The year 2020 has proven to be filled with an eclectic variety of bizarre events, to say the least. The last handful of months have exposed dysfunctional and fractured systems in every facet of our lives. Certainly our relationships have been tested and priorities revisited. We have heard the word “pandemic” every day and have grown almost numb to its meaning. My hope for the world is that we all find ourselves in a place of growth as a result.
As we examine some of the things that are considered the new normal, I can’t help but to identify another pandemic that’s spreading like wildfire. I’m going to call this disease the “Dating Disaster of 2020”, and just like the slew of unsolicited dick pics globally sent, it’s ugly.
Dating In the Last Decade
What has happened to the world of dating in 2020? It’s a travesty and in desperate need of a universal shift. I collected some thoughts from some men and women I adore and respect, as they pertain to their recent dating experiences. Also added are some screenshots of real dating testimonies, including a few of my own. I felt as though I couldn’t be alone in this confusion of what a fun and healthy dating structure looks and feels like, in the worlds of both monogamy and non-monogamy. My love, Jason, recently shared his thoughts on how to show up for dating in Turning First Impressions Into Lasting Impressions and I wanted to offer another point of view, from a female perspective, as to how the dating system is failing us all.
Let’s flash back 12 years ago. I didn’t date much before I met Jason. I was a serial monogamist with a habit for sticking it out in relationships that didn’t serve me for far longer than I should have. Just before I met Jason, I had recently gotten out of an on-and-off again relationship and was really looking for space to breathe and expand. I found it difficult to learn much about myself and ability to express my feelings when it came to romantic connections.
I met Jason on Match.com, where I hoped I would run through a satisfying amount of dates. Sort of like a (vegan) charcuterie board of the dating experience. To taste the good, bad and in between. The first man I met online was this tall, sexy, stone cold fox that I immediately had a crippling crush on. He was a deputy sheriff that looked too good to be a REAL cop. I thought, surely, he had to be part of a male revue show and I hoped I’d get my shot at a lap dance.
Our courtship far surpassed any expectations I’d had about how dating could feel. He pulled out all the stops without compromising even a shred of authenticity. He was always on time, he made it known I was on his mind, he looked at me with lust-filled eyes, and relentlessly laid out the red carpet for me. I didn’t get a lap dance on that first date but I did marry him two years later. It’s safe to say I now have an unlimited lap dance, backstage pass. Today, twelve years passed, he continues to be the best date I’ve ever been on. Every time.
Flash Forward 10 Years
The hunk who stole my heart and I decided we were looking to experience more human connection and opened our relationship up to extra-marital dating. We began our open relationship only exploring together, for about a year, until we realized connections that we craved didn’t really work in that construct. We agreed that dating independently was something we were ready to explore. So, we both ventured back into the world of dating after a decade hiatus and boy has the scenery changed! Social media, unlimited dating apps, social distancing and poor relationship models are just a few things that contribute to this dating dysfunction.
Just Don’t Be a Dick
When I met Jason, it was still kind of weird to be online dating and the conversations were far more personal. Those conversations usually started with “Hey Aubrey! It’s super cool you’re into Muay Thai. How long have you been training?” Or, “Hi Jason, I see you have a passion for your career and love how active you are.” Nowadays, what I receive looks more like, “Hey (don’t bother including my name). Found you on ____.” Followed by a dick pic. I receive this type of message more often than not and it seems as though the fad has taken hold. I’ve grown to be quite fed up with the dating climate and I can only imagine what it’s like for men and women who are looking for life partners.
I have also seen what Jason has come across and while it’s usually not a dick pic, it may read something more like “Hey daddy. Check out my OF and take me places.” Or, “Wow! You’re married with a child? How embarrassing for them.” Very often he comes across the “What’s your wife not giving you?”, which is clearly a sign they didn’t read his bio. The slew of rude, hurtful and presumptuous “hellos” are mind boggling and I can say with confidence we aren’t the only ones fed up. Have we grown so far into a world of acceptance that we traveled beyond decency?
After observing a series of disappointing interactions and conversations, Jason couldn’t help but to wonder what the problem is. He told me, “You make it so easy for them. You’re communicative, interesting, include prompting questions… All they have to do is just not be a dick.” Seems simple enough. Let’s see how.
Don’t Be JUST a Dick
After polling some of my friends, I learned that this impersonal and seemingly uninterested approach has become the norm when it comes to dating. What happened to making your interests known and allowing space to let something develop and thrive? I don’t know about you, but I like to let things build, explore each other’s minds and desires. Then, if all goes well, once I am properly revved up, I’d love to see what they are packing. Not because the size, color, shape or trajectory matter, but because I am in a state of lust for that person and it’s fun to have some visual banter, in the event we can’t get together soon. When that time comes, I’ll likely be straight forward and suggest a picture share.
Let’s examine the concept of meeting someone online based purely on sexual endeavors. One of the areas of growth I’ve seen in the last decade is the support and encouragement of sexual autonomy. There have been substantial leaps in our societal ability to “live and let live” but we still have a long way to go. I am a huge proponent for exploring your fantasies but believe there is a better way to do it than what I have seen. I am occasionally in the mood for something purely physical but that thing is not an appendage. It’s an opportunity to dive into an exhilarating experience based on mutual interests.
