Tag Archives: Dating

Birth of Venus: The Story Behind Venus in Heels

 

I always had a subversive take on love—so why not write about it?

As glamorous as it sounds, back in 2009 when I started Venus in Heels, I was a freelance music and entertainment writer hungrily navigating the supersaturated city of New York, trying to scrap together my next high-paying gig. Yes, I made my living giving good convo to rock n’ roll stars, but for some reason making small talk with famous strangers didn’t fulfill me in the slightest. Sure, I had an enviable job and access to the musical and cultural geniuses of our time, but I was always left wanting more. I desired to help and connect to people through my writing—digging deeper than the surfaced pieces I was churning out about fashion trends and the next “big” thing sonically. There had to be more, right? So, in my quest for fulfillment—bodily, emotionally, and spiritually—I began my Venus in Heels journey. That, and I needed something productive and creative to occupy those never-ending idle hours between my dwindling freelance jobs.

My aim was to put my unconventional views about love, romance, dating, and the major misconceptions about “proper” ways to engage with the opposite sex to paper. I wanted to help expose the fallacy of happy endings, to help women find empowerment through sex, and help to turn the old school rule of romance on its head. Modern women deserve modern rules, and I saw far too many of my contemporaries caught in the dichotomy of dating within the confines of an old system. Those notions of relationships just don’t apply, but up until this point, there was no definitive source for information on contemporary courtships or how to date on your own terms.

You may be asking yourself why I am qualified to write about romance. I might not have fancy degrees hanging from the walls of my office (nope, instead I have photographs of Iggy Pop and Rod Stewart), but I have notches on my bedpost, keen insight derived from years of playing the field, guiding my friends on their romantic journeys, and a solid understanding of both the male and female psyche. Venus in Heels isn’t a clinical look at love and romance, a debauched tale of my bedroom conquests, or a self-help blog. Instead, I want to position Venus in Heels as a forum for curious men and women to be thoughtfully provoked to look deeper into the realms of love and dating, and to question the old school conception of romance so many people still seem to live by.

Venus in Heels is a Subversive Guide to Romance because we must challenge the norm to achieve our own truth and understanding about what makes us happy—and what makes us feel truly empowered when it comes to love, courtship, and sexual exploration. I never played by the rules. I openly pursued men when all my friends accused me of being brash, I made the first move when others warned me I was too forward or would be viewed as a slut, and I always tried to follow my heart wherever it took me. I made mistakes, which I have learned from. My quest for love was fearless.  It is an endless pursuit.

The Ex-Files: The Dating Site Disaster

Andreas Kock's stalker fashion editorial.

Photo by Andreas Kock

At this point in our collective dating lives, I imagine we’ve all accumulated enough horror stories about ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends to fill a two-volume novel. Whether it’s the psycho stalker, the asshole who locks you—and your stuff—out of the apartment, or the blackmailer who posts naked photos of you on all of their social networking channels, there’s nothing worse than a butt-hurt former lover with an axe to grind. Luckily, I have had the pleasure of keeping most of my exes as friends. Some of which I still email with, joke with about old times over the phone, or share the occasional happy hour libation. I’ve only had one ex who really lost the script after our breakup and behaved so badly I had to change my phone number—twice.

Back in 2005, I was a full-time student and struggling freelancer who had no time to socialize and even less time to date. I was tired of using the same circle of friends as a conduit for romance, so in a bold attempt to rekindle my love mojo, I signed up for an online dating site. And not one with the “measure your long-term compatibility” bullshit. No, this was the era of Nerve.com, the notorious online dating destination known for its hot hipster singles, most of them looking for no-strings romps. Perfect. After I created my profile, added a coquettish picture, and filled out the requisite information with as much humor as I could muster while writing back-to-back papers on Spenser and eight record reviews for the music mag, I sat back and waited for the eligible man-dolescents to start lining up. And virtually line up they did! I was literally going out four nights a week on dates thanks to my Nerve profile.

