Consent: Beyond Words

Using speech to ask for consent is the entry point and the bare minimum. Absolutely, we much teach each other to ask and teach each other to listen for the answers. No means no. Confirm that the yes is enthusiastic. Words are what we have chosen as a species to transcend the skin and skulls that keep us separate, words and their offspring are as close as we can currently get to telepathy.

Yet this world did not teach me to say, “no,” and the greatest betrayals I have faced happened when men not only did not hear my timid refusals in my voice, but they also did not hear the timid refusals in my shoulders, in my breath, in my eyes. These nonverbal cues scream to me when I see them in other women because I, too, have raised tiny shields and tiny trumpets and gone to war in silence. I ask, “How can you not see this?”

Still, I empathize. When I was first coming out of the closet, first to myself and then to others, I felt many things but one that I sensed intensely was, as I called it, my lack of agency. I saw the way some men took of women and seemed to get what they wanted, and I did not know how to enter this dance of lust and love and get what I wanted. I was frustrated. I was angry. I felt robbed.

I think all men enter this private battle that I entered. Do we trust the story we are seeing play out in front of our eyes and teach ourselves to take what we desire? For me, such a thing was patently unacceptable. I learned my own other way and I learned to ask and the love I receive is abundant. I realized that feeling robbed was my first mistake — I am not entitled to sex or touch or love. You get those things when you are good, when you are sweet, when you are open, and honestly just when you are lucky. I realized I was angry with myself the most; for being too cowardly to even ask, let alone touch. My frustration was my own fault, and on top of that, it made me unattractive.

Yet it is not so easy to come to these realizations. It is far easier to believe that asking for consent is just not sexy, or that practicing consent is simply doing nothing at all for fear of harming anyone. It is easy to believe a false dichotomy; either I’m an asshole and I get laid, or I’m nice and I get nothing.

My first steps towards shattering these myths were to realize 1) There are a wealth of messages sent nonverbally between human beings and I can hear them, see them, feel them if I try and 2) It is better to realize quickly a woman is not interested in me and move on than to postpone the discomfort of understanding rejection. The truth is, it hurts far more to pine secretly after someone than to let go when, in the end, it turns out they don’t want you.

Consent beyond words is learning to actively listen with all of your senses. The first wall you will face is the overwhelming tsunami of “No” and disinterest that you had been willfully ignoring to protect your own pride.  There are other walls, too, that I can’t even begin to describe in one blog post.

Beyond this initial sting, you will find a peaceful clarity. You will be able to forge honest friendships, untainted with motive. You will be able to present your truer, more vulnerable, less needy self. This self is, if we’re going to be practical, a more attractive self. And beyond your new calm, you will begin to recognize warm rays of “yes” beaming onto you. One might, unsmiling, avoid your eyes with hers when you ask her flirtful questions (no) while another will soak up your interest and laugh and speak back to you (yes?). The latter may, of course, be only seeking friendship, but she will be kind to you when you ask for her kiss and she’s not interested, because she does care for you. Bolstered by this kindness, you will be less timid to ask another your heart’s next desire.

Listen and see, listen and see. Cast aside your motivations and expectations. Offer your desires as gifts of insight, not as trials of sadness v. pleasure. That is the only way I can happily live, and happily live I do.

P.S. I am going on vacation, so next time will be posting early, on Saturday.

Should I tell my lesbian friend I think she’s sexy?

…If you’re a guy, the answer is: NO.

I have two guy friends who will probably think this blog post is about them, given things they have told me in the last 2-3 weeks. To them, I shrug my shoulders and say, “You inspire me…?” (Also, you know we talked about it and we’re cool.)

Anyway, I often get some variation of, “If you weren’t gay, I would totally have tried to date you.” Half of the time, this is preceded by something like, “I don’t know if I should say this, but…” or some other sign that the guy knows HE SHOULD NOT SAY THIS. And then, there he goes.

Ok, yes, my life is so hard because people think I’m attractive. I know, I’m supposed to take it as a compliment. Yay, I’m hot! “Thank you?” The thing is, it’s unsettling on so many levels to hear something like this.

1. What am I supposed to do with this information? Really? You know me well enough to know my ego doesn’t need boosting. And that I’m categorically not-interested in men. Are you committing emotional seppuku in front of me because you’re actually a masochist? Do you expect a cookie? Do you feel all better now?

2. It makes me question EVERYTHING about our past interactions. Before: Wow, cool, someone wants to talk to me about life and they think I’m interesting! What a great friendship. After: Oh, was he only being nice to me because he has a broken, one-sided crush? How often did he fantasize about me? This is awkward.

