At 41, I’m a woman who’s been taught since the day I was born to constantly sacrifice my own best interests, comfort, and often safety, to almost bend myself into a goddamn pretzel at times, for the sake of men’s comfort, needs, and feelings. We women are all trained that way, right?
Men, however, have been raised to be selfish, and that’s not necessarily their fault. Obviously, there are no absolutes; there are plenty of men who are nurturing. But in general, most men (especially straight men) are not raised to put the needs of everyone else first, thanks to toxic masculinity’s hold on our culture. They’ve been told again and again that they’re superior to women and that we are here, more or less, solely for them—to satisfy their sexual impulses, to bear their children, cook their supper, applaud them, be their therapist, wash their boxers. All of it! Remember how Eve was made for the sole purpose of keeping Adam from getting bored?
In that moment with Lucas, I pledged to behave more like men do when it comes to asserting my needs.
As Lucas continued to caress me, I thought back to all the times I’d let a man sleep over when I really just wanted him to leave. I mean, I’m a huge fan of morning sex and cuddling, but it’s usually not worth it unless I really like the guy or the sex is just that good. Once, a guy kept me up all night screaming bloody murder during his bear attack dreams. Another one must have had restless leg syndrome, because he kicked me like a donkey until the sun rose. Most of them snore, have untreated sleep apnea, or breathe so wildly inconsistently that I panic over them dying in my bed. They don’t do this on purpose, and most haven’t a clue they’ve kept me up all night, but the point is, it usually sucks for me when men stay over.
For me, letting a man into my vagina has always felt way less intimate than letting him into my bed. Sleeping is when you’re the most vulnerable and doing this—naked—with a stranger is actually a really big deal, especially for women. This guy could do anything to me while I’m unconscious: fart on me, mumble belligerently about his deepest darkest secrets, or sleepwalk to my kitchen, grab a butcher knife, and cut my head off. The decapitation part hasn’t happened before, obviously, but strange things certainly have.
Plus, I’ve been single most of my life, so I’m used to having the whole bed to myself. Even when I’m dating someone, it takes getting used to having a man wrapped around me instead of my 700 pillows. Last year I was living in Spain and my then boyfriend was here in France. We saw each other only once a month, so we never quite got used to sleeping in bed together consistently. Every time we visited each other, the first night was awful for both of us. The second was better, and by the third or fourth we slept all lovey-dovey like they do in the movies. But since those trips were usually only a couple of days long, they absolutely exhausted me.
I loved that guy and every moment we had together, so it was worth the sacrifice of sleep. But for a one-night stand? Nah. I’m over it.
Most of us learn sex advice from various relationships, from other people’s relationships, and from snatches of porn or movies. It’s like Easter eggs in Stranger Things—you start to put them all together to form your theory about how to approach love and life. I learned one gem from my friend Anne, when we went away together on vacation. After she came back from what I assumed was a hot sexy night with a local, she said, shrugging, “Nah. We didn’t hook up. We talked all night instead. He wouldn’t go down on me, so I refused to let him take my clothes off. Those are the conditions,” and winked.