be; I’d seen his half-naked torso shot (mirror selfie) and a range of head and body shots taken over recent years. He was mysteriously different in all of them, and an identifiable physical type was strangely elusive. But there was no doubt that he was good looking.

Meeting him in the flesh confirmed that for me. Every element of his appearance was attractive; he had a toned, medium-height body used to working out at the gym and being active in his job; his skin was smooth and youthful (in fact he looked younger than his age, not older) with a sexy stubble that was surprisingly soft.

Eventually it grew too cold for him to enjoy our intimate activity and so he suggested we adjourn to my car. I was oblivious to the weather, and felt completely unthreatened and comfortable with him. He’d shown himself to be polite, respectful, playful and charming. As we climbed, giggling, into the backseat of my car, our passion grew and if it hadn’t been for the responsible voice in my head I would have been up for sex on the backseat, despite the daylight setting and the possibility of another car pulling up alongside it. (During the entire two hours of our stay only one other car arrived, and sure enough, they parked alongside us and peered curiously at the steamed-up windows).

His touch was incredible, both gentle and sexual in a way that fully appreciated my body. He was definitely a man who knew how to kiss a woman and one who clearly enjoyed it. But he also knew how to pace himself and despite his invitation to me to explore his body, he seemed content to let me be the decision maker about what would happen that day.

Talking was very low on our agenda but we did discuss the outlines of an arrangement. He wanted sex without a relationship, with a regular partner that he found attractive. He would generally be exclusive to this arrangement but he was quite frank in saying that if an opportunity came his way in the meantime, he’d take it. He asked me what I wanted. Shyly, I commented that I quite liked the idea of ‘a lover’, giggling at its connotations of the risqué and slightly mischievous. I didn’t really know what I wanted; I was just going with the flow and seeing how this adventure turned out. I think above all, I wanted to be touched and desired. I’d had time in the lead-up to this first date to think about his desire for ‘no-strings’ sex and it didn’t bother me. Although I wanted to build something meaningful with someone (or several someones), I wasn’t out to claim exclusivity with anyone.

Sitting back and admiring me with a proprietorial hand on my waist, he announced almost as if thinking aloud, “Yes. Let’s get to know this body.” At the time I didn’t register what he said and what it meant. It skimmed across my consciousness like the raindrops on the car windows, but afterwards I felt uneasy. Was he referring to me as a piece of meat?

Before we went our separate ways, we agreed to get together again on the following Sunday. Although we chatted by text during the following week, it did not have the urgency or excitement of the earlier messages. It was almost as if he’d settled into secure territory now that he’d caught his prey and was about to devour it. At the time, I was unfamiliar with this change in tone but now I see it as a pattern common to online meeting scenarios. There’s nothing like the pre-meeting tension, when our imagination takes hold and the excitement of imminent adventure sets in.

Come the morning of the second date, I still hadn’t heard from Alex.

He knew that I only had a few hours available. At first I resisted the urge to text him but then I finally succumbed and received a groggy, grumpy response. He said that he couldn’t make it as he’d had a big night that had turned into a bender and he was staying in bed for the day. I swore and exhaled slowly, trying not to let my irritation show and to take this blow with good grace. We’d made a definite plan, but he didn’t seem to think it was. When was he planning to tell me that it was all off? Though I was quietly boiling inside, I messaged him something polite and mentioned that I was feeling a bit miffed …and then spent the next fifteen minutes calming him down. “This is sounding like a relationship!” he virtually hissed at me from his sick bed (the poor love).

During the following week we restored our previous camaraderie, although I was left with a strong feeling that any arrangement had to be strictly on his terms. I was slowly learning what sort of person Alex was – and trying not to think of kissing him every minute of the day. He left the state on holiday for a week and we chatted a couple of times on Skout. I knew he was looking for sex while away and that rankled a little, but by then, I’d justified to myself that I’d do just about anything for a second taste of him.

When Alex arrived back, I texted him hello and he gave me an enthusiastic response, which, in hindsight, was probably a ‘keeping his options open’ kind of response. After a week of trying not to consume myself with thoughts of his incredible mouth, I sent him a mournful but sexy (I hoped) picture of myself with a message, “Pensive me wondering if I will ever get to touch your sexy self again”.