2. I talked to you about girls, dude. I told you the way seeing the back of her neck makes me feel in my crotch parts. I told you things I wouldn’t have told you otherwise, just because it seemed fucking obvious that you and I would never date. I thought we were bros. Now I don’t even know how to act around you any more.

3. Maybe because these guy friends know rejection is guaranteed, they feel free to be painfully honest. I often get more than just a passing, “Not saying I have a crush on you, but I have a crush on you.” I get confessions just short of the guy telling me he’s in love with me. How am I supposed to respond? I don’t secretly think about whether my guy friends are dateable. I cannot honestly say, “Yeah totally, I feel the same way.” I really do not.

4. It just reminds me that men are trained to think their sexual/romantic interest is something that can “validate” a woman. I mean, half of them can guess that I don’t want to hear it. But the other half tell me I make them swoon-stupid without a disclaimer. “I know what will make my friend feel awesome! Knowing that they are totally up to my dating standards! Never mind that I (should) know she doesn’t want to date me — Girl, I checked you against my rubric and you got a 9 out of 10.” Boy, I really didn’t want to be reminded that all your girl friends are categorized into “Would fuck” and “Wouldn’t.”

5. In case this point is not already clear: your sexual attraction to me is *not* a compliment. These are compliments: “You’re funny.” “You’re clever.” “You have amazing hair.” Telling me that in an alternate universe, you would have tried to bang me…? Not. A. Compliment. By virtue of being the opposite of the gender I find attractive, you’re just not that hot. It’s like hearing someone’s kid brother has heart eyes for me. Kind of adorable at first, creepy the more I think about how often I had let him sit in my lap.

OkCupid for friends and lovers – SD Survival Guide Critical Strategy and exposé

It’s not that San Diegans aren’t friendly. If I’m out at a bar, I need to just affect the breezy impermanence of a tourist at an ocean resort and feel quite comfortable talking to people. SDers are flakes anyway, so it’s quite safe to start conversations because, without considerable effort, you’ll never see these people again. Join the permanent vacation vibe.

But I’ll tell you what makes driving 15 minutes (every commute is exactly 15 minutes, right?) out to a bar alone, hunt down and panic my way into a parking spot, and pay for my own drink (the first one, anyway) worth it, and that is a gloriously awkward first OkCupid date.

mmm look at all my options

mmm….options

And for all you non-single monogamous / polyfidelous / otherwise-not-available people out there… OkCupid dates start out 100% as friend dates, anyway. Sure I flirted with them online, but most people I meet are savvy to the “friend-date unless proven otherwise” rule. I’m sorry, there’s just no way of knowing you’ll crackle my thunder ’til I meet you under the literal firmament. So, not only do plenty of people use the service for “just friends” (it’s an option), OkCupid culture naturally supports friend dates.

I learned how to really appreciate the awkward first date after a bit of practice, and if you follow my strategies, I think you will, too. The key is to go on enough of them that it becomes almost routine. And I tell myself that one of these is going to turn into a great story. I’m still ready and waiting for my first Trainwreck Date.

Overview:

  1. Write a smoldering profile…
  2. …but don’t rely on it. Force yourself to send messages out.
  3. Find that correspondence length sweet spot…
  4. …but hurry to set a date.
  5. Choose location wisely…
  6. …and score a new friend/lover/significant other.

1. Profile Writing

Write your profile like an intimate letter, not a résumé. Here’s how mine opens:

I rewrote the bulk of this profile because I realized I misrepresented myself as responsible and organized. I can do responsible and organized, easy, but that’s not the kind of cupid I want shooting my arrows.

For some reason this picture gets me the most OkAction

For some reason this picture gets me the most OkAction

I’m bragging right now, shamelessly, really…but I get a lot of messages (after this rewrite). And people tell me I’m a good writer and it makes me all happy on the inside of my body.

Anyway. I’ve learned that this is one of the few times where talking about what you are like and not what you do is probably more interesting (thanks fellow ‘Sam’ and OkCupid analyzer for that insight). Possibilities are more seductive than facts, and the romantic brain is an engine of imagination.

In other words, I deleted the part where I said I had a degree and a job yadda yadda and added this:

Yes and no are my greatest powers – and it feels like I always get what I want, now that I know what I want.

The goal is to just get all sparkly with your personality and show off what it would be like for them to have a conversation with you over a Sculpin.

The six things you could never do without

This is not the time for extreme literalism. No one thinks you are witty for being the 5,708th person who lists oxygen. This is time for hyperbole and passion and a little bit of adorable quirkiness. I included….

Seeing a non-human animal at least once a day

…amidst serious stuff like art, my brother, & a job that makes me feel valued.

You should message me if…

Steal this. Just steal it and put it at the very bottom. It gets me a ton of compliments, and even a few messages from shy people. It’s genius and I thought of it and I hope it goes viral:

*******
If you are shy on okCupid, just c&p this:

“Hi. I am really shy. I like your profile. Will you go look at mine and message me back if you are interested?”

