I had to really think about that one.
Author’s Note: Sometimes there are articles on Medium that strike a chord for me, so much so that they inspire me to write a standalone piece as a response. I don’t do this with the intent of passing judgment or labeling someone else’s ideas as bad, but because I harbor a view of how the world works that is so different than what I read, that it’s worth taking note. Maybe I could learn something. Maybe I could teach something.
Usually, I refrain from publishing these pieces. I’m not so good with social norms, and I have a fear of inadvertently hurting peoples’ feelings, even when I think my ideas are valid, valuable and that they might even help someone. Today, as a part of my “naked and afraid” writing commitment, I’m publishing this one — as an experiment.
Thank you for being my inspiration, Vanessa Torre.
Vanessa Torre recently wrote an article about her experiences with online dating apps. In the responses to the piece, she dropped this incredible line “My vagina is not a community college. Just because you show up does not mean you’re getting in.”
That’s a solid fucking line. Well written, Vanessa Torre.
My first thought was, “Hells yes! My vagina is not a community college, either!!!”
I’m an empowered lady!
I mean, if my vagina were an Institution of Higher Learning (and I’m not saying it isn’t) then it’s at least an Honors College at a large state university, right? Admissions should require transcripts and a creative essay about what each particular penis can do for my vagina, if admitted. I’ll need financial information and demographic data. Men should have to offer me something — tuition, attendance, contributions — to have access to my sex. Not like a community college where everyone gets in and pays only nominal fees. My pussy is worth more than that! Right???
It’s not wrong.
I mean, I am, indeed, the sole arbiter of who is granted access. I get to decide which men with whom I go to bed. But — the qualifying part doesn’t sit right with me. What kind of transaction are we talking about here?
Then I remembered that I married a man who spent seven years in community college before he emerged with an Associates degree. And my vagina granted him regular and exclusive access and bore him four daughters.
Then I felt like shit.
Maybe my vagina is a community college.
When I separated from my husband, I got a crash course in what it’s like to date in 2017: holy shit — the apps. The last time I had dated was literally Y2K. Sometimes it was surreal. Like, “Am I in a fucking movie right now???” surreal. Luckily, I had some lady friends who had divorced in the previous two or three years to be my guides.
“Take some cute selfies.”
“Make sure you have a pic with your Great Danes.”
“Make sure you don’t have a pic with your four cats.”
“Beware of the dick pic!”
SO much advice about pictures.
I knew, jumping in, what I was looking for and was able to adapt pretty quickly. I knew I wanted to have fun. I knew I wanted to meet new people. I knew I wanted to have sex — primarily to try new things in sex that might work for me with new partners.
My friendships with my divorced lady friends made me feel not so alone in this journey, but, as Vanessa Torre mentioned in her article, they weren’t getting any second dates, either. Their advice didn’t seem to be working for them.
Regarding sex, they would tell me things like:
“Don’t give it up too soon.”
“Make him work for it.”
“Third date at the soonest.”
Except they never got a third date. These sex games worked for them when they were younger, with no kids, and landed them the husband that they recently divorced (and whom I’m fairly certain they don’t consider a successful chapter in their relationship histories)…and their advice sure didn’t seem to be working for them now.
And therein lies the problem, as I see it.
What I was hearing from them in that advice and those rules were the same kind of thing that I hear when I read, “My vagina is not a community college”:
- A vagina is a commodity that is up for sale. To extract the highest price for your vagina, it is important that you do not give it away cheap, and
- Be sure to shame any woman who is too “easy” as a slut, because she’s just bringing the price down for all the rest of us, and we’re not like them.
Look, we all have sex stuff. There are shame and trauma to overcome, and no one should be coerced or forced into having sex when they aren’t ready. If you are on a date with a man — any date: first, fifth, tenth — and you aren’t attracted to him, please don’t have sex with him. Exercise that beautiful mind and agency you possess. You do not owe anyone access to your body.
However, when we base our choice to have sex with a man on how many dinners he pays for or what kind of exclusive committment he is willing to offer in exchange, we are defining ourselves as sex objects.
