Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The sweat test: it ain’t all the pits

Sorry for the long delay in posting today! Such nice weather out, and so many reasons to post on my other blog. Now that the caffeine in my bloodstream seems to be reaching a suitable level, I’m prepared to refocus on my love life and, of course, those all-important people: my readers.

In fact, I think it’s time I delve into the mailbag once again and look at what some of you are writing.

Denial with the fairer (sex)?
One dynamic individual I’m calling “TNT” seems to be testing a timing scheme with emails — whether late-night or mid-afternoon responses are most successful. At 2 a.m. on Thursday he writes:
I saw your ad on Craigslist and thought I should say hi. I am 29, easy going, cool and nice to be with and a great sense of humor. I am interested in pursuing friendship with you. Should you want to trade pics, please let me know.
I am medium built, gainfully employed and a nice guy to be with.
Thirteen hours and two minutes later, he sends the same email, but with initials reversed in the sender info, and from a slightly modified email address at the same domain. Hmmmmm.

By far my favorite reply, however, was a clever reader who sent wry poetry along the same lines of San Francisco Fan’s rueful acknowledgment we’re not likely to hook up:
This one shows a little class ..
A girl offered her honor.
The boy honored her offer.
And so it went,
Through the night,
honor, offer, honor, offer ....
but obviously neither was a slut ... there was no number.
Brilliant, dahling, Brilliant. Since, judging from the Craigslist address you wrote to, you live in California, I can offer this consolation. Between the facts that a) my sleep schedule seems more reflective of PCT biorhythms than a desire to emulate vampires, and b) I have relatives and numerous friends in the Bay Area ... an Anna Broadway visit to that other great City on the Coast is more than likely. Perhaps with sufficient incentive I could even arrange a meet-’n-greet Anna sesh at a local bar. Perhaps the estimable Henry’s at which my 21st birthday drinks were had? Or would ya’ll be put off at the prospect of such an inherently competitive scene...

Convention epilog
In other correspondence, I got email from the Politician today, responding to a thank-you card I’d sent (it seemed only right, considering he did secure me access to three sessions in a row — including the sought-after Thursday night appearance of our Prez).
But what a great week! The four/five-some we pulled together for those nights added to the uniqueness of the occasion.

Now back to the real world, business, politics, family...
Ah, yes, family.

In other news, he reports troubles with the memory chip in his digi-cam, so pictures of the hands that Travis Tritt touched will not be in the offing. He did, however, kindly attach pics of him with Bob Dole and the gubernatorial candidate from his state. Between that and his admonishment to “stay in touch” it’s practically a yearbook entry from the senior class trip. Who knew conventions were so much like high school?

A long-suffering fan
Finally, remember my earlier post on spam emails? Well, one of the British gents from that entry decided to contact me again ... nearly two months after the first email (July 20). I’m not actually sure which Craigslist ad he saw, however, as this (nearly-identical) email mentions travel to Canada “including going coast to coast by train.” Focus-testing with readers must indicate that this suggests adventure. “Honest caring geuine guy,” however seems to play less well, as it has been moved from selling point #2 to selling point #5. At any rate he seems to have been getting responses. Disclosure of his phone number now advises respondents to contact him “outside of office hours.”

As a tie-in to my book-of-the-month (BOTM — should I just call it BOTtoM for short? ;)), I thought it would be interesting to compare the self-promotional strategies of readers 1 and 4, to Steven Rhoads’ assertions about what women seek in men.

Reader #1 selling points (in order of appearance):
  1. age (youth/maturity, depending on one’s perspective)
  2. personality
  3. low expectations of sex — at least upfront
  4. personal fitness/health
  5. employment
  6. personality
Reader #4 selling points:
  1. employment/prestige (works in a bank)
  2. hobbies (ethnic food)
  3. adventurous nature (travel to Canada, Ukraine)
  4. personality
(Yes, I can already hear Bleeding Eyes lamenting how we women are so damn analytical about things. But when one is unemployed...)

View from the BOTtoM
One thing Rhoads mentions over and over is the importance (for woman) of finding a man who could provide for her and their possible children. This manifests itself in things like physical stature/strength, prestige of position (since it is less common for men in this era to prove themselves by fighting) ... and body smell:
Research indicates that the birth control pill may interfere with a deep, unconscious mechanism involving the sense of smell by which women have ensured that the partners they choose can help them produce healthy offspring. Studies that ask women to smell t-shirts worn by men find that women disagree about which smell best. The tested women, however, do regularly prefer the smell of men whose immune system is unlike theirs in terms of key proteins that detect and attack invaders. This is significant because in all animal species, immune systems of offspring are stronger when the female mates with a male who has an immune system makeup unlike hers. In humans, some couples who endure repeated miscarriages have been found to share immune system genes to an unusual degree. [Rhoads cites Dianne Hales, Just Like a Woman (p. 32).] Moreover, a woman’s sense of smell is most keen around the time that she ovulates and is most fertile.

The birth control pill changes all this. Women on the Pill do not have a heightened sense of smell at any part of their cycle. And as science writer Deborah Blum explains in Sex on the Brain, when on the Pill, woman have smell preferences that are “reversed ... almost completely.” Women taking oral contraceptives prefer the smell of men with immune systems similar to theirs. [Rhoads p. 109; citing Blum pp. 235-239, Hales, pp. 31-32.]
I guess Sounds of Silence might have more to worry about than we thought. And as for the original comparison I set out to do, the men might do better to focus less on personality and more on how their personality is indicative of health or Rhoads’ all-crucial attract-a-woman trifecta: “resources, power and status” (p. 61). It’s brutal ... but it’s science. Hey, we have to worry about gaining a man largely on our looks and therefore our youth, you know. That ain’t easy (or cheap) for us.

Want me to vet your ad or reply? Give a holler. (And buy a book or somethin’ if you want to support this site.)

Sexless BOTtoM
Taking Sex Differences Seriously
Taking Sex Differences Seriously
Just like a Woman: How Gender Science Is Redefining What Makes Us Female
Just like a Woman
Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women
Sex on the Brain