2. & 3. Messaging & Maintenance

Facebook hack

You actually have a facebook email address. It’s [yourusername]@facebook.com.  If you don’t have a fancy pants smartphone (ugh…) with like, app thingies, and you check facebook all the time, you can set up OkC to send messages there. Then just be sure to drag one of the notifications from your “Other” to your regular “Inbox” messages and you’ll have an extra reminder that attractive people want to talk to you. Kinda buggy, though.

Send messages!

Experiment with these numbers, but here are my benchmarks:

  • (When you first start out) Dedicate 1 night a week to seek new people and start 3 message threads. Each query ought to be a paragraph or two long. Show that you’ve read their profile. Lists can work well, i.e. “I think we should meet someday for these reasons…”
  • Find the comfort-zone of correspondence with each person. Generally I go for two volleys (I write two messages, they write two messages) before offering my number and a date, but sometimes three. Offering my number too quickly makes people think I am desperate and/or creepy and/or a robot and they ignore me and I cry. Offering too late… well I mean if you don’t take this seriously you are not going to make any friends and you will be lonely and boring and sad.
  • Don’t get caught up on % matches or profile details. People poorly represent themselves and also don’t know how to fill out quizzes (seriously y’all drive me insane) and only people equally as neurotic as me score a 99.  Your goal should be to find people who seem to have some potential, you know, get the important stuff right, and hurry to actually MEET THEM. You really can’t know what someone is like ’till their face is three feet or less from your face.

The Follow-Up

There are two basic types, and they’re critical.

  1. You let a thread die and stopped responding, or just never responded in the first place because you were waiting for a time when you were less drunk at 3am in the morning to think of something witty.
  2. They let a thread die because you were too cranky / intimidating / boring / weird / they are such hotties their inbox is bursting with noise and they lost your diamond in the rough.

I like to get a little creative with these follow-ups, but the main goal is to give both parties the benefit of the doubt that messages aren’t perfect and everything still has the potential to be shiny.

Aww sorry I never got back to you. I didn’t get the butterfly connection at first and wondered what would make someone think of soft sweet jazzy pop from the 60s while reading my profile and was so despondent I got distracted.

Anyway I don’t normally ignore attractive PhD chasers with sharks on their heads and a 92% match score. How are you?

Again, it is IMPORTANT to follow-up with dead threads. If Katelyn never came back with her glorious witty comment, we’d never have met :( :( :( Good thing she is an OkC professional. I learned from the best!

[text removed for brevity - also her username is not xxxxxx...don't even try]

[text removed for brevity – also her username is not xxxxxx…don’t even try]

5. It’s just a freaking internet date

You are meeting a stranger. Off the internet. You do not need to invest heavily in this date.

Good locations:

  1. A dive or beer bar, like Bar Pink, Lancers, Small Bar, Tornados, Hoffers, Red Wing
  2. A coffee shop e.g. Lestats, Filter, the Living Room
  3. Mexican food. No? Haha. I’ve never done this, but if someone will agree to meet me for Mexican food, then I will like her already.
  4. Somewhere you would go anyway, and you could run into friends, and seem all popular… such as Gossip Grill or The Ruby Room Merrow

Also, I am desirable and important, so I save my Fridays and Saturdays for old-friends-are-gold-friends and first dates get a weeknight. It is pretty embarrassing how often I’ve re-used the Taco Tuesday theme. (El Zarape for dollar fish tacos & the best green sauce you’ve ever tasted sober….and Lancers for a $6 Bloody Mary, poured heavy, with like 5 vegetables, and spicy like I like it.)

6. Results

Guys, I got Katelyn from OkCupid. Enough said. <3

blurry-lesbian-love-our-first-pic-togetherBonus section: Don’t be an idiot

Rejection

Please don’t tell someone you’re “just too busy.” That’s exactly the same as saying “Well if I was lame and didn’t have activities I would be desperate enough to hang out with you.” Obviously you have a profile and you’re looking for something. If you’re too busy to build friendships/relationships then disable that monster.

It is perfectly conventional to just ignore the first message if you’re not interested, and many people are okay with not following up after one boring date. I agree that blatant rejection hurts more than mysterious no-response. I do try to give closure to people I’ve met for a date whom I don’t feel particularly drawn to befriend or befuck, but damn it takes a lot of effort.

One last thing

This question KILLS me. Come on, San Diego.

okcupid-stale-is-to-steal-89475

….Aaaaaaaand now you know I spend way too much time on OkCupid. Seriously though, it’s one of the best ways to break into interesting friend niches in San Diego. Unless you want to be a redditor forever…