Dating Tips for Men* from a Sex Positive, Queer Woman.

Nice to see you here. Please make yourself comfortable. This is going to be a bit rambling, but also sharp; probably a little pointy and niggling in the parts of you that feel self-important or sure. It is probably going to be helpful, but also a bit cringe-worthy during the moments we both know are complete truth-bombs. I hope there is something in here for everyone, even though I am addressing it mostly to men*. I used the word “dating” in the title of this piece and throughout because that is what is universally understood as engaging with another person with a romantic and/or sexual slant or aspiration injected into the interaction. I typically don’t really like the word because I find it to be loaded full of expectations of some sort of escalation of seriousness after a certain amount of time. I am a huge advocate for casual love, and feel that not all romance or sexual relationship need exhibit continuity to be fulfilling, or meaningful, or downright soul-quaking. But, since I have now explained that, I will use the word “dating” to describe that engagement or interaction of a romantic and/or sexual nature.

I have an actual laundry list of things that have happened in my life that I have learned from when it comes to dating. I am going to offer up some of these understandings, as a gift, so the world can be full of happier, healthier, sexually and emotionally sated people. I have a lot of theories about emotional and sexual depravity and the impact it has on our capitalistic, very comfortable North American existence. Suffice it to say that I think if a lot more people were sexually and emotionally fulfilled and free, they might not be such assholes to one another.

I will start by telling you a little about myself as your “consultant”.

I am in my mid-thirties. I identify as queer, bisexual/pansexual, cis female/femme, sex positive and non-monogamous. I am coming at this as a person who is literally down to hang out with, and maybe consensually try to sex at, any human anywhere on the gender spectrum, just because it might be fun, provided they meet some (of what I consider to be) light requirements. I am in several relationships of varying length and seriousness, all over the romantic/sexual/neither spectrum. My friendships and my romantic partnerships have equal significance potential for me. I think and talk about this a lot, to the chagrin (I suspect) of some people; I identify as something of a love nerd. I think about my politics and how I inject them into my interpersonal relationships. I am not a dating/relationship expert; this is an opinion piece. Expert status is for people who have done their homework; I have done some homework, but not all of it.

Homework is lifelong.

I’m white; I have a lot of privilege because of this despite being female and queer. I try to think about that and be inclusive, and am actively attempting to learn how to be better every single day.

Now, a little bit of information about you (or what I assume about anyone reading this).

You are most likely here and reading because you saw the title of the essay and thought to yourself, “you know, I would totally like to date a sex positive queer woman. That seems like a pretty good idea”. Or maybe you were like, “actually, I think a sex positive queer woman would have a thing or two to tell me about what dating people is about, and how to do it without being a jerk”. Further, you might also be reading this out of spite: “what the fuck could a sex positive queer woman possibly have to say that speaks to my already extensive knowledge of people and how to date them. I am, after all, a totally hot commodity so like, I bet I could teach her a thing or two”.

If the latter is you, I’m so sorry to hear of your complete lack of self awareness, or alternatively your closed mind. There are a metric ton of great therapists in this city and probably also in yours.

Go see one.

Seriously, go to a therapist. Get your shit together.

To the rest of you: If you’d be so kind as to actually listen to me. I’m speaking from a place of ample experience attempting to date people just like you, or just not like you and like someone completely different, and everything in between. I have come to some conclusions about what might help you be more “successful”. That being said, I am going to define “successful” in this instance as “not having treated someone like shit, or been a shithead to someone”. This can also be defined as leaving people better off than when you found them.

I don’t support anyone being a shithead, or taking away from people for personal gain. To quote a dear friend in a particularly thorough outline of how to love more than one person at a time, “Don’t treat people like things”.

I am going to write this in reference to the phases a typical dating scenario goes, and what I think about it.

To start, we meet.

Oh hey; we’ve now met and you’ve established that you think I’m attractive. Thank you, I appreciate that, but not in the ways that you might think.

