Q & Exhibit A (5)

Click here and here for the first two parts of this, and here to read the 2014 version.

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You seem very body-positive, but you must have a physical ‘type’? Imagine one day we all get sex robots – what would yours look like?

Asking me that is a bit like asking “what would you have as your last meal on Earth?” – my answer will change on pretty much a daily basis, and will only really reflect whatever I’m craving at the time. This afternoon I might be in the mood for Peking Duck and a Kate Winslet sexbot, but by tomorrow morning there’s every chance I’ll want Eggs Benedict and Natalie Portman. Or a really good pizza and my English teacher who I really fancied when I was 17.

That’s how physical types work for me, anyway – what I’m attracted to is so dependent on context, mood and environment that it feels a little redundant even talking about it in those terms. Whether I’m in a bar, on the Tube, or casually scrolling through dating profiles, the people I notice are a mix of the tall and the short, the fat and the skinny, the dark and the fair. If I actively filter – and on dating sites, I often do – it’s for things like proximity, political/religious views, and whether or not they smoke, rather than height, weight, hair colour, etc.

If I look back through my relationship history – or even just the last 10 women I slept with – there’s almost no pattern whatsoever. My first girlfriend was 5’7”, slim, oval face, curly red hair. The second? 5’9”, curves and a belly, round face, almost no hair. My longest relationship was with a Persian woman who was 5’3”, dyed her hair blonde, and had very short legs; immediately after her I spent two years happily dating a tall, pale, dark-haired Scotswoman with enormous breasts, a big arse, and legs longer than mine.

The traits those women – and the ones I’ve dated subsequently – shared are almost all non-physical, but I fancied the pants off each of them. Like most people, I guess, it’s rare that I’m attracted to someone based on looks alone. Certainly these days: when I was 15, or 18, or even in my early 20s, I knew far less about what I wanted from a girlfriend, a fling, or a hook-up, so appearance was given more weight almost by default.

If this answer sounds a bit holier-than-thou, it’s not meant that way. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having firm physical preferences; if you’re mainly attracted to tall guys, or blonde girls, or men with beards, or women with big tits, that’s entirely your prerogative. It’s inherently limiting – and in most cases represents learned/socialized behaviour rather than instinct – but it’s no less reasonable than my desire to find partners who enjoy exercise or read fiction or drink wine…or love kinky sex. It’s just not how I tend to think.

Do you regret any of your relationships/sexual encounters or do you view your experiences as a larger whole where you don’t consider regret as everything brought you to this point, ultimately?

It would be very easy to trot out the standard response to this question, and indeed it sort of follows naturally from the way it’s worded. “Nope, no regrets, some bad experiences but that’s life – you learn from them and move on, etc etc.”

However, that would be a lie.

I do regret some of the sex I’ve had, and if I could go back in time I would absolutely stop myself from having it. Not because it’s been rubbish or awkward – that really is just part of life – but because it’s done emotional damage of some kind, either to me, to my partner, or to a third party.

Look, I understand why we’re often wary of treating regret as a normal, healthy emotion, especially when sex is involved. Too often it’s joined at the hip with shame, and used to cow people – and for ‘people’ you can usually read ‘women’ – into what society considers respectable behaviour. When “don’t do something tonight that you’ll regret in the morning” is code for “don’t have casual sex with a stranger, or bang someone in the club toilets, or lose your virginity on the back seat of the night bus” the assumption is that each of those things ought to be looked back on with a sense of embarrassment or shame. Likewise “don’t sleep with a married man, you’ll only regret it” or “avoid shagging your ex, no good ever comes of that” or… etc etc.

And sure, you might regret doing some of those things. Or you might not. It’s the idea that you definitely will regret them that’s made it slightly more difficult to talk about regret as a genuine, complex response to the sexual decisions we make.

The reality is that we all regret plenty of things, from the dodgy kebab we had on the way home from the pub last night to decisions we’ve made about university or our careers. Regret is not a bad thing; in fact, I’d argue it’s a necessary part of making better choices in the future. Of being happier. Regret is a powerful emotion, and by suppressing, ignoring or denying it we make it less likely that we’ll learn from our mistakes – why would we, if we don’t regret making them?

For that reason, yes, I do regret cheating on my ex with a work colleague, for example. She was really hurt when she found out, and I felt awful for inflicting that kind of pain on her. It may be one of a billion tiny things that brought me to this point, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also look back and go “ugh, I was a real shit, and I wish I’d behaved differently.” Because who knows, maybe if I hadn’t done that, I’d be at a better point. Or a different-but-equally-good one. Maybe she would be too. As long as I avoid torturing myself with that stuff, I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with putting my hand up and saying “yeah, I regret that.”

