Sex Mirage: Impression Management in Dating

mirage in the desert
Image by bobrayner / CC BY

I will never forget my first sex mirage.

I was instantly hooked when I met her. There was just something about her that drove me crazy. A live wire of sensuality snaked through her, from the way she licked her lips, through the sway of her hips, down to the way her toes would curl when she laughed.

She was a glass of full-bodied dry red wine. Brainy. Deep. Complicated.

I wanted her so bad I couldn’t concentrate. On anything. Not when we were together. And not when we were apart.

Heated banter. Laughter that lasted longer than most. We started dating.

As we began that slow circle around each other, it became clear that she wanted me, too. Gradually, we closed the distance, at that gentle speed dictated by circumstance and decorum, reciprocating in turn.

And one fine afternoon, we were in her bed, naked, tangled in bed sheets. I was finally able to taste her skin, to touch her. To fully experience everything I’d admired at a distance, crawled towards for weeks, fed by my imagination.

I was so excited. I braced myself for ecstasy.

It was utterly terrible. Shockingly so. We weren’t connecting at all.

Nothing matched what she had told me prior to going to bed. Her kinks, her hangups. It was like I had spoken to someone else.

I dug deep into my bag of communication skills, offering one solution after the other. She seemed confused, uncomfortable. Awkward.

The image I’d held of her dissipated. It had all been a sex mirage.

*

One of the many unhelpful premises of toxic monogamy is that there is a right and a wrong way to date. When we are looking to date someone new, we must not only be on our best behavior. We also have to try to appear to be exactly what they want in an ideal partner — whether that’s really who we are or not. Once we’ve managed to land the relationship, then we can relax and be ourselves because at that point they’ll have fallen for us, and it won’t really matter that we aren’t who we pretended to be.

With everyone operating behind a smokescreen, actual compatibility is left to random chance. This date may be a sex mirage, the next a nerd mirage.  You bob and weave, negotiate to construct an ideal shared identity between the two of you, based on very little (and often incorrect) info.

Given this, it’s no wonder so many relationships fail.

What we should really do is the exact opposite.

As Max Cantor writes in his essay “How to do online dating without eventually burning out and becoming a hermit”:

Get as many dealbreakers out of the way upfront. Forget about attracting as many people as possible. You want to attract as few as possible: ideally, only the vanishingly small amount of people who you’re actually fucking compatible with.

Everyone just loves to talk about how the first rule of dating is “be attractive.” Lucky for us, attraction is subjective, and you only have to be attractive to the people you actually want to date.

*

Be your damn weird self. If there are certain sex acts you don’t enjoy, then say so. You’re looking for companions, not running for office.

It’s better to fail quickly than end up in a relationship that won’t make you happy.

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