Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Lady or the Tiger: Women's Desire

This could be about the time we talked in a party or club, or it could be every date you ever went on, where you wanted the girl and you wondered what it was that made the difference between ending the date or conversation by having that girl six ways to Sunday or with a chaste kiss goodbye.

“The Lady or the Tiger” is a short story, written by Frank R. Stockton. In the story, a semi-barbaric king decides to punish a courtier who falls in love with his daughter, by forcing the courtier to choose between two doors: one with another woman behind it and the other with a tiger. The Princess finds out what is behind each door and tells her lover. The mystery of whether she sends her lover to another woman or to his death remains unresolved at the end of the story. The Lady or the Tiger, not only refers to what lies behind the closed door, but to the inscrutability of the Princess, herself; and by extension, female nature. Is she a “lady” or a “tiger”? Or, if she is both, which one is the man going to get? 

At the same time, women can feel equally puzzled about men and their desire to have sex with us. We might have thought that we really hit it off. We were in the mood to have sex with you, but then you gave us a chaste kiss goodnight instead. When it comes to sex and other people’s attraction to us, women often have just as many insecurities as men or the same challenges reading men as men have reading women. Being in the swinger world reinforces the cultural stereotype that men are sexually always ready to go. In the Lifestyle, the only thing that tends to stand in the way of a man having sex with an attractive woman is his wife, the other woman and timing.

The world of swinging can feel very transactional, especially if people feel the pressure to have sex with strangers to make it a “successful” night. This causes both men and women to lose sight of the factors that cause us to have a real physical connection with each other. Often the best swinger sex we have had has been with men we met and flirted with at previous parties. The time lapse, without the pressure to immediately have sex, made the flirting and anticipation far more pleasurable.

Women’s Insecurities

We worry that you may have rejected us purely on a physical level. Was there some checklist to which we didn’t measure up? This can be exacerbated when we encounter men who “neg” us. This type of man spends his time talking to us about the more perfect and desirable women he’s been with. We don’t know if this is a conscious strategy to destroy the woman’s self esteem, or bolster his ego, as being a desirable catch. He may be hoping that if he then offers the woman some little crumb of validation, she will fall into his lap, like a ripe peach, and demand nothing in return.

Sexual. If we have had sex before, and we thought it was good, and then you distance yourselves from us, this can make us feel pretty insecure. Sometimes we’d like to give you a booty call, but we’re too shy or afraid of being rejected. We don’t know if there is a non-crass word for women experiencing the equivalent of “blue balls,” but this is what men do to us when they leave us with our hearts racing, our senses melting with desire, and nothing but our imagination to keep us company.


Personality. Did we talk or text too much? If a woman passionately expresses her opinions, is intellectually engaged with the world around her, and doesn’t agree with everything you say, do you think she’s a bitch? Some men want a woman who is purely an object to be possessed, preferably an inexperienced and malleable ingenue. Some women are into this. However, some of us want to be in a relationship, even if it’s a mostly physical one, where we are treated like equals and men are interested in our thoughts, personality, way of engaging the world, not just our bodies.

Emotions. Some of us desire to emotionally connect, but we don’t want to be perceived as needy or a clinger. Is the man just there for a superficial friendship and a fuck? Is he only looking for a “lite” relationship, with no feelings and no connection? Does he only want to engage us when we are happy? If men are open to emotional connection, how deep are they willing to go? We are not necessarily talking about love and romance. This could be the emotional connection of us sitting together on a couch and sharing things that make us vulnerable. If we are alone and feeling sad, is this the kind of emotional connection that makes it ok for us to call you to come over?

Is this a balanced relationship? Shame, usually for being judged as needy, might prevent the woman from reaching out for help. It probably has the same effect on men, to an even greater degree, as they are socialized to be self-reliant and independent. For a man to ask for help, especially from a woman, may feel like weakness. A healthy relationship is like balancing a bank account. One person can’t be drawing it down and the other depositing in, all the time. There has to be some give and take.