This first contact is not the be all, end all to your interaction with me. Stop with the “first impressions mean everything” trope. It’s old, and I am not an idiot. I know you’re a dynamic, multifaceted person that cannot be summed up in the first 5 minutes. In fact, I suspect that whatever I am first impressed with about you is more about me and my interpretations of people than about you. So, let this go and do not worry. I hope you’ll be able to do the same. Any assumptions you’ve made about me based on what you have seen in the first five minutes are probably more about you than they are about me.

Once mutual attraction has been realized, usually through clearly confirming with your words (use your words; they’re magical tools when used clearly), we can talk about what sort of interaction is mutually desired, or what we want to do together.

This is actually where things can crossroad to positive or negative. This is the turning point.

Right here.

Telling me that you think I’m hot/cute/pretty/whatever way you want to compliment my physicality isn’t going to help you out of the gate. In fact, any kind of basic flattery is going to provoke me to think that that is what you think is important about me, which is not what I think at all. I am also a dynamic, multifaceted person that cannot be summed up based on my physical presentation. Further, I have medium self-esteem issues, which I think is pretty common but not talked about enough as a systemic problem with the ways that femme-presenting women are viewed. Your compliments are going to fall a bit flat and I will, in some weird way, think you’re lying in the back of my mind.

This will put me on guard.

It gives me the impression that you want something from me, and don’t know how to ask for it, so you’re going to try to get me to like you by flattering me. Stop trying to manipulate the outcome of our interactions and just interact with me. Be yourself.

Oh my goodness, just please be yourself.

It’s 2017. Women are woke, and we see you. We see your attempts to cloud our perception. We see right through any sort of mask you are wearing. We hear our inner voices, and they’re telling us you’re putting it on. If I think you’re being at all disingenuous, we’re not going to get anywhere. Guardedness does not foster trust the way that vulnerability and authenticity does. We have learned through years of our own experiences, and those of our mothers, those of our grandmothers. Their experiences are imbedded in our genes, much like our own will be imbedded in those of our daughters. The voice in our gut telling us something isn’t safe is bang on every time.

Every. Fucking. Time.

We’re not talking ourselves out of our intuition anymore. That time has past.

I feel, sometimes, the impulse to apologize for that passing, but I will not. I am grateful for it. I’m glad that I get to be a part of a revolution in which women are using the tools we’ve been socialized to have for our own greater good, our own personal wellbeing. The benefit to us is hugely redeeming in light of what has been historically true: we needed these skills to mitigate the harm done to us. We needed to do this in covert, in shadows, subtly. We used to be emotional ninjas; now we are loud. We respond quickly to our own alarm systems.

We are battle-crying warriors.

I will not be sorry for my strength and learning how to wield it.

Now, since this is likely to happen, I’ll outline what is to be expected if I decide that this thing we’re doing together isn’t working for me.

The inevitability factor isn’t because I don’t think you’re a perfectly lovely person, or something, but more because the end of a relationship is certain unless we stay connected until one or both of us dies, and that just simply isn’t that likely. The other thing that is relatively unlikely is your coming to the conclusion that you’re not interested in seeing me anymore and doing something about it directly before I do.

I mean, if I had data to support this as more likely, I’d reflect that here.

But I don’t. You’ll probably ghost if anything, and I don’t judge you for that. It’s fine.

Because I might even ghost too, if I’m too tired to do anything else.

If you think the reason i am not continuing to be interested in seeing you is because of the thing I told you about, you’re right. I probably said something a while ago, maybe even twice, and didn’t get a response or attention paid to the thing that gave me reassurance that you care about my wellbeing within your treatment of me. So the thing that changed my mind and caused me to withdraw could have been tiny, but only because that was the straw. The rest of the things were subtle, ongoing, and didn’t seem worth mentioning until there were too many and i was done. Sometimes straws are a lack of gratitude, or not asking me a thing that shows interest in my lived experience, or some offhand comment like “i wish those women had come forward sooner” that shows me something about you, and your lack of thought process about people’s experiences besides your own lived one, and especially your perspective on those with less privilege than yours.

That is a sticking point for me.

The privilege one.

Because herein lies the final thing for this particular document.

