A couple of months ago I was involved in a complicated transaction that resulted in me transporting a couple of truckloads of stuff in a borrowed truck to the house of a woman I did not know. She was helping load and unload, so after she led me to her house on her bicycle with the first load, she jumped in the truck when we went back for the second load. It was a busy rural road and it became clear I would need to go well past our destination to turn around safely and get properly parked. I realized on the instant that if I just suddenly blazed past where she was expecting me to stop, without saying a word, that might create a moment of fear for her: trapped in a vehicle with a strange man twice her size, and suddenly going somewhere unexpected. So I just said “I’ll go on down to the turnaround and come back.” She said something calm and agreeable, I drove another quarter mile, and then found the turnaround choked with highway construction equipment. So as we motored on past that promised turnaround spot, I said something like “Sorry, I think there’s another turnout down here a ways.” She laughed and said “Dude, it’s OK, I’m comfortable in your truck, I know what we are doing, don’t worry about it.”

Just one of those odd little moments, but it got me thinking about the value of courtesy. I feel like with better manners, I could have reassured her without ever letting her see that I had noticed any vulnerability; because for a man to call attention to a woman’s vulnerability is creepy. (Some creepy men do it precisely because they enjoy putting a woman in fear or anxiety.) I didn’t have the social skill in this instance to pull off the necessary reassurance with perfect courtesy, but I can clearly see that it would have been a better scene if I knew how to do that.

I was reminded of all these musings about courtesy by a post at Apricot Creams called Casual Sex And Courtesy. It’s basically a checklist for one-night-stands and how to make them more pleasant, but a key theme is (by now you will have guessed it) deploying good manners:

Don’t be awful. No weird body comments, no overstaying your welcome, no offering to order takeout and then asking them for the money, no trying to weasel them into a threesome with your flatmate, no pouting like a petulant child when they reveal that they are – shockingly! – a human being, and not actually a sexbot programmed to fulfill every single one of your desires with no questions asked. Basic human decency.

Of course there’s much more. Be courteous out there!

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