The Star asked three Toronto experts — a sex shop owner, a sexuality educator and a professor who is teaching a sociology course called Sex in the 6ix — how to traverse this burgeoning sexual revolution. In their own words, here are their insights, hopes and fears about dating in the MeToo era, and tips on how to connect with compassion in We are in unprecedented times.
There are a lot of people feeling a lot of fear right now and that is OK. We need to learn how to balance our entitlement — knowing we deserve connection and pleasure — with the knowledge that we are not entitled to it from any particular person. There is still this idea that people should go after any person they think is attractive. You see that in the street with catcalling, or in the workplace, where people in positions of power harass those they find attractive.
On the flip side of dating, we see people who are afraid to ask for anything for themselves. They are afraid to date and think: We need to find balance between over-entitlement and under-entitlement. Yes, we deserve love and connection and pleasure, but we need to learn how to hold who we get them from loosely. How many people go into an encounter with someone and have a plan that says: Usually what happens when people have sex and their partner looks bored, they try harder, which is kind of the opposite of what should be happening under the enthusiastic consent model.
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Everyone can do this. Think about what range of pleasures and what range of desires you are open to and think about these in a completely non-sexual moment. So, for example, standing in line at the grocery store: If someone smiles at you, would that feel nice for you or would that not feel nice?
The reason you think about these feelings in a non-sexual situation is that when someone asks you to go back to their place, you can tap into your body to figure out what you want from that encounter.
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Maybe you would want to say: Or, you could say: Under traditional dating scripts, people, especially those in a position of power, are expected to push the sexual agenda. But we need to learn to take a step back and let other people set their space and timing and agenda. It goes back to individual choice and individual power. I think people are a little terrified. The issues with consent are much larger than sexuality and extend into all aspects of our society.
And the issues with rape culture stem from not seeing people as full people. Make sure your partner comes first. Focus on your partner and do lots of verbal check-ins to make sure, at each stage, that they are into it. People say verbal check-ins are weird, but I think they are terrifically romantic. You just say the thing you want to do in a sort of sexy voice and that can double as your consent check-in. There is nothing hotter than expressing your desire verbally and having your partner express their desire verbally. One of the best ways to come on to a person in a sensitive way is to just give them your phone number and then they can choose to get in touch with you.
Then you are also building consent into that relationship. So, to say something respectfully, like: I would like to think that this will lead to more people coming out honestly about their experiences, about their desires. My wildest fantasy, as someone who owns a sex shop, would be that this leads to an era of having much more open and honest conversations between couples.
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My hope is that it leads to more intimacy and people being more honest about their experiences, which can only beget better relationships. Jooyoung Lee is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto with an expertise in studying human relationships and interactions, including sex, love and dating. American-born; cis heterosexual male; currently teaching an undergraduate course called Sex in the 6ix.
One of the things that has come up in my class, for example, is that people feel as if the very notions of sex and sexuality are becoming increasingly taboo topics to talk about openly. They do not contain any personal information.
3 Toronto experts on how to date in the #MeToo era
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Does he like me? Does he like me not? Top all of it off with trying to navigate through the murky waters of our rampant hookup culture, it can sometimes feel like the most confusing thing in the world. As someone whose university days are behind them, I've seen it all. Same thing as above. No one wants to share a microscope with someone they've seen naked. Only you can decide if you're ready for things to go further.
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You hear from so many people that a relationship will hold you back from "experiences" while you're at school, but if that's what makes you happy, that's the only thing that matters. I promise, this is not something that you need to check off your bucket list. Don't let anyone tell you you're in the wrong. This is something that only you can decide for yourself. If you're forcing an LDR just because you're scared to let go, sometimes it's better to rip off the bandaid.
Can we all just stop playing hard to get?