Max was a seemingly normal guy—at least for my standards. I had gone out with about everyone in San Francisco, most of them were way out of my age range (Electra complex, anyone?) had major issues, and only wanted me because I was 25 and a not-so reformed party girl-cum-student. Max and I liked the same obscure indie bands, he had a deep voice, and an adventurous nature that was refreshing after all of the aloof and “over it” scenesters I used to roll around on unmade beds with. And just like that, it went from a casual phone call to pint-sized margaritas at Casanova to a marathon make out session in the dark corner of the bar while the DJ played obscure ’70s rock and Northern Soul. Coincidentally, I had a date scheduled with the DJ the very next night. It’s safe to say that date never happened.

I never wanted a boyfriend. Or, I guess I should rephrase that. I never wanted him as my boyfriend. But our chemistry was right on—well, that’s an understatement. I realize that I was completely hornswaggled into a relationship because of our incredible sex life. That coupled with the fact that summer was drawing to a foggy close with the fall semester looming like a dark cloud in the distance. So there I was, suckered into a union with a guy who looked like a deranged monkey when he smiled and used improper grammar. But he knew how to satisfy me physically, and that was my weakness.

 

So I quickly went from fun, flirty, and single to attached and confused about how I got there in the first place. But I was blinded by lust, and he kept me content by buying me pretty things, like naughty Wolford stockings, Led Zeppelin records, and expensive bottles of Pinot Noir. I was hooked on being worshipped, but this was far from the basis of a stable relationship. Looking at this time retrospectively, I also recognize that I spent very little of this period sober (I said not-so reformed party girl, remember?), and what we had in common was our consumption of top-shelf spirits, premium cocaine, and the mother of all drugs—sex. The more time that went on, the more I began to realize that our relationship was founded upon our sexual chemistry—it was a temporary fix, a moment in time, and somehow it managed to last three years. By the beginning of our second year, I started to have serious doubts. I slept with two men behind his back and fantasized about breaking up with him every single day as I rode the train to my cushy magazine job. Between his lack of ambition and his hopeless devotion towards me, I lost respect for him and with that my sex-drive. Without the lusty haze keeping us glued together, I knew that the end was imminent. I also knew that, because Max was so addicted to me, this breakup wouldn’t be an easy one. So I put it off eight long months.

With the realization that it was time to break it off with Max, I also recognized that I had gotten too comfortable in my current life and surroundings. It was time to shake things up. I did the most extreme thing I could think of. I decided to move from San Francisco to New York City with no plan in mind and no place to live. So with idealized visions of city life dancing in my head, I broke the news to Max. I told him that breaking up was the best thing I could do for him, and that it would light the fire under his ass to make him figure out what he wanted out of life. Because worshipping me had become a full-time gig. He sat in my room and cried and cried, wondering why I wasn’t upset about losing him. I walked him out, as he staggered to his car he looked at me like a puppy through the cage at the pound and I knew I was doing the right thing. As my astrologer so aptly put it, “Pity is not love. Let him go.” And so off he went into the damp Bay Area night.

But of course that wasn’t the last I’d see of him. He wrote me numerous love letters, painted me things that were symbolic of our relationship, and he broke into my house in an attempt to talk to me. That was the first time I changed my phone number. Frightened as I was, I knew he was just maddened by love and needed some time and space to heal. Or so I thought. As my plane touched down at JFK there was now a whole country between us. I began my life on the East Coast, and quickly forged a new relationship with a man I had been pining over for three years. Who would have thought that Max was living mere blocks away from my sublet in Brooklyn? Not heeding the wise words of my sage astrologer, I felt bad for the guy and emailed him back on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. That’s how I quickly learned that he too was living in Clinton Hill and fled California shortly after I broke up with him. “It was mere coincidence, right?” I wondered as I met him for lunch at the small café around the corner.

 

 

 

 

 

One lunch date seemed to rekindle a tentative friendship, which gave way to the dysfunctional dynamic of our recently terminated union. He took me out to dinners in the West Village when I had no money, or bought me glasses of wine when I had a hard day scouring the job boards. Soon I realized that it was like we were dating again—but without any of the lust to cloud my judgment. It became obvious to me that I really didn’t like him enough to be friends. And not to mention I had a new boyfriend that I was quickly falling in love with. The whole thing was flawed from the get-go. Again, my sympathy for him overruled my rational thought. The whole ambiguous friendship thing came to a head one night when he came over to my West Village apartment to use my Internet before I went off to meet my beau. As I emerged from the steamy bathroom I could tell the energy had shifted. Something was different. I asked Max what was wrong and he admitted to reading my emails while I was in the shower and came to the conclusion that I had no interest in ever getting back with him. I screamed at him, shocked by his idiocy and his disrespectful snooping and told him I never wanted him to contact me ever again. That was the second time I changed my number. That was also the second time he tried to break into my apartment.