When you set a price for your vagina, you are treating yourself like a commodity, not a person.
The comparison between sex and college admissions is… well, it’s a broken mental model.
The friends and I would sit at dinner and talk about our dating lives, and I’d hear updates on dates they had been looking forward to, that included anecdotes like,
“Well, I laid it out that I don’t give it away to just anybody, and he has to be willing to work for it, but he didn’t call so clearly he was a dirtbag who only wanted to use me for sex,” or
“We had such strong attraction. Man, I wish it was the third date so we could fuck already.” or
“AJ! Why did you sleep with him on the first date??? What if he never calls you now???”
I guess that was a chance I was willing to take since I had no expectation that would allow that response to make me feel let down.
What I wasn’t willing to do was commodify my vagina to extract the highest price. That’s no basis for a meaningful relationship.
As it turned out, my experience, as an almost 40-year-old woman on dating apps was different than Vanessa’s and my friends’. I was never not asked out on a second date. I had second and third dates and more dates and multiple men wanting to date me exclusively. On these dates, I had sex with the men with whom I was attracted, and there was no transactional negotiation or covert contract.
I became the unintentional dating guru of the group. To hear them tell it, I was so lucky. I had so much game. I had quality men — men with successful careers and big houses who were intelligent and well-traveled and attentive — blowing up my phone. The group started asking me for tips and tricks.
“How do you get all of these guys interested in you???”
“I’m not trying to get anyone to do anything. I don’t have any expectations. If it works and is fun, we do it again.”
This is not to say that every dating app interaction was a delight.
I had my share of texts that went nowhere or guys I blocked. There were entitled assholes and dates that fell flat. I even got a few dick pics. They fell into three categories:
1) Those I wanted, accepted, and enjoyed by sexting back,
2) Those I didn’t, which resulted in a delete and block of the owner, and
3) Those that were accompanied by disrespectful and demeaning text, which I forwarded to my girlfriends with a screenshot of the dude’s profile as a warning, so that they could find him and block him, too.
None of that, from the dead end messages to the degrading dick pics, caused me to feel used or cheap.
No one can use me without my consent and my sex is not cheap (or expensive) because it is not for sale.
What did happen is that I met some great guys and had some fun times on dating apps. I shared my wants and needs with other people trying to get their wants and needs met, and when our intentions aligned, it was fantastic! Most importantly, though, I learned a lot about myself and my wants that will benefit me in future relationships.
I realize now that many of my friends were not only buying into this objectification of their bodies — the same thing they complained about men doing to them by offering them sex — they were perpetuating it for themselves by treating sex as a covert transaction.
The brutal truth is this: Their complaints of men treating them like sex objects wasn’t honest. They were only complaining that they couldn’t find men who were willing to meet their transactional price.
Sometimes, sex is a literal transaction. I’m sex-positive, and I get that there are male and female sex workers and I don’t wish shame on any of them. If your vagina is a community college, or you are or are married to a community college graduate, then I want that to work for you. (Maybe mine is, maybe mine isn’t. I’m not sure it matters.)
It’s just that now that I’ve gone thru the post-divorce, rediscover myself, experimental stage of sex as a single mom of late 30’s vintage, I see sex as a mutualistic exchange between two (or more?) people who are attracted to each other and care about making each other feel good. That’s it. Period.
As I met different men and tried different things, I started to figure out what works for me. Eventually, I dropped all of the men I was dating but one, and now I am exclusive to him because we have the kind of mutualistic, caring exchange that I’m looking for.
I don’t “give” him sex, and he doesn’t “owe” me anything for it. My pussy is not a prize to be won. We are both people with our own wants and needs.
My Loverman is not even exclusive to me, although I am to him. I don’t need that right now. He has his own divorce to sort out and his own discoveries to make about himself, and I want him to have that, just like I did when he and I first met and was dating several other people. Our current dynamic couldn’t work if I treated our relationship as some sort of transaction where I was only willing to give something (access to my vagina) if he was willing to give something in return (exclusivity).
And this hypothesis is only further validated when my friends say, “Girl, you need to respect yourself! You deserve more!”
