In the mix

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...

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Last night, halfway through dinner, I was asked by the woman I was with what my attitude towards ‘protection’ was. We’d come from having a few drinks together to this small Italian restaurant off the Block arcade. I was in good form. (Despite everything, it’s rare that I’m not these days, no matter how I feel.) She was entertained and flattered, attracted I guess, and puzzled that I had so long eluded the grasp of another women – a question I answered with my usual nimble evasions. And so midway through my penne ragu she asked what I thought about protected sex.

The question wasn’t entirely out of the blue, though it did surprise. We’ve met perhaps three times previously, and sex each time has lurked in the shadows even if it hasn’t been explicitly discussed. She’s the poly-amorite, and the variety of expression, sexual and otherwise, seems central to how she lives. I’m not poly-amorous, but I give off the vibe as a sexual individual apparently. Sex seemed an inevitability if I got by my poly-amorous misgivings, and didn’t fall in love (eleswhere) first. Still, this was the bluntest expression of that desire.

I answered without thinking, feeling a little discomfited by the query. Yes, well, absolutely seemed to be the generally fumbling tenor of my response. She looked at me archly: but not always? Well no I had to admit. Sometimes events overtake you. Sometimes there isn’t a condom close to hand. Or the need is just so urgent you just think fuck it. I wondered if she understood that. How its like a locomotive that has to pull into the station and nothing’s going to stop it. And of course the truth that every man knows: that it feels a good 40% better going bareback. Regrets are tomorrows business, though I assured her that 95% of the time I was all good.

She expressed her surprise – she thought I’d be different. She asked me then how often I had myself tested. She asked me with a smile. She wanted to know because she wanted to fuck me. Not tonight maybe, but sometime soon. It was in the diary, marked on the calendar, sex with the dishy H.

I answered again, but by now I was a different person to what I had been 5 minutes before. I enjoy sex. I have a hunger that seems rarely sated. I like women. I like discovering their mysteries, enjoy bringing them pleasure. I’m spontaneous with it though. I don’t mark it on my calendar. I don’t want to schedule it. It like how it naturally occurs when the different elements you mutually bring combine in some kind of intoxicating and irresistible brew: now, must be, yes… Passion I guess, and desire. For me they are warm, if not hot emotions, they flare like flames burning on a rich fuel. To lay the groundwork, to clinically anticipate the logistics of sex is anathema to me, a turn-off. And so that is what I experienced last night. Talk about it afterwards if you want, now just lets do it.

We parted sometime after that on the tram home, she happily looking forward to catching up before Christmas. I stood on the tram home alone, listening to my music.

It has been one of those interesting weeks that seem to mark out the boundaries. On Wednesday night I caught up with Becky. We’ve been friends, and just that, for a few years now. She’s a lovely person, fun, generous, kind and considerate. Sometimes I wonder at the nature of our relationship. We meet every month when we share everything between us with a spicy candour. Sometimes I wonder if her feelings for me are more than just platonic. I wonder if I imagine the long moments of sexual frisson, but I think not. It’s because I doubt, and because I am older than her, and because I value our friendship that I have done nothing.

This last Wednesday I sensed it again, though saw in her feelings perhaps something my desire had blinded me to before. It seems very strange to write it down, but I think she adores me, in the old fashioned sense of the word. I felt humbled as I cottoned to the thought. I watched as she talked to me, her eyes bright, running her hands through her lustrous dark hair. She’s a good person and she adores me, I thought. I began to see myself as through her eyes, different, separate, to what I felt within myself. I was surprised to discover that in myself I didn’t feel worthy of such devotion, but through her eyes understood completely. It was a revelatory experience. Here I am the cocky, smart, witty, confident, clever, aggressive character and all that is outside; and inside, the bits she favours, is the kind, gentle, sensitive, strong, optimistic and resilient character (she is another who compares me to George Clooney in personality). One is hard and thrusting, the other soft and accepting.

I guess in a way this dichotomy harks back to the post here a few days ago. I am all those first things I noted down, but are they me? I have assumed that mantle, if not persona, and it’s fit because there is nothing false in it – but equally the other parts that fit have been put towards the back, me, but not the me I want to project on the world. The private me. Ought I be that private?

