If he wanted the most awkward post first date conversation topic, this would’ve been it.
Backtrack to when I arrived in France. I couldn’t wait to have my elegant, smoldering hunk of a Parisian man sweep me off my feet and ride off with me in to the sunset, where he and I would make passionate, mind-blowing sex on the beach.
You know, those standard, conventional fantasies that plague women’s thoughts about French men and their sexy ways. However, my experience was quite the contrary.
I met two cute, hot Parisians a few months into my study abroad program. Though they were similarly attractive, I was more taken with one of them. He is a computer programmer, he likes TED talks, he’s into Frank Herbert’s Dune – the works. It made me think he’s boyfriend material. We’d been texting nonstop. Then the morning before our first date after he greets me and a few text volleys later, he talks about how he’ll be wearing a tux later that night. I responded jokingly that I’ll be wearing a swimsuit then, since I didn’t want him to outshine me. He responded with a, “now I’m hard because I’m picturing you on the dunes in your swim wear.”
Now, I consider myself fairly open-minded about flirting, but after a few days of just straight-up cutesie stuff, this very sexual comment put a different spin on my outlook for the evening. I was mostly appalled and apprehensive. But I decided, hey, I’ll give it a chance. So, we went for dinner at this Japanese restaurant, and then caught a movie. He was nice and sweet the whole time, but during the movie, his hands were definitely creeping places I was not comfortable with and he kissed me repeatedly. In terms of trying to win me over, his whole style was sloppy.
Still, I weighed the positives and negatives and decided that the whole evening wasn’t a complete waste. But, when he once again sent me a message two days later, telling me that he has the house to himself (hint hint), so why don’t I recommend a good anime or movie to watch? I felt like there was a disconnect in our respective expectations at this point, but I decided to play the fool and gave him a title anyway.
That night, I thought about what relationships and sex meant in Paris for people my age. Everywhere – in the metros, the parks, the streets, even offices – young people are not averse to openly tonguing each other. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with this and I am obviously no expert on the matter, but it seems as if there’s less or practically no taboo against having sex, which extends to milder (or…harder?) forms of it expressed in public. I have had no conversations about this with the few French friends I made in Paris, but from what I gathered, sex is a more acceptable aspect of social life. Couples are unashamed to show their attraction and affection for each other. Even films manifest this – most of them have extensive, artistic, or funny sex scenes. Once, I spent a good 20 to 30 minutes watching a hot sexual scene with my 65 year-old host mother. Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable situation for me but natural for her.
Given these ideas, I was willing to give my comp guy another chance – cross-cultural understanding and all. However, when he called me the next day and we’d gotten the small talk out of the way, he told me he was not feeling well our date night because during the day “my penis broke.”
Shocked and morbidly fascinated, I listened to him describe in both French and English and in intricate, great detail how such a condition could occur. Here’s the condensed version: a vein pops, usually during sex “which also,” he confided, “first happened to me a month ago when I was having sex with my ex-girlfriend.” My relatively limited experience in the dating and sex department aside, I think any female would be a little freaked out by this point. At the end of his lecture (during which I strove hard to forget every word before he’d said his next), he stated, “so basically, I’ll be useless to you for the next month. Do you still want to go out?”
Despite my embarrassment during this debacle, my bizarre encounter showed me that there’s a level of openness concerning this topic that I hadn’t encountered before in male-female relations. To a certain extent, it speaks to the social and cultural landscape of Paris. However, when I spoke with some people about it, they informed me that it’s not the usual case. Sex education and the pervasiveness of safe sex campaigns, materials, etc. is quite far-reaching – for example, condoms and other sex materials are fairly prominent merchandise in many groceries, pharmacies, and stores. According to some, however, there is still a lack of communication, especially on the female’s part, in expressing their concerns and ideas. I believe I also demonstrated that quite clearly. This experience was most informative, and I’m still processing it months later. It almost seems stranger than if I’d had a one-night stand and never seen him again – because, at least, this can be expected.