That’s when the emails started. According to Max, I owed him money for the time he generously took me out to dinner when I was unemployed. I knew he was fishing for drama, finding some way to be able to write me off and call me a bitch. Fortunately, my boyfriend wasn’t having it. He emailed Max and told him that if he really wanted his money back, he would come and meet up with him in place of me. That settled the issue, and my boyfriend and I were back to domestic bliss while Max silently fumed in a dark apartment in Williamsburg. That was the end of the saga. Until two-years—and two awkward serendipitous street run-ins later—I got an email from my friend Kate.

“Hey, long time no see,” it read. “I wanted to ask you about your friend that’s on OKCupid. You’re in his photo. My friend is supposed to go out on a date with him and I figured I’d ask you about him. Is he a nice guy?” As I read the email I had a sinking suspicion that it was an old photo of Max and I. Probably the uber-flattering photo taken at my 27th birthday party. I emailed Kate, and she confirmed my suspicions. It was him—and me—in that profile photo. Not only that, the photo was at least four years old. I don’t even have that haircut anymore! It dawned on me how incredibly creepy this was on a multitude of levels—to use your ex-girlfriend as a “look I’m not crazy” device on a dating site, or even worse, to feature an out-of-date photo that neither reflects your current post-20s physique or your post-20s hairline. But as they say, how you find them is how you keep them. I met Max online, so in a strange way it’s pretty fitting that I would end up on his profile as a way to lure in a new wave of dates, our fate strangely entwined in the ether of the Internet.

Oversexed: Is the Modern Woman’s Amped Up Sex Drive Emasculating Men?

Rebecca Chandler shot by Robert Harper for ThePop.com

I attended a stylish rooftop soiree this past Saturday in the East Village. The Champagne was flowing—or overflowing I should say—and attractive singles danced and mingled with the monolithic Manhattan skyline in the background. It was my good friend’s birthday party, but I didn’t know any of the attendees. Instead of being a silent wallflower I poured myself a big glass of Pinot Noir and began striking up conversations with the partygoers. As usual, I subconsciously shifted the talk to relationships and sex. I was struck by how many women on this one Manhattan rooftop were bragging about their insatiable sexual appetites and how most men—both young and old—couldn’t keep up with them. Many complained about men frequently not being able to perform, or just not being in the mood and I was left wondering whether this generation of women are turning men off because of their empowered sense of sexuality.

For us women, is knowing what you want—and how to get it—emasculating our men and, as a result, diminishing their sex drives? Are we shifting the power so much that the men no longer know how to harness their power in the bedroom? I pondered over these questions on my breezy cab ride home over the Manhattan Bridge, praying that my red wine buzz wouldn’t manifest as a hangover the next morning.

With the increasing amount of power women have in the workplace, in contemporary politics, and many other facets of society and culture, it appears as though the influence of the strong female is wiping out the virility and potency of the male psyche—libido and all. There have been plenty of occasions that my boyfriend has complained about me being aggressive and “too independent,” insisting that I should respect the delicate balance of the masculine and feminine energies in our household and relationship. Being the neo-feminist that I am, at first I was pissed he broke things down like that, but I realized without the distinct gender roles that have been carved out for us by the media, our upbringing, and societal influence, many men don’t know how to operate or function correctly, especially when it comes to love and sex. Plainly stated: with the shift in the gender dynamic men don’t understand their new role and where they fit in—or how to fuck you.

Rebecca Chandler shot by Robert Harper for ThePop.com.

It’s a sad fact, but so much of who we are is a product of our upbringing and a reaction to our parent’s values. Unless your boyfriend grew up in a progressive household with parents that deemphasized the traditional roles of men and women, it’s likely that he was reinforced to see his role as the provider, the family figurehead, and the sexual aggressor. That’s not to say that he won’t appreciate you initiating sexually and feel thankful for having a partner that is as equally engaged in bringing the fire into the boudoir. But, he probably believes that there is a clear-cut male and female role within the lines of your relationship. Although these are archaic notions that are painfully outdated, once these definitions become hazy, his sexual role comes into question along with his sense of power.