It’s odd. Here I am last night with this woman who likes, as so many do, those alpha attributes of mine. I like them too, mostly. Becky appreciates them also, but she also knows me better than that. She knows they are but one side of the coin. She genuinely admires me I think, respects me, and though I go around as if I expect that I find myself moved by that. As if it’s for me, not for who I appear. Lately I’ve been given cause to reflect on that often as my friends come rallying. It’s not something to take for granted. It’s a great privilege, and each time I am made to think about why they care so, and in my moments of clarity wonder why I can’t be both things, the hard and the soft, rather than just presenting the one.

Since Wednesday I’ve been a lot more conscious of my underside. Why can’t I be good as well as interesting? I’ve always thought myself a good man in that square-jawed manly way – loyal, honest, true, steadfast, determined, and so on, like a boy scout. There are other, gentler ways of being good also, and I feel as if I’ve always discounted them. Not now.

So this brings us to the next moments.

I wrote about the disappointment last week of the girl I liked fading away because of an ex back on the scene. I sent her an email – you read it here – and that was that. So I thought. But then a few days later she responded. She liked the email, much I think. And I don’t know if it made her re-consider her feelings, but at least her stance had changed. She didn’t want to lose me, but understood if I felt different. She would like to see me again if she could.

I was glad of her email. I wondered what it meant. Did it mean she wanted to keep her options open? Was he not working out as she expected? I wanted to see her again, but not as some sexless male BFF. Truth of the matter is that if I see her again I’ll still want to seduce her. I felt like telling her that. That I couldn’t be second, that I couldn’t abide taking my turn. Even as I thought that it struck me as a tad hypocritical. Still. In the end I put it back onto her. At some point she will have to choose, though not yet. I didn’t say that though. I told her sure, love to catch up, give me a call. That was it. I put it all back on her. I don’t know if I’ll hear from her. Maybe not. I hope so though.

So, that’s in the background, there’s Becky and the things I learned from her, and the woman last night. I got home last night nearing 10 and put on a movie to watch: Crazy, Stupid, Love, which was pretty good, and much that seemed somehow familiar. In the meantime I had tweeted something about the evening, and as I watched the movie I continued to post tweets about the things that occurred to me. Not for the first time I had a particular follower respond to me.

I think she began following me on Melbourne Cup day, and there have been few days since where there hasn’t been some interaction. She’s smart, has some wit and attitude, and is fun to exchange tweets with. I don’t know much about her except that she lives OS somewhere, Malaysia being my pick. She’s a mystery woman, and has resisted all my enquiries, happy to remain an enigma. Fine by me, it’s kinda fun, as she points out, to leave it mysterious. In any case, thanks to the strange medium of Twitter, we’ve formed a strange bond.

Last night she was following me and asking questions. I answered, honestly. At a certain point our conversation veered from the public view to direct messaging each other. By this time our conversation had become more personal and probing, with conjectures on love and attachment and personal loss. We continued even as the movie ended and I got into bed. I lay in the dark waiting for my phone to ding signifying another response. In the dark then I would type my answer, or my question. This went on till about 1.30am. By this time it had become intimate in a way, experiences exposed along with the raw feelings associated with them.

It was strange, but very 2011. Here’s this woman I don’t know from places I have no idea of, with whom I’m exchanging quite deep and meaningful missives limited to 140 characters. And at the same time her probing and my answers have served to clarify my own perspective on many of the things I have written of here today. It’s odd sometimes forced to articulate a position you find yourself learning from your own words. So it was last night.

Today, it’s nice to know, but I don’t know where it leads. That’s the mystery I guess. I’m glad to live through these moments nevertheless, happy to be in the midst of things rather than outside of them. At some point it must mean something.

Amorous, or polyamorous?

