Q. I’m a straight woman in her mid-20s happily enjoying a new relationship. Although we haven’t had the ‘move in’ conversation yet, I’ve begun to spend a lot more time at his apartment (much nicer than mine). The demanding hours of his work means that I’m sometimes left there on my own – and he’s encouraged me to treat the place as my own.
The other day I decided to do just that and have a little snoop around. What did I find at the back of his wardrobe but a rather ridiculous male sex toy! I won’t name the brand (although Google suggests they enjoy somewhat of a monopoly on the market) but needless to say I was mortified. Aren’t these cheap plasticky thrills the preserve of creeps and onanists? Is there any tasteful way to raise the topic? I fear if I don’t mention it soon, it might spill out when I least expect it; if you could shine a light on this dilemma, I’d be most grateful.
A. The Stoics teach us that we cannot control people, only our reactions to them, and that attachment is the cause of most of life’s pain. This doesn’t mean that we have to stomp through life like affectionless meat robots but rather be aware that people act the way they do because they want to – not because of something we fail to provide. ‘You made me do it’ is the eternal cry of the self-deceiver; those who know themselves mean it when they say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’.
What our sex partners do sexually without us is a grand example of this. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘If I did X, they wouldn’t need to do Y.’ However, the yen for Y was there long before you were and will outlive your fledgling relationship, should it end – as it may well do if you are already ‘mortified’ by some aspect of your boyfriend’s sexual behaviour in the honeymoon stage when, for most of us, anything goes.
But you seem a cool-headed type – excellent Stoic material – and I sense that your distaste is aesthetic rather than moral. It is somewhat discombobulating to think of bored Oriental factory workers chatting about what they saw on television last night while stuffing these eyesores into boxes without a thought of where they are going to end up when that mass-produced piece of plastic has ended up on the end of your boyfriend. Once we see someone as sexually comic, it’s hard to ramp up the lust, and inanimate objects brought into bed have a habit of looking ridiculous in the cold light of day.
That modern-day Stoic Katie ‘Jordan’ Price has told us that she knew her second marriage was over the day she found her husband making love to an a appliance he had even had the nerve to strap to her dressing table! At least yours keeps his Imaginary Special Friend in his own closet.
But our sex foibles are such a tiny part of us. In the other 95 per cent of your lives, you two may well have a magical chemistry which reduces this to the silly inconsequence it is and which you may look back in twenty years and laugh about. He sounds like what we colder, older broads often call ‘a catch’ and you youngsters call a ‘keeper’ so if I were you I’d put his funny friend out of your mind and give him a decent chance; think of it as an exotic pet, like a snake, which you don’t particularly want to handle but which is rather special to him. But whatever you do, don’t give it a name, not even to yourself – then it really will be game over in the empire of the senses.
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