Almost immediately I received a frank response: “Probably not. I’ve just met someone and we’ve started a relationship.” My mouth went dry as I tried to process this snippet of new information. After a terse reply from me (“But you said you didn’t want a relationship!”) Alex explained that it had been unexpected but that the opportunity could not be ignored. With an inward sigh, a heavy heart and a bruised ego, I deleted his account from Skout and his text file from my phone. I was on my way to learning not to get too emotionally involved, even in a hopeful sense, with someone you actually don’t know anything about.

A couple of weeks later, out of the blue, at eight O’clock on a Saturday I received a brief, cheery hello from Alex on Skout. “Why are you contacting me?” I messaged bluntly. “Last time you more or less told me to get lost.” He admitted that directness was one of his ‘virtues’ but there was no apology or the slightest concession to conventional courtesy. It was as if he wrote his own rules and normal considerations do not apply in the online dating world.

Alex explained that although he was indeed still seeing this ‘relationship’, they both had decided not to be ‘exclusive’ with each other and hence he was looking for sex elsewhere as well. So the rules had changed – not a regular arrangement that suited us both, but sex on his terms despite his emotional attachment to another woman.

Having just woken, I was not at my most tolerant. I took the opportunity to have my say. “I’m really attracted to you and I like you, Alex,” I said, “but I won’t be involved with you at the expense of my own dignity. Unless you respect me and my time, I’m just not interested. For an arrangement like this to work, it has to take into account the needs of both people.”

And so exited one of the sexiest and rudest men I’ve ever met.

Dickpics 101

Dickpics were certainly not part of my everyday life until I joined the online dating world. Yes, hard to believe I know!

Initially I was told that by a dear friend (who’s been in a relationship since forever) that guys who like to photograph and send pics of their genitalia must be somehow morally deficient or unhinged. Though this couch analysis did not sit comfortably with me, I accepted that some guys on dating sites were a little ‘out there’ and maybe a little too eager to get their gear off. (And to photograph their tackle and distribute it randomly).

I soon came to see it as commonplace and absolutely normal. By this, I mean ‘normal’ as defined by the context of this new world where many behaviours once considered abhorrent or borderline are now everyday.

Women have come to expect these behaviours and though we might bemoan that (and women have every right to object), women also contribute by photographing elements of their nakedness and using these images for titillation or connection. I don’t think it’s very helpful to judge, but I think it is useful to explore the behaviour and ponder some motivations.

 

“If you ever send me another pic of your dick I’ll give every goon I know your address and tell them you have 2 bikes and always carry cash. I’ll call your job and get the email of whatever woman is directly superior to you and I’ll forward your dick to her. I’ll print your dick on business cards with all your contact info and leave them in men’s restrooms. Just send one more pic and I’ll end you.”

Amanda Chatel asked nine men who admit to sending dick pics why they do it. The answers vary from pride, hoping for a compliment, hoping for some breasts or nakedness in return, thinking it would be an honour for her (seriously?), because he was asked for it, because he’s a guy and thought his dick would change the bad rep dicks have as visual objects of appeal, and because he assumed it would be erotic. (Amanda Chatel ‘9 Brave Guys Reveal the Reasons Why They Send Dick Pics’ Yourtango.com accessed 23 July 2017)

One guy was quoted as saying, “Now, as an older, rational man, I frown upon unsolicited dick pics because it’s just wrong, even if the only reason most men do it is because they hope you’ll show your tits in return. All that said, if a woman asks, it’s a request that should be fulfilled immediately because more often than not, it’s a test.” (A test of what, I wonder?)

David Ley explores from a psychologist’s point of view, what might be behind the modern-day phenomenon. “Men love the idea of receiving such pictures from strangers, and they assume women do too,” he says. “Men notoriously misperceive women’s sexual interest in them and project their own sexual interests and desires onto women. In this situation, men really are hoping and thinking that she’ll be turned on and send them a pic in response….Psychological research demonstrates that in anonymous environments, people, both men and women, engage in fairly casual sexual behaviors, including exhibitionism.” (David J Ley ‘This is why men send pics of their junk’ The Good Men Project February 2016)

Yes, I’ve noticed that too – and I myself would not expose my breasts in a public setting, and yet I might do so when requested online (if I like the guy). Partly, it’s about control and the importance of having agency. Ley goes on to say, “But, for some reason, whether biology, psychology or social suppression of female sexuality, women don’t enjoy this the way men do… One issue is that men just aren’t good at hearing or responding to, ‘No, we DON’T want to see that!’”