Intoxicated by feeling free, beautiful, and successful, many women are looking to translate this energy into time spent between the sheets, only to be greeted by a less-than-interested man. As frustrating as this may be, we can’t expect our guys to just drop everything and update their operating systems to accommodate our amped up sex drives. This would require reprogramming many years of societal conditioning, and a complete ego overhaul. Instead, use your newfound power for good. Rather than pleading for him to have sex with you constantly, spend time pleasing your partner, indulging him in his fantasies, and trying out some steamy moves geared towards his climax. Also, take your pleasure into your own hands—literally. There’s no harm in channeling your monumental sex drive through self-love. Not only do you know how to get yourself going better than any lover, there is an array of affordable and exciting toys on the market to help you get to your sensual destination.

And, finally, try and communicate your feelings—and your urges—to your dude instead of pressuring him to pleasure you in an aggressive way. If you’re just trying to “put the pussy on him” every chance you can—like those unsatisfied rooftop partiers who found their partners unable to handle their advances—it’s a sure bet that your assertive tactics are a turnoff simply because they force him out of the dominant or “masculine” role. Because it’s this kind of gender shape shifting that is creating tension in the first place, try to make your point in a way that won’t be threatening and make him feel further emasculated. A male ego is a delicate thing, so instead of mentioning his sexual inadequacy, try to build him up by explaining how much he turns you on—because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a little flattery. Transport him back into a position of feigned power by hinting at your growing need for more sex, but by giving him the “authority” to decide when it can happen. Just let him know you need it more. By not forcefully making your point and carefully treading on this difficult subject matter—and hornswaggling him into thinking this was all his idea—the gender dynamic will shift on its own and, as a result, you will find that you will get what you want.

Three’s Company

Here’s why threesomes are sometimes better in theory and tips on how to make them hotter!

Threesomes, ménage a trois, lascivious love triangles, or a sexy triumvirate—whatever you may call it, inviting a third party into the bedroom activities of a couple is a cultural fascination as well as a pervasive fantasy. From classic literature to TV shows and movies, the trio is a constantly recycled symbol of the sexual pinnacle, the ultimate hookup sandwich scenario where two is most definitely better than one. While the media glamorizes this type of inclusive tryst, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the three-way. I mean, if it was that simple wouldn’t we all be indulging in the touch of multiple lovers? Plenty of my polyamorous pals and my acquaintances in the swinger scene have the group thing down pat, but it’s the everyday folk that have a harder time divorcing their emotions and insecurity from the hands-on action, or being ready for this kind of extreme sensual stimulus. Threesomes can be confusing, frustrating, and most commonly jealousy-inducing. Once you bring another person into your bedroom, you can’t expect your current relationship to remain the same—for better or for worse.

Whatever permutation of group sex you enjoy—whether you have a female-male-female (FMF), a male-female-male (MFM), or a female-female-female (FFF) three-way—it can get complicated. If you’re the couple who are looking to spice things up, it’s always smart to first evaluate why you guys want to invite in a third party. This will help to eliminate any unnecessary emotional baggage when the big moment comes—or when it’s over. Is this a fantasy that you both share? Is one of you more gung-ho about the tryst than the other? Will you two be the main focus of the pleasure or will your mystery guest be the recipient of the dual attention? What do you both want to get out of the experience? One thing that I have learned from my peripheral pals in the swinger set is that, although it may seem to be the antithesis of what is spontaneous and fun about sex, laying the ground rules before you initiate adult “play” guarantees better results. If you don’t fully explore the motives behind your decision to have a threesome, or don’t figure out how you want the action to play out, there’s a greater chance of drama, resentment, and someone’s feelings getting hurt. Come to the situation prepared and with a plan, that way when the action gets underway you both won’t be overwhelmed by the experience and lose the script or cross the boundaries of your relationship.

