Imagine a man and woman, a committed couple, cozy in each other’s arms. They’re in front of a fireplace, stretched across a soft rug and covered by plaid blanket A half empty bottle of red wine is within reach. Everything is bliss. Until he asks, “Have you ever thought about us doing it with ______.” No, blank isn’t Charlie Hunnam or Chris Hemsworth. It’s her friend. The hot one with the perfect legs, curvy ass and Instagram ready smile.
Just like that, the sweetness of the moment is gone, and she’s left with an uncertain queasy sensation that starts in her stomach and spreads to her heart. Never mind what happens to her mind. She can’t decide which of her emotions to deal with first. Anger? Hurt? Disgust? Humiliation?
Imagine she says no. But, because she’s reeling from that freshly-delivered nasty basket of emotions, she replies gently, as though she’s hoping that by speaking softly the whole matter will float up the chimney, drifting out into the starry night sky. After being burned into nothingness, of course.
For some reason, maybe the wine, he doesn’t accept her response. He thinks he should explain, offer some reasons:
Its in the books you read/write.
- Anxiety, murder, disappointment, heartbreak, betrayal…these things are in our books too, but we don’t want them in real life either. That’s why people read–to experience things in the imaginary part of the mind.
It’s so fucking hot in porn.
- Hello? Everything looks better in porn. That’s why it generated 97 billion dollars last year. How about we not use porn as a standard for positive, sustainable behavior.
You won’t know unless you try it.
- This is just childish. For example, consider cutting off your pinky finger. You don’t need to do that to know it is 1) a bad idea 2) very painful and 3) irreversible.
It’d just be the one time.
- See directly above, childish, with the addition of why does that make any difference? I suppose that could be the strength of this reason, as it makes so little logical sense that there is no equivalent response.
Let’s just ask her, then decide if we want to go through with it. There’s no harm in asking.
- First of all, that’s disrespecting her reply of no. Secondly, yes, there is harm in asking. In fact, he has already caused harm by asking. It’s this asking business that caused the initial complications and delivered that nasty basket of confusing emotions mentioned above.
Her anger may be the easiest to decode and deal with. She’s mad because he ruined their night by being a disgusting asshole. She’s mad because he’s suggesting the Hot Friend is hotter than she is. Also reasonable–she’s mad that he was stupid enough to bring it up. WTF.
Hurt, while also terrible, is easy to sort thorough and understand–for her. She’s miserable that he doesn’t think she’s enough. Disappointed that he’s been eyeing, and thinking about, sex with not just other women…but a woman she herself has brought around him. When she tells him he has hurt her by suggesting this one-time-only-night-of-fun, he again makes a mistake.
He assumes his woman feels intimated by the Hot Friend and offers some reasons why she need not see herself as less than. The Hot Friend’s boobs aren’t really that great; one may be bigger than the other. When she smiles, you can see the crooked tooth on the lower left center of her jaw, and its kind of janky. She’s a slob…sometimes when she bends over the tops of her panties show. All these reasons makes things worse, hurting the woman partner more because all it does is reveal how carefully this guy has been studying the Hot Friend.
Disgust. This one is tricky. Confusing. Feeling this way may even make her feel guilty. After all, who feels disgusted by the idea of her friend’s body? Let’s skip over that question and hop to the last emotion because its there that the answer to this one lies.
Humiliation. This one is even trickier than disgust. More confusing. Why does she feel so much shame when he’s the one who has asked the question? Why does she feel crushing humiliation when she’s in the same room with the guy and her friend? After all, the three of them being together used to be the best time ever.
Shame comes from acts we’ve done but also from acts that have been done to us. ‘Good’ shame is the guilt we feel after we’ve done something we know we shouldn’t have. ‘Toxic’ shame comes from others; it occurs when we’ve been exposed in a way we weren’t prepared for or in a way that’s too intimate. So, when he asks her if she wants to do the 3-way with her Hot Friend, he’s crossed a boundary and pulled her along for the ride–whether she wanted to go or not. Without repair, the border that had been clearly around the two of them will remain unclear. Unclear = uncertain. Toxic shames also creates feelings of inadequacy. You don’t need me to tell you what doubt + insecurity equals.
Pretending ‘the question’ was never asked isn’t going to work. That’s one genie that’s not going back into the bottle. While only one person, in this case her, realizes it, there’s a crack in the foundation. What’s going to repair it? Probably, only more conversation. Will that work?
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Isabelle Drake writes erotic romance, urban fantasy, horror and young adult thrillers. Her latest story, BAIT, features a woman who hunts and sells zombies, can be found in the horror anthology Gone With The Dead.