The User Manual
The personal user manual is an idea I got from Cunning Minx on her podcast, Polyamory Weekly. It’s a great podcast, and I love Minx’s no-bullshit, straightforward approach to non-monogamy. Her own user manual is a great read, and acted as a good model when it came to writing my own.
I have actually been meaning to write it for a very long time now, particularly since I wrote about Joan Price’s three lists. Although I primarily consider this to be for me – a way of looking at myself, and evaluating what is important to me – I thought I would share it anyway, if only to spread the word and offer a little bit of insight into my psyche. I might also treat it as something of an experiment, and find out if any potential dates actually read it… but we’ll see. For now, I am just sharing it with you – my dear readers. – Enjoy!
• I’m the eldest of four children and as a result I’ve spent most of my life feeling like the responsible one who has to make decisions and lead the way.
• I was also given a lot of freedom and independence, so I like to do things my own way. I am very efficient and pride myself on being sensible and reasonable, able to get by very well alone. However, despite the autonomy I enjoy in my writing and my home life and my studying and often my work, I love it when someone else makes decisions about where we go out to eat, or how we’re going to spend the day.
• Although my family is pretty close, in that we like to spend time together and we genuinely enjoy each others’ conversation etc, we have never been very touchy-feely, and most emotional conflict is dealt with in an “oh well – get over it” kind of way. This can be a very good thing, as we tend not to sweat the small stuff, but it can also feel a bit dismissive, and although I’m unlikely to spill all my worries at once, it helps me feel that someone cares when they ask me about what’s going on, and take the time to listen to me.
• My parents broke up when I was six, but rather than watching them fight over us kids, we watched them make fulfilling, wonderful lives for themselves. I don’t have a lot of faith in marriage or the idea of “forever”, but it’s very important to me that everyone is honest and respectful towards one another.
• For most of my childhood, I lived a long way from my school and commuted three hours a day to get there. Because of this I didn’t have many friends who were able/willing to visit me at home. Whilst I am no stranger to public transport, and I seem to have accidentally arranged my life so that it just makes sense for me to visit people at their homes rather than vice versa, it does make me very happy when friends/lovers/partners are willing to come and see me at my house.
How to turn me on emotionally
• Show your interest. I really do believe that if someone is interested in me, he will make that obvious. (Which – by the way – works both ways; I always strive to make my interest clear.) I like to be in regular contact with people I am dating, especially if it’s getting serious. I don’t expect – or want! – anyone to be in touch all day every day, but if we’re getting on well, you’ll receive at least a text from me on a daily basis.
• Along similar lines, make time for me. A text or a phone call or something every day is lovely, and makes me smile, but if I have to wait weeks between dates, then I am going to feel short-changed. I believe that no one really has time to spare these days, and that we have to actively make time for the things we want. For example, I will – on very rare occasions – skip a class in order to see someone on a week night, and then spend my weekend making up the work I have missed. It’s not ideal, but I will do it if it’s important to us; I’d like to be able to expect the same occasional sacrifices from you.
• Compliment me on my creative work. I don’t expect anyone to religiously follow all my writing, podcasting, and photography – in fact, please don’t. But if you happen to see a title that intrigues you, or catch sight of a photograph in your social media feeds, and you genuinely think I’ve done a good job, tell me. I loathe false praise, and I won’t like you any less if you don’t like my work – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but if you see something and you do like it, or you just think I’ve done it well, let me know! I’ve never received much praise from my family and loved ones, so when someone I like tells me I’ve done something good, it makes me very happy indeed.
• Be courageously honest with me, about the big things and the little things. I have thick skin, and I’ve learned to get over little pains fast; what I can’t stand is when someone is nice to me because he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. I would always rather know the truth, not least because finding out all the niceties have just been hiding something else is so much more painful and damaging. I know it can be difficult, but nothing makes me bow out faster than a whiff of cowardice. Conversely, few things make a man seem more attractive than the capacity for true, brutal honesty.
• Tell me about the things that are making you happy. If I really care about you, I’ll be there on the dark days anyway, and I can be incredibly loving and supportive. But if that’s all you give me, it can also be very draining. I want to hear about the things that make you laugh, and the profound moments you experience. Your happiness will make me happier, and will help build me up so I can be more supportive on the bad days.