My single friends also have a laughable amount of testimonies of men saying almost nothing other than offering a dick pic, upon introduction. Men are doing themselves a huge disservice by introducing themselves this way. What you’re telling us is that you quite literally have nothing to offer except for your dick. It just so happens there are millions more attached to incredibly well articulated, interesting, sexy and kind men. We will wait for those guys. These encounters do make for great storytelling over wine during girl’s night, so actually we should be thanking you. You wanted your dick pic to be famous? We will share it with our friends. You’re welcome.
I don’t want to beat the dick pic topic into the ground. My hope is that my words further support the plea for help to stop the widespread unsolicited dick pic culture! If you really want to catch a person’s attention, try a joke, a compliment, an interesting observation, or even just a thoughtful “hello”. If all I wanted was eggplant, I’d go to the Farmers Market.
Just Communicate Respectfully
When dick pics go limp, we are left with conversation and that may be an even scarier set of circumstances for some. We live in an interesting dichotomy of saying way too much over the internet and not saying enough. For some, the keyboard elevates the courage to blast whatever a person is thinking without any filter or consequence. For others, it seems to serve as an obstacle. It’s a reminder that your words are your identity and it seems to leave people unsure and absent.
The beauty of online dating is it gives you a chance to sample the goods, so to speak. This is the perfect opportunity to see if carving precious time out for meeting is something to be desired. If it’s a sexual connection, it is still best to get to know that person a little, develop some level of trust and report before deciding we can get into some kinky stuff together.
One of my first Bumble dialogues went something like this…
John Doe- “Hi Aubrey.”
Me- “Hi John! Nice to connect with you. You’re incredibly fit and I love your handstand pictures. Were you a gymnast?”
John Doe- “No, I just work out. Do you have any rules or boundaries?”
Although his response was brief, it seemed he was headed in the right direction, asking about boundaries. I responded thoughtfully and broke down our dynamic thoroughly, allowing room for questions.
John Doe- “So, can I cum inside you?”
John Doe- (sends weird flaccid dick pic)
I responded and unmatched.
My mind was whirling after this distasteful interaction. I had yet to see this man’s face clearly before he started asking me if he could cum inside me. I suggested to the man the next time he runs into a woman who is sexually open, try not to turn her into cumdumspter before a thinking, feeling human.
In the lifestyle, dating usually means “play date”. Jason and I are open to romantic, loving connections but we realize we represent the minority. There is a gross misconception that all people who embrace their sexuality want to be treated like medieval sex workers. I have a little more patience for those on dating apps, who don’t know any better, when it comes to opening conversation with us. They see a couple who clearly wants to get into some naughty trouble, so they think leading with that foot is the way to go. The more derogatory the better, right? Wrong. Take the time to read a bio. Couples that want that type of pursuant will say so. Modern day workers will also make it clear what type of clientele they are willing to take on.
Being that we are publicly in an open relationship and advocates for sex-positivity, it apparently comes with an invitation for a person to say whatever the fuck the want to myself and my husband. We have received an absurd amount of unsolicited pictures, homemade porn and puzzling messages from complete strangers. We understand that we represent ourselves in a sexual way, as we feel it’s just as much part of who we are as any other area of our humanity. However, the perverse standard for which these online interactions are held is deplorable.
Majority of the off-colored introductions we have received come from our joint Facebook and Instagram accounts. Daily, we have strangers pop up and aggressively ask for pictures and videos. I can only imagine what people with a larger following deal with. It’s like a constant stream of cat calls via messaging. We are open to connections through these vessels, when the conversation is open, honest and fluid. It could be a great place to meet people, but again the communication breakdown shortchanges any possibility of exploration.
There is a really easy way to fix this problem. Come to every online interaction as though you were face to face with that person. That’s it. I’m sure if I had met this aforementioned John Doe at a bar, he wouldn’t whisper in my ear “Can I cum inside you?”, within the first five minutes.
Just Be Honest
I think a large part of this dysfunction has to do with the collective inability to be honest. We are bred into a society where we view being honest with their feelings as impolite or scary. We have also confused the notion that being honest has to come with a serving of being an asshole.
I actually embrace the dates that are headed south because it allows me an opportunity to be straight forward. I’ve been guilty of taking things far beyond what I want because I’m afraid of hurting feelings.
Recently, I went on a date once where the fella was previously so communicative about his desire and connection with me. He made it clear how eager he was to meet me and how he thought we would have great chemistry. We met in person where we spent the first hour of the date with him watching the bar TV, holding his beer, making no eye contact with me as he littered the conversation with skepticism at our open relationship dynamic.
I immediately knew this wasn’t going to develop into anything but I was curious to see where he took it. Once I suggested it was time to go, he lazily walked me to my car and made some odd body movement that looked like he was going to kiss me. I said “Thanks for meeting me. Have a good night.”. He seemed puzzled that I wasn’t offering more and he replied with, “Well, I’d love to see you again.”
