Little Miss Shy …Goes Online Dating part 3

Welcome to part 3 of my existential musings about relationships and the ways we ‘meet and mate’ nowadays. For the backstory, read part 1 and part 2. To jolt your memory, here’s where I left off:

But if I didn’t want marriage or monogamous partnership, what other choices did I have? What was there in the multifarious, shady world between casual sex and marriage?

Mr Men

The double standard

One of the things I appreciate about poly and RA are that they provide the opportunity, in theory, for the needs of both women and men to be met. It’s been argued that polyamory’s most radical contribution is that it gives women full access to non-monogamy.

Blogger Pepomint raises the issue of the double standard that still exists for men and women when it comes to sexuality. “…men are supposed to originate sex, and sex is supposed to happen to women; men are supposed to enjoy sex, there seems to be less concern around whether women enjoy it…” Freaksexual July 2007

Laura Smith supports the argument that polyamory has woman-friendly roots. She quotes Libby Copeland: “Free love rejected the tyranny of conventional marriage, and particularly how it limited women’s lives to child-bearing, household drudgery, legal powerlessness, and, often enough, loveless sex.” Smith writes of women in poly relationships, “acting on desire as essential to liberating oneself from male sovereignty.” Polyamory, she argues, is about “remaking one’s own little corner of the world”. Polyamorous Women Aren’t Just ‘Pleasing Their Man’ – It’s A Choice The Guardian 19 April 2016

Carrie Jenkins has another important point to make – “…women who violate the monogamy norm, whose sexuality is out of (someone’s) control, are a threat to an ancient feeling of entitlement over women’s sexuality and reproductive potential.”

Prejudices about sexuality relating to gender, to equal rights to pleasure, and to sexuality and aging abound. Why should a woman forego pleasure in sex simply because a man regards it as irrelevant and unnecessary to his ‘primary’ orgasm? Why shouldn’t adults of any age seek and enjoy sexual pleasure? What is inherently wrong with the idea of multiple sexual or romantic partners? If people are sensible and take care of their sexual health, how is it anyone else’s business? Why is a quest for understanding, acceptance, joy and human connection any less valid because it is not driven by a romanticised notion of the One True Love? Suzannah Weiss 12 Reasons Why There’s Orgasm Inequity (And No, It’s Not That Women Are “Harder to Please”) Everyday Feminism December 2015

Personally, I’ve had it with the One True Love myth – I want something different!

As products of the societies in which they flourish, polyamory and RA are not necessarily egalitarian, but what interested me most about discovering non-monogamy in my forties was the idea that I could create my own tailor-made rules for living my life in a way that I could never have done in my twenties.

Apart from my ignorance about polyamory then, I doubt that I’d have found any willing partners. Even now I have struggled with men’s set ideas about how a woman should behave and what is acceptable for her to aim for – the old double standard raising its ugly head. It’s acceptable to be searching for ‘the one’ or a conventional relationship, and it’s sort of okay to just want casual sex and one-night-stands. When you mention poly to a potential mate who’s never heard of it however, it’s a challenge to keep them interested, unless it’s NSA sex they’re after.

Some men can see the appeal or the idealism behind poly; they can see it applying to themselves, but they often can’t abide the idea of their partner/loved one being romantically or sexually involved with another man. Even in poly circles there is such thing as ‘the one penis policy’! And so we come in a neat circle back to the problematic issue of jealousy.

Back to the green-eyed monster

We can’t just discount it as immature or irrelevant; it’s real and intense and complex for most people, even poly people, and it’s not surprising then that a lot has been written about jealousy within the poly context. According to Veaux, jealousy is just a feeling that we’ve created because of our own insecurity.

Jealousy is most common when somebody feels insecure, mistreated, threatened, or vulnerable in a relationship… Jealousy is not the problem; jealousy is the SYMPTOM of the problem. Address the insecurity or the things underlying the feelings of vulnerability, and you address the jealousy. So the trick to making a poly relationship work is to make everyone involved feel secure, valued, and loved,” he says.

Phew, he makes it sound so easy but we all know that this takes time, energy, commitment, maturity and a host of other adult capabilities. And I’m not being flippant here – jealousy can be valid and it certainly can’t be ignored.

Lola Phoenix says, though, that not everything that goes wrong in a polyamorous relationship is about jealousy. The Hierarchy Polyamorous People Don’t Talk Enough About Medium 24 April 2017

“Beginner reading on non-monogamy over-hypes jealousy to the point where people go into non-monogamy assuming any negative feeling they have about a person their partner is dating is inherently jealousy and any attempt to express that feeling is automatically controlling, abusive behaviour.”

Veaux also says that things aren’t clear-cut when you’re dealing with emotional risk.

