Category Archives: The sinner in me

It’s a question of… online dating

A guy I know recently changed his relation status on Facebook from being “in a relationship” to “single”.  According to the usual procedure, his 150 listed friends were immediately informed and one of them reacted by publically writing not to worry because he could now join the ranks of men who (I quote) “get laid thanks to online dating”.

I’m not sure the comment comforted my recently separated (and obviously depressed about it) Facebook friend but it got me thinking about the change there’s been in online dating these past years.

When I first signed up on a dating website six or seven years ago, it totally changed my life. Within a day I went from single mum who had forgotten the mere existence of males aside her son, to being a woman who actually looked at men in the street again and, oh yes, regained her flirting instinct too. All this because of e-mails I had gotten from total strangers.

I did not put a picture of myself on my online dating profile – something that would not have gone down well today. Most men now demand it (and by ‘demand’ I mean as in ‘command’), along with a whole lot of adverbs impossible to find in one single person. At the time, the market was somehow less competitive and more flaw forgiving.

Not having a profile photo didn’t prevent me from “meeting” a lot of nice guys who sent me long, personal e-mails and read mine in details responding to them with wit and concern. After a week – and for several weeks to come – I was in daily e-mail contact with three of these men. They never once wrote about sex or sexual encounters.

Somewhere down the line, we got to the “phone contact” point. It went fine with man n° 1. We talked for hours, and went on to more explicit texting, but never actually met. (Like me, he had “multiple contacts”, hooked up with one of them and thus gallantly ended our “relationship”).

Man n° 2 I never actually spoke to on the phone, because too much e-mailing nullified all dating prospects and sent us into a friendship zone in which we stayed for several years before losing contact.

As for man n°3, he was the proof that online too, I sometimes misjudge men terribly. The first time he called he somehow got talking about his ex-wife and how she’d “falsely accused him” of “slapping her around” and that he’d had “nothing to do” with her broken nose or arm… I didn’t give him the benefit of doubt.

Despite this last “mishap”, these first online dating experiences were totally uplifting and did wonders for my then battered female ego. I ended up moving in with the next man I met online. He was the kind of guy I’d never have met in real life – or if I had, we wouldn’t have been even faintly attracted to one another. It lasted two years, in part for these reasons.

I have since signed up a few times on dating websites but the whole thing has sadly lost its appeal. Men my age are now all searching for women at least 10 years younger (!) and expect photos and phone numbers to be exchanged immediately. (And for a reason I can’t fathom many think I want a picture of their genitals). Instant messenging is preferred to e-mails and instant virtual sex seems to be preferred to the whole “getting to know” process. The trouble is, having tacky cybersex with a virtual stranger is rarely a good starting point for a relationship.

Online dating the way I first knew it has changed. The supermarket effect is worse now than ever. I feel a complete idiot filling out a search page to decide if the guy I’m looking for can have a moustache, be a teacher and like Chinese food, or spending hours answering random questions about myself so I can get a selection of “compatible” men e-mailed. And don’t get me started on the specialised dating websites, like the ones for Christians, Muslims, Jewish or Pagan singles, for Sci Fi lovers, dog lovers, farmers, vegetarians, golfers, geeks, plus-size singles… Everything is calculated, arranged – and in my eyes, ultimately, that’s not how the laws of attraction work.

I’m not saying my recently dumped Facebook friend shouldn’t give online dating a go. Nor am I saying that it doesn’t work for a lot of people  (It did after all work for me for a time). But I do believe that love, like sport, is not an exact science. I think a cat lover can be a match to a dog lover, and that you can dream of a red-haired millionaire and fall blissfully in love with a blond guy on minimum wage. It’s worth keeping that in mind when playing the dating game online. Love can’t be perfect and nor should it be.

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It’s a question of… buying a vibrator

The "Bone", the vibrator designed by Tom Dixon. Price: 99 £

The feeling of “becoming a woman” supposedly overwhelms you when you get your period or loose your virginity. This may be true for others, but for me the doors to womanhood opened the day I purchased my first vibrator. I remember very clearly thinking to myself “Now, I’m a real woman” when I walked out of the store.