• Forgive me my moments of madness. I work very hard not to be hysterical, and I loathe drama, but there are occasions when, I have to admit, I am very much at the mercy of my body. It doesn’t happen too often, but it happens. Having the strength to ignore my bullshit whilst listening to me talk out the difficulties means a huge amount to me. And I promise to apologise afterwards; I know how unreasonable I can be.
• Come to events with me. It doesn’t happen a lot, but from time to time I will be invited to a party, or a photography exhibition, or an evening of readings (I might even be up on stage!) where there are likely to be a lot of people. Whilst I’m not at all shy at these kinds of events and will – and do! – often go alone, I would love to have someone to go with. Saying yes when I invite you to something like this will properly tug at my heart strings.
• Talk to me about literature and music and films and art. A well constructed, interesting, analytical viewpoint on the work of Stanley Kubrick (for example) is ridiculously sexy.
• Grow some stubble. I have a real thing for smart men who are a little rough around the edges. Stubble will make me want to kiss you.
• Touch me. Perhaps not on our first date, but basically, if I’m hesitant or unsure, you’ll know. If, however, I am sitting close to you and making it clear that I am happy where I am… a hand on my thigh will be very well received.
• Take me to the sea! I am such a water baby, and I always feel like I don’t see the sea enough. But it makes me very very happy; and I would be extremely grateful. Extremely.
• Accompany me home. Okay, probably not all the way – as I live in quite a remote part of London, and that would most likely mean going pretty far out of your way – but at least take me back to the station, wait with me. Or, if your budget allows, put me in a taxi. I love to feel taken care of from time to time.
• Teach me something. If you are an expert in mathematics, or physics, or you happen to know about some strange cult, or even if you follow the stock exchange! tell me about it. Tell me something random, something complicated, something clever. Teach me something new. (Sapiosexuality.)
• When it comes to sex, I do not have a dominant bone in my body. (Unless it’s someone else’s, giggedy-giggedy.) But seriously – I do not take the upper hand, I am not assertive and I don’t want to be in charge. That’s not to say I don’t know what I like, but just that you have to get to know me before I’ll get into bed with you. That’s not a rule, just a fact.
• My sexuality really lives in a very dark place, and it can take some time and coaxing for me to reveal all of it. You need to be very open-minded, and nonjudgmental, or I will step back. This doesn’t mean that all of my sexual partners need to go to these darker places with me, but simply that it’s important to me that you understand.
• Along with that – and before I list my turn ons – I shouldn’t have to make this explicit, but I will: a lot of negotiation is absolutely essential. And it’s actually a huge turn on to discuss kinks and limits and boundaries, and to explore our common interests and how we work together.
Turns ons (with consent and negotiation)
• Push me down and take my mouth. I love the control and the passion.
• Tell me what you want to do to me and how you want to take me.
• Use me, roughly: throw me around. Struggle with me, fight me, overpower me, hold me down.
• Put your hand on my neck or my throat. Grab me by the scruff of the neck, kiss me, hiss something cruel and filthy into my ear.
• Tell me your darkest, most sadistic fantasies.
• Tell me what a sick little puppy I am.
• If you disappear, I will disengage, fast. Likewise, if you don’t communicate with me, I won’t feel like we’re connected. Either way, sex will become a lot less likely.
• If you date people who cause a lot of drama, and take up a lot of your time and energy, I’m going to be less interested in both of you. Life is short, and I don’t have time to worry about the effect my OTT metamours may be having on you/us.
• Despite the fact that I’m a sex writer, and I’m non-monogamous, and I have threesomes… I don’t want to hear about the sex you’re having with other people. It’s just not interesting to me. By all means tell me about fun dates, and let me see how happy you are in your relationships, even introduce us!, but I find it really dull to hear about my partners’ sex lives; plus, it’s just not at all arousing to me. (This actually goes for my friends as well.)
• Being overly eager to say “I love you”, or to collar/be collared by someone (if you’re kinky), or any other similar form of commitment, makes me very nervous. In the past it has taken me months to trust someone enough to say they “own me”, and whilst I understand that for some people it may take less time, if you’re eagerly and quickly committing to relationships left right and center, I will take that as proof of low emotional intelligence, and a sign that I should reassess things.