Dick Shaming

In Bustle online magazine, Suzannah Weiss says that the shaming of the dick pic has now gone too far. “The dick pic has come to represent the epitome of unethical behavior in texting and online interactions,” she says. “…This increased awareness could serve as an important jumping-off point to discuss why consent matters, not just in our face-to-face interactions, but also in our electronic communications, regardless of what body parts we possess.” (Suzannah Weiss ‘Why Dick Shaming Has Gone Too Far’ Bustle.com 11 Nov 2015)

While commenting on the viciousness with which women can publicly respond to videos or social media forums, Weiss also makes a valid point about treating others as you would wish to be treated. “Would we be OK with people openly criticizing the size, shape, color, or age of our vulvas? Men are already extremely critical of their penises, with more than half believing they are below average size. I’d imagine that hearing people shamed for the appearance of their penises would only make matters worse.”

Fair point, I think, if the photo in question was requested. But if it wasn’t?

I’m still not sure if the dick pic should be taken as a compliment, or whether I should be viewing it through a feminist or cultural analysis lens, but I have to admit now that I find it amusing and rather interesting.

The sheer variety of shapes, lengths, girths, sizes, colours and textures of penises is fascinating. I’ve learned a lot about the male member during this year or two – after all, when you’ve been in a monogamous arrangement for most of your life, you generally haven’t seen that many.

I do, however, agree with David Ley: “Beyond everything else, it’s just plain dumb. I actually agree with the feminist point of view on this. Maybe not sexual assault, but as much a sexual offense as exposing one’s self on the street to a busload of nuns. If he did it on the street, he’d be charged. On the internet, no? … think it is like everything else on the internet. People do it because they can get away with it…” Spot on!

But At Least Now I Know What I Like And What I Don’t Like

It’s taken a lot of penises to get to this point, and initially I didn’t like to look too closely as I found it somewhat disconcerting. If I’m really honest – though it might make me sound like a prude – I found it a tad embarrassing. It took a fair few images being thrust into my face before I became immune to the shock value and began develop my own dick aesthetic. I’ll never belong to the apparently sizeable group of women online who collect dickpics. I deleted my modest collection of a dozen or so not that long ago on the grounds that I’d lost interest in the guys to which these members belonged, and it was potentially uncomfortable to have them stored (concealed) on my phone.

On my journey I’ve discovered that some penises really do nothing for me, in fact I might even go as far as to say that unless I like the man, his dick won’t interest me. However, once I am firmly besotted with the man, intimate photos can be a real turn on. The qualifier here is ‘can be’ and this is because timing is everything.

If a total stranger online flashes you his dick, then that’s just rude. I used to see it as crass beyond measure. Because of the lack of immediate physical threat and the potential for attack such as rape, it’s clearly not the same as a ‘real life’ flasher. There is a similarity, however, that is uncomfortable and potentially disempowering for the viewee, especially if she has not been consulted before sending the image.

Most guys don’t consult, but over time as a deeper ‘relationship’ develops with chatting partners, many guys will ask first and if they don’t (and I like them) I will gently chastise them that it’s polite to ask a lady first before hitting ‘send’. After all, we can’t ‘unsee’ the image – and it may not leave a good impression!

Suzannah Weiss gets to the nub of the matter: “Plenty of people have solicited dick pics and plenty have sent them upon request. Yet a lot of writing about this issue hasn’t acknowledged that, possibly out of fear that admitting some people like dick pics would somehow mitigate the harm of sending unsolicited ones. We’ve conflated dick pics with the circumstances under which people sometimes send them. But those are two entirely separate issues, and we need to do a better job keeping these issues – dick pics and lack of consent – separate because one is a problem and one is not.”

But What Was It Like, That First Time, I Hear You Wonder?

That first time I saw a photo of someone’s erect penis flash onto my phone, with no warning or polite accompanying request (“care to see my dick?”).

