Growing up in Nashville, the puritanical buckle of America’s Bible Belt, sex was never something I approached with anything but shame or judgment, certainly not positivity. Like too many women, I was a people-pleaser; too shy to even say the word orgasm, let alone demand one from dudes who should be giving me one (or many!)
That all changed the night a man offered me $20 after a Tinder hookup.
I had driven all the way out to a fancy Hollywood hotel to sleep with a hot Dutch D.J. who was in town for the night. The reality of our sexual whatever-you-wanna-call-this, however, failed to live up to the fantasy in my head—he refused to go down on me, fucked me like a blow-up doll, then denied my request to even cuddle afterward because he said that was something he “only does with girlfriends.”
On my way out the door, he offered me $20 for parking. I almost told him no thanks, but decided it was the very least he could do.
That’s the day I started what would become a growing list of non-negotiables for any man who wanted to see me naked.
Rule No.1—You gotta eat me out. That’s the only way I could get off at the time. From then on, I got that in writing via text. Every time. I spent the first 36 years of my life not knowing what an orgasm felt like. I would not go back to the old days of deadfishing or faking. I deserved pleasure too!
In fact, it became a great vetting question. Men who balked at giving me head would instantly be blocked. Men who said only if I give them a blowjob first? BLOCKED! Being so ruthless in my vetting was empowering as hell and my inner femme fatale started to emerge—I vowed it would no longer be all about what the man wanted, even if that made him uncomfortable
Never in my life did I think I would or even could be such a bad bitch who was so protective of her body and pleasure. But decades of douchebags who didn’t care about my safety, any orgasm but their own, or who straight up traumatized me, forced my hand in developing a persona I like to call “Melanie: Warrior Princess” (inspired by my girl, Xena) to take over my sex life.
After losing my virginity at 17, I didn’t tango horizontally or vertically very much for most of my twenties and half my thirties, except for a handful of one-night stands, flings, or hate fucks. I just couldn’t be bothered with selfish men who did nothing but distract me from being the motorcycle on my own adventure instead of the sidecar to some man’s.
But when I turned 36 I fell into my first kinda-sorta relationship with a full-fledged hobosexual—who came complete with a banjo and hammock in tow. I fooled myself into thinking I was in love with this loser but what I actually loved was his talent for eating pussy, which effectively clit-matized me. Being touch-starved from a combined 12 years of celibacy, I got drunk on all that oxytocin and was enamored with this unicorn of a man centering my pleasure for once. I had no idea my body could feel light as a feather yet heavy as a refrigerator at the same time, while warm glitter circulated my veins.
While Banjo Boy may have been a phenomenal lover, he also almost killed me before I was finally strong enough to escape him.
But he did teach me one thing—Rule No.2—My orgasm is mine, not his or anyone else’s. So it’s up to me to advocate on its behalf like a powerhouse lawyer, even if that means being a bossy bitch who’s demanding in bed. I allowed my Warrior Princess persona to take over my Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Happn, and Coffee Meets Bagel communications.
What followed was a four-year Tinder bender that started in L.A. and continued once I settled here in France. It was actually a Frenchman in L.A. who convinced me that my new approach to sex and empowerment would be more than welcome in his home country.
“I think a woman like you would do much better in France,” he said. A woman like what? He used “fearless”, “horny”, and some other fun adjectives, but basically said I’d be accepted in France more than in puritanical America. According to him, French men take great pride in pleasing women.
A couple of years later, I made the move and that’s when my Tinder bender went full throttle. As the list of lovers increased, so too did the list of rules!
The next amendment to my sacred list came when Benoit, a new-ish sex friend, tried to slide inside me without a condom. I did a WrestleMania-style roll out from under him and sat up straight like the boss bitch I was becoming. “Nope! No condom, no entry.”
“Well, don’t you have one?” he responded after a second.
“Sorry,” I lie.
I used to think men were forgetful or just plain dumb because they’re so good at playing the bumbling fool, but I’ve finally come to my senses—they’re manipulative as hell and just feign stupidity. That’s how they get whatever it is they want. I’ve got no problem lying to men who lie to me first. Any man who won’t take responsibility for his swimmers gets the FULL femme fatale treatment.
“There’s a pharmacy five blocks away,” I said with a shrug, letting it hang in the air so he knew I wasn’t joking. His options were to either run down six flights of stairs and five blocks to a pharmacy or he could… go the fuck home.
I had been paying a hefty price for years already by using an IUD—longer periods and a torturous insertion sans painkillers. This would hopefully teach him to never show up at mine or another woman’s place again without protection! I wasn’t sure if he would return but 30 minutes later he was back and we had sex. I was so proud of myself. My patience paid off in a huge hit of self-respect. So I adopted another new rule—Men are to buy the rubbers from now on.
It wasn’t until moving to France that I realized just how right that Frenchie in L.A. had been. Here I could be ridiculously demanding and they… just go along with it. It is as if the more respect I have for myself, the more they want to prove they’re worthy of being chosen by the likes of me. The harder they have to work to please me, the bigger their ego gets.