I was truly confused! I expressed to him that I understood my relationship dynamic wasn’t for everyone. But also had to let him know that at no point throughout the date did he show any indication of interest and that I was only looking for connections where someone can be confident in who they are, what they have to offer and at the bare minimum, maintain eye contact. He didn’t receive the criticism very well, even though I tried to deliver the news in the kindest way possible, without losing my resolve.
I left the date feeling great, even though it didn’t end in a lasting connection. I felt good in my ability to have my “no” mean “no” and be able to articulate why. The way he received that feedback was on him. Historically speaking, it would be difficult to let someone down so I would avoid it, which doesn’t do anyone favors. Relationships should never be obligatory or draining. Being honest should be the foundation for all relationships regardless of how short or long term they may be. Building on a fallacy only leads to disappointment and more hurt feelings and confusion than necessary.
I welcome honest feedback when it comes to lackluster dates, as well. Technically, new to dating and revel in the opportunity to learn how to be better company. I also understand that a large part of chemistry has nothing to do with what type of person you are, your fitness level, your career or interests. Sometimes it’s just a cosmic thing and being able to identify when it’s not a love/lust match shouldn’t be a big deal.
Naturally, most of our online matches aren’t going to lead to lasting friendships and lovers and that’s totally ok. Learning to vocalize why we aren’t a fit gives the other person something to work with, to think about and to learn from. This is the beauty of human connection. The ability to find growth and expression in oneself.
I have found a lot of this unappealing behavior comes from anxiety, intimidation and eagerness which can understandably can make people act oddly. Partner that with the internet, and you’ll find some interesting concoctions.
The best connections I have found are the ones where my counterpart takes a moment to slow it down and use their brains before their cocks, which is universally more appealing to women. Of course I like to know when a man finds me attractive and when the timing is right, move into a more sexy dialogue. Usually however, an excitable energy immediately gets stirred up, the cock does the talking and assaults me with a barrage of things he is going to do to me before we have even met. Once we have actually tangoed, then by all means, fire away with the dirty talk and word play. Constant sexual banter before meeting grows weary and it feels inauthentic though. The best lovers usually don’t claim to be such, prior to meeting.
When I have gone forward with getting naked with men that carry this excitable energy and it flows over into the bedroom, it usually leads to a limp experience. Literally. How can your dick show up to the party when you’ve been hyping him so hard? Ever had anyone put you on the spot to tell a joke? How did it go? Not well, I assume. Same goes for bedroom performance. If a man has been telling me how much he was gonna rock my world and now it’s go time, naturally, his best bud is gonna feel some stage fright and likely tuck in for the night.
When this happens, I’ve seen the shift from fun and sexy to tense and awkward in a flash. This hot connection suddenly disappears and in its place is an angry and almost insulting attitude. I can’t personally identify with the feelings of wanting to wish my penis into erection. However, I do know plenty of men who can and are able to treat this situation with dignity and grace. I have had really amazing dates, full of passion, groping and fun, then turn really sour once the possibility of penetration is off the table. It makes me feel like none of the other good times mattered. The notion that its only a successful date if it ends in a bang cheapens all the yummy deliciousness of the pursuit.
There are endless bedroom activities that can just as good as sex. If a man can take a step back, relax, enjoy himself in other facets, it’s likely his manhood will wanna join in again at some point. However, cursing your phallus, blaming your lover, and setting unrealistic expectations will only send a person down a spiral they’ll unlikely to ever recover from and the date should be over. Trust me, there’s not much that can kill a mood quicker than to be sucking on a reluctant angry person’s limp dick as they stare doubtfully down at you trying to will it into commission. My lady boner surely won’t get hard again.
The most enjoyable dating and bedroom experiences are rooted in a shared positive attitude. There is really no room for stress. Cortisol is the destroyer of a good time, so if you find yourself feeling performance anxiety on a date or in the sack, remind yourself it should all be fun. Take a moment to step away and re-center yourself. Find out what you want from the date and proceed as the charming person that showed up, initially. You are not alone in your anxieties and should be treated with kindness by maintaining a good headspace and learning to enjoy all the other electric vibes.
Just Have Fun
If there is nothing else that resonates here, I hope this suggestion does. The world is so tightly wound, all our futures are ambiguous as we embark on 2021. Dating has been tricky amidst the pandemic. With social distancing and so much global negativity, it can be hard to unwind and just let the good times roll. As the world changes around us, we have seen the value we, as humans, hold in each other’s lives. Our minds, bodies and souls are precious and should be respected and cared for by ourselves and each other.
Not every date needs to lead to marriage or sex. Platonic connections can be just as valuable as romantic ones. Set expectations to the side and learn to invite the right matches into your life. I hope to see a better system for dating as we reconsider what our social structure looks like. As we begin re-emerging into society and hopefully away from our computers, I hope we find a reinvigorated appreciation for each other and all the unlimited possibilities of amazing things we can do together.
In the meantime, just don’t be a dick.