Confessions / Love / Sex & Love / Society & Culture

[CONFESSION] How Safe Is the Sex You’re Having? (And I Don’t Just Mean Physically)

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Here’s a fun anecdote for you. Let’s call it, “In Defense of Snooping.” I was seeing this guy a couple years back. We’d only gone on a few dates and had made out, but I was at his place, and figured tonight was the night we were going to sleep together.

So, guy leaves me in his room while he goes into the kitchen and prepares some beverages and a tray of snacks (we had a whole night of “movie watching” planned). While he was gone, I took the opportunity to “look around,” a term commonly referred to as snooping. Why women do this is beyond me — what do we hope to find? Pictures of exes, diaries about how they really feel about us (do men even keep diaries?), a ginormous pile of dirty socks?

In any event, what I found was a prescription bottle of pills with my date’s name on them. One quick search on my smartphone, and I discovered said pills were to treat outbreaks of an STD that stays with you for life. I was horrified, told my date I wasn’t feeling well, and never spoke to him again. You may consider this rash, but I wasn’t in the market to sleep with someone who could give me a disease.

Anecdote number two: I call this one, “Women Aren’t The Only Ones With Ticking Clocks.” I was dating this guy who happened to be a bit younger than me. We were still casual, but sleeping together, when one night he said to me, “You’re getting a little old to not consider having a baby. I’d make a great dad.” I ordered another tequila shot and replied, “Aren’t we going to a Black Keys show tonight?” The next couple times we were in bed, guy was very persistent about having unprotected sex. But I wasn’t keen on him being my baby daddy, so I came up with excuses like: “I have my period,” to get out of it. When he said he knew I didn’t have my period because he was familiar with my cycle, it was time to get the heck out. One of my male friends wasn’t very reassuring. “I know guys who’ve poked holes in condoms to get a girl pregnant.”

Anecdote number three: “Under Pressure.” A very successful, gorgeous friend of mine confessed to me that in her 20s, she was much more of a prude. But, now that she’s in her 30s and with more experience under her belt, she says she has sex much more frequently.

Sometimes, it’s because her libido calls for a dash of passion, but sometimes, she explains, “It’s just easier to give in to a guy pressuring me than to have some awkward confrontation with someone you actually like. I don’t want to turn him off.” I would expect this reaction from a less-experienced woman. My friend is having what I’ll call “strategic sex” from time to time. Even though she’ll participate in “strategic sex” every so often, she’s not so much a fan of this type of encounter.

“If I don’t know the guy that well, I’m not  comfortable with him going down on me because you can’t use protection for that. So, the least he can do is supply lube, because if she’s not completely into it, a dry condom isn’t fun for a woman.” While my friend is having safe physical sex, and even though she’s completely cognizant of the fact that a guy who pressures her into sex is likely not “the one,” she admits she usually feels “taken advantage of,” especially if the guy doesn’t call or act as interested after she’s slept with him.

Her “strategy” is to weed out the players and guys just interested in sex, but I wonder, even though she is no naif in the bedroom and understands that it requires strategies, is her form of self-protection really serving her needs?

I call anecdote number four “Coming Clean,” (no pun intended). A friend is dating a guy she really likes, but they haven’t been dating for that long. He disclosed to her that he has an STD and they have not yet slept together. “He earned major points with me for this,” she tells me. “But what do I do?” she wants to know. “Do I continue to see him?” OK — first, has dating become so jaded that being honest about physical conditions that can and will affect a partner’s well-being is considered something to earn “major points” for? I shudder at the thought. Second, it’s too early in my friend’s relationship for her to know if she wants to be monogamous with her guy, but she said she’d consider taking preventative measures (i.e., drugs that can ward off the STD) if he were to commit to her. It’s my firm belief that monogamy is an elective choice, and one two people should enter into because it’s a burning desire, not to prevent a burning down there. But my friend’s dilemma got me thinking: Even when we take all physical measures to protect ourselves in sexual relationships, are we ever really safe?

Do not despair, women. Safety is possible. I have a married friend who says that feeling safe with her husband is a complete and utter turn on. “Oh, I’ve had some wild times with really hot guys,” she tells me (and as one of New York’s former ‘It Girls,’ I believe her). “But what I love about my husband, who is the hottest man on the planet to me, is that he makes me feel 100% safe all of the time. It’s the most amazing feeling.”