“Fears and insecurities are very, very clever at protecting and justifying themselves, and separating something that is actually harmful from something that’s merely uncomfortable isn’t always easy. It requires work. It requires examining, with an unflinching eye, what it is you’re afraid of and what it is you think will happen if your partner continues doing the thing that makes you jealous. And above all, it requires that you ask yourself, on a regular basis, what is the point of all this?

The point of all this

For me, the ‘point of all this’ is to redefine what I want in this second half of my life.
Do I (eventually) want a live-in partner, for example? Do I want just the one partner, but separate houses? Or do I want to genuinely find a non-monogamous arrangement tailored purely to the people involved?

I know I want intimacy and friendship – but it doesn’t always need to be tied to sex.

During my first year spent online dating I tested the idea of ethical non-monogamy. In applying ‘polo solo’ and the broad principles of RA as my guiding value, I preferred to keep my relationships separate and to remain autonomous. Since then, over the next couple of years, I’ve shifted, returned, challenged and experimented about whether I can live a happy non-monogamous life in the long term.

Re-thinking relationships

There is no doubt that relationships are complex, and poly or RA as a life choice has got to be right up there as the king and queen of complications.

Laura Smith, again: “Open marriage has its challenges, as does monogamous marriage, as do all relationships. De Beauvoir did cry in cafes; she was sometimes miserable. Poly advocate Ken Haslam said that polyamory can be ‘poly-agony’… But in much polyamory criticism there is an unwillingness to allow for complicated female desires, a self-serving wish to shove narratives into neater packaging.” Polyamorous Women Aren’t Just ‘Pleasing Their Man’ – It’s A Choice The Guardian 19 April 2016

No one is going to shove my narrative into neat packaging that’s for sure!

My own experiences of finding and developing a deep, long-term poly relationship was not without its challenges. Over more than two years Oscar and I tested our connection step by step, and for the most part, we were able to manage sharing each other. It was important for us both to have freedom to explore other experiences, each in our different ways. One complication that certainly affected me is the almost 20-year age difference between us.

During that time I thought a lot about how we all need to feel valued and special. Sometimes in longer-term relationships, we feel taken for granted, unseen, unappreciated. I adore Veaux’s quote that security comes from knowing that you, and everyone who is important to you, is unique and therefore irreplaceable.

When you see each partner for exactly who they are, he says, “you see that each person is someone who adds value to your life – value that any other person can’t.”  ‘Polyamory, Monogamy and Ownership Paradigms’ Franklin Veaux’s Journal 11 Feb 2013

And so, despite the challenges, poly solo or RA is still what I want for this time in my life. Maybe not forever, but for now. I’m still an idealist, for better or for worse.

We’re all familiar by now with the strategy of not ‘putting all your eggs in the one basket’. Sometimes, people choose to be monogamous once they know their feelings; others choose it immediately. Others hedge their bets by ‘simmering’ or ‘icing’. Right now I’m attracted to alternatives to traditional roles and relationships. I might not ever find a perfect fit, but I’ll enjoy the journey.

Having said that, I don’t want to fall into the trap of making value judgements for the wrong reasons. As Lola Phoenix writes, “A lot of beginner non-monogamy writing is made with rose tinted eye implants, practically. Non-monogamy has a way of defying some of the things that are inherent but not exclusive to monogamy. Sometimes it can be freeing to feel like you can flirt without ‘cheating’ or do what you’d like. And that in turn makes people feel like non-monogamy is inherently better, inherently more egalitarian, inherently more socially progressive than monogamy. It can get to the point where non-monogamous people refer to monogamy derisively, almost blaming it instead of structures like misogyny and heterosexism for the way monogamy has kept them in a box.” 13 things I wish I’d learned before choosing non-monogamy Medium, 22 October 2016

You might well be after your One True Love – or you may be after a decent relationship with a good person who fits your shape as you spoon each other to sleep. Or you might be intrigued, as I was, by non-monogamous alternatives and what they could offer instead of traditional pairing.

Whatever your choice, I wish you well.

Oh, and here’s how Little Miss Shy Goes Online Dating ends:

MrMen 2


Shockingly Bad Sex

I’ve written before about how I see good and bad sex, and if I were to take that further, and start a series called ‘dud sex experiences’, this guy would be at the top.

I’m not proud of saying this, in fact, I wish I didn’t have to make the confession because even remembering our sexual experience fills me with Revulsion with a capital R. It was during my first year online dating, but that’s no real excuse for poor judgement, although maybe a raging libido is some kind of justification.

I should have listened to my warning bells – yet again – though they were dull and tinkly rather than a full-blown clanging, there were a few signs I could have noticed. Sigh. Why can’t it all be much simpler, with straight-forward people and instant assessments of character and circumstances available to my now-well-seasoned mind?