It was on Skout, an app where inane banter and unwelcome dickpics are the norm. The first one or two were noteworthy because it was all new and a little surprising. I’d delete the thread and block the guy instantly.

I do remember one guy though; lonely, horny and equipped with the largest penis I have ever seen. It is no exaggeration to say that it was the length and width of my forearm. All I could do was stare in shock and wince.

I should add that rather than on actual dating sites, most sharing of genital images happens on chat apps such as kik, what’s app, viber, or snapchat. Moving to these apps is sometimes seen as an invitation to share explicit images and usually I let someone know that, by agreeing to move to a chat app, I am not giving them permission to do this. Those are my personal boundaries and you will have your own.

There is a sliding scale of acceptance of the dickpic, and the more I was exposed to them – even if it wasn’t every guy or every interaction – the more the behaviour was normalised. Indeed young women are very familiar with the sharing of images of the male member, if media reporting on sexting and mobile phone use among teens is anything to go by.

But although I’m talking about dickpics here, it’s worth mentioning that women don’t seem too shy about sending naked images either. One in five Australians singles are reported to have sent or received sexy photos, one in 10 of whom is over the age of 45 and 36% of singles say they’ve sent a sext, regardless of their age; 51% have received one. (Elyse Romano, ‘How Singles Use Technology in Dating’ www.datingsitesreviews.com 19 March 2013 and ‘Digital Love in Australia’ 17 January 2013)

Boobiepics (or even pussy pics!) are the female equivalent, and yet I’ve never yet heard a man complain about receiving these! In fact, I recently met up with a guy I’d been chatting to online and he mentioned that he’d been sent several uninvited boobiepics. With my researcher’s cap on, I asked if he minded. He grinned and said, “of course not”.

Maybe the essential difference is actually about men being largely visual creatures, whereas women are often turned on by words, behaviour and courtship, or physical presence, rather than just an image. This may all be a gross generalisation.

In order to fully examine this behaviour, we’d need to consider factors such as the societal gender power imbalances and attitudes that women’s bodies are for public consumption and that the male gaze has every right to linger on the physical attributes of any woman.

Again, Susannah Weiss makes a good point when she says, “With texting, Snapchat, and other technologies that make the sharing of images and words ubiquitous and possible with near-strangers, we need to talk about forms of harassment that can occur when two people aren’t even in the same room. This includes sexual language as well as images, and it counts whether that image is a picture of genitals or a shirtless selfie, and whether the subject of the photo is male or female.”

Consent is Everything

I’m not putting up my hand for any more research on the fractious topic of dick pics because for better or for worse, I’m immune to the dickpic, although I still consider it a basic courtesy for the guy to ask permission first.

I’ve said no a few times, but some guys are incredibly persistent (“But do you really want to see? Do you? I know you really want to see it!”). Short of saying “No, seeing your dick does not arouse me and make me want to bonk you instantly,” there seems to be little that would dissuade a determined sender.

This in itself is a significant point – the sending is for the benefit of the sender. The receiver’s reaction is largely unimportant. It is the very act of sharing such an intimate image – regardless of the viewer’s feelings about it – that turns on so many men.

Back to David Ley: “It’s probable that at least some of these men receive a sexual thrill at the idea of an unknown woman seeing their genitalia. It may be an aspect of exhibitionism, and some of these men probably masturbate as a part of the act, imagining that woman seeing the picture they sent. The fact that a woman rejects them for it is not salient, because for many such men, it is the woman’s disgust and rejection which is actually part of the turn-on.”

As I suspected all along! Suzannah Weiss agrees. “Some people send dick pics for their own pleasure without concern for what their partners want, and that’s not cool…But we shouldn’t condemn an entire activity just because some people do it without consent. Dick pics can be a lot of fun. I find it incredibly empowering to be the one lustfully gazing at someone else in a culture where women are stereotypically the ones looked at.” (Suzannah Weiss ‘I’m a feminist and I love a good dick pic’ xojane.com 30 September 2015)

Best to beware of the dickpic if you are venturing online. Be warned and draw your own conclusions!

PS Here’s a new article about the rise of the dickpic The Growing World of Anonymous Dickpic Appreciation Sites