What Turns Us On

Your desire turns us on. That’s right: raw, animal lust. Even in the transactional swinger context, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t know her two hours ago and you won’t see her again, two hours afterward. If you desire us, in the moment, and we are attracted to you, it’s on. Your desire for us and our body is the ultimate turn-on. It’s a hunger. And it’s vampiric. You feed on us and we enjoy being “consumed;” as we, in turn, enjoy consuming you. Your hunger feeds ours. 


Feeling seen and noticed by you. Some of us women are so sick of pursuing men, and worrying that we will be perceived as needy and rejected. This feeds into a gender stereotype, but most of us like when men, to whom we are attracted, actively pursue us. The problem is men have the same fear of rejection and we may not always be giving you a clear signal that we welcome your attention. This results in a standoff that leaves both sides a bit confused and frustrated.

The fact that you are looking at us, and not just at us as one of three or or four other options. If we see you scanning the room or looking utterly detached and uninterested, it turns us off. Your desire and interest is manifested not just by your gaze, but when you notice something about us that sets us apart.

Conversation. People whose chief topic of conversation is themselves or some hobby or interest of theirs, that they have not bothered to find out if we share, are a turnoff. Try to find a topic of interest that we share and that engages us. If you are interested in us, rather than coming up with some overly general question like: “Tell me about yourself,” which leaves most, non totally self-involved people at a loss; ask something more specific like “what keeps you busy?” or “what are you passionate about?” A good conversation is like an enthusiastic game of tennis. You want to run to the ball and serve it back, it’s not just this formulaic back and forth of “call” and “response.” We both like originality -- people who have unusual stories or who aren’t afraid to challenge popular wisdom.  

Touch. So many men we have desired lost their chance with us (or put it on hold) because they did not just reach out and touch us. The best way is to start with with something relatively low-key and see if the woman is receptive. Take her hand in yours, or rub your fingers across her cheekbones, the top of her hand, the back of her neck. Based on her reaction and how well she responds to this, work your way up to bolder moves, of touching and kissing, based on her response at each stage. Claire and I may not be representative of all swinger women, but we love a variety of erotic or intimate things men do with us-- the light feeling of fingertips that makes our skin electric, being able to be comfortably silent with somebody, kissing that grows increasingly more passionate and hungry, looking into the other person’s eyes, and seeing our own desire mirrored in theirs.

That you are protective, make us feel safe, and show your concern for us. We are turned on by your strength AND your sensitivity to our vulnerability and when we see that you are protective of both our emotional and physical safety -- when you call an Uber for us at 3AM and make sure that we get in safe; when you give us a hug and tell us that we’re not “too much” for you when we talk openly about things in our past that have hurt us; this makes us feel safe enough to surrender to you, to be at your mercy, when you passionately bend us over and take us in the living room.

That you are thoughtful. We notice when you do little things for us like help us figure out why that lamp wasn’t working (we didn’t think that the light bulb could have possibly been a dud!) or when you take an interest in what we do and follow up by asking how things are going. Or when you go out of your way to bring us a book about a topic we expressed interest in. You don’t do these thoughtful things to get tally markets on some kind of relationship score card. You do it because you care. Feeling this warmth makes us feel warm in other ways. 

When you show us your vulnerability. Seeing your vulnerability is just as enlivening for us as it is sharing ours with you. Sharing what makes you who you are, not merely what you do, is a turn on. When you reveal your humanity, it makes us feel safe to reveal ours in return. It makes us more comfortable, especially when we can feel free to be a little silly, and not worry all the time about playing a false role of perfection.

When you give us the freedom to give to you in a way that enriches us, not because you feel entitled to it; but when you let us show you that we care, without demand or expectation; and when you trust that we are giving to you of our own free will, because we want to show you that you matter, not because we have to.

Balance is one of the sexiest things a man can have. It manifests as both a desire for connection and a maintenance of independence, as intellect and emotional intelligence, as the areas where we agree and those where we do not, and as space for both silence and conversation.

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