It’s important to live out your wildest sexual fantasies, but make sure you’re doing so without hurting each other’s feelings or compromising your primary relationship. Having another girl in your bed should not be an excuse to cheat on your girlfriend with her in the room. Include her in the action, and if you want some personal time with your play partner for the night, make it known. Test the waters by conveying to your girlfriend that you’ve always wanted to have her watch you get off with another woman, and gauge her reaction. If she’s adamantly opposed to the idea you need to start off slow and keep her in the mix at all times. If she seems into the idea of letting you two have alone time, then keep checking in with her throughout the process. At the end of the night your sexy guest star will have made her boudoir cameo and will disappear into the night, leaving you two to clean up the emotional aftermath, so it’s essential to be on the same page at all times.

If you’re a lady who’s always fantasized about having two men, bring this up with your boyfriend. There’s a terrible sexual double standard about female sexuality, and especially in the realm of threesomes. While it’s culturally acceptable—and even encouraged—for men to have two women at the same time, women are seen as oversexed if they want the same experience with two men. In addition, there is the issue of your male partner not being comfortable with another man in your bedroom—unless he’s of the bi-curious sort, that is. And don’t forget, because he will not be the center of the action, the presence of another man getting off with his girlfriend could make him very insecure. It takes a very, very confident man to handle a male-female-male ménage a trois. But ladies, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it up if this is something you truly desire. Just remember to tread lightly, because you don’t want to bruise his ego in the process of pursuing your own pleasure.

Female threesome, photo by Terry Richardson.

Being the “guest star” of a three-way also comes with its pros and cons. What if you’re only really attracted to one person in the couple? What if there’s no sexual chemistry? How can you make sure you’re giving both people enough attention? How can you make sure you’re not a physical symbol of a failing relationship? How can you tell if someone is jealous? What about STDs? While you might have questions like these swirling around in your mind, remember that first and foremost threesomes are supposed to be fun and you should only do it if you think you will get something positive out of the experience.

On the upside, as the third, you are the person who can enter into this romp without the emotional repercussions—that is unless these are good friends of yours, then that’s a whole other story. Also, because this couple already knows what to expect from each other sexually, they will be excited to have you in the mix, making for an almost guaranteed multi-orgasmic experience for you. On the flipside, be cautious of couples in turmoil. Oftentimes, as a last resort, people think that inviting another person into their bed will spice things up or help them rekindle their fading love for each other. This is a warning sign, and most times it’s a symbol of the impending end.

During a threesome it can get confusing. Who’s touching who? Who is further along in the process? Who should I be focusing on? While there’s not a paint-by-numbers way to predict which way your trio session will go, you can make sure to be aware and attentive as much as you can. There are more people, and more factors to deal with. This can be really exciting, but also incredibly overwhelming, especially for a man that is called to perform multiple times. Pace yourself, and if you get carried away and finish too early, just focus on getting your other “teammates” to that same place. Like the cheeky Interpol song suggests,  “There’s No I in Threesome,” so be prepared to please everybody.

It seems like sex would be so much easier if we could eliminate the head-trip that comes with it. In a perfect world, threesomes would play out the way they do in the movies and in porn—and in some circumstances they do.  Similar to any type of physical intimacy, communication is the key to a successful group session. Take the time to plan, engage, and discuss. Sometimes it helps to “court” your potential playmate. Taking them out on a date so you can all get to know each other in a no-pressure environment first can really help solidify a connection that will translate to the bedroom. Flirt, kiss, touch, and see if there’s a spark or even good chemistry in the first place. I have found that diving into the sex isn’t always the best move, and oftentimes it’s hotter to go in stages—just like you would with a potential partner that you’re getting to know. Like ordering in a restaurant, you don’t want your main course first, so relish in all the moments—both sexual and non-sexual—that lead up to the experience. If done right, a three-way can be monumental—just ask all of my sexually satisfied swinger friends who have perfected the art of the ménage a trois. Now that you’re ready to embark upon your three-way adventure, just remember to have fun and love equally!