I was 25 and had recently changed jobs, leaving an all-male team to join a largely female one. My work conversations moved from football and sex to… sex. The real change was how the subject was discussed. (Let’s just say my new female colleagues were a lot more fun to listen to…).

The question of going out to buy vibrators came up when one of my colleagues heard about a newly opened “Sex supermarket” in Paris. The idea of walking around with a shopping trolley in a supermarket selling only sex toys and all things related widely appealed to all of us. And so, one evening after work, we took off.

The "Squeel" (from http://www.lovehoney.co.uk), "a wheel of 10 teasing tongues"

The whole experience was delightful. There was only one “connoisseuse” amongst us, but she patiently explained the pros and cons of the various models before letting us put them in the trolley. We each came out with something different and then went out to eat at a very chic restaurant with our bags and big smiles. (For those in Paris, there are now 4 of these supermarkets in town).

My first vibrator was a very plain model in pink plastic. It looked like the ones you see in home catalogues under “massage and relaxation”. Nothing fancy, but it was most certainly the best 30 francs (5€) I ever spent (prices have gone up since!). And was just as efficient as the showerhead – with the advantage of sparing me a trip in the tub.

A "Rabbit" model, made famous by "Sex & the City"

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain this, but I will anyway: vibrators are used to masturbate, not to “replace a man”. True, the result is much quicker (and the orgasm stronger) – and always 100% guaranteed. Nevertheless, men – and women alike – need not feel threatened by it. A vibrator is a masturbation device, nothing more. It doesn’t take away anything from anyone; it just adds a few extra moments of pleasure to life.

Since my first sex toy purchase, there have of course been others. Today I function with a so-called Rabbit (offered by my mother) and a pocket vibrator for travelling (offered by my best friend). If I had money to spare, I’d give a Rabbit to all my female friends – and they would be forever grateful.

Of course, a lot of them already have vibrators. One friend got hers early on from her mother, who told her it was for “combating cellulite” (she was very happy to discover its real use). Another has had to find a new hiding place for her sex toys since her daughter found her “love-beads” and hung them on the Christmas tree…

The great thing is that vibrators have become mainstream. You can discuss them freely, you can buy them easily without having to set foot in a sex shop (I’ve even seen vending machines with pocket vibrators in public toilets) and the choice is amazing (underwater models, ones that vibrate in rhythm with your iPod or your cellphone, designer models, Swarovski crystal-encrusted ones, Hello Kitty ones… not to forget the latest eco-friendly, green technology vibrator: “The earth angel“).

The OhMiBod connects to Ipod or Iphone for "good vibrations"

Surveys show that between 50 and 55% of English and American women use vibrators, as do 40% of Danish women (if someone has the percentages for French women, I’d like to know). That still leaves a lot of women who don’t have that pleasure. In other words, if you’re still looking for that “special” Christmas gift, you know what to buy. The holiday season is all about giving joy. With a vibrator, you can’t go wrong.

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It’s a question of…. bad sex scenes

The “Bad sex in fiction” award 2009 has just been announced. The winner this year is American-turned-French writer Jonathan Littell for his book The Kindly ones (originally published in French as Les Bienveillantes). Now this is not just any writer or any book. It’s the one that won the Prix Goncourt and the Grand Prix de l’Académie française in 2006. Supposedly a good piece of literature (I haven’t read it), but the sex scenes in it are really bad (I have read some of those – well I had to, didn’t I?).

I’m not pouring water on a drowning man. Littell has sold thousands of books and will probably sell even more after this. And writing good sex scenes is very difficult, even for the best of authors. Be honest, how many times have you sat in the middle of page-turner to find yourself suddenly cringing over some over-explicit and often totally unrealistic sex scene?

Danielle Steele provided me with my first literary sex. It was OK – except men were always “exploding” in the heroines. I remember being extremely disappointed when I started having sex because I never felt the “explosion” (all I felt was the body on top suddenly going heavy and crushing me). But I suppose what’s bad (or impracticable or downright laughable) literary sex for some, is good for others.

I can safely say that my “awakening” came with The Godfather and the scene at the wedding where Sonny’s having stand-up sex with his mistress and she walks away from there with the aftermaths still between her thighs. I haven’t re-read it for many, many years, but it really had a great  effect on me in my early teens. (In the film it doesn’t come  across nearly as arousing). I “stole” the book time and time  again from my parent’s shelves as some forbidden fruit.