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About 12 months ago I wrote about a situation I was in with a polyamorous woman. At the time I felt tentative at best, and at worst, confused, at the situation. In these pages I confessed to feeling more comfortable in getting around with a woman behind her husband’s back than with a woman whose husband happily encouraged the tryst. I felt uncomfortable in what I thought of as an odd, vaguely unseemly relationship: at least betrayal was a black and white, this was something else.  In hindsight my comments were intemperate, though honestly felt, and they prompted a storm of unexpected attention. I was contacted by people all over the world and had some post comments rebutting my simple heterosexual perspective. I was greatly surprised. I responded as I could, and at the same time quietly opted out of the relationship.

About a month ago the woman contacted me again. Nothing had changed, she was still married, still polyamorous, still interested in getting together with me. This time I allowed myself to go further than before. I saw my reaction last year as being fearful, and unworthy of the man I aspire to be – the least I could do was learn more. To that end we exchanged missives and as I didn’t last year I asked all about her polyamorous philosophy. How did this come to be? What did it mean to her?

To my quiet surprise I was unsurprised by her answers to me: it was pretty much as I thought. It seemed gentle, open, almost sweet in a way; a willingness to openly connect with others honestly and intimately. I couldn’t argue with any of that – is that not how human society should be? And yet I remain of the old school, strange as that may seem for such an old tart as myself: you’re either in or your out. You’re either in love and fully committed; or you’re not in love and without obligation. This seemed to fall somewhere in between, and while I’m not going to judge anyone for their beliefs it still feels foreign to me.

Despite that I’m meeting up with her next week. I wonder what I expect to get out of it. I like her, and I guess that’s a lot. She’s an attractive, intelligent, sexy and gentle woman. I would welcome her as a friend. More than that?

I guess that comes down to what she expects of me. She made it clear that while sex needn’t be part of the equation, quite clearly it may be. She seems attracted to me, and though I doubt she is motivated solely by the prospect of a gentle romp in the dark with me clearly, that’s a further extension of intimacy and well and truly on the cards. How would I feel about that?

It’s a funny dilemma for me to be in. It’s not often I’ve knocked back the opportunity (though it has happened). Sex is a natural part of a healthy life, whether it be purely for the transient pleasure of it, or to commit oneself to another body and soul in the act of giving as much – or more – as one receives. Love without sex is for me a kind of emotional veganism: I don’t see the point of it. Sex is some of the best bits, if only because there is a surrender in it with someone you love. It is cleansing and humbling. Celibacy has no point but it’s own virtue: that is, no point.

I don’t know if sex will become an issue between us, and I may well be jumping the gun – but if I find I genuinely like her then it would feel natural to adjourn to the nearest bed with her. That’s where it gets complicated though, and not only because her husband would be somehow complicit in the act. Ultimately our conflicting philosophies place limits on the possibilities between us. For her I may become another of several. For me, notwithstanding my general (and occasionally indiscriminate) appetites, if I grow to like her as I might then I would want her exclusively.

It’s an interesting situation, but better faced than avoided. The best solution as I see it is to be open myself with her: to speak honestly of my feelings and doubts as I have here. Who knows what surprises the world has in store?

Other journies

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Writing of Andrej Pejic I am reminded of some recent ponderings on related subjects.

A little while ago I happened across pictures of very pretty Asian transvestites – she-males as they are known. Some are quite beautiful and there are few you would guess are actually male. I've seen pictures like this before in emails and so on and like most people have been fascinated for about 5 minutes before moving on.

On this occasion there were further pictures post-op and naked. I couldn't take my eyes off the pics. If it had been conventional porn it would have been merely salacious, but my fascination this time went far beyond the lewd.

In the first place I was fascinated by the surgical transformation from male to female genitals. It might seem different when in the same room and up close, but peering through a computer screen the surgically changed genitals of these trans-sexuals looked the real thing. I was gobsmacked, as impressed by the wizardry and surgical skill as much as by the fact that someone would actually choose to do that. There was absolutely no way of discerning that the woman in front of you had started life as a man. And in many cases the 'women' seemed more feminine than a lot of women you know.

This is where it got really interesting. I found myself in a strange grey area I had never ventured before. I know there are a lot of gradations between the masculine and the feminine, but my interest has always been mere curiosity. I knew what I liked and what I wanted and I was pretty definite that it was 100% female.

