It goes much deeper than “playing coy”
First of all: Not all women have issues saying what they want. And many men have issues saying what they want. The title should really say “some people” instead of “women,” but it resonates more when you write how people talk. That being said, I will use gender neutral language where possible henceforth.
I recently found a reddit post that asked, “what’s the most annoying thing a partner can do in bed?”
One of the top comments was: “when they don’t tell me what they want! I have to all but sit them down and force them!” And somebody else responded: “it’s because women play coy, because they all grow up scared to be seen as a ‘slut.’”
No, bro. No. It’s not “coy.” It’s not afraid of being seen as a slut. I know this, and frankly you should know it too, because of one simple data point:
People who do this in bed also do it with everything else in life.
They don’t know where they want to eat. They don’t know what they want to drink. They don’t know what they want in a relationship. They don’t know what they want regarding a lot of shit.
They’re definitely not just doing it in bed with you. It’s a pervasive problem.
I see this as a bartender all the time — people come in, sit down, and then look around dumbfounded like they’ve never seen a bar before. Maybe they’ll reach for a cocktail list only to flip it over a few times like they can’t read. They’ll look at the draft list like it’s a work of abstract art. They’ll scan the bottles too fast to actually be registering what’s there.
“What can I get for you?” I’ll ask, already dreading the answer that comes with this stupefied thing they’re doing.
“I don’t know,” they’ll say, then ask: “What do you recommend?” Or: “what’s good?” Or, simply: “surprise me!”
And I think to myself, “I recommend that you make your own decisions. That’s ‘what’s good.’ How’s that for a surprise?”
People who do this aren’t doing it to be coy. And they’re not doing it because they’re afraid of being seen as “wanting a drink.” Like, I know you want a drink — you’re in a bar. It’s a deeper problem, of:
- Literally not knowing what we want, and
- Not wanting to figure it out and choose
To the loved ones of “people who can’t decide:”
You have a few options:
- Choose for them
- Force them to choose
- Move on without them
When it directly involves you or doesn’t matter too much, just decide. If you’re getting hangry, just decide. If you’re short on time, just decide. If it’s what color to paint the guest bedroom walls, just decide.
My mother’s idea of a “perfect vacation” is one where she plans and decides absolutely nothing, and gets to enjoy it passively like a child in a little red wagon, tugged along and fed snack packs at regular intervals. I know this, so I just decide. If I didn’t, she’d just go ask Rick Steves what she should want to do. So I save us both time by just deciding.
When it comes to something that only involves them, however, I will often force them to choose. At the bar, I will very rarely pick for someone, unless they’re “playing the game” (i.e., “I’m curious to see what you recommend, as a fellow whiskey drinker” rather than “I’m too overwhelmed.”) But other than that, if someone isn’t picking, I’ll leave and come back as many times as it takes for them to get their shit together and live their own lives. (And buddy, I’ve got all night.)
And sometimes, I just move on. I have one friend in particular who is notorious for being unable to decide what she wants to eat. When we go out and I get hungry, I just get food — something quick. I don’t pussyfoot or get hangry waiting for her to decide, like it’s The Last Meal She’ll Ever Have. I feed myself, and she doesn’t get offended. And when she’s finally ready to decide, we simply stop again.
IF IT’S SEX… EXPERIMENT
We are not machines with missing instructions. Stop approaching sex with us in that way.
Here’s what some people don’t seem to fucking understand about sex:
- Sometimes we don’t know what we like. What’s the best meal in the entire world? Are you sure? How do you know, if you’ve never had all the meals in the entire world? We can give you some starting points, but beyond that, let’s taste-test.
- Sometimes we don’t know how to recreate what we liked. One of my favorite breakfasts is my grandma’s poached eggs — but only the way she makes them. I’ve made poached eggs a million times and I’ve never come close to recreating whatever she did — and this is poached eggs we’re talking about. Sex is eons more complicated.
- Sometimes we don’t want to recreate what we liked. Especially if it was with other people. I don’t want you to do the same moves my ex did — and you shouldn’t, either. What was hot for him and me may not work for you and me. I want to figure out our sex, not try to re-hash some stale sex from some other guy.
- Sometimes we don’t want to know what it was we liked. After particularly good sex, I almost always say: “I don’t know what the fuck you did — and I don’t want to know. But you should know that was amazing. Whatever you did, do it again some time.” Breaking it down into specifics can ruin the magic. Like, every girl has heard of “doing the ABC’s.” But we don’t necessarily want to hear that they just happened to us.
- Sometimes “what we want” isn’t one consistent thing. My favorite food is Ethiopian, but I don’t want to tell you “Ethiopian” one time and you get that stuck in your head and expect me to eat Ethiopian every day for the rest of my life (then lose your shit and get all crazy when one day I don’t want Ethiopian and suggest Italian instead.)
- Sometimes “what we like” is “being laid out and played like a fiddle.” What do we want? Sometimes, to be devoured; to be loved upon; to be transcended to another time and place; to be fucked to the point of losing ourselves — sometimes. But the minute we have to say this, it’s already been ruined a little.
- Sometimes we don’t want to make sex a series of instructions. We’re not a fucking IKEA cabinet. Saying “do this, here” may seem awesome and actionable to you, but it can feel incredibly unsexy to us. It ruins the innate play and connection and spontaneity and learning; being permitted to enjoy it without having all the moves named, cited, and called out. This isn’t a football game, champ.
- Sometimes “what we like” is PLAY. Sometimes what we find hot is the connection, experimentation, real-time communication (“I like what you’re doing right now.”) What gets us off isn’t a series of “moves;” it’s the enthusiasm and engagement — it’s being confident enough to try something, and alert and aware enough to gage our partner’s response.
To “people who can’t decide:”
You need to start living your life.
We spend all this time pinning inspirational and aspirational shit, but then we can’t even commit to where to eat or what to drink. I know it’s nice to dream of a world where everything’s handled and Prince Charming or some other hero makes all of our decisions in exactly the way we want them made, but the reality is that we are responsible for our own emotional wellbeing, and our own everyday lives.
Pick a drink. Pick a meal. Pick a partner. Pick a vocation.
If you like sex to be experimental and playful, then simply say that — and then be sure to give real-time feedback. My current partner is the best partner I ever had, and even he entered sex yearning for me to “just tell him what I like.” I did, and it was awkward and fumbly — because it wasn’t “our” sex. The reason he got good is because we both backed out of the weird instructions and went back to basics, which included “I like what you’re doing” if I did.
You have to take some level of accountability. And start living your own life.