I learned how to have sex from books. My parents had some porn novels hidden in a closet, and when I was 12, I found and read them. It was years before I put the information—such as it was—into action, but it set a pattern. When I wanted to learn how to be kinky or bisexual or polyamorous, my first instinct was to read books about it. Reading is no substitute for real experience, but it's always been helpful for me.
Until recently. I've written here before that I don't understand how to have vanilla sex. Lately, I realized something: Forget sex—I don't even know how to date anyone from outside the tiny bubble of sex-positive cognoscenti. You know—normal people. I'm serious. How is one supposed to act on dates when you haven't already read someone's entire sexual/romantic history on his blog? When you haven't seen him doing BDSM in a dungeon or massaging naked people at a cuddle party? What do you talk about?
Or rather, what do you not talk about? Because I've definitely startled some men by casually referring to things like dungeons and large groups of naked people. Clever girl that I am, I eventually figured it out: Oh, I guess most women don't mention those things on first dates, huh?
So you know what I did? I read a bunch of books about how to date. I got Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider's controversial old-school manual The Rules. Then I read Date Like a Man by Myreah Moore and Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov. To ensure gender parity, I got Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey and He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt.
Call me naive, but I was surprised at their nearly unanimous presumption that women always want to get married and men always shy away from matrimony. The one I liked best was Why Men Love Bitches, because Argov at least acknowledged that some women aren't desperate for a wedding ring, and overall her advice seemed the least artificial. It's saddening to conclude that to normal people, "not being artificial" equals "being a bitch," but at least it means I picked the right career.
But I don't want to get married, and I don't need advice about not being a doormat. So these books weren't terribly helpful, except to tell me, of course, I'm doing this all wrong. Apparently, I'm not supposed to have any conversations about sex on the first few dates, or even allude to having much sexual experience. Since that precludes any conversation about either my profession or my social life, I don't think I have a big romantic future with normal people. I still have no idea what I am supposed to do, besides lie. And never call him back. You normal women should really consider just being bitches. It's much simpler.