Asia gets thronged by westerners looking for cheap sex, and some of them have a thing for she-males. It's definitely not my cup of tea, but I can imagine the psychology behind that being quite complex. There's a person who looks, sounds and acts like a woman, and potentially a very attractive woman, who actually has a cock tucked away inside her panties. To me that would be a horrible surprise, but I can understand how exciting that might be for some.

While that's not something I would contemplate I ogled the naked bodies of these trans-sexuals as if they were the real thing. Fascinating or not they were – superficially at least – very attractive. I wondered what I would feel if I discovered the woman I was with was one.

It was an interesting, complex question. My first reaction as a rampant heterosexual was to dismiss it. It wouldn't happen. But what if you only found out after you had been with them (presuming it was not obvious)? I stopped to consider that. Would I be outraged? No, though I would be angry at being deceived. Would I feel less manly? I doubt it. Would I feel tainted? I don't know.

If I am to be absolutely open at this point I'll admit to some sexual curiosity. I'd be as fascinated to closely examine the changed plumbing as I would at the workings of a Swiss watch. And I wonder what the sex would be like – would it be different? Clearly this is not something black and white.

What it leads me to are questions of gender and attraction. Being the heterosexual I am the ideal for me has always been a feminine, preferably beautiful, woman. There's never been any variation on that, but when I consider men who become women I am forced to wonder why.

Do I love women because they have breasts and pussy and I don't? Or do I love them because they think and feel differently to what I do? The answer is probably both. It's in that difference to who I am that I find in the right person someone complementary to my self as a man. It's that cliche, two halves making the whole. That's the chemistry.

That's fine then. What of the post-op transgender then? That's a more complex question obviously, and a little confusing. If we presume that a person choosing to become a woman possesses common feminine traits – a fair presumption? – then potentially half of that equation is already met: they think and feel differently to me. By surgically completing the transition then theoretically the other half is similarly resolved: here is a person who looks like a woman, sounds like a woman, acts, thinks, feels like a woman, and so is…a woman? The only real difference is that a trans-sexual doesn't menstruate and can't have babies.

There's plenty there to rouse contention, argument and potentially abuse. I find myself in the face of all this wondering if in fact I could fall for a trans-sexual. Why not? I don't know because I've never been close enough to go beyond the hypothesis above. Dissecting a scenario objectively and rationally doesn't make it true, let alone real. There's much more to all of this, much more than I can know or understand.

But could I? I suspect not. Not through any prejudice of mine, at least I think not. Gender is permeable, there is no definitive black or white, no correct way to be regardless of what some will tell you.That isn't the issue.

We fall, I think, for individuals who inhabit a body whether it be male or female. The body counts – it is what we are drawn to, what our sex demands of us – but it is the person inside we ultimately love. That person is the combined outcome of all the things that have happened to them up to that point; we are the result of our own journey. In the end that's the reason I doubt I could be intimate with someone who didn't start life a woman – because the journey is different.

Sex, I have to admit, might be a different story.

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Urgently present

Sunday morning I wandered around George Town in Penang by myself. I had a coffee and got talking to a couple of English girls; in Little India I met a monk in saffron robes, an affable Aussie now very much at home in Penang; I had an excellent pakora, had my foot run over by an errant driver, and got rained on.

It was hot and steamy. We were scheduled to leave just on 2 and so I figured I had just enough time for a massage.

I selected a place we had popped our heads in the night before. I had spied on the menu a Balinese massage that seemed just right. I negotiated a rate and was led down a passageway to a dimly lit room screened by curtains. It was a pleasant room, a spicy aroma in the air and on the floor thick mattresses in purple fabric. I sat and waited for the masseuse.

She arrived about a minute later, a slender Chinese woman, tall for her race, with long hair. She confirmed my massage and then standing there asked me to take off my clothes. Unsure of the etiquette I stripped down to my undies. With my shirt off she exclaimed at the size of me and said she needed two hours to massage me properly. I told her I didn’t have 2 hours to spare.

She directed me to lay on the mattress face down, and then with fragrant oil she began to massage the back of my legs with long, sweeping strokes. Her fingers were strong and pliant. They soothed the tight muscles of my legs and up into my groin in a way that had my complete attention. Gripping at the elastic of my undies she asked if she could remove them. At my assent she casually peeled them off of me as I lifted my body to assist.