You probably don’t see me.

You probably see someone who is nice (they say), conventionally attractive (I’m told), and have no actual idea who I am because you haven’t asked.

Ask. Be willing to learn about me. Look at me, witness, integrate what you see and understand, ask more questions, be willing to rewrite your narratives.

See me. I am dynamic. I change.

Keep up.

This, alongside some basic self-maintenance: having seen the inside of a counsellor’s office because you care about your mental health.

I need you to be thinking about what you say, why you’re about to say it, before you say it. Self-awareness is hot.

Being curious and open to learn, is all I actually need. I will probably never want to stop knowing you, or talking to you, if you can meet me with these few requirements.

The sexiest thing is a sense of responsibility for yourself in an encounter with me.

That is total panty-remover, as it were, if a sexual situation is mutually sought. Love potion, if the romantic is our reciprocal cup of tea.

Flowers are boring and probably unethically sourced, anyway.

*When I use the term “men” in this context, I am referring to people socialized as men, and are still wading through the weight and complications of what that means.

(Not So) Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Once upon a time in a not-so-far away land, there was a woman. She was what most people would consider attractive, and dressed a bit eclectically and hipster-like, without a lot of effort. The pattern of her socks would clash and yet match the shoes she was wearing. She liked flowered tote bags and maybe a delicate-looking pin tucked gently into her full, messy, deeply-to-the-side parted hair and overgrown bangs. She had been meaning to get a haircut, but every so often would trim the ends with tiny scissors she used for cutting thread while sewing. Her eyebrows are full and she sometimes wears red lipstick, but not always. The polish is dark on her short nails, usually a bit chipped. This is not from a lack of attempting to keep it looking nice, but simply because she likes to do things with her hands, like woodwork, and so they chip quickly after she paints them.

None of this is very important to who she is on the inside, though. These are just physicality descriptors to help us along as we imagine this woman in front of us.

Before we look within. Where the good stuff is.

She does a job that pays moderately well for the purpose of having the finances to support her pursuit in doing other things that are of more interest her, but are not necessarily very good capitalistic endeavours. Her childhood was relatively normal, with a few mishaps that left her with a sense of emotional strength being valuable. She had a weird uncle that always hugged and kissed her too many times which lead her to be stand-offish with physical affection unless she is asked for consent explicitly, even before that became a social expectation in her circle. Her mum kept fashion magazines lying around the house that she liked to admire the images in which gave her a value and appreciation for femme presentation. She wrestles a lot with her own identity as queer because of her femme presentation, and that she is able to “blend” and not experience a lot of the marginalization some queer people cannot avoid. She has a smallish social group of people she loves, and spends time with them, but also enjoys being by herself. She goes to shows: tiny local bands or deejays in the bar down the street on week nights. She really likes animals, and sometimes fosters for the local cat shelter, but does not want to have a pet at home all the time. She gets a lot of gratification from being a safe place for kittens to start out their adjustment to stable existence. She reads books in parks on Saturday afternoons, and is easily distracted from them to just look at how beautiful the trees are. She has a sense of humour that is on the palatable-to-the-masses side of dark, but gets much darker once she is comfortable with her audience.

She considers herself to be a loyal friend because she makes time for people and in good at staying in touch with them.

She takes her coffee with a small amount of milk in it, and always cold. She pays attention to people when they are speaking to her, and smiles at strangers, especially the people she sees regularly who live on the streets in her area. This is important to her because she really values witnessing the humanity of others and having small interactions that might brighten the day of someone without precedent. She has a purple string tied around her ankle and has done since the last time she travelled. It reminds her that her next adventure will sneak up on her, and to pay attention. Sometimes she is paralyzed with sadness because of the news she sees and the horrible things that are happening all over the world as a result of prejudice and hate, but has no idea where to start in order to help solve problems so systemic and huge. She usually looks like she’s carrying one too many things with her, but wants to make sure she is prepared. She would rather have a pen if she wants to write something down, or a scarf if it gets chilly out, than not.

She considers herself to be a relatively good person, but has a bit of imposter syndrome around this because she knows she could be better.

