When you read dating advice, it seems like men and women are different species who can only communicate through emotional manipulation. The PUAs teach men to get the girls by gaming them into submission. The Rules teach women to act like sex is an economic transaction. Sometimes it feels like there’s no common language, just a bunch of stereotypes.
But the magic of dating is that it can overcome all our differences though the most basic connection of all: sex.
Like developing a film in a darkroom, sex reveals things that can’t be seen in any other way. When you go to bed with someone, your protective layers fall away to reveal what’s underneath. It’s the one place where we expose every part of ourselves. I’ve learned a lot of my most important life lessons about men by having sex with them. Lessons like:
1. Men are human beings.
They're complex, diverse, and full of hidden depths. In other words, a lot like women.
You could even say there’s no such thing as “men.” Don’t listen to Cosmo’s “39 tips that will drive any man wild.” In fact, don't listen to anyone who treats men as if they’re a universal category, because they’re not. Whatever it is – anal play, blowjobs, marriage — you’ll find guys who love it and guys who hate it and guys who are in between. Yes, really, even blowjobs.
2. Dicks have feelings.
Shame, rage, love and heartbreak are only a few of the feelings that can be experienced by the penis. Dicks can get too excited to hold back or too tense to let go. They can get hard at the worst possible moment or shrink away to nothing in front of someone they really like. All the stereotypes about women being sensitive, irrational, and uncontrolled by logic are actually true of penises.
They even get emotionally attached sometimes. I know a guy who hired a sex worker for his bachelor party. While she was giving him oral sex, he started thinking about his fiancée and he couldn’t stay hard. He was so in love that he couldn’t even get off with another woman. All together now: awwww.
3. Male friendships are complicated.
Never have sex with two guys who are best friends, whether consecutively or at the same time. It doesn't matter if they say it's going to be okay. It will not be okay. Bromance is a sacred and mysterious thing. Do not mess with it.
4. If a man stops having sex with you, the relationship is over.
When a man stops having sex with you, there are only two possibilities. Either he has a serious medical issue, serious like his penis was chopped off in a freak industrial accident, or he doesn’t love you anymore.
Once, I’d been in a relationship for less than six months when my boyfriend turned off the sex tap. In the last few weeks, we had two awkward sessions that I initiated, which he reluctantly showed up for. I phoned my friend Tim for advice. Tim said, “If a man stops having sex with you, the relationship is over.” He was right. My boyfriend wanted out, but he was too much of a wimp to break up with me.
For men, sex and love are tied together. If he wants your body, it doesn’t mean he loves you, but if he loves you, it does mean he wants you. No more sex means he’s already disinvested from the romance.
5. It’s hard to make the first move.
Single men are under constant pressure to think up cute opening lines and clever moves if they want to get laid. If they’re unlucky or just bad at it, they face rejection upon humiliating rejection. Shy, introverted, or socially awkward men (a.k.a. computer scientists) have an especially hard time connecting with women. They can develop severe dating anxiety, which leads them to do things like obsessively collect every obscure Japanese-only calendar shoot of Hitomi Tanaka, or join a men-only fan club for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
It’s no surprise that men can become entrenched in a vicious cycle of rejection. The more rejection they get, the more bitter and lonely they become, and the higher the chance they’ll be rejected again, because there’s nothing that smells worse than bitter loneliness except maybe Axe body spray.
Dating calls for a lot of chutzpah and a lot of empathy. Some dating coaches tell you to hide your feelings at all costs. This is a surefire way to drive off all the good guys, the humble guys, and the sensitive ones. It’s better to err on the side of showing what you feel. And don’t be afraid to approach men — they appreciate it all the more because they know how much courage it takes to make the first move.
6. Sex is a learning opportunity.
Female pleasure is a huge turn-on for your average heterosexual man, but he doesn’t understand how it works. Every new lady he meets has a pussy that works in its own mysterious way, and none of it makes any sense.
Unfortunately there’s no telepathy app in iOS 9. I hear it’s coming out in iOS 10. In the meantime we have to rely on good old-fashioned communication to get the most out of sex. Like, talk about what we want. We might even learn a few tricks ourselves.
7. There are only two ways of being good in bed.
There are two types of men who are good at hetero sex. The first type is the problem solver. He approaches the vagina like a machine that he takes apart and puts back together again to make it purr. He develops a few tried-and-trusted techniques to produce an orgasm, which to him is much like rubbing two twigs together to produce fire. He will probably make you come the first time you go to bed with him, but his technique won’t change much over time and he’s usually resistant to learning the ins and outs of your sexual needs. We’ll call this type the analytical experimentalist.
