Starting around 2015, I was one of a number of women writing online about the dire state of modern dating. I believe I was one of the first to directly ask men why they’d ghosted me – a move which has since become quite hack in the world of pseudo-journalistic blogging. I wrote openly about the pressure to be “chill” in an often emotionally fraught dating environment that pressures women to hold back their feelings. I more famously pointed out that casual sex often felt like an unfair imbalance in pleasure and expectations between men and women. At the time, I wanted the dating landscape to radically change. I wanted communication to be clear and truthful. I wanted less copy-paste messages from men I'd matched with on dating apps and more honesty about their wishes and expectations for our time together. I wanted men to be more emotionally available or, at least, to urge them to do some serious introspection regarding their intense fear of commitment.
Well, fast forward to now and you can kinda say I got some of the change I was looking for because dating in 2022 is demonstrably different than it was six years ago. Weirdly though, the changes I'm seeing aren't all that much for the better. Honestly, shit still sucks to the same degree it did back in 2015, but in a totally new way.
Before I dive in, let me preface by saying this: I have only ever really dated in the city of Los Angeles minus a few short years in the Bay Area. I know that a lot of this stuff doesn’t compute to people who date in smaller cities, less inhabited by such…self-involved…go-getters (attempting not to label everyone in L.A. a career-obsessed narcissist). I’m aware that in other dating environments, settling down with someone at a younger age is more the norm but frankly, that’s also something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m incredibly grateful I never married in my twenties, and am still gladly unhitched. For all of its frustrations, I enjoy living here. So please stop telling me to move to Omaha or Chicago or whatever as if that’s some sort of solution.
Alright, now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the meat of what I’d like to kvetch about. I’ll start with a little story. As we began easing out of lockdown and we’re all now (mostly) vaccinated, I was excited to fully get back out there. And thus, I ravished Tinder like never before. I was frequently going on dates, and one of those dates happened with someone who was visiting from out of town. Normally, I don’t care to hang out with guys just visiting because I know that, at best, it will be a hit-it-and-quit-it type situation without the promise of potential for more (even if the “more” is just a few more hookups ). However, this guy came along when I was in a peak horny state and we had some friends in common, which also helped. So, we hung out. We grabbed a few drinks, went back to my place, and fucked. It was a nice night. He explained to me that he was in town for a few more days, and we agreed to hang out once more while he was still here.
Two days later, the day we’re supposed to hang out, I get a text from him while shopping for a new duvet at Ikea Burbank. After exchanging a few obligatory niceties, he sends me a fat paragraph of text explaining to me that he wants to be honest and upfront. Last night he met up with a friend and the connection became romantic (which was supposedly unexpected on his part). Now he wants to pursue that romantic connection with his remaining time in Los Angeles. I quote, “Out of fairness I don’t want to entertain multiple connections.” He of course also added that he had a lovely time with me and thinks I’m super cool, which left me with little to say other than: “Okay…”
Here’s where I’m going to maybe surprise you, but I hated this guy’s honesty. Not because my feelings were hurt, but because of how patronizing it all felt. Bro, I just met you. We fucked once. You’re in town for three more days. Was any of this over-explanatory faux sensitivity necessary? You really felt like I needed to be cradled in such a manner from fucking you one time? To me, this didn’t feel like men finally understood emotional maturity. To me, this felt more like a type of preemptive defense mixed with a sort of pleading. I’m being overly cautious and meticulously wording this rejection to best save me from being called a fuckboy, so please don’t cancel me.
Even if that wasn’t his intention, that’s what it felt like. It’s making me think maybe lying is okay sometimes. In a situation like this, perhaps the better thing would be to apologize and say something came up and leave it at that. I would have gotten the hint, as would most women. Maybe hints are okay with someone you don’t really know. Dating and fucking doesn’t have to be treated so preciously. Women don’t have to be approached with such fragility. Does this make sense or am I being overly precious about being overly precious? Because let’s be real, actual honesty is not saying shit like, “Out of fairness I don’t want to entertain multiple connections”. Actual honesty is, “Look, I like someone else more and it would be so cool if we never spoke again thanks.” That kind of honesty we will never have, and for good reason. Before, the plan of action would be to ghost instead of having to communicate these sentiments. Now, we get anxiety-induced word vomit.
Yeah, I could be wrong about all of this. I really don’t know anymore. All I have are my observations and experiences and I see patterns. I see behaviors that make me feel like something is going on. The over-explaining and coddling is one thing, but overall there’s a greater unspoken tension in so many of my romantic interractions now. Even the sex itself feels different. To be completely candid, I’m talking about soft dicks. I’ve experienced a rise in hook-ups both prior to the pandemic and now, who can’t seem to stay hard. What’s up with that?
