BERKELEY'S NEWS • SEPTEMBER 25, 2022

Playing the role of the whore

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AUGUST 09, 2022

I’m at a bar with my metamour — my partner’s wife — getting to know each other over drinks. It’s the first time she and I have met, although I have been seeing her husband for several months. Somehow, our conversation ends up on the topic of sex and her insecurities about our mutual partner.

“I think he has a bit of a Madonna/whore complex,” she says, before going on to explain how she feels that their sex life has faltered since they got married and she took on the role of his wife — and mother of his future child.

While she elaborates, I reflect on a conversation that he and I had a few weeks ago, where I had admitted to him that the sex we had was the best that I’ve ever experienced. He agreed — before immediately telling me that the fantastic sex we were having was bringing up insecurities in his marriage.

They weren’t having the same type of sex that he and I were; they weren’t trying new things or exploring kinks in the way that we were. I didn’t voice my thoughts, but I wondered what was stopping them from experimenting more in bed.

She’s your wife, I thought. If you want to try things with her, things that you and I have played with, why don’t you just communicate that?

Now, as I listen to her wonder if their problems are because he has slotted her into the role of the Madonna — placing her on a pedestal where he can’t quite wrap his head around the fact that she is a sexual being — I start to think that she might have a point.

Well, if you’re the Madonna, I thought. Then I guess that makes me the whore.

It’s not like our relationship could be considered “just sex.” We had dinner dates and texted each other every day, and it felt nothing like a casual hook-up situation, where the person you’re fucking only seems to exist after midnight.

And yet, it still felt like our relationship revolved around sex. Our dinner dates were filled with awkward and stilted conversations, something to be rushed through before we ended up back in my bed. Our daily texts were more like daily sexts, and the few times we ventured into less X-rated areas, our conversations seemed to quickly hit a dead end.

I know you respect me in bed, I’d think. But do you respect me outside of it? Do you even know who I am outside of sex?

With him, the whole situation felt a bit like a cliché — the married man who adores his extramarital partner but doesn’t take her seriously as a person.

But ever since I started to date men, I’ve often found myself in a similar position, unwillingly assigned to the role of a woman who is desired in bed, but not necessarily respected outside of it.

It’s a bit more subtle, in some situations, and yet the dichotomy — women are often compartmentalized as good girls or bad, the Madonnas or the whores — still seems to persist.

I seem to persistently fall into the latter group because I like having sex.

Not only do I like having sex, but I like talking about it; I have little shame when it comes to my desires and past experiences, and it is this, I believe, more than anything else that leads men to categorize me the way that they do.

I’m the woman they feel comfortable in bed with, the one who allows them to explore fantasies that they have never dared to speak aloud before. But when I ask why they’ve never shared their desires with another partner, the answers I get will leave me unsatisfied.

“I respected my last girlfriend too much to call her names in bed,” he’ll say, after he’s spent the last several hours calling me unspeakably dirty things during sex.

Or he’ll say how excited he was to finally be able to explore his foot fetish, before adding that he would “just feel wrong” about sharing his interests with a future girlfriend; it would feel too degrading to ask a woman that he loved to explore that with him.   

Really? I’d think. But what if she wants you to call her a dirty little slut, or she jumps at the chance to give you a footjob? Are you going to tell her no, that you respect her too much for that?

And what does that say about the respect that you have for me?

It doesn’t say much, of course. But none of these men are truly terrible people. It’s just that they tend to compartmentalize: A woman can either be a respected romantic partner or the best sex they’ve ever had, but not both.

Their respect for me doesn’t extend past the bedroom because they lack an awareness of who I am outside of it. They could find out if they tried, I’m sure, but they won’t.

They’re too blinded by the role I play — the one-dimensional role that they’ve given me — to realize that I’m a complex human being, who wants what we all want: to be both desired and respected.

Contact Rachel Musselwhite at 

LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 09, 2022


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