This may sound brutal, but French men, more or less, could handle my ever-growing list of rules and demands. Unlike in the U.S., here I finally felt safe to hurt a man’s feelings without the usual kid gloves I had to wear back home out of fear of being shot. And in France, it’s technically illegal to send unsolicited dick pics, so instead I got photos of well-manicured hands or men holding teddy bears or grasshoppers—creative and funny photos that would grab your attention and make you smile. How refreshing!
In France, I found it’s not très cool to be a beefcake gym bro on roids, so I rarely feared being physically overpowered by these straight twink-ish looking men who softly caress their face and arms when pondering things. It’s easy to feel emboldened and demand respect from a man with baby bird legs who I could snap in half with these climber thighs o’ mine. After decades of competing with men who can’t handle how tough I am, these affectionate Frenchies were like a softish yin to my tomboy yang. Hypermasculine men always made me feel like I was some weird mix of Pig Pen and a donkey. But in France, without all that King Kong chest-beating energy, I could finally relax into this sexy, self-assured woman who actually wears dresses and fakes nothing—except having condoms.
At a certain point, I probably took this Tinder bender a bit too far, like when I fucked 7 dudes in 8 days on the French Riviera. Not on yachts like a classy lady but in tiny cars and on beach blankets because I was camping at a trailer park and had nowhere else to do it. A week later at a summer camp for singles like me, I hooked up on a different beach with a man who made me squirt three times, which would have been amazing had it not been for the sand factor. On New Year’s Eve, I went to a rave and got eaten out on the ground in the middle of the woods with my down coat still on. I even got fingered a few times in public like a goddamn teenager, once on the dance floor at the famous Feria de Nîmes where they party all weekend while fighting some poor bull. What can I say? I have a weakness for cute French men who are so comfortable in their masculinity they proudly wear pink bandanas tied neatly around their necks and freely kiss each other on the cheek.
As my confidence grew I started trying new things I could never have imagined growing up in the South—like my first threesome and some butt stuff. The butt stuff went on the list of things I’m not going to do again because it seems to pleasure men more than me. And the threesome? Nah. Too much work. It’s nice to have two men pleasing me, but it’s not so nice to feel responsible for more than one penis at a time. I’m too codependent still for a threesome!
One man passing through town over Christmas spent a good two hours making out with my nipples and good lord, I had no idea you can orgasm without anything going anywhere near your clit. I let my one sex friend with eyes like Cillian Murphy and a serious fetish for feet, blow his load all over my toes… But only after eating me out first.
I realized that I too enjoy seeing men get pleasure. It feels great. So I added another new rule—I can do things for the sake of pleasuring a man if 1) he has pleasured me first and 2) it doesn’t make me feel bad about myself.
There were a couple of defining moments of Melanie: Warrior Princess’ reign. One was when I invited a guy I had met on Feeld over to have sex and as soon as I opened the front door, my body immediately said no. We chatted for a while and he was a real sweetheart but I simply had no desire to be with him. So, for the first time in my life, I kicked a man out of my home after I’d already agreed to sleep with him. It scared me so much that I almost went along with it only because he was nice and I felt bad for him. That’s when I knew I had to establish yet another rule to my growing list—No more pity fucks. The price I would have paid would be hating myself. He would get over a little rejection but maybe I wouldn’t get over the self-betrayal. My days of centering men’s feelings at my own expense were DONE!
My proudest moment, though, came when a hookup was in my bed and had the audacity to ask for a blowjob. “Not unless you eat me out first, and even then, probably not,” I said. Predictably, he responded with, “That’s too intimate, I only do that to girlfriends” and some other nonsense about cleanliness. So I schooled him on how much dirtier his penis was than any vulva he’s probably ever been near and that ramming it down my throat was too “intimate” for me. “Damn, you really are a feminist, huh?” he said.
He was right. But I was no longer just a pink pussy hat-wearing feminist ranting about women’s rights at protests or online anymore. I had evolved and become a feminist in the bedroom now too, arguably the hardest place for women to be one. The new-found respect I had found for myself in between the sheets then seeped out into all areas of my life. I finally came into the woman I was meant to be had the patriarchy not brainwashed me.
Having become confident enough to be dominant in bed, my Melanie: Warrior Princess persona eased up some after one Parisian called me out on it. “You’re taking all the fun out of this! At least let me try to please you before you tell me where to put my tongue!’
Fair enough. New rule—Melanie: Warrior Princess will at least let you try to make her cum before she pulls out the road map.
My Warrior Princess avatar retired from the bedroom once I felt so confident, her services were no longer needed there—Melanie had it from here. But I noticed she had moved over to my professional life, giving me confidence to navigate my freelance job in HR and to fight the patriarchy on the labor front. She demands higher rates and says no to anyone who doesn’t value her work. Learning how to love, value and respect yourself is truly a lifelong endeavor that seems to never end.
But in regard to relationships, I’m finally there. Now that I’m married (WHAT??!!) to a sweet Frenchie I feel safe with, I don’t need an avatar in the bedroom. I can just be Melanie, or “tornado rainbow” as my husband likes to call me. “A chaotic mess, but a colorful, beautiful force of nature.” Not only do I not lose myself in this relationship, I’m with a man who lets me play by my own rules and respects me more for it—even if that means the occasional trip to a French sex club.