Hi Dr. NerdLove,
So, I’m a 25-year-old woman in a weird place in my dating/sex life right now. For a long time, I thought I was a lesbian, until about a year ago when I dated a guy. Unfortunately, I was so anxious about how to be good in a relationship/sexual with a guy, I kind of sent it to it’s doom. Then I went on a date with another guy about six months later and I was kind of coerced into sleeping with him, and he was the first guy I slept with and this gave me even more anxiety.
To help me get over my sexual anxiety with guys, I started having a friends with benefits thing with someone I trusted would actually respect my sexual wishes and wouldn’t make me feel like I couldn’t have input. Now though, the thing seems to be that guys ONLY seem to want sex from me. The last date I went on, I thought I really connected with the guy, but he kept pushing for me to sleep with him, and probably was being way too sexual for a first date (I.E. talking about how he had a boner).
So I guess, my questions are: 1. Does having a friends with benefits situation mean that guys I might date in the future will consider me slutty?, 2. How do I tell if a guy wants to date or just wants sex? and 3. How do I let a guy know whether I want sex or just dating in terms of body language or without being too direct?
Any help would be appreciated.
Bewitched, Bewildered and Befuddled
You’ve had a fairly circuitous route to your sexuality. Sexual attraction can be something of a moving target for some folks, as it seems to have been in your case, and that can be an inadvertent source of confusion and anxiety… especially if you’ve spent most of your life identifying one way or another.
Of course, this is going to lead to something of an adjustment period as you start getting used to the social mores of dating men in addition to/ instead of women. You’re used to one set of experiences when it comes to dating and now you’re dealing with something that’s familiar, yet just different enough to be anxiety-producing – a dating uncanny valley as it were. This is can take some getting used to; the skill-sets are essentially the same, but the applications can be different enough to be confusing. Gender roles, particularly surrounding dating, can be a pain in the ass that way.
And let’s be fair: you have some legit reasons to be anxious. Not only are you exploring a different side of yourself, but you’ve had some seriously shitty experiences.
But hey! You bounced back from that and you then went and found a good guy to be with – someone who was caring and respectful, listened to you and deferred to your limits and wishes. That’s awesome.
Unfortunately, the guys afterwards… not quite as awesome. But here’s the thing: there’s a difference between correlation and causation, B3. The issue isn’t that you had a FWB relationship with someone and now everyone thinks you’re a slut, the problem is that you seem to be dating assholes.
The first thing you should be doing is figuring out some screening techniques to filter out the dickheads sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, part of the way you learn to filter out these goombas is through experience. Womp womp.
Learning how to tell guys who just want sex versus those who want a relationship is something you learn over time. People of all genders come on a spectrum; there will be guys who will be very obvious about just wanting to fuck and there will be guys who are so restrained that you’ll wonder if they actually see you as a potential partner or just a good friend. There will be guys who will fake wanting to date just so they can get sex and there will be guys who are super-sexual but who’re totally down with something committed. Most of the time, you figure out who’s who by their behavior; are they respectful, or are they pushy? Do they acknowledge your boundaries, or do they take every opportunity to tell you what they want from you?
Let’s take the dude you mention in your letter. You thought you were connecting with this guy. He, on the other hand, seemed to think that this connection was going to be leading straight to his bed and he was being a pushy ass about it. I’m all in favor of some sexy flirting and banter, but there’s flirting and then there’s being an asshat. There’s a time and place for bringing up one’s boner (i.e. heavy make-out sessions). Trying to steer the conversation to sex when you’re not down? Asshat behavior.
Now, I do have a couple questions for you. You’re worried that guys will think you’re a slut because you’ve had a FWB relationship… but how, exactly are they finding this out? If you’re laying out your sexual history – especially on a first date – they might be assuming that you’re signaling that you’re looking for more of the same. As a general rule, if you (general you, not you, B3) are talking about sex a lot on a date – sex you’ve had, sex you’d like to have, etc – it’s likely going to be seen as a sign that you’re down to bone. Which is awesome if you are, but if not, you’re going to end up with some confusion. Same thing with signaling that you’re just looking to date – if you’re bringing up kids, marriage and vacation plans on a first date, people will assume that you’re looking to settle down ASAP, even if that’s not what you mean.
Keep in mind: trying to establish the kind of relationship you’re looking for on a first or even third date can be difficult; one person’s “this is totally casual” is another’s “we’re feeling out potential commitment”.
One of the things I think may be causing you problems is the assumption that wanting to fuck and wanting to date are two entirely different beasts. There can be a lot of overlap there; many, many happy long-term relationships have started out of one-night stands and fuck-buddy relationships. But if you want to take things at a relaxed pace – totally understandable considering your history and anxieties surrounding sex – then make sure to maintain your boundaries. Having boundaries is part of how you filter out the asshats. Good guys will respect your limits, and the guys who want the same things you do will proceed at the pace you want. Assholes will push and push (case in point, Captain BonerTalk); feel free to kick these dudes to the curb.
But honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being direct and up front with what you want. Letting someone know you want to bone is fairly easy. Signaling that you want to date through body language is… kinda awkward and uncertain. Holding back on sleeping with someone isn’t any more reliable a sign that you’re headed to commitment than sleeping with them on the first date is a sign that you’re not. Guys who’re uncomfortable with your being straightforward about what you’re looking for are demonstrating to you that you’re likely not compatible in the first place.
The other thing to keep in mind: dating men as someone who’s bi or pansexual isn’t really all that different from dating women. There may be some adjustments – after all, some guys are seriously uptight about gender roles and performance when it comes to relationships, while others are more flexible – but you’ve done this before. The plumbing may be different but the hearts are the same.
So establish your boundaries, B3 and find the pace that you’re comfortable with. Find the guys who’re willing to respect them. And don’t be afraid to advocate for what you want, whether it’s sex or something more long-term.