In this case, though, it might have taken a little more to see what lay beneath the surface.
My revulsion is not a feeling he shared, apparently, for when I tried, weeks later, to break off all connection or feelings of obligation on my part in a really obvious way, he wouldn’t accept it. “Oh no, please!” he begged me. “Sex with you was fantastic!”

If I had to choose one word that describes my opinion of sex with him, it would be ‘embarrassing’. If I could stretch it to two, it would be ‘disappointing and embarrassing’.

If the benefits of hindsight had kicked in a little sooner, I’d have been on the lookout for signs of his ‘developmental delay’, which in my estimation was just another way of saying, politely, that he had a mild intellectual disability. Nothing against that, but it makes him the polar opposite of what attracts me as a borderline sapiosexual being, though his external packaging was of course handsome and appealing.

He was about 30 and tall, quite rugged, with a brooding, sexy look and a generous mouth. “You’re nice to kiss,” I said during our first hour together. “Yes, I know,” he responded.

We met on the free app Oasis and chatted lightly in small talk for a week or two, on and off. I gave him the benefit of the doubt right from the start – his user name (Brickie) should have sent me a sign, but I wasn’t necessarily after brains – brawn would do if it was nicely presented, polite and clean. And good in bed. But let’s not go there just yet.

We got to the stage of chatting on What’s app and via text and then Brickie phoned me out of the blue when I was out walking my dog. That was, well, okay but a little awkward. I put his pushiness down to an eagerness to meet me.

He definitely wasn’t after a one-night stand (he was emphatic in his Oasis profile about that) but he had a lot of time on his hands due to part-time work and not enough of it. Missed signal number one: be suspicious about guys with too much time on their hands.

We spoke twice before we arranged to meet. I missed another major signal when Brickie complained about how far away I lived and tried to get me to meet near his place – an hour’s drive for me. I refused and eventually we settled on a town close to mine, from which we could drive to my place if I felt inclined.

We met outside the cafe on a chilly morning in a slight drizzle, and although I was impressed by his statuesque physique and pleasant good looks, I wasn’t quite prepared to be drawn into a passionate and excited kiss on greeting, nor for him to shepherd my hand to his swollen groin.

However, I didn’t balk (missed signal number three: beware the man who breaks social conventions) and, rather stupidly I admit now, agreed that we wouldn’t actually go inside for a coffee; we would proceed straight to my place.

Brickie followed me in his car, the same hoon mobile about which he’d waxed lyrical in his phone call, how much money he’d spent hotting it up – turns out that me living on a gravel road almost gave him an ulcer in anxiety about the ‘body kit’ being damaged.

During the short drive back to my place I contemplated the morning ahead. A day of sexual gratification and fun is what I planned. I’d confirmed his appearance in the brief meeting (I wasn’t going to fall for the fake pic trick again).

More importantly, I’d used my senses and gut feeling for his energy – could I trust him in my home? Did he feel ‘dangerous’? I knew about that feeling and was still grateful I’d listened to my instinct at least once. My senses about him confirmed that Brickie was harmless, a little like a floppy, gormless Labrador. But he might be fun between the sheets!

He was impressed by my home but still bleating about possible damage to his car’s underbelly on the short patch of road that led to my property. I smiled in serene tolerance and a slight bemusement as I led him indoors and, almost immediately, he embraced me in a second passionate kiss.

That was arousing and I would have liked it to continue a lot longer than it did, but somehow in what seems in my memory to be a matter of minutes, he’d got me in the bedroom and was enthusiastically undressing me.

The kissing had ended and he was intent on taking his pleasure – and by his haste, it appeared that it had been quite some time since he’d last been satisfied!

Now it’s a bit of a blur (yes, I’ve willingly blocked it out) but the experience went more or less like this.

Kiss me roughly, remove top, bra, pull off trousers and undies, lift top over head and throw to floor, pull stockings and skirt off me and throw to floor, ineptly play with my breasts, clumsily stroke me between the legs a few times then lie back and wait to be serviced.

“Do you like my dick?” he asked more than once, eager for approval.

I moved aside my growing uneasiness and attempted to ignite some passion but I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm and so gave up after a few minutes. Second thoughts were pushed aside as I attempted to rescue the situation by giving in a half-hearted blowjob for as long as I could stand.

“Oh no!” he whined like a petulant child when I stopped. “You only just started!” I reassured him that it was just the beginning of a fabulous day and so ‘foreplay’ limped onwards.


I’ll just interrupt proceedings here to bring you a short intermission about how much I loathe that word.

I’m far from the first woman to point out that the term ‘foreplay’ implies that penetration is the main event, and anything leading up to that wondrous moment is a mere distraction. Or necessary preparation, like the boring cutting-in of the edges, cornices and skirting boards before painting the full room. (I’ve renovated way too many houses, you can tell).