The Lost Art of Matchmaking and Why Patti Stanger is a Fraud

Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker

It should come as no surprise that I am irrationally obsessed with sex and romance. In addition to writing tirelessly and reading voraciously about all-things amorous, I also enjoy watching television programs that tackle the strange and wild world of dating and love. From The Bachelor to all of those awful reality TV celeb-dating fiascos (I even wrote an article about reality TV dating tips because I am so obsessed!), I spend a considerable amount of my time glued to the small screen, fully immersed in televised romantic highs and woes. Two shows that I am particularly taken with are Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker and VH1’s Tough Love. Both programs focus on successful matchmakers who help eligible singles break their bad dating habits and then subsequently set up these rough and tumble singles with their “perfect match.” The premise of both shows is slightly similar: Tough Love deals with everyday women who want to break free from their hang-ups caused by past relationships, while Millionaire Matchmaker is much like what its name suggests; A millionaire is paired with less financially fortunate arm candy in the hopes of forging a legitimate romantic connection. I was instantly drawn to both shows because I consider myself to be very intuitive when it comes to who will pair well with whom. While I am not a practicing matchmaker, I do instinctively understand the intangible elements to consider when hooking two people up. I became interested in studying these two self-proclaimed matchmakers and paid close attention to the rules and tricks they preached to their single clients.

I don’t love either show, but I am always captivated by these two relationship “experts,” Tough Love’s Steve Ward, and Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger, who have basically made a lucrative career out of something that interests me. Steve Ward went on to expand his Tough Love brand to Tough Love Couples, a show that forced troubled twosomes to confront their issues from intimacy and trust, to fighting and lack of sex. While flawed, I found Tough Love Couples to be honest, endearing, and actually kind of helpful in a vacuously superficial TV kind of way. While it’s hard to achieve depth on reality television, Steve Ward has a way of breaking people (and their terrible conceptions of love and romance) down only to build them up better. And it’s his big heart, not his sound bite-worthy tough insults, that keep me coming back to the show season after season. I’m not positive that his matchmaking skills are perfect—it’s really hard to gauge what his success rate is in a 12-episode season—but you get the sense that this guy cares about connecting people and making their existing relationships blossom.

Patti Stanger and Steve Ward.

On the other hand, Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger seems like she’s just out to capitalize on the chronic relationship problems of the rich. Similar to Steve Ward, Patti Stanger dishes out some pretty hurtful and harsh tidbits to both her millionaire clients and their would-be daters. While she claims to be a dating guru, the emphasis she places on looks, money, and just superficiality in general, calls into question whether she should be the person dolling out advice. It’s obvious that a huge part of what makes us attracted to members of the opposite (or same) sex is based on physical appearance, but there is obviously so much more than that. Recently a good friend of mine was complaining about how people just match her up with “good on paper” single guys that seem like a great catch, but have nothing in common with her as a person. This reminds me of Patti’s approach. Her mantra “the penis does the picking” might ring true in the sense that sexual attraction is a huge factor in all of our romantic relationships. But what happens after the sex?

This brings to mind my dad’s great dating theory. He once told me that when he was single he would meet a lot of women who he would connect with physically, but he couldn’t imagine the thought of having breakfast with them the next morning. His system of figuring out who he was compatible with involved finding a girl he could stand to take out for a meal post-coitus. He recounts that when he met my mother—after getting hit by what he calls “the thunderbolt”—he wanted to take her out to breakfast, then lunch, then dinner, and the rest is history. My big problem with Patti’s system of matchmaking has to do with her inability to spot true magnetism between two people that’s deeper than just hormone-based attraction. Instead she’s bound by rules that only apply to the superficial set, who aren’t in search of a long-term partner and instead are beckoned by the promise of a quick fix.

Sure, I get it. These guys are millionaires and they want the biggest, best, and most ostentatious thing available (read: breast implants, big Barbie hair, and a size-2 frame with a brain). But isn’t that the very reason that these guys (and gals) are in fact single? Their unrealistic wants, expectations, and insecurities have informed their physical type, versus looking for real compatibility or connection. Unfortunately, instead of toning down these very surfaced tendencies, Patti plays up to them by rooting out potential suitors based solely on looks and nit-picky rules that only exist in Patti’s narrow-minded world. Patti champions unrealistic ideals, asks women to change their looks to tailor to the millionaire’s specific taste, and even tries to dictate how they should dress to her exclusive cocktail mixers. I have seen her bring women to tears, rip apart perfectly attractive people, and dish out cold-hearted advice during her “screening sessions.” In addition, while she verbally assaults the single women who hope to be paired with a millionaire by constantly telling them they’re not pretty, skinny, or stylish enough, Patti treats the men who are auditioning to be matched with a female millionaire like her own personal Chippendales dancers. She has no qualms about asking men to take off their shirts as she giggles like a schoolgirl at their perfectly sculpted abs, and flirts with them relentlessly until a new group of bachelors are ushered in for their screening. Perhaps it’s this kind of subconscious sexism that impedes her process—she’s so caught up in enforcing her arbitrary rules and reinforcing archaic notions of romance that she can’t spot a real, honest love connection.

