Once upon a time, I decided to try role-playing with my ex, Jonah. Our sex life was satisfying -- I loved him, I was attracted to him, and he cared about pleasing me -- but I'm a firm believer in maximizing pleasure. Even in good relationships, there's always room for improvement. Plus, I wanted to push myself: I've always blithely assumed that I meet the standards set by my personal Jesus, Dan Savage, for a “GGG” partner -- one who is “good, giving, and game” in bed -- but I've rarely been tested.
It was hard to think of something I hadn't done but wanted to do (as a general rule, if I haven't done something in bed, it's because I categorically don't want to). Role-playing had always appealed to me, but my sense of irony kept me from committing to it: How could I pretend to be someone else without feeling silly and fake? I was worried I wouldn't be able to lose myself completely enough to feel anything other than ridiculous.
I'm not sure what put this specific idea in my head -- probably the battered copy of "Sabbath's Theater" laying on my bedroom floor -- but eventually I decided to ask Jonah to pretend that I was still a virgin and that he, my older, more experienced lover, was about to deflower me. (Part of the appeal of this particular fantasy is that, for the last 7 years, I've almost always been more experienced than my partner.)
Jonah is, in reality, 7 years my senior, so this scenario had the added advantage of plausibility. I often feel like I haven't fully experienced the older man/younger woman dynamic: What good is it to have been with older men as a younger but more experienced woman? Often in the past, when a boyfriend or lover has asked me if I've ever done activity X, I've had to stifle a yawn of boredom (more often, they know better than to ask). The idea of getting to be the ingenue for once turned me on.
I give myself a lot of credit for being open and spontaneous. But it was precisely that spontaneity, which I've always considered one of my biggest sexual selling points, that partially ruined the game. I didn't raise the subject of role-playing beforehand; instead, I ambushed Jonah mid-action.
We were making out when I suddenly whispered, “I'm a virgin. You have to tell me what to do.”
“Huh?” he mumbled. I repeated myself in my best seductive, breathy whisper. Jonah registered sheer bewilderment before suddenly catching on. “Oh,” he said. Then: “Lie on your back.”
It's working! I thought excitedly, as my body began responding to his commands. I could tell that Jonah felt a little silly; ordinarily, he had no problem bossing me around in bed, which I loved, but pretending he was someone else -- for example, a villainous seducer -- did not come naturally.
Still, it got me going. We were trying something new! And acting out a long-held fantasy of mine! It seemed like Jonah was enjoying himself, too, and maybe even getting into character. We were both having a great time, until it began to dawn on me that Jonah -- my sweet, progressive ex -- was a little too much in character.
After a very promising start (the memory of him growling, “Lie on your back” still thrills me) he began to treat me as if he were actually deflowering me. He was kind, considerate, gentle and respectful. He kept telling me that he'd stop the second it hurt. He said we'd take it slow. He told me to relax. He treated me the way I would want any nervous, inexperienced friend to be treated, with sensitivity and compassion.
But in this case, the sensitivity was unnecessary and even anathema. I'd already been with my share of nice, tentative guys; the whole point was that I wanted to try something new. If I hadn't asked him to switch his brain into “sleeping with a virgin” mode, we could have had the kind of mildly kinky, get-on-your-knees sex I prefer. But it turned out Jonah was incapable of treating the kind of young, inexperienced girl I was pretending to be the way he'd so often -- at my urging -- treated the real me.
Afterwards, we laughed. “That was fun, baby,” I said, “But do you think maybe you're too much of a feminist to be good at this kind of thing?” Amused and a little chagrined, Jonah confessed he'd had a similar thought: “I was definitely too nice to make that as hot as it could have been.”
He claimed the problem was simply that I'd surprised him. “I would have been fine if I'd had time to prepare for the role,” he said.
Then, noticing the grin tugging at the corners of my mouth, he returned my smirk: “And yes, I do realize that asking for prep time instead of just going with it in the moment would have made it even less hot.” Even if I'd given him a heads-up, I suspect that Jonah is too shy, egalitarian, and solicitous of women to be even a pretend asshole.
Ultimately, I'm glad my ex was the kind of guy who insisted on respecting me, no matter what, rather than the kind who's perfectly comfortable with being brutal, whether or not I've asked him to be (I've been with that kind, too, and while the sex can be hot, the emotional hangover isn't worth it.) Next time, I'll give him a little advance notice before becoming a virgin again.