She had thoughts, feelings, and aspirations independent of anyone else’s experience, but is also affected by the societal structures that place her in a hierarchy. She listens to philosophical and political podcasts while she commutes to work. She has interesting and thought-provoking ideas. She likes social media, and uses it as a tool to connect information she thinks is important to people she thinks would be interested. Freedom of information is important to her. Feminism is expected by her of everyone as the default; when she is met with patriarchal nuances, it is off-putting and disappointing to her, but she doesn’t expend a lot of emotional energy trying to shine light on it for others. Sometimes, she’s tired and doesn’t want to die on that proverbial mountain, no matter how tall it is in the moment.

She has been called “pretty” or “cute”, sometimes “striking” or “beautiful” her whole life, therefore places little value on the compliment but has a lot of self-worth wrapped up in people thinking she is cute or beautiful. She doesn’t really like this preoccupation.

She doesn’t really like her feet. She thinks they’re a bit too big for the rest of her frame. She also wishes her hair would grow faster because she thinks she looks better with it long, and cut it off out of frustration with the combination of it being thick and the weather being quite warm.

One day, a particularly overcast day, this woman meets a man. He is around her age range, and looks like he hasn’t shaved in a couple of days on purpose. His jeans are straight-legged. He wears T-shirts that has things on them like band logos or emblems that reference sci-fi films.

He has just been through some kind of struggle. Maybe he just found out his partner was cheating on him, or a family member has fallen ill, or a professional endeavour just didn’t work out the way he wanted it to. His general outlook was “I need something to inspire me”.

She’s sitting on a bench in outside an art studio, or some such thing, watching the people inside who are throwing clay on wheels. He walks by and she says something funny about how muddy they all are, pointing so he will look. He looks and smiles and sits down with her to make up stories about the muddy clay-throwers’ lives. They decide that the two on either end are secretly in love and haven’t been able to tell each other because they are both either in relationships or not of the sexual orientation the other is suited to. They laugh for a while and she gets up to leave, commenting that sometimes it’s nice to stop and watch what is happening around us. It’s a nice reminder that we’re not alone. He asks her for her number. She declines but takes his.

He thinks about her a lot in the next few days, and makes up all sorts of stories in his head about who she is. He surmises that she is not that good a cook, but would try anyway, and that she likes the same music that he does. She probably lives in a really cool part of town that he would like to spend more time in. He could probably talk to her a lot about his problems and she would be a good listener. He is very sad about his recent turn of events, and upon meeting the woman, he is uplifted. He thinks she is magic.

A week or two later she texts him to let him know that she is going to go eat ice cream on the side of a bridge that is particularly beautiful at sunset and he could join her, if he wanted. He has been wondering a bit frantically if she was ever going to contact him. He has made an idealized script up in his head about who she is, and how that benefits him. “She’s so pretty and unusual; delightfully quirky,” he thinks to himself. “I hope she likes me and will listen to my problems, and help me solve them in weird and unexpectedly inspirational ways.” He rushes to the bridge to meet up with her and they go get cones from a nearby shop. She has a funny interaction with the girl who is working there, and he is enthralled with how easily she speaks to people. He resolves to talk to strangers more, and mentally pats himself on the back for this revelation.

They walk down to the bridge just as the sky is starting to warm up in colour scheme. They sit on a rock off to the side of the bridge, taking in the view. They talk a bit about their week and exchange some jokes. She asks him about himself. He tells her about his job, his family, the turn of events that has left him out of sorts. Whenever she starts to talk about anything that does not directly relate to him or him experience, he steers the conversation back to things that engage and benefit him. She notices this in the beginning and squints a bit whenever he redirects. As the dialogue continues, and the redirection continues, she speaks less and less about things that have to do with her. Her thoughts and feelings remain in her mind, swirling. She changes the subject increasingly often when he is talking about something he is interested in, and he seems to somehow be able to make it about him anyway, commenting on her unique perspective helping him see things in a different way.

He does not ask her anything about herself at all.