Patti is also doing these men and women a disservice by playing into antiquated gender roles. By reinforcing this old fashioned notion of relationships and dating, she is forcing people to play by a code that no longer applies to modern society. She has a strict rule of making the man plan the date, and forbids sex before monogamy, which is one thing I completely agree with. But the vulgarity in which she conveys her strong feelings on abstinence (“Not in here,” as she points to her mouth, conveying oral sex, “or in here, or here,” alluding grotesquely to anal and vaginal intercourse by pointing like a child to the corresponding orifices.) This is a great lesson that we can all try to stick to—don’t have sex before you really think the courtship has a strong foundation and a future—but when Patti is basically prepping all of the girls to be blow-up dolls with a pulse, how can these millionaires NOT think about sex? Her system is deeply flawed and surfaced, and her hotheaded temper may make for good TV, but it gets in the way of the true purpose of the show, which is to create matches and make people happy.

The Gray Area: Being happy with being content

For someone that considers herself to be an all-or-nothing type of gal—you know that black and white mentality that’s anything from temperate?—coping with what I call the “gray area” has been an arduous and unglamorous undertaking. What is the gray area of which I speak? Well, it’s that place that exists between the two extremes, a place that is pleasantly breezy and exempt from drastic action. The gray area symbolizes peace and habitual action, monogamy, trust, safety and security. Oh, and love.

Basically, for me, the gray area has always symbolized a state of being that’s the complete antithesis of sexy. It’s not in-line with my character, which drives off of exalted experiences, high-impact happenings, and heightened emotions. This middle ground, this comfortable place, is what I am not accustomed to. Monogamy, routine, love, safety, trust—these are foreign notions for someone who has spent her life playing the field, one moral ambiguity at a time. And, no I was never doing things to outwardly hurt people or to affect the lives of others, or to rock the boat for the very sake of rocking it. Instead I was following my heart. Sometimes my heart is wrong. I made mistakes that did lead to people getting emotionally injured, but I never pursued amorous adventures with malicious intent. As my mom always says: “The heart wants what the heart wants,” and at a certain point in my life I was willing to feed all of my urges—good or bad.

The point being is that I was constantly challenging the notion of love, romance, and my own preconceived ideas of how to pursue these pleasures. It was really never about settling down, and if I did actually stay grounded with someone it would have to be a connection built heavily on the strong foundation (and fallacy) of undying lust. I wasn’t basing my life on the big L word—and I’m not talking lesbians here, although I am not opposed to lady-love in the slightest. Love was always there like an elusive beast lurking in the fantastical forest, but it wasn’t necessarily what I was looking for, or rather, I wasn’t really sure I had perfected the right definition of what it really was. While, I am not certain I have found the answer to that age old question, I can safely say that I am sure that I have found some permutation of love that’s far closer to healthy and closer to something stable and secure. That is exactly what my problem is.

While you may be right in saying to yourself that my predicament is far from a real problem, it’s more about me adopting a new mode of operating—to embrace a new way of life, so to speak. And, yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds that I have to reconfigure myself and my life to let love in, but I have a feeling this problem is way more common than you might imagine. Some people just come out of the womb knowing how to love and how to negotiate a functioning relationship. The remaining others, like myself, tread water trying to figure out first what we want, and second what to do with what we want once we get it. Dealing with your prize is the first step of the learning process. Once you have the object of your desire do you even want them anymore? Is the idea better than the real thing? Is the fantasy better than the cold, sober intimacy? In most of the relationships I’ve been involved in throughout my life, the answer to these questions was what bogged me down. I can’t say that I was always excited about the person I was hot and heavily pursing once I had them in my arms and in reality.

