Rupert the Wired Guy starts the most interesting conversations. His essay “Mistakes Women Make About Sex” has a number of amusing bits that had me nodding my head, such as the part about miscommunication:

“Don’t stay up too late” is often a simple expression of concern that we get enough sleep. “How soon are you coming to bed?” means “I want you there while I’m still awake.” Don’t say it if that isn’t what you mean.

Don’t make us think too hard about “codes” like this. “I’m going to turn in early” could mean you had a hard day and you’re legitimately exhausted. If you want us there too, you have to ask, “Are you coming?”

On second thought, screw subtlety. Just grab our dick. That’s unmistakable.

“If you want to.” When we say it, we genuinely care whether you want to. We know that sometimes you don’t, and sometimes we can’t tell. However, we always want to; we think it’s obvious that we want to; and we assume you are aware of that. So when you say “I will if you want to”, we think it can’t possibly be meant at face value: we think you’re really saying that you don’t really want to, that you’re going to endure it for our benefit, and that you’re setting us up for you not having any fun. So when it goes wrong (as it inevitably will, if you don’t want to), then it’s our fault. We hate that.

Of course, when he says “We always want to”, it’s in his context of a woman responding to a guy who has just asked. Obviously there are times guys don’t want to, but they tend not to be initiating sex at those times.

Lilith had an entertaining response to him, but I couldn’t agree with her when I saw it because on the one hand she’s much more committed to functional communication with her men than most women, and because on the other hand she missed that crucial point about context:

Uhm, men do this too. Miscommunication goes both ways, and in my experience, is far more likely to be a male fubar than a female one. Women (in general) seem to have a lot more experience and comfort level with verbal communication and social interaction than men (in general) do.

Oh please, that old “we always want to” line? Bullshit. There are always going to be occasional times when you’re simply not up to the task physically (due to injury or illness or exhaustion), or when you’re far too conflicted about something mentally or emotionally. And assuming anything is usually a piss-poor idea, especially when it comes to emotional chicks–best to tell us you madly desire our lusciously bodacious selves, in the most alluring way possible. Make me feel like a goddess, and I’ll be one for you.

Not bullshit. Truth – when we are asking, we want to. Never heard of an exception. Was never present for one. Can’t imagine being present for one.

Things start getting really interesting when Dalemar The Secondary Boyfriend (it’s complicated, you gotta read these people for awhile to imagine just how complicated) weighs in, confirming my impression about Lilith’s atypically communicative approach:

Uhm… Hah! Speaking as someone who has almost always lived with women, I beg to differ on that point. Fabritzio ladies such as yourself are far more well-adjusted and comfortable with verbal communication that the rest of the world, and a very rare breed at that. I have sat back many a time and watched in wonderment as the various ladies in my life have failed miserably in trying to convey a simple concept.

Take the EMC, for example: when going out to eat, she would often reply to the “where” question with “I don’t know, why don’t you pick one.” Simple, right? Wrong. What she really meant was “I really don’t care where we go, but I can’t understand why you would think I would actually let you pick the restaraunt,” and she would proceed to shoot down my next three suggestions before I would tell her to decide, which is all she wanted in the first place – and I had already given it to her. I sometimes had to stop the car until she chose.

Every straight guy I know at one point or another has come home to find a certain chill in the air and a lady who promptly replies “Nothing!” when asked “What seems to be the matter?” This is followed by several hours of the guy wracking his brain and questioning every move he’s made for the last week and cold-shoulder terse replies to all attempts at conversation until she finally tells him (at near the top of her lungs, and at length) about just what is wrong.

Now, had she merely told us at the beginning of the evening, we might have sorted things out in short order and gone back to enjoying each other’s company.

Not to say that guys don’t miscommunicate, only that we generally do so un-intentionally. I have noticed in the past that women will often put the worst possible spin on a man’s words and twist them into a completely different meaning. The poor bloke is left standing there with his hat in his hands wondering why she just burst into tears and fled, or worse, dodging flying crockery and running for his life, all the while thinking “all I said was ‘you look good in that dress’!”

Dalemar, it is clear, has been around the block, seen the elephant, and returned to tell the tale. He goes on to make the critical point about context:

You may have missed the real point on this one: when we ask “would you like to get naked and have wild weasel sex?” the proper answer is not “I will if you want to.” Since we have just asked you, there is good reason to believe we do indeed want you to tie us up and get out the whips; a “yes” or “no” is what we’re looking for. “I will if you want to.” is an open-ended response that may lead us to believe that you are doing it just to please us, and that you probably won’t be having much fun – thinking about this breaks our concentration and pretty much ensures that you won’t be getting there, and we end up dissappointed in ourselves. I’d rather you said no than put me through that.

Just so, just so. Of course Lilith has more to say, basically in the vein of “here’s why it’s obvious to me why I’m feeling like throwing crockery”:

Actually, what I think is closer to the truth is that I’m trying to get something accomplished and he gets in my way, or obliviously goes about having fun while I’m trying to do chores and whatnot that he said he’d take care of and totally spaced on repeatedly until I got sick of it and did it myself (instead of nagging). Or something along those lines. Or I worked at my job, ran errands, did housework and laundry and helped kids with homework or plans for their next day, basically had a busy day doing for everyone else…and he wants me to cater to him at the end of the day instead of veg out and have some destressing time to do whatever the hell I please?! Yeah right.

Which is pretty funny coming from a lady who is acknowledged by her men as being more communicative than your average woman. To Dalemar’s suggestion that men just want a yes-or-no answer, she rightly rejoins:

Uhm, wrong. It’s not a “yes” or “no” that men are looking for in this situation. An unqualified “yes” is what you’re looking for.

True! But Dalemar is right – an unqualified “no” is much preferable to a grudging yes. This is true despite Lilith’s other true observation:

Because the more common situation (though there certainly ARE exceptions) is that the man in a relationship wants to have sex more frequently than the woman does. And sooner or later, hearing her say no is going to get pretty damned tiresome and lead to him not asking much anymore, unless he’s a total pig. Then she thinks he doesn’t find her attractive because he’s not asking much, so she’s less willing to say yes when he does ask. Vicious circle commences, and the sex life goes out the window.

Uh, yeah. But saying no indirectly, or saying yes grudgingly (“if you want to” can be either one, depending on the guy and the girl and the moment) does not make this better. A “no” isn’t nicer because it’s said with four words, and there’s nothing more horrifying (to a decent guy, anyway) than realizing during sex that his lady’s heart isn’t in it. Which means “if you want to” must be processed as a “no” by any prudent man, with all the negative results Lilith mentions.

This has gotten way too long, and there are lots of wonderful points not quoted here. It’s worth reading through the whole conversation!