“More what??? More than 100% of my needs met? More than the best sex of my life? More connection and intimacy than I’ve ever felt before in a relationship?”
As part of my preparation for this article, I asked Loverman if he thought there would have been a second date if we hadn’t had sex on the first. (Which we did, being two consenting adults who were attracted to each other.)
He said he didn’t think so.
I goaded him a little. “Why not?”, I asked, “…because you wouldn’t have wanted to stick around if I didn’t put out?”
“Um, no,” he said. “ You, AJ, would not have stuck around if I didn’t.”
The man has a point. Sex is important to me. In fact, he probably could’ve written an article about that night of the, “She just wanted to use me for sex!” variety that is so often written about men. The conversation over dinner and wine was innuendo-laced. I touched him without explicit, verbal consent (and would’ve stopped any time he told me, “No.”) I made it clear at the end of the evening that I was open to an invitation upstairs. And none of that meant I wanted to use him. I made an offering. I was attracted to him, have a sex need, and, being two consenting adults who are attracted to each other, he accepted.
Have I had men try to use me? Maybe, I guess. But, then again, no, not really. That’s not how sex works for me. I don’t use it to try to purchase attention or material items or a commitment. When I have sex, its because I am attracted to a person and want to experience the pleasure of their body touching mine.
My partner owes me nothing following the afterglow. I don’t engage predicated on an expectation.
This is some of the advice that I came up with as the dating guru of my group that has really worked for me (and my buds):
- Do an honest self-assessment about your attractiveness as a partner. If you want to attract an attractive man, you have to be an attractive woman.
- There is nothing so magic and powerful about the fact that you have a vagina (or that he has a penis) that entitles either of you to anything.
- Let go of the child-like fairy tale of unconditional love. You’re not entitled to that, either. It’s a fantasy to imagine that your dream boat, who is perfect in every way, is going to want someone who is happy with the status quo.
- Look for someone who is trying to be better and love him for that. Do yourself the same favor.
- Practice being by yourself, or with friends, or with your kids, or books, or hobbies, or whatever it is that helps make you an interesting person. Don’t pretend to be interesting to be attractive. Be interesting. It will benefit you first and your dating life as a side effect.
- Please, Jesus, stop putting a price on your vagina. Stop objectifying yourself. Boundaries are healthy and essential. Transactions are not.
- Let go of expectations and instead be open to possibilities. Don’t go on that first date imagining him meeting your mom or being the perfect step-dad to your 6-year-old. Just enjoy the moment. Unmet expectations are a recipe for misery as a single person and for resentment in a relationship.
- Stop thinking that men are the worst and that your dating failures are all their fault. They’re not. We have agency.
So much of this shit is easier said than done. Some days it sucks that I can’t just lay around unshowered in my sweatpants and have an attractive, accomplished man with a rock hard body and razor-sharp mind pining for my attention.
But, it also sucks that I don’t have a city-block-sized vault full of cash and a rainbow unicorn to fly me through the sky when I need to go to Target.
(Also, sucks that I broke my WeVibe this morning. Don’t get one, people. They don’t stand behind their product. It’s Rabbit all the way, but I digress.)
I feel sympathy when I see so many ladies struggling with dating. It’s easy when we are having a rough go, to declare that our flaws are inherent and unchangeable or that the world is full of frogs instead of princes. It’s less work to blame failures on these things, in part, because we have been taught that we deserve love exactly as we are and that we should only consent to sex for the right price.
That’s all destructive, bullshit thinking.
There are many things we can change, and one of those things is our understanding of how the dating world actually works. It sounds something like this:
Men weren’t put on this earth to please you, or read your mind, or earn their way into your pants, or provide you with unconditional love, or seek to “deserve” your pussy. They are people who have their own wants and needs and sometimes they won’t align with yours. Shaming them for that is no different than shaming you for your wants and needs. You have the agency to say, “ That guy’s needs don’t align with mine. And that’s okay”, and move on. Use it. You will be a better person for it.
Your pussy might be a community college, or it might not be — I’ve decided that mine is not — but treating sex and dating as a transaction is a surefire way to make dating in 2018 fruitless and miserable.