My four-legged daughter and I were playing tug-of-war in the backyard on a Friday night when I felt my ass vibrate. It was a text message from my buddy Jesus. "Wanted to get your freaky perverted perspective. Share a beer across time zones?"
Jesus and I met a few months back during his book tour for a novel in which sex takes center stage. That evening, on the patio of an East Atlanta coffee shop, he asked the audience questions on the topic. As dusk turned to night, the crowd's shyness eased, and more hands were raised. I knew instantly Jesus and I would become friends.
I walked onto my backyard deck, lit a cigarette, and gave Jesus a ring. He was doing research for a new book and wanted to know my definition of the word "pervert." (For the record: everyone, because there is no such thing.) The conversation rolled on when he asked me if I was seeing anyone.
"No," I said. "Men I like don't ask me out."
"You intimidate them," he said.
Guy friends always have a way of making the idea of intimidation sound sexy, as if I walked around in latex gear and a whip.
"Maybe it's the leather jacket," I said, laughing.
I told him about this one guy I hung out with briefly months before who bailed on our date last minute, via text no less.
"Ouch!" Jesus replied, sucking air through his teeth in a dramatic fashion.
"It's cool," I shrugged, my ego having time (and whisky) enough to heal. "We weren't really compatible, anyway." Because, as I told Jesus, I'd made him uncomfortable, as I do a lot of guys. Because I like to talk about sex.
I have this habit — a bad one, some might say — of bringing up sex early on in conversations with a man I'm interested in. It's an important part of the learning process. The sooner I know a man listens to Nickelback, doesn't cook, or gets off being naked, bound, gagged, and driven in the trunk of his car (#truestory), the faster I can plan my escape. I ask questions like, "What kind of porn do you watch?" and "Do you dirty talk?" and "What's your opinion on hair in the bedroom?"
Before he bailed, the boy and I hung out on his bed, sitting cross-legged, drinking whisky, and swapping the names of punk bands we listened to, when I purposefully deviated from those topics.
"Tell me another one of your fetishes," I said, very much aware I was wearing a dress. On his bed. With the door shut. What can I say? I love playing with fire. And dark-haired men. With tattoos. And clean bedrooms. Who make their beds.
"Stockings," he said, getting up to change the music on his computer.
"Besides that. I'll match you."
What I really wanted was for him to touch the base of my neck and make my teeth tingle.
"I don't know. I'm sorry. Most girls don't ask these types of questions." He climbed back into bed, kissed my forehead, and took me in his arms. "Shhh," he said. "Let's just lay here for a sec."
I felt trapped. I cursed leaving my drink on his desk.
I didn't want to make him uncomfortable. I was just trying to find someone sexually akin. Someone who understands how important these discussions are to me. It makes me happy when friends (and, yes, even strangers) approach me with questions that they may not feel comfortable asking others. It means they know I'm not judging them.
Asking questions about sex can make for a sticky situation. Some men seem grateful to find a woman with whom they can share their perversions, others retreat into their good-boy shells, and some assume the question means they get a pass straight to the bedroom.
Of course, men aren't the only ones cautious to bare all when it comes to sex. Women are, too. Lest we be labeled sluts. Or prudes. (We'll address "head whores" in the future.) It's easy to understand why it's hard talking about it. Sex is the most naked a person will ever be, not just literally. Whether making love in a suite in Midtown or muffling the cries of fulfillment in the bathroom of an Old Fourth Ward bar, we remain naked, our neck jutting out, jugular pulsating, heart connected. Exposure like that, the shaving off of clothes and admittance of words, regardless of awkwardness, makes for the best sex — the kind of ear-piercing sex roommates think is fake. The kind we owe ourselves. The kind we all deserve.
Jesus offered advice: "It's 'cause you live in the South. Move here to San Francisco."
His answer caught me off guard. "This is Atlanta," I told him, somewhat defensively. "It's not as conservative as you would think. Especially not among my peers."
To be clear, I'm not from Atlanta. I've spent my entire adulthood living in the South, and after eight years living in this city, it's clear what I once thought would be a "stepping stone" to New York City has simply become my home sweet home.
Prior to the States, I was born and raised in Puerto Rico in a middle-class household by Catholic parents who are, for all intents and purposes, conservative. My father disagrees with Occupy Wall Street, my mother thinks women with tattoos "ruin their bodies," and they both object to my being agnostic. Despite their right-of-center mentality, my older brother and I were always encouraged to discuss all topics, including sex.
They believed sex education was as important for a person's emotional development as it is for one's physical well-being, and, even though they are Catholic, they did not want us to feel guilty about our natural urges. As a child, my mother read me the definition of masturbation, which was her sly advocacy of deterring teen intercourse instead of preaching abstinence.