The Man Who Wanted

Men want sex. That’s the assumption, that it is hard-wired into our DNA. We want it. We need it. We can’t control ourselves. That’s what makes men, men. If my story from last night doesn’t end with a woman in my bed, guys aren’t listening. I get an eye roll when I suggest that “hookup” isn’t synonymous with sexual intercourse. In a world where testosterone equals sex, I am not a mainstream man. I am a confusing anomaly to write off. Still, one night a little too much Baileys topped with a dose of humanity got the best of me, and it happened. It was fleeting, it was short-lived, it was nothing—but it was everything. In the span of a shuddered breath, I had undone twenty years of vigilance and patience. I wasn’t with someone I loved. I was tipsy, if not drunk. I’d had a clear picture of this moment in my life based on hopelessly romantic ideals. I was supposed to be married and dangerously in love. I would carry her into the bedroom or until my arms failed. She would push me onto the bed and climb on top of me, and then the happy couple would consummate. But every piece of the story I had meticulously positioned was out of alignment. And though I pulled out as quickly as I’d gone in, everything had changed.

It’s complicated, because I grew up knowing that I would wait until marriage to have sex. Sex is meaningful, and I didn’t want to share that moment with anyone but my future wife. Yet I was on my back surrounded by someone else’s white sheets, battling to process what had occurred. The moment itself was one I had believed to hold extreme significance. This was my First Time. This was that thing people shared when they played Truth or Dare, or Never Have I Ever, or humbly recounted the tale of Reginald’s quivering member. Whether I liked it or not, this was my story. But the question I soon found more essential was not, “What have I done?” but “Where do I go from here?” I had done it. So what was next? Had I broken the seal? Or had one moment just slipped through the cracks? I was at war with myself. Desire fought destiny, and I had reached what I had believed to be a defining crossroads: the man who waited versus the man who wanted.

Women want sex, too. Almost all of my friends are women, and we regularly give advice and share sagas on the topic. We are slowly but surely moving toward a society where sexually-autonomous women are accepted and championed. It is not rare to have a woman ask me to end the night at her place, and for me to be terrified of disappointing her. Because in most cases, I know what I want, and I don’t want to have sex.

That truth has consequences. Months after my First Time, it greatly threatened my First Relationship, where my girlfriend wanted to have sex. For much of my life, the guys I knew would made jokes about “plowing” this and “hittin” that. From them I learned that it was my duty. It wasn’t relegated to guys I knew in real life—the jokes extended to the male characters in movies, television, commercials, and books. They were guys’ guys, having unadulterated sex when it pleased them, and I was no longer the virgin that wasn’t involved and couldn’t understand. So when my girlfriend wanted sex, I gave it to her.

I couldn’t deny my true desires for long, though. The flip couldn’t simply switch. I had been a proud virgin of my own volition for too long. So I told her that I couldn’t do it anymore. It was devastating to us both. I had always failed in the eyes of men, but now I found myself disappointing a woman as well.  Society says that if a man doesn’t want to have sex with you, he doesn’t want you. But my love could be expressed in so many ways, of which sex was the least.

Over a year since the First Time, my mind has barely settled. The expectations weigh heavy on me as every flirtatious text leads to the next, and I know that there is a good chance I won’t deliver what might be expected of me. I don’t always know what I want. But I do know what the world wants of me. Or more so what the world expects of me. I’ve always known.

After all, guys only want one thing.

And though I don’t know what will happen next time I message Tinder bae or snap homegirl at 1 a.m., I do know that I should believe that what I want is okay. It takes two, and I shouldn’t be afraid of stopping the boat any more than she should be. I know that I would want her to be comfortable enough to slow the pace, and I should be able to presume the same. I know that I should receive the same respect that I would give. I know that I have the option to say no. I know that sex isn’t the end-all to being a man.

I know it all. Here’s to believing it.

Photo by Benjamin Frohman