Recently, a friend of mine was told by someone that they (quote) “liked her” and implied that he wanted to spend time with her on a frequent basis. That same night I was asked mid-coitus if I’d rather be “railed in a study room.” To preempt the obvious question: no, we did not end up switching locations to a study room. My friend and I compared our experiences and quickly concluded that hers was decidedly the more romantic one, and we chuckled at the absurdity of the contrast. But the conversation got me caught up in thoughts I definitely should not have been having.
For example: Why were we put in these situations? Is there something inherently different about us that makes me not have fabulously romantic encounters? Is there something wrong with me? Does the fact that I don’t have a problem with the absence of fabulously romantic encounters mean I don’t want love? Do I want love? Am I a cold person for not wanting love? Do I secretly want love but just say I don’t as a defense mechanism? If so, why can’t I find love? Why has this stream of questions suddenly devolved into an examination of my self-worth?
Have you ever heard the phrase “we accept the love we think we deserve”? I’m not sure who came up with this or how it became popularized as a self-esteem building phrase, but I for one can state with certainty that it is not sexually or emotionally empowering at all. Like, what? Why did the ability to snag a committed bed buddy suddenly become a matter of self-esteem? Also, how come it secretly sounds like it’s passing judgment on anyone who has multiple bed buddies?
The phrase is problematic for a few reasons. First, it assumes that people who engage in casual sex or people who don’t happen to have a love interest, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, at the moment are holding themselves back or somehow don’t want to fall in love. I promise, the reason someone thought it was okay to ask me if I wanted to be railed (really? railed?) has nothing to do with me not thinking I deserve something more respectful. It might have something to do with them not understanding social niceties or missing the boat on dirty talk.
As an aside — not to devote more lip service to the phrasing than is absolutely necessary, I understand and am aware that in certain contexts, for some people maybe the proposition of being “railed” would be irresistibly panty-dropping. HOWEVER, I can assure you that in this particular instance it struck me as bizarre and ill-timed (see: mid-coitus).
But most importantly the phrase “we accept the love we think we deserve” assumes that being loved by a significant other is connected to what you deserve as a person. It assumes a person can only be assured in their self-confidence if and only if someone loves them. Love isn’t something that just happens to you the second you become self-assured. I don’t need someone else to tell me that I am smart and funny and super bangable — I already know that about myself. Sometimes the problem lies with other people.
That leads me to my conclusion following this event. If we feel we are not receiving love or really hot, good and respectful sex, it’s probably not because we don’t think we deserve it. It’s probably just because s–t happens and life doesn’t work out the way you want it to. Maybe I’m extrapolating a lot or projecting some deep-seated bitterness. But I guess my point is this: 1) stop making people feel like it’s their fault that they can’t “accept” love (whatever that means). 2) Stop making people who don’t want love second-guess their self-esteem and 3) stop making people feel like finding love is the determinant of worth.