Now her hands reached all the way to my buttocks, kneading them into happy submission. As her hands moved her fingers curled and brushed against my scrotum between my parted legs. I have to be honest here and admit I lived for those fleeting touches. Even as I felt the soothing effects of her work that subtle sensuality was enough to lift the sensation into another realm. There was the physical – something I was to further understand as the massage proceeded – in that middle part of us men is sensitive, and is at the centre from which filaments of sensation tease and tremble throughout the rest of the body like errant charges of electricity.

There was the psychological also. We are such sexual animals that even the hint of excitement inflames us. As a man I spend a lot of time thinking about sex in any case, and identify a large part of who I am in my sexual persona. Hell, there are times I am my cock, and perfectly happy with that I am. Lying there in the dimly lit room in a foreign city and an attractive and unknown woman touching me sensually all of that suddenly became a whole lot more. I waited, feeling her fingers probe and caress, traced them in my mind as oil slicked they slid from calf to thigh to buttock and down…

It was all so matter of fact, something else I’ll return to later. I don’t doubt she knew the effect she had upon me, but it was not contrived, it was not sexualised. This is what she did and did properly, this was the job she was paid to do and as she told me later had been doing it for 8 years since leaving China. Because it was not sexualised it was so much more sensual.

She moved to my back, my arms, commenting as she did so upon the size of my muscles, asking how old I was and telling me I was a strong man. By now she was astride me as I lay on my front. She was perhaps half my weight, but sitting there on the back of my thighs she would lean forward and put all her weight into the long strokes that went from the small of my back to the tips of my shoulders. As she did stray bits of her long dark hair would brush against the sensitised skin of my back and her fingers would lightly play along the curved balls of muscle of my shoulders. I would feel to a patch of her skin press against mine as her top rode up her midriff as she leaned into me.

She turned me. She massaged my face, my head, then my chest. We spoke, she asked my name and told me hers – Shenzen? – which I heard at first like Ginger. She was 29, had lived in Hong Kong and KL and now George Town. Her English was halting and uncertain, but she smiled with it wanting to be understood, and to know more of me, which I shared.

By now I have had an erection for about 30 minutes. I don’t care. How many times would I have been paranoid about such a thing? But not now. It seems irrelevant, besides the point, so bloody western. So what if I have an erection? That’s good isn’t it? That’s how I feel, and she cares not one whit though it’s plain to see. It matters not a bit because it seems – and is – so natural.

Her fingers now are caressing my stomach, my groin, my upper thighs. A small towel covers my cock, but her fingers travel all around it, touching everything but it. Then she presses down on me, once, twice, three times, her hands to either side of my groin with all her weight. I feel the pressure quiver in me, feel my erection jerk like it is a living thing keen to get free.

Then, soon after, it ends. We smile, she hands me my jocks, I dress as she departs, everything going through my head.

I feel strung tight, beautifully so, alive, vibrant, urgently present. Had she offered me a happy ending I’d have said yes without hesitation. I needed it in the way every man knows, but it would have felt almost normal. I’d always thought of it as sleazy and cheap, and it probably is often – but perhaps it needn’t be. I’ve had sex with less sensuality than that massage – most sex really is short of what I felt there in that massage room. In a way it was like the best foreplay you could imagine, close, intimate, sensitive, teasing, for nearly two hours. I left feeling like I needed a cold shower; and feeling half in love with the unaffected and generous woman who had provided so much unexpected pleasure to me.

I expect many will read this as evidence of a depraved sensibility. Not surprisingly I feel it differently. You may not understand but I feel as if I have had my eyes opened again to something I once knew instinctively and with simple pleasure: sex is good, clean, natural. We may make it otherwise at times, but that is the flaw in our make-up. What I felt on Sunday was simple, uncomplicated and good, because that was how it was presented to me. It was the best massage I have ever had by a country mile, and reminded me of how civilisation inhibits us. Life is simpler, and better I think, when we accept things for what they are and not for what we choose for them to become.