When they have finished their ice creams and their hands are empty, he reaches for hers. She looks at him, pulling her hand away,.

“Oh. So, um, you don’t seem to get it,” she says. “I think we’re done here,” and she stands up, brushing off her shorts.

“What?”

“Yeah, so, that conversation we just had? It was all about you. The whole thing. Do you know anything about me?”

“I… yeah! I mean, you like art, and…”

She looks at him, deadpan. “We just spent an hour talking about you: your problems, your thoughts, things that matter to you. I was interested, but I was also looking forward to sharing a part of myself with you. I thought the conversation was going to be reciprocal, because you expressed an interest in me, but I don’t think you’re really interested in ME at all. I have thoughts, feelings, aspirations and lots of memories that are important to me. I think you’re interested in what I can do and be for YOU.”

“………”

“Yeah, I didn’t think you would have much of an argument for that.”

She walked off over the bridge, away from him, and they never saw each other again. She lived a full, happy life with people surrounding her that empowered her and gave her validation, which she happily reciprocated because she felt witnessed, and thinks it is as important to see as to be seen.

Somebody That I’ll Never Know.

The venue, with house lights barely that could be considered dim, was buzzing with energy as the performance got underway. The floor was lined with row upon row of assigned seating, with space near the stage for standing room. We were all standing anyway, despite having seats assigned to us. The seating was for jackets or purses. This sort of event comes with the expectation that once the act comes out, everyone is standing and remains on foot through the concert. I love these shows; the ones where nothing can keep you from swaying or moving your hips a little, because who sits idly through Gotye?

The first time I heard “Somebody That I Used to Know” I loved it. I romanticized it, listening to it on repeat. I’ve since listened a lot harder to the lyrics and taken a different perspective. This song is about entitlement, and not respecting a person making their own choices about their participation in the life of another person. This is precisely what I was grappling with as I stood in that concert hall, listening to a live rendition of that song. I had left my autonomy in the hands of someone else, and as a result I had a small collection of cells growing inside my uterus, and within a few days they would be removed.

The subject of abortion is a controversial one. Is it killing a human being, or is it simply removing some cells that are the precursor to that person’s existence? Is it murder, or is it allowing a woman to choose whether her body becomes an incubator for 9 months? That last question isn’t even taking into consideration the impact that having a child has on her life, let alone her body. If she chooses to raise it herself, that is a life-changing trajectory that will mutate everything that happens to her onward. If she gives it up for adoption, she is still subject to the person she gave to other parents showing up in her life at one point or another, wanting to know who she is and why she made the decision she did. That could happen at any time, forever. The option that erases it having ever having happened is terminating the pregnancy, if the woman happens to live in a country where it is legal to have one. If they have access to medical care and resources to pay for such a procedure, should it not be covered. If they are able to access said medical care in clean and safe conditions and the procedure can be done without lasting harm to her. If it can occur without any blowback from family, social network, or society. If.

I am very lucky.

I live in Canada, where medical care is partially, if not fully, covered. I was able to sit in a clean, safe doctor’s office and wait for a nurse to come back from testing my urine sample and say to me “your test has come back positive”, neutrally, waiting for my reaction. I was able, as a result of my own upbringing, politics, and privilege, to stare her right in the eye, deadpan, and respond, “I am going to need the phone number of an abortion clinic, please” because those are available here. I think she then asked if I had not planned this, and I said that no, I had not. In fact, two contraception methods had failed in the process of this conception. Two. Contraception methods of which I had easy access to. Also, my self reliance had failed, but that was tertiary. When you are in an abusive power dynamic with another person, and he says, “we don’t have to use protection until you get your period, because you took the morning after pill”, you just say, “oh, okay” instead of checking into it yourself.

I check into it after.

My brain does a backflip. My heart sinks when I realize how far gone I was to just believe him when he said it was fine. You should have protected yourself from him, from all of it, I scold myself after; I still do. I didn’t protect myself. I did that thing I do where you let someone take the reins from me so I can just relax for a minute and someone else can drive.

I always do that with the wrong people.