The second type is the sensitive man. This one pays attention to your cues. He’s fun to talk to, because he really listens and responds to what you’re saying — not just what you’re saying with your words but also your non-verbal signals, like your body language. He might not get you off the first time you go to bed with him, but he will learn what you like and adapt his technique. Once he’s in the zone, he will blow your mind. His secret weapon is empathy. Let’s call this type the conversationalist.
The experimentalist is great for one night, but in the long-term it only works if the two of you have compatible hardware and software. The problem is that he wants to do things his way. If you’re looking for a guy who’s amazing in bed and gives you exactly what you want, look for the great conversationalist. Sensitivity, meaningful communication, and an ability to gauge attention, interest, and intensity are all skills that cross over between sex and great conversation.
8. Guys are hyper aware of dick size.
Average guys think they're below average because they watch porn that features genetic mutants with 10-inch monster cocks. Big guys think they're better than the rest because they're so big. And the small ones compensate for it with the enormous size of the chip on their shoulders. Tread very carefully around this topic, because guys are hyper aware of dick size.
9. Size matters, but not in the way that you think it does.
You can do different things with a big dick versus an average dick. For example, a big dick can be fun because it kind of makes you feel like a porn star, but big dicks sometimes have trouble finishing (don't ask me why, maybe it's nature's way of squaring things off). Some positions will be excruciatingly painful with a big dick, and a really big one will never fit all the way in, no matter how many jars of lube you pour onto your nether regions. At a certain point it’s not sexy, it’s just awkward. With a medium-sized dick, you can do anything you want.
Sexual skills and compatibility are so much more important than sexual attributes. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Size does matter, but it’s not a plus or minus. It's just a thing. Yes, a very small penis does have some disadvantages, but to be honest, a guy with a micropenis who is good with his hands will be a much better lover than Mr. Magnum XL who does nothing but pound and pound.
10. Dick is abundant and low value.
I wish I'd learned this lesson by following Madeleine Holden on Twitter instead of the way I actually learned it, which is by having terrible sex with losers. “To any woman reading ‘how to get a man' franchises or sticking around in stale unsatisfying relationships: dick is abundant and low value.”
Think it's hard to get a man? Think again. There is so much dick out there. SO. MUCH. DICK.
It's not worth putting up with a man who doesn’t care about what you want, even less so a man who makes you feel bad about yourself. Whatever the problem, swipe left. You will find the penis of your dreams to cherish for a lifetime or just for one night. It's not worth putting up with the bad ones.
11. What’s the secret to making a man happy?
Men want three things: to be liked, to be understood, and oral sex. Except the ones who don’t like oral sex (see #1). So, basically, they want the same things as women.
12. If you want to know about men, ask a man.
I love my girlfriends, they’re the best. I can cry with them and they always have my back. But when I need real talk about a man problem, I always go to my guy friends.
Once I was dating a man who wasn’t interested in a relationship. It started out as a fun thing, but then, as so often happens in these situations, I found myself falling for him. Any women’s magazine will tell you to face facts and walk away from your commitment-phobic lover. But I liked him a lot, and I couldn’t make up my mind.
I turned to my friend Will for advice: should I end things before they got messy? I expected a swift kick in the pants, but Will’s reaction surprised me. He said: “You never know what will happen. You’ve got chemistry with him, the sex is great and you like each other. If you’re feeling something, he’s probably feeling it too.” And he was right.
It’s always good to keep a couple of male friends around to help you understand how the other half thinks. So you can just ignore all my advice. If you want to know about men, ask a man.
Hi, I’m Maya Ray. I’m a single mother, researcher, writer, and occasional world traveller. My home-made vegan popcorn is second to none. My life skills, on the other hand, are a work in progress.
I’m a cultural anthropologist by training. I’ve been researching and writing about relationships for eight years and counting. I believe the quality of your relationships is the number one factor affecting our satisfaction in life. Humans are social animals. We live and die by our relationships. Making our relationships better can only happen by improving ourselves. But improving ourselves also has to happen by working on our relationships.
My blog explores the art and science of how we relate to others. I give you real talk about real relationships: dating, sex, skills, family, and managing your relationships online and off. Now go get relating!