I guess you can say that part of my black and white existence makes me a fantasy-driven person who thrives off of the highs and lows rather than the in-betweens. I also get bored very easily because once I conquered my crush the chase was over and I quickly reached a plateau. This was primarily the case with many of my previous liaisons because I wasn’t with the right people. I was enamored with people because of looks, unsustainable sexual chemistry because it lacked substance, and whatever other fleeting fascinations I had at that moment. Maybe he was an amazing artist who I quickly became obsessed with, but once the novelty of his incredible talent and the façade of brilliance wore off, he was just reduced back to being just another guy with mommy issues. Next!

And so the story goes…I spent all of my teens and twenties playing this game. But unfortunately it’s the game that feels familiar, and not this feeling of mutual love. To love and to receive it in return is one of the most amazing feelings in the world, but it’s a different kind of feeling. It’s not a rush that sends you on a roller coaster ride of emotions (although it can be pretty intense at times), but rather a constant energy that grows each day. And while I write this I recognize how silly it is to complain about something that we as humans spend a majority of our lives searching and doing ridiculous things for. But as I said above, it’s more about the fact that I have to learn to reprogram my habits when it comes to men and this so-called gray area. Gray isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s just different. And as we all know, change is scary.

Modern Aphrodisiacs: Four Easy (And Tasty) Ways to Turn Up the Heat

While we may be inundated with modern medical solutions promising libido-stimulating miracles and sometimes erections freakishly lasting four hours—the little blue pill, anyone?—aphrodisiacs have been widely used for centuries to enhance sexual performance and to stir the senses. Sexual aids may be scoffed upon because of what their use might suggest about your sensual function and prowess, but there are many modern herbs, potions, and mood-setters that can help rev up your initial arousal, and sometimes even prolong your lovemaking. Indulging in aphrodisiacs can be stimulating, fun, and tasty—and if they help to get you in the mood all the better, right?

Perfume: Scent Appeal

Kilian Back to Black Aphrodisiac Eau de Parfum ($225)

With a deep, rich tobacco backdrop and notes of amber, honey, and a woodsy finish, Kilian’s Back to Black Aphrodisiac perfume is sex in scent form. We all know that smell is a powerful sense—especially when it comes to the act of seduction. Help enhance the experience with a perfume that contains musk, or some layered darker notes for a unisex aroma that metaphorically mimics the sexual fusion of man and woman. Ladies, put a dab on your wrist and the nape of your neck—and forget the clothes. Men, put a drop of this sensual solution on your partner and notice how the scent changes once you turn up the heat in the bedroom. While this perfume may be on the pricier side, think of it as an investment in your own pleasure.

Chocolate: The Smooth Operator

Quite possibly the most popular and ubiquitous aphrodisiac, chocolate has a reputation of inciting heat in the right places—and in some circles, is seen as better than actual sex. While that last statement seems hyperbolized—what really is better than sex?—there is something to be said about the power of chocolate. Whether you prefer the creaminess of milk or the bitter complexity of the darker varieties, it’s a scientific fact that chocolate produces both serotonin and anandamide, which are powerful neurotransmitters that promote happiness and are essential when it comes to getting turned on. Why not try noshing on some cocoa-heavy treats before the clothes come off, or even incorporating some chocolate in your play?

Oysters: Sensuality From the Sea

Oysters have been linked with sexuality for ages, primarily because the shape of these luxurious shellfish resemble female genitalia—and the act of eating them viscerally brings to mind the slurp-and-seduction of oral sex. While scientists debate the legitimacy of whether or not they are the libido-boosting miracle food many claim them to be, oysters do in fact contain high levels of zinc, a mineral that promotes testosterone production and sperm health. Whatever the case, there’s nothing like the slinky, slippery process of eating oysters to help you get thinking about the dirty deed.

Red Wine: The Love Elixir

A glass of wine might not be the secret antidote to longevity, or the cure for instant arousal—it’s quite the opposite on some extreme occasions—but it might be just what you need to help you reawaken your dormant desire. Alcohol does wonders for lowering your inhibitions about sex, and is guaranteed to make you more adventurous in the realm of the bedroom. While the last thing I want to do is advocate heavy drinking, I do understand the ease in which a glass of Pinot Noir can make people more interested in the pursuit of pleasure. A scientific study performed by the University of Florence determined that not only do women who drink one to two glasses of wine have a higher libido, but that the consumption of wine helps to flow of blood to the erogenous zones.