A few weeks ago, my boyfriend let slip that he was titillated by another woman. Well, almost. It might not have been as bad at it could have been, but it was there.
There was this really sexy ad running on FX for their new show American Horror Story which I’ve been watching but really not enjoying. Anyway, my boyfriend and I have been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which we love pretty religiously together and every time they run the ad for American Horror Story, he makes a comment about how much he’d like to see me in a certain skivvies-showing French maid outfit worn very well by the sultry red-haired actress on the show. This actress is seriously hot and the way they have her tarted up to play to this archetypal male fantasy is spot on so I couldn’t agree more that she gives off this irresistibly sexy aura. So the last few weeks he’s reiterated how hot her little get-up is and how he’d love to see me in something like that. Which of course is as genteel as you can be when talking to your girlfriend about how sexy another girl is.
So there we are again, cuddling on his couch watching the It’s Always Sunny gang trying to get to Thunder Gun Express when of course the Horror Story ad comes on. This time, though he says “Damn, I want to &^$&...” Pause. “...you so badly in that outfit.”
I knew exactly what had happened and I couldn’t help but call him on it.
“That is not what you were going to say!”
Of course he played totally aghast. “What do you mean?”
“You were going to say ‘I want to #$%^ her,’ not me in her clothes.”
“That is SO NOT…ok fine that’s true.” I could feel his embarrassment as he confessed and sheepishly squeezed me tightly.
“I’m not mad at you for being potentially aroused by another woman but I think the generally accepted conventional wisdom on this is that girlfriends don’t like to hear about all the other women their boyfriends would like to *^%#.”
He laughed nervously and covered my face in little kisses realizing the fine line he was walking and the disaster he had almost stepped in.
But this brings up a truth in relationships, we don’t often explore. Do we expect our significant others to literally never be turned on by anyone but us? And if we accept that this is not physiologically possible, how much do we want to hear about it?
When it comes to love, I’m an idealist. But when it comes to sex, I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, I think if you want to be in a committed long-term relationship you have to accept that at some point in your partner’s long life, he is going to be turned on by something that is not you. Some girls really can’t handle this. My boyfriend’s fear that I might potentially be mad at him for being turned on by another girl is well founded. I know a lot of women who would be angry to find out their partner looked at porn or that they thought about anything aside from her while engaging in self-gratifying coital behavior. But biologically speaking, it seems to me, this is not a realistic view. We can and should all be held responsible for our actions on these urges, but our most base stirrings are surely not something we should judge one another on. Right?
Of course, knowing this and living it are two different things entirely. In the abstract, I have no issue with the idea that my partner might be sexually aroused by someone other than me. But do I really want to watch that happen? Of course not. When I’m with him, I want to feel like I’m the only woman in the world he could ever desire for the rest of his life. And generally, my boyfriend does a good job of making me feel like that. So then, am I saying he just has to hide it from me in a see no evil, speak no evil paradigm? That idea feels so outmoded to me. Aren’t I more liberated than that?
I want to be a more enlightened modern woman. I’d like to acknowledge the truth that in long-term relationships, both parties are going to be aroused by outside stimuli and accept that having such thoughts is part of being human and has no bearing on our relationship. But at the same time, watching my boyfriend respond to a hot woman who is not me, is not enjoyable. So what is he supposed to do? Put on this charade where in front of me he pretends nothing else in the world aside from me is arousing?
I certainly don’t want to listen to him confess to me any sexual fantasy he has about another girl in particular. But at the same time, if that is wrong, aren’t I also guilty of my own “thought indiscretions” at certain occasions?
Shouldn’t it be enough that my partner is faithful to me in actions? He has control over choosing not to have a one-night stand but if he can’t control his own sexual thoughts, why should it taint his virtue if he admits to titillation from others? We generally don’t punish people for thoughts. You may have wanted to murder someone, but as long as you didn’t, we really don’t think just having those thoughts are that bad. So if my boyfriend told me one day that he was so angry with someone that he momentarily thought about killing them, well it wouldn’t be his best side, but I also wouldn’t think too much of it. In fact, I’d hardly think about it. So why is it then, that I’m obsessing about this moment my boyfriend let slip that he had a sex-thought about someone else?
Women have unrealistic expectations when it comes to our man’s sexual thoughts. I want to blame fairy tales and Disney but really, I think the problem is we don’t talk about it realistically enough. People often say that that when Prince Charming finds Cinderella and they live happily ever after, we indoctrinate a desire for perfect unions that don’t exist. But in terms of the fundamentals, I still want the fairytale – the fairytale for me is someone who’s going to love me and be faithful to me forever and no I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Probably a lot of girls still want the fairytale and I believe they can still find it. The issue is, you technically can still abide by the rules of that fairytale, even if Prince Charming sometimes fantasizes about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty getting it on together. It’s time to stop pretending that loves means pure thoughts at all times. If he still loves you and is faithful to you, that needs to be enough. He shouldn’t feel like he has to hide his sexual desires because I’m holding onto some unrealistic expectation that men only want one woman till they die.
Women need to get used to the fact that great guys who are madly in love with them and completely faithful are going to be excited by other women. Ok, I need to get used to that fact.
And so, was I wrong to tease my boyfriend for making his comment? I just don’t understand why if cognitively I truly am ok with him thinking these things, why do I so not want to hear them? Do I prefer delusion? And isn’t that a sign of a psychopath…
I really have no idea what the answer is. I am not going to tell him to keep these thoughts from me, but I’m also not going to pretend communication is a panacea and encourage him to tell me all about them. guess I’m just not enlightened enough to listen to it. Maybe I am choosing to live in a pretend world, where I am the only bright and shiny object in his eyes. Or maybe hope against hope, the truth is that I do really shine a little bit brighter in his eyes than all others. Maybe only having eyes for me really means that in a sea of shiny objects, he sees all of them, but there’s only one he picks up to play with. And maybe that still means, I can have my fairytale after all.