I’m sure there may be an evolutionary reason or two that a woman is hard-wired to want to feel safe, but given the dating horror stories above, it also seems like common sense. When we hop into bed with someone, things change. This is a departure for me — a revelation I’ve come to of late: A handshake is casual, a nod is casual. Sex is anything but. The truth is, after sex, I do feel more vulnerable with a man, and not hearing from him will sting 100 times more than if we hadn’t slept together. So, I’ve started doing these odd ritualistic things to protect myself even before I enter into a sexual relationship with a man.

1.) I won’t ever talk about him to my parents. (This seems like the kiss of death. For real. Every time I mention a guy to my parents, he stops calling or I get a text like, “Sorry I’ve been so busy lately.” NB — it takes less than a minute to shoot a “thinking of you” text.)

 2.) I take his text messages at face value and won’t spend one minute analyzing them with my friends.

3.) I put him in my phone under a code name.

4.) I do not send any type of media that would embarrass me if it surfaced publicly or was shown to others. Unless I feel comfortable with a guy, as fun as sexy “selfless” are to take (and receive) I will not do this ever again.  (Yup, I’ve been there when my immature male friends have passed around their phones to show off photos ladies have sent them. The smart guys will be discrete. Why? “I want it to keep coming!” explains one of my more mature male buds.)

Do these things really keep me safe? Probably not. But they give me an illusion of control in the world of dating where sometimes, you can feel like you’re never safe from the blows of rejection, humiliation, frightening doctor’s visits, loneliness and delusion (i.e. OMG I must be a total troll because guy hasn’t texted after our amazing date!) But, all is not lost. I think the key to feeling safe is to act in a self-protective way and read the signs a guy throws at you correctly, and then, ahem, act upon them (I know that’s the hard part).

So, here are five signs that you might be entering an unsafe romantic relationship:

 1.) You feel slightly manipulated. Men, especially men in high-powered or creative jobs, are manipulative by nature. You can’t sell corporate accounts, book an acting job or raise venture capital without being able to manipulate people. It’s just the way of the world. And manipulation doesn’t always have to be a negative thing in the work world. But in relationships, it is not so good. Sometimes, it takes me a while to realize that I’ve been manipulated. I try to make excuses for the manipulative behavior. The best thing to do, however, is get out before you end up being manipulated into something that can irrevocably change your life.

 2.) He is erratic in his pursuit of you. I’m all for women making the first move, or even the second. But if your guy lays it on thick and then begins to withhold his attention of you, something isn’t right. He should be trying to make you feel safe and wanted, not confused.

 3.) He’s a future faker: he talks about the future, but doesn’t follow up on plans, set dates or give you a solid sense of security.

 4.) He gives you signs that he’s unavailable. If on your first few dates, rather than sharing past stories, memories, even former relationship talk in an attempt to build safety by creating genuine intimacy, he brings up his ex, financial instability or how stressful and busy his life is, he is not making a concerted effort to make you feel safe. It my not be conscious on his part or even mean he’s a jerk, but it’s an excellent indication of how he will prioritize your needs for safety inside and outside of the bedroom.

 5.) Just as you start to pull away, he’ll start feeding you crumbs to lure you back in. This is classic for the unavailable man. He doesn’t want to lose you completely — you give him attention, feed his ego, and even share good times together — after all, chances are you are fabulous. But you are a real woman with a real appetite, and deserve more than crumbs; you deserve the whole enchilada. Sure, you can play the game of being “less available,” but as long as you’re still playing, there’s going to come a time when you’re feeling vulnerable and you’ll take his paltry crumbs and eat them up in hopes for something more. Disengage, women! Small, well-timed gestures do not a relationship built on your emotional safety make.

In the end, savvy, self-protection is the only way to ensure your sexual and emotional safety. I had a guy tell me recently that I can’t walk around life wearing body armor thinking I’m impervious to getting hurt. And yes, to fall in love and be loved, you must, at some point, make yourself vulnerable to another. To be fair, men can be vulnerable too. But, in the words of Ice Cube, you better check yo self before you wreck yo self.

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