Battle of the Sexes 2016: the Perils of Online Dating

I’ve learned not to use the phrase “Let me know” with a man. For example you might find yourself texting a guy, “Let me know when you want to come over.” In my mind, this means, “Let me know in the next day or so, when you’ve decided in advance, when you plan on coming over.”

A man may act like he doesn’t plan out his days, but somewhere in a dusty back corner of even the most “laid back” man’s mind, there is a clear itinerary: I’m going to go to the gym after work, then I’ll catch up with a buddy over a beer, and then around eleven, maybe midnight, I’m going over to Suzie’s house to fuck her senseless. This very explicit vision for the day’s events plays out in every single man’s mind on the entire planet. I have CAT Scans of various male brains, locked away in a secure academic facility, to prove it.

He’s not going to voluntarily tell you this plan unless you force him to. For one thing, at the risk of sounding sexist, but then why stop now, a lot of guys find it physically painful to verbalize. It’s like the highway between thought and articulation is full of cars driving very slowly and it’s going to take a good, long time before that idea reaches the mouth.

More important, with most single guys, their plans aren’t really what a new female acquaintance will want to hear.

Picture it, this guy being honest. “Hey baby, I can’t wait to see you. I just have to hit the gym for an hour, shower, get cleaned up, maybe grab some takeout, swing by the bar with the guys. Realistically I’ll have three, maybe four beers and probably a shot. I’ll stagger in to your place horny as hell right about when you’ve given up on the evening and just want to curl up in bed with a rerun of Mad Men.”

Instead, you’re going to text him saying, “Let me know when you want to come over!” and he’ll reply, “Sure :)” and then three days later, right as you’re turning off the porch light, you’ll get that text about his plan… and his plan starts twelve minutes from now… inside your vagina.

As I write this, I think, maybe I really do just have terrible taste in men.* Maybe women all over the world are dating lovely respectful guys who would never dream of acting like this. And they may be. I’ve just never met any of these women.

I have met women, including good friends, who draw the line. They have one encounter like that and they end the whole shebang. The problem is, in my observation anyway, a lot of these women are single well into their forties. Because waiting for a man to pursue you like a man is like waiting for Social Security to become a viable retirement plan.

The other night, in a fit of boredom, I reactivated my account on OK Cupid. I hadn’t touched it a couple years, having spent the last several months, since a tough breakup, assessing what the hell I want.

An interesting guy messages me, I message back (actually, perhaps it was vice versa, I don’t remember). Our brief virtual conversation is acceptable and we agree we should meet for a drink. We exchange numbers.

And then he starts texting me. At eleven o’clock at night. He’s a stranger, we’ve messaged a total of at most a dozen times. I know his career and that he lives in the same city I do, that’s it. Now he’s making bad jokes about my name, and masturbation. It gets awkward. I text him, “Hey, I’m going to bed now – let’s chat tomorrow about when we should meet.” He texts back in agreement. I think the night’s conversation is over. And then ten minutes later he texts again… “I’m not a pervert.”

Well if I didn’t think you were a weirdo before, I sure as heck wonder now.

Or, another totally random example from last year. I meet this guy. We have an interesting encounter on a Saturday night. We agree to go out the next weekend. He starts texting me on Monday. I tell him I’m looking forward to our date but that this week is really busy for me. Every night the rest of the week, he texts me asking if I can come out. And trust me, his texts were not, “Meet me for dinner to engage in deep conversation about politics.” They were, “I get off work at eleven and then will you come over and blow me?”

Finally, on Thursday, I lose my temper, and he acts totally startled and pissed that I’ve found his nightly queries annoying.

Now you may be thinking I just have terrible taste in men. And you might be right. But I don’t know a woman who doesn’t feel frustrated.

Nowadays, we’re supporting ourselves, we have birth control, we can wait for marriage. We don’t have to make men jump through a bunch of hoops before they have sex with us. We’re horny too. Let’s do it. If I was a feminist living in the sixties looking into the future I’d think, “Wow, good for them, they have it all now!”

And yes, if a woman’s goal is to have lots of sex with people she doesn’t know or care about, she is much more free to pursue that than women ever have been.

If a woman’s goal is to meet a guy who doesn’t act like a weirdo, jerk or adolescent… that’s a lot tougher in our no-rules era than it ever was back in the “sexist” past.

Face it, without the societal rules developed over millenia to hustle young couples into legally binding, child-protecting, wife-supporting marriage, men have no idea. And I can’t say I blame anyone for feeling confused. We are all confused.

Does being a feminist man mean you have to let her make all the decisions?

Do you want to occasionally throw her on the bed and spank her, but feel a bit worried that that desire makes you an abusive SOB?

What if you like a dominant lady? Does that make you less of a man?

Maybe you think, We’re all on the same playing field now, this is clearly a one night stand, why do I have to pretend I care about you?

Conversely, I’ve met just as many men who find casual sex a total limpifier. Gawd forbid anyone admit that there might be a mind-body connection between a man’s erection and his feelings for the woman he’s about to fuck.

Meanwhile women are thinking, I can admit I’m horny. I can hit on someone. I can drag him to my bedroom. There is a primal thing occurring for women all over the world: after hundreds of thousands of years of being told who, what, when you would marry, and do not have any fun until we as your parents arrange that…

It is really hard to enjoy that historic level of liberation and then stop and say, “Wait a minute, you may be insanely hot, and we may both be single, and I may get wet just glancing at your fingernails, but I need you to connect with me on a meaningful level for several months before we get naked together.”

You could argue that women being able to have sex freely and without fear of pregnancy or social penalty is as major a change on this planet as dinosaurs going extinct. I don’t say this lightly, I’m stone serious. It’s turning everything upside down. We can’t just expect this level of social change to sort itself out over night. We can’t ask Tinder to bridge this gap for us. We are in a crazy time.

We need an Emily Post to codify some shit.

In the meantime, I have two gender-based requests.

Girls, be explicit. If you want a guy to call you instead of texting, say that when you give him your number. If you think contact after 8PM is rude, ignore the 11PM messages (I should have). If you want to have sex but don’t think there’s longterm potential, consider mentioning that before you rip his clothes off.

Guys, listen. That’s all I ask. Be a real feminist and take a woman at her word. Don’t interpret. Don’t assume. Meet each woman as a new, unique circumstance. Even if only for the evening, take her on her terms. If she plays games, that’s on her. In the meantime, she said, “Call me,” you actually called her, and you know you did your best.

Until Emily Post’s great-great granddaughter turns up to write the Etiquette of Casual Fucking… that’s all any of us can do.

*Full confession: in the past four years I have seriously dated only two men. They were both twenty years older than me. They both believed in calling. Taking you out. Doing what they said they would do. These values have somehow become “old-fashioned.” As progressive and open-minded as I am, I’ve learned I’m simply unable to develop a serious romantic connection with a man unless he’s like this. Which means I tend to get involved with older men. Because younger men don’t follow rules. And it shows.

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