As a woman, the first inclination was naturally to blame myself for this. Was my pussy suddenly trash? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. My pussy is impeccable and, even if it’s not, it’s still a tight, sopping hole that feels wayyyy better than a fleshlight or right hand. Some of the soft-dicked men would give me hints and clues like, “I’m thinking too much” and “I’m too in my own head”. Thinking? About what, exactly? What's this new mental pandemic that kills so many budding young boners before their prime? It eventually clicked in the middle of another sexual encounter turned it’s-okay-we-can-just-cuddle. His excuse was the most damning, “I don’t want you to think I’m a bad guy”. This was fear.
Note: I am fully aware this isn’t always the case and I’m sure when it happens to you it’s for different reasons, which is totally fine! It happens to everyone! It’s not the end of the world, you aren’t being judged, yadda yadda.
Sex has always been complicated for women for varying reasons. From body image to slut-shaming to literal physical danger. Now, it’s getting slightly more complicated for men, but for totally different reasons… reasons for which I’m partially responsible.
Men are not afraid of being labeled sluts, they’re afraid of being dubbed fuckboys. Or worse, predators. We called out the gaslighting and the manipulation and we were angry. Men saw how fed up we were (still are). We then called out some of their friends for the most egregious behavior and suddenly men started to see how closely their own behavior resembled what was no longer socially acceptable. They replayed a lot of drunken nights in their heads where maybe not everything that happened was kosher. So, now they try to move forward, but there’s this new anxiety they have to deal with.
What it looks like to me now is that men are dating afraid. The fear of cancellation is, at least partially, guiding their behavior. When a man’s dick gets soft and he mutters sheepishly to me that he doesn’t want me to think he’s a bad guy, it reads to me a veiled confession that he’s scared I’ll tweet about him or punish him for ghosting me after we fuck. It signals to me that this is probably what he wants to do, or at least is likely to do, but now knows that he can’t… at least not without potential consequences. That’s the real issue here. Operating out of fear like this implies that there’s little motivation to actually want to be a better person. You’re still prioritizing yourself, but just more defensively.
I don’t want to completely write off this behavior as selfish though. As the self-proclaimed queen of catastrophic thinking, I understand the fear to some degree. Many of my guy friends have openly admitted to me they are afraid of being called out, or labeled something disastrous to their reputation, simply because they see it happening so often. Frankly, we are all afraid at this point, about everything. The Internet is destroying how we interact with one another completely. Anything can be turned into a public drama that instantly involves hundreds or even thousands of people who have no idea what’s happening other than what they’ve been told. The primary emotions ruling the entire social media landscape are fear and anger sprinkled with a cute dog video here and there. In complete and total honesty, I’ll even tell you now that I do agree -- there are instances where a call out is unwarranted.
When things become mainstream, like the #MeToo movement, they often get co-opted in a negative way by a small percentage of people. I have seen firsthand some of the watered down versions of calling out alleged predators, and frankly, it sucks. Someone cheating on you or lying to you or not texting you back is obviously not great, but does that mean it’s worthy of public spectacle? To deem someone a danger to society for such behavior is not the justice you think it is. However, these situations are far and few between. More often than not, a call out is completely warranted. It takes a great amount of strength and courage to come forward and out an abuser. The service it does to raise awareness and help others far outweighs the rare instances when a call out happens that airs on the side of hyperbole.
As a woman I am afraid of being sexually assaulted, harassed, stalked, and/or murdered by a man who can’t accept my disinterest. Now men have something to fear too. Something other than their tinder match being fatter than they were anticipating or whatever. I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing, but it’s something they now have to navigate, similar to the way we have to navigate our shit, which is still a lot worse than being a hashtag for a day. Welcome to having it hard, boys.
Here’s my point: as long as people are unavailable, this dating shit will always suck. Doesn’t matter how it’s presented to us. We all have to accept that and we all have to know how to handle it in non-destructive ways. Men, you shouldn't go into these interactions behaving the way you think we want you to behave. No, you should do and say exactly what you want and shouldn’t presume all women are irrational beings, incapable of handling a simple rejection. Honesty is the best policy, but it can still be done in a way that isn’t so…condescendingly annoying. I know I might be coming across as the Goldilocks of fucking because one bed is too emotionally immature and unavailable, while another bed is overly sincere and…well…still unavailable.
Look, I’m tired of being frustrated about it. I’m less interested in changing others, and more interested in changing myself. I used to wonder what the fuck was wrong with everyone, men in particular. However, as I’ve grown, so has my thinking. The fact that dating fucking sucks will never change, no matter how much “social progress” is made. Unavailability is here to stay. It’ll keep rearing its head with every new person I meet until one day, it won’t. That’s the part I’m looking forward to. If you’re in the same boat, stay in the damn boat. The storm will pass. We will eventually reach our destination.