My singular moment of reservation and self-doubt about my decision to terminate my pregnancy happened at that concert.

I was standing with my girlfriend and her other partner, listening to a wonderful performance by a set of talented musicians, and I caught some light from behind me out of the corner of my eye. I turned in time to see two smaller children run down the aisle, and a man following them, asking them in a loud whisper to please slow to a walk. Neither of them looked older than six or seven, and they were both adorable. They rushed up to the front of the hall, excited for the music and the show, practically tripping over their own tiny, padding feet in an attempt to get closer, faster. I thought to myself, isn’t it great that father decided to bring his kids to such an amazing show. Not a lot of parents would think Gotye to be a good or appropriate experience for small children, but the talent and the experience might inspire their own creativity around music. I think any sort of exposure to art is great for kids at any age, so i silently, mentally high-fived that dad as he breezed by after the two little ones. All I saw was a flurry of flapping jackets, excited voices, maybe some blonde hair.

Maybe I am imagining the blonde hair since mine is strawberry blonde, and his had been an ashy lighter shade. Our child would probably have blonde hair and blue eyes, based on his and my appearance. I wonder what gender they would be. Would they exist in the world around them or inside of their head, most of the time? I wonder if they would want to paint, or learn piano, or play soccer. Would they be more interested in boys or girls, or boys, girls and anything in between, like me? I wonder what sort of heart they would have. I wonder if they would be happy with the name I gave them, or if, like me, they would alter the spelling when they hit a certain teenage place that promotes arbitrary rejection of things assigned. I wonder if they would be a good friend to their peers, or a good partner. I wonder if they would grow to resent me, as I do my own mother, for something I did that I could never have foreseen affecting them in the way it did, and if they would be able to find a way to forgive me. I am only human, after all.

This thought stream lasted for about fifteen seconds, I figure.

I blinked and the children were lost in the crowd near the stage, the father gone as well. I rubbed the tears standing in my eyes out of them with the heels of my hands, wishing them away and to not give me away. I was not going to cry over some cells that had infiltrated my body, unsolicited. I was going to take another sip of my gin and tonic, enjoy the music, and get through the next few days. I was tougher than this, than tears over an invasion in my body, and I knew I was doing the right thing. To have a child right now was preposterous. To have HIS child, abhorrent.

No.

I was 6 weeks along. My lower back started to hurt a bit the day before the procedure, reminding me with its dull ache that my body was starting to adjust to its inhabitant.

I had found out there was a set of cells clinging on for dear life to the inside of me, trying to grow, four days prior.

That set of cells was going to be removed from me in three days time.

The last four days, and the following three, would be an alcohol and marijuana induced haze. I drank myself into a stupor each night, and spent most of the days stoned if I wasn’t working.

I did this to make sure I went through with it.

I knew that if I intoxicated myself to the point of memory loss, I would not back out because of the damage I was doing to those cells, as well as myself. I would be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other until I found myself at that appointment in three days. I would tell the on-site counsellor that yes, I have thought this through, and yes, I am sound of mind. No, this was not planned. Yes, I am sure.

Yes, I am sure.

A friend drove me to the clinic. I sat across a desk from a counsellor that had to ask me if I had thought through my decision, and how I was feeling about it. I gave her short answers. Yes, I am sure. No, this was not intentional. Yes, I would like to take this pamphlet about support services. No, I don’t need anything. Yes, I’ll happily put on that gown and put my feet in these stirrups while this nurse hooks me up to some pain medication. Yes, I can feel that. No, I don’t want… oh. Okay, I guess i’ll take another hit of the pain meds. The more, the merrier. Yes, I can hear you. No, I can’t feel that.

It was over in an hour or so.

I was high as a kite when I was guided back out of the clinic and to the car. We went to my house and watched “The Last Unicorn” and ate french toast.

I have not for a moment regretted my decision. I didn’t even think about it when the month I would have given birth passed. It wasn’t until more than a year after that I thought to myself, wow, I could have had a baby right now. Every so often I have reflected on how old they would be, briefly.

The reflections last no more than 15 seconds.