When Dating Feels Like an Unpaid Internship


This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.

The process of dating, suggested a recent New Yorker article, is hard and oftentimes unrewarding work.  It’s rare that a person dates for the fun of it; the act of putting yourself on the market has only one objective, which is to take yourself out of it.

Citing Moira Weigel, the author of Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating, the article put forward the idea that “However much you might enjoy going out to dinner or stumbling home with someone new, you date in the hope that the day will come when you never have to date again.”

As Weigel wrote at the start of her book, “If marriage is the long-term contract that many daters still hope to land, dating itself often feels like the worst, most precarious form of contemporary labor: an unpaid internship.”

Indeed, dating invites several, even repeat, applications but very little in the way of job security.  Dating advice from so-called gurus can be wildly confusing, ranging from the proverbial “Be yourself” to “Transform yourself into the woman he’ll want to marry.”  It can be frustrating, and it can be exhausting. Keeping up with the many selves you are supposed to present so that the man you are dating will see the “real” you and realize you are wife material.  And in today’s rampant hook-up culture, landing a man willing to commit to a relationship for starters seems a far more daunting challenge than getting him to propose marriage later down the line.

I was once seeing one such man who clearly spent a lot of time thinking about me and communicating with me but was reluctant to, as they say, “Define the relationship.” I was equally reluctant, too, because I understood that there were a few issues that neither of us wanted to discuss, such as distance, children, and work.  At one point, he invited me to stay with him in New York and while, I was as thrilled as I was wary, my one big concern was, how am I going to share the one bathroom in this luxuriously monastic apartment with this OCD neat freak?  Sharing his bed was not a problem, finding a time and place to wash and hang my delicates was the more pressing dilemma.  For all my independence, and notwithstanding the fact that we had actually gone away together before—no laundry required and there was housekeeping—I didn’t want him to think I was encroaching on his space and hinting towards a commitment.

One girlfriend recommended I wait until he’d be asleep, then wash my delicates in the bathroom and use the hairdryer to dry them.  I seriously considered doing that.

In the end, we both freaked out for a variety of reasons, and I spent the weekend with him instead of the entire week.  Crisis averted.

I like to think that I presented to him myself as I was—unfiltered. But I know, deep down, that outside of sex, I had, more often than not, kept my guard up, lest he thinks I was a divorced, single mother of two (which I was) hoping to ensnare husband number two (which I wasn’t.)

Fortunately for us, sex was never a battlefield; in bed, we were always our rawest, realest selves.  Which is not the case, it would seem, for some couples, particularly where the parties are afflicted with some kind of sexual insecurity, the kind that comes from straitjacketing mainly women into certain stereotypes: the meek, sexually inexperienced virgin waiting for the man to arouse her passions.

A recent sketch on Inside Amy Schumer, aptly entitled “Madonna/Whore,” illustrated this conundrum brilliantly.  It’s the first time Amy and her by-now-more-than-a-date are having sex.

The first red flag hoists itself up when the guy wonders why she keeps condoms in her bedside table.  Amy is about to say, well, she’s a smart woman who practices safe sex, but somehow the cues she gets from the guy is that he’d rather not use a condom if it was left over from a previous boyfriend.  All throughout the sketch, Amy is constantly catching herself and altering her answers to his questions regarding everything from her sexual partners to her sexual repertoire, as she struggles, to comic effect, to be the kind of woman he wants to be with.  As she performs a confident strip-tease, he wonders why she seems like such a pro, and immediately she deflects his suspicion by changing her moves to more awkward, less graceful ones, saying she took a pole-dancing class once.

She finally asks him what he wants, and he speaks for every insecure, double-standard-embodying entitled male when he says:

“It’s not hard to understand.  I need you to be like a sexual Good Will Hunting: You have no formal education, but then you see my dick and you just get it.  Now, I need you to be like a combination of Hermoine from the third movie and Nicki Minaj. You’re like Dora the Explorer but your passport’s filled to the brim, right? You’re like Maria from The Sound of Music but also the sex Nazi from Indiana Jones.  Also, would it kill you to do a Boston accent?”

In this day and age, it’s astounding that women are still judged by the extent of their sexual experience, their lack of such being more desirable than a surplus of it.  In Indonesia, it is mind-boggling that female recruits to the military are subjected to virginity testing with the head of the Indonesian Armed Forces, a man (of course!) named General Moeldoko defending the practice to Human Rights Watch.

The virginity test, the loathsome general claimed, “Is a measure of morality.”  A spokesman for the military told The Guardian that “We need to examine the mentality of these applicants.  If they are no longer virgins, if they are naughty, it means their mentality is not good.”

And the test? It’s the “two-finger test” in which two fingers are inserted into a woman’s vagina to determine whether her hymen is intact or not.  Invasive, demeaning, humiliating, insulting, pointless, and ultimately inconclusive, yet the practice continues, as does female genital mutilation—all to stigmatize and ostracize the woman who might take pleasure from sex.

And the men who demand “purity” and “inexperience” from their wives and girlfriends, the men who equate healthy sexual appetites and attitudes in a woman with a lack of trustworthiness and moral character, the men with such fragile, twisted egos who cannot accept that a woman may have had fulfilling sexual relationships with men apart from them?

I’ll bet they’re absolute bores in bed.

B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online.When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant. 

For comments and questions, e-mail b.wiser.ph@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.


Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

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Jacque De Borja: Jacque De Borja is an introvert pretending to be an extrovert, who gets insanely emotional about things—especially if they’re about dogs, women’s rights, and Terrace House.