You love food and wine and good company. What’s the best dinner out you’ve ever had? Describe every detail and why it was so fantastic.

Ah, now this question I am going to duck! Well, it’s more that I’m going to point you to this article, and to what I wrote just now about physical types. I literally can’t pick just one meal, and frankly I wouldn’t want to. I’ve had so many good dinners, with so many amazing people, that elevating one above the rest makes no sense to me.

I’ve eaten in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Madrid for a girlfriend’s birthday, where every single thing I put in my mouth was delicious. I’ve eaten in a wonderful Parisian bistro on my first ever romantic mini-break, where the food tasted of young love and the sex we were going to have later that night. I’ve eaten in my favourite Lebanese restaurant in Oxford on my 30th birthday, surrounded by all the best people in my life, watching them have a good time and enjoy each other’s company.

If I’d struggle to pick one out of those three, I’d have no chance whatsoever once I listed the dozen other meals that immediately sprung to mind. Give me great food – even just plain decent food – enough wine to bring some colour to my cheeks, and a person (or people) I love, and that’s really all I need to make me very, very happy.

You’ve been blogging for about 4 (?) years now. How would you say it has changed you? Can you imagine an alternate universe in which you hadn’t started the blog? What would that look like?

I can’t emphasise this strongly enough: blogging has changed my life in so many ways. It’s taught me more about myself than I learnt in three years at one of the world’s best universities, and it’s certainly revolutionised the way I think about sex, sexuality, gender equality, privilege, relationships, and all sorts of other things.

It’s also been a gateway to a community full of simply wonderful people, many of whom are so different to the friends I kept and the women I dated in the past. When I look through my list of recent Whatsapp conversations, or think about the nights out I’ve had over the last few months, most of them feature people I’ve met either through my blog or its accompanying Twitter account. In a month from now I’ll be at Eroticon, which I anticipate being one of the highlights of my 2016 – just as it was in 2014 and 2015 – and is something I’d never have dreamt of attending before I started blogging on a regular basis.

So yes, it’s definitely changed me. I’d say it’s changed me for the better too, certainly in terms of my outlook on love and sex. I understand the world around me in a different way now, and at least some of that can be attributed directly to the self-analysis and external feedback that blogging invites. What would my world look like without this blog? That’s a tough one. To answer it, I’m going to bring in the final question of the 20-odd I’ve received over the last couple of weeks, because it’s closely related…

Compared to when you wrote your 100th post, how are you? What about you has changed, and what has remained?

I wrote my 100th post in June 2014. At the time, I had just returned to the UK from Poland and was about to start work at a consultancy in the City. Since then I’ve bounced between a couple of permanent roles, some bits and pieces of freelance work, and a lot of time spent contemplating life from the comfort (confinement?) of my kitchen table. How am I? Sadder. Happier. Financially poorer. Emotionally richer. A mixed bag, I’d say.

I’ve never really known what I wanted to do with my life. I actually envy people who have that level of certainty. “I’m going to be a teacher.” “I’m going to be a doctor.” “I’m going to work for a bank and make shitloads of cash.” I sort of wanted to be a lawyer when I was 16 and I was pretty sure at 22 that I’d enjoy working for the Foreign Office, but beyond that I’ve always just sort of fallen into things – and as a result, I’ve often fallen out of them too.

Over the last two years, this blog has unquestionably taken up more of my time, energy and focus than it should have done, but it’s hard to know whether that’s chicken or egg. Whether it’s led me to concentrate less on my career, or whether my professional frustrations have driven me to pour more of myself into something that, frankly, will never come close to making me any money. To go back to the earlier question, what would that alternate universe be like right now? Where would I be? Perhaps I’d have figured out by this point what sort of job is right for me. Or maybe I’d have found a different creative outlet, one that would have opened new doors and pushed me in a direction I’d never considered before.

It’s impossible to say. I am who I am, and this blog is what it is. Unlike my sexual history, I regret none of it.

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3 Responses to Q & Exhibit A (5)

  1. Exposing40 says:

    This is my favourite set of answers yet! I think all of the sentiments are lovely and I could easily write a long wafflely comment which would be even more ridiculous than one of my Whatsapp essays that I’m training myself out of. So I’ll just say hurrah and high five! Xxx

  2. Maybe, with this blog, it’s pushed you on another path of your life and
    journey….

  3. Pingback: Eroticon 2017: Meet & Greet | Exhibit A

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