Maybe if we abandoned that word ‘foreplay’ and just called it ‘sex’ we’d edge closer to removing the orgasm gap and achieving a higher rate of female orgasm with a sexual partner than the estimated 57% mark.

If you’re keen to know more about female sexuality data, check out my recent article here. And definitely go hunting for the trail blazer, Shere Hite, who studied the personal recounts of thousands of women across all American demographics and (living) generations to record their experiences in the bedroom. (Not just with men either, with themselves and with other women).

And perhaps if women’s sexual needs weren’t portrayed as ‘difficult’ or ‘time consuming’, we’d consistently be a little more satisfied, and less inclined towards guilt or shame that our parts didn’t exactly mimic those of men.

“There’s money to be made from portraying women’s bits as freakish, their sexual performances deficient and their libidos somehow faulty,” points out Van Badham in her review of the book about female sexuality Come As You Are.

The author, Dr Emily Nagoski, says that, “every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

“Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm.”

The book argues that creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life is not about what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. This means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it.

So it’s less about how our bits work and more about the whole person – just like general health, being holistic is important when discussing sexual pleasure. “Citing science is apparently needed to justify facts about sex that anyone born in a female body should already, implicitly know. No adult should really need a book to tell them that getting enough sleep, eating well, avoiding overwork, feeling good about yourself and not banging a loser are essential to sexual happiness,” says Van Badham.

Not banging a loser is particularly pertinent here, so if you can bear it, read on for the inevitable letdown.

I can scarcely bear to recall the detail of what then followed with Brickie in my bed that afternoon, but it involved fumbling with a condom and putting it on inside out (he refused to believe that was possible – where was his sex education?) and then almost immediate penetration and climax. He grunted on top of me, his hands possessively claiming my breasts, “I comed! I comed!”

Oh I tried in vain to wrestle the situation back to my advantage, even to the point of putting his hand between my legs, but after a few lacklustre and rather painful swipes, and my attempts to slow him down and teach him some ‘lady parts etiquette’, his response was an indignant insistence that it had to be fast and hard or it wouldn’t work.

At this point I was on the verge of saying, incredulously, “For fuck’s sake, do you think I don’t know my own body?!” I bit my tongue and made the best of it – but ‘the best’ was a pitiful thing for me. My vibrator was almost ashamed to be involved, since she’d known far more pleasurable occasions without a man in the room, lying next to me like a comatose baboon.

Afterwards he lay leaden on me, drooling on my chest and half-heartedly stroking me.
“Are we Fuck Buddies now?” he asked.

I laughed and made a non-committal response. I was feeling generous in my post-orgasmic glow (that he had in no way contributed to), and so I listened to his life story.

It went something like this: Struggled in school, violent father, disinterested mother, early diagnosis of developmental delay, limited education, left school early, parents ‘asked him’ to leave home, struggled with depression and unhappy living arrangements as a boarder in a house of schizophrenics with a tendency for violence, patchy working life but a reasonably positive ‘never-say-die’ attitude.

It was exhausting listening to his life. My mind was reeling about generational disadvantage, the critical nature of the early years of a child’s life, and what a tragedy it was that this simple but innocent soul was unguided in life. I sensed he was looking for a mother figure, and probably for good reason – but this wasn’t going to be me.

Especially not when he hadn’t the first clue about the female body and no discernible interest in learning its delights.

Eventually he grew hungry and I grew bored. We dressed and I made him lunch, kissed him goodbye and closed the door. Phew.

Then it hit me, he knew where I lived. True, I hadn’t written down the address and seeing how he was, it was unlikely he’d remember how to find my home again, but it was still a risk. I decided to gradually ease him away from me. This wasn’t too difficult as it was soon to be school holidays and I told him when he messaged me later that night, that I’d be “busy for a while”.

It’s also true that I recoiled from my responsibility – to tell him clearly that I didn’t want to be his Fuck Buddy and that I actually never wanted to see him again – because of a misguided sense of responsibility and a fear of ‘hurting his feelings’.

And so I tried to let him down gently, but he never understood what my ignoring his messages or answering the phone and saying (politely) that I couldn’t talk now, and not scheduling a follow-up date meant.

He didn’t understand it when I specifically told him that I wasn’t interested in a relationship with him, or with anyone. He didn’t get it when I said that he needed to move on, that one brief occasion with me didn’t mean that we were going to morph into anything else. “But I feel like you used me,” he said.

What if I had used him? Sure, it didn’t result in any sexual (or otherwise) pleasure, plus I’d fed him and he’d got his orgasm so what was he complaining about?

This experience, along with so many similar ones, taught me that we need to say what we feel, say what we mean, and that sometimes by beating around the bush or ghosting, we exacerbate someone’s confusion, their pain or their feelings of loss.

The Brickie wanted something I couldn’t give. A new life with someone who cared about him. Sometimes this dating game just breaks my heart.