By Maria Padhila
I just don’t know what to think of these young people today.
Do they have it better or worse? Fewer sexual stigmas, yes, but oh my god those student loans. The upshot is I’d like to feed them and introduce them to some nice people, but I don’t believe I could date anyone under 40 at this point.
Which is a shame, because that’s mostly who I was set up with at the Poly Speed Dating event I went to recently. We were interested in meeting a nice single woman interested in dating a couple, and they don’t call such creatures unicorns for nothing. There was only one of this kind in the room, and she was already in a relationship with a couple. It was still a fun and enlightening night, and I even won a prize.
A lot of the young people who sat across from Chris and me at our dating table were IT people, and we talked about the complexity of the algorithms involved. The organizers had the excellent idea of asking whether, in the event that there weren’t many people who fit your desired profile, you’d prefer having a “friendship” prospect visit your table or just sit out those rounds. We checked “friendship” so I could talk to as many people as possible, and we ended up talking to a lot of nice young men.
Also recently, I spent a lot of time on the couch after another eye operation, listening to commentary and reading articles on super-magnification. There was a lot of talk about the HBO series “Girls” and what it means. The show is a sort of grittier update on “Sex and the City,” among more struggling twentysomethings. I really didn’t want to watch it, because self-involved kids in a bizarre all-Caucasian version of New York, well, come on. But two big topics of discussion got my interest.
The first was about a masturbation scene. One of the characters spent some time talking to a dreary twink they were trying to pass off as adult and a hetero artist. He got up in her face for a minute and uttered this line: “The first time I fuck you it might scare you, because I’m a man and I know how to do things.”
Oh dear. Apparently this is how young men are meant to carry on nowadays. He was also ‘negging’ her, which is a technique they’re told drives women wild. I’ve had some people try it on me from time to time. It means mildly insulting a woman by pretending you don’t find her attractive. It’s supposed to pique her interest. These poor things, spending so much on college and learning nothing. Immediately after her conversation with this fop, the character scurried off to the art gallery bathroom, conveniently a bathroom of the kind known as a ‘one-manner’, meaning not one with several stalls, locked the door and took care of herself. Commenters said this was unrealistic; one claimed that no woman would want to get off so badly that she could accomplish it standing up and in pantyhose. Well, maybe the pantyhose part, I could agree with. Nothing disrupts my chi worse than a nylon sausage casing.
Other hot topics were about the penchant for being dominated that the main character seemed to be developing. She seemed to like getting pushed around. What seems hard to believe is that these frail hipsters could actually get that job done, but many viewers said they could relate.
Meanwhile, back in real life, Chris and I were set up for ‘friendship’ dates for nearly all of our lineup; blame him being hopelessly straight and both of us checking off “not kinky” on our information sheets. There was a lot of discussion of what constitutes ‘kinky’ with all our friend dates. We all agreed it’s a relative term, but what caused us to check “not” is that while we like to play with all kinds of different things, we don’t want BDSM, for instance, strongly enough to seek it out.
The kinds of things many people consider vanilla would probably still be considered kinky to many; and the line is moving on vanilla, maybe as a result of porn going more mainstream. When suburban couples wanting to be hip started going to see Deep Throat, this popularized blow jobs (what an odd term, and probably not the appropriate one; I’m fairly certain it was wildly popular for centuries before the 1970s), for instance, and the same sort of thing is happening now with Kink Lite. I’d include in Kink Lite pretty much anything that doesn’t require special training, equipment or cleanup, and doesn’t leave a trail of damage.
Our kinky friend dates were nearly all nice-looking young men. They seemed to know their way around a silk rope or a delayed orgasm, just from little hints dropped here and there. (Our conversations were mostly terribly innocent, but you can tell when they’re establishing the “I’m a man and I know how to do things” position.) No one was doing the negging thing; they were friendly and polite, but they appeared to be tops, to a man.
What I’m wondering is whether the tables have turned somewhat. I was in my 20s in the 1980s, when S&M, as they used to call it, was starting to move into the mainstream. The typical profile was the woman dominatrix, usually well-paid if she chose to pursue it as a profession, and her audience was men of power. These men were tired of being Masters of the Universe, as we used to call them (see, every generation has its own folly), and longed, during their down time, for someone to order them around.
Now, it appears, it’s the women who are tired of being in control, and would like someone to take some of that freedom off their hands and tie said hands to the bedstead. I’m also noticing how much the movie Secretary (which I like very much) keeps coming up as a touchstone for women. It’s about an office worker who is dominated by her boss (a lawyer, naturally). There’s also a lot of chatter now about the “mommy porn” bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, in which a young woman is dominated by a rich and extraordinarily thoughtful construct of a character. He tells her what to eat, when to work out, what to wear and when to get a wax.
My first thought at hearing about this book was: That’s not a dom. That’s an app.
But then, one of my favorite parts of Secretary is when the boss tells her she should walk to and from work so that she’ll get some fresh air and exercise.
Maybe we’re not all that hot to be dominated. Maybe we’re just tired of having to take care of ourselves. This Katie Roiphe column says it much better than I do, if you’d like to explore further.
Putting my disdain aside, it truly must be a great relief from time to time to have someone tell you: I know how you need to feel and what you need to do, and I’m going to MAKE you feel that way. As Dr. Johnson (Samuel, not Masters and) said of the prospect of hanging, being given strict orders “concentrates the mind wonderfully.” And just like the corporate executives of the ‘80s, these women are only pretending not to have the upper hand, for a little while. They’re quite free to take their business elsewhere. They are what’s known as “bottoms who top.”
It’s ironic that this is coming about while there are so many real-life threats to women’s autonomy. Enjoy the games, but be careful what you wish for.