I imagine that some hetero men have their relations with women all sorted out from quite early on. I’ve not been one of those men.
Perhaps that’s because I grew up without sisters, or perhaps it’s because both of my parents were shy. Or maybe it’s because I’m an unusual person and didn’t know what I wanted.
What I wanted, I know after several decades, a few long relationships and several flings, was deep intimacy with someone whom I could love unreservedly.
But I didn’t discover that until I was 60. Meanwhile, women were talking to me and I wasn’t listening. Here are two frank invitations I didn’t get at the time.
This came from someone I’ll call Cleopatra, whom I’d been seeing for a couple of months. She wasn’t obviously my type, but then I’d never known who was my type and I was keeping an open mind.
I did find her provocative, and she seemed to like me. And I was in a new city, and we both were available.
We booked a cottage several hours out of town, where we could have a private drink and see what else happened. It wouldn’t be the first time we got sexy together, but it would be the first time we’d devoted a night to it.
Late that evening came this gently voiced plea: “Dominate me!”
I’m embarrassed to reveal how surprised I was to receive that invitation. I had reached my middle 30s and had never heard its like before. I wasn’t sure what Cleopatra meant. The position we were in allowed me to pin her arms to her pillow, and I did so and hoped that would please her.
Our liaison outlasted the weekend but we never visited that place again.
However, Cleopatra’s plea resonated. Over the decades since, I’ve spent a lot of hours fantasising about where we might have gone if we had been able to rewind that encounter.
It’s not that she awakened in me a latent wish to push women around. It’s that she awakened me to the erotic potential of role-play.
I grew to believe that the domination invited wasn’t physical, principally. Rather, Cleopatra had invited my abandonment, and through mine her own. She had challenged me to show her what forms of submission I would find most engaging.
“Just fuck me!”
I’ll call this partner Prim, short for Primrose. At this point we were sharing a house. I was working afternoon shift and getting home about bedtime, after Prim had dined solo and settled down to TV.
We would smoke cigarettes together and sometimes a joint. Then Prim would crash and I’d follow an hour or three later. It always took me a while to wind down.
Next morning Prim would be up and off to work while I dozed. Mutual sleep-ins were for weekends, and mostly I worked on one day of the weekend.
One evening, a few years in, perhaps while we were examining why we weren’t more entangled, Prim said to me, as though she were simply pointing out to me something I might not have noticed:
“I’d like it if you came home every night and just fucked me.”
And I let that one go through to the ’keeper (a cricket analogy in which a batsman ignores a delivery because that’s the safe play).
I think that behind my non-engagement was my understanding that a man needed to make sexual encounters fun for a woman, and that doing so required from him a lot of attention, care and restraint. All of which I had in short supply when I got home from a shift.
Events since have led me to think that I misheard Prim as having placed her emphasis on every night, where she had intended it to be applied – and perhaps her tone had held something back out of modesty – to just fuck me!
I didn’t think a lot more about this at the time, but again I didn’t forget it. Still focused on the every night side of the overture, I felt as though I had let Prim down in neither taking her up on it nor explaining to her why it had felt like too much.
It was only after having known other women over a further decade and more, and perhaps from exposure to the insights of couples therapist David Schnarch, that I saw in Prim’s declaration an invitation to free myself from an inhibiting over-attentiveness.
In other words, again an invitation to bring more abandonment to my intimate relating. We may have had a much better time if I’d been able to hear that invitation in Prim’s shameless admission.
I have sought to explain why I acted as I did, but you might wonder nevertheless why I was not more receptive: why I did not explore with Cleopatra her desire to submit to me, or ask Primrose which element of her declaration most deserved my attention.
Many would argue that neither opportunity was one to be trifled with. Men might think that they would not have hesitated before taking up either, and women might think that anyone as obtuse as I seemed then deserved to be dumped.
I suspect that women who think this may be right. And that most of the men might be wrong.
Are my suspicions well founded? Insightful responses are invited as comment.