Why exactly? I have no idea. Maybe if I had already had  sex at the time and had known how difficult perfect stand-  up sex really is, it wouldn’t have captivated me so much…

It’s hard to say what makes a sex scene good in writing. Recently, I came across an author who pens down sex massively and explicitly but gets away with it fine: Adele Parks. But there are many more. For some strange reason (and despite The Godfather), most are women. I’m not making this up; it’s a fact. Women writers are better at it, maybe because they are more truthful. You need proof? Amongst the short-listed authors for the “Bad sex in fiction” award there was only one woman for nine men…

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It’s a question of… having a gaydar

My lack of gaydar has cost me a lot of time and relationship failures in past years. It’s even become a laughing matter amongst my friends. Every time they hear I’m into someone they automatically ask if he’s gay. Sadly for me, he often turns out to be.

You’d think that missing a gaydar is only problematic when you’re gay, but no, it can be just as bad when you’re straight.

My long string of “intuition deficiency” induced stories started when I was 17. I spent a whole year with an extreme crush on a friend everyone seemed to know was gay except me. I finally got the message one day when we met for lunch. As I approached him (with a big smile) he hissed: “Go for a walk and don’t come back before at least 10 minutes. I think the guy sitting on that bench is going to hit on me”. That was how he told me. The only small consolation I had that day was when the guy on the bench’s girlfriend turned up.

I have since fallen in love with gay or bisexual men time and time again. I met my first bisexual boyfriend on holiday in the south of France. He worked in a hotel kitchen doing pastry but after hours he did stripteases in a nightclub where, well yes, I suppose there were a lot of male customers. Maybe that should have given me a hint. Or the fact that he always wanted to borrow my clothes.

Actually someone told me he was “à voile et à vapeur” (literally “in sail and steam” – French expression for bisexual), but my French wasn’t that advanced and l just thought that he liked to sail (duh!). Then one night we had dinner with two of his friends. He introduced the girl as “my ex-girlfriend” and the guy as “my ex-boyfriend”. And I finally got the message. It didn’t bother me. But the fact that the two ex’s were dating somehow did.

My second bisexual boyfriend cheated on me with a skater (clichés happen…). But to this day, he’s the best kisser I’ve ever met – and he taught me a lot. In my opinion though, bisexual men are not a good option. I have a tendency to be jealous. Having to be “double-jealous” is really too hard.

After my last (very recent) gaydar failure I did what I usually do and once again turned to my best friend (who’s gay) for advice. I mean, why can’t I learn to see if a guy is gay BEFORE falling in total obsession? What can I go by? After all, not all gay men like musicals, Cher and design objects – and a lot of straight men do.

My friend can’t really help me. Neither can any of my other gay friends. They all say they don’t have gaydars either. Or, well, they do, but theirs have a defect too: they assume that practically everyone is gay. And that kind of wishful thinking can lead to a lot of dispappointment too!

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It’s a question of… gloom and glee

Some days gloominess takes over without any apparent reason. You get invaded by this nagging feeling of emptiness and despair. Well I do anyway. It’s like my heart becomes heavier and I get drained of everything positive. Experts tell you to take a walk or go running when you’re feeling down and out, but I don’t buy that. Maybe because I know that after 2 minutes of running I feel dizzy and want to throw up (or maybe simply because I’m too lazy to try the exercise option).

No, when I have an acute case of gloom, I emphasize the mood (once you hit rock-bottom, the only way is up, right?). This can be done by listening to heartbreaking songs (country music is a good bet), watching weepy movies (think “Tears of endearment” or “Steel Magnolias”) or just going to bed and eating tons of chocolate, which in time will make you feel both sick and sad (about your total lack of willpower).

Recently however, I’ve found a new – and much better – antidote to gloominess:Glee, the TV-show. It appeals to my inner girly if-I-could-sing-I’d-do-this self. It makes me laugh – and sometimes cry (which, let’s be honest, is necessary when you’re feeling blue). Sometimes it even gets me so on top that I (briefly) want to dance around and clean the house. It’s delightful. Gleeful. Gloom-lifting.

Of course, even more so if it’s watched in bed, chocolate in hand…

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