I HOPE I'M NOT OUT OF LINE," says my date, his eyes fixating on my chest, "but I bet you're incredible in bed."
"Easy, tiger," I say, pulling my wine glass toward me and changing the subject. Perhaps my drink would have been better off in his face. But he wasn't the first guy to make crude assumptions before we'd even had a chance to read the menu. You see, my body has a way of provoking risqué conversations. Other comments men have made within minutes of meeting me: "Are you sure you weren't a Penthouse Pet?" Or: "Your body is like a roller coaster."
With 38DDD-28-38 curves, I can easily out-boob Christina Hendricks. I've always figured those D's make men act dumb, and now scientists have proven it. Voluptuous women fire up the reward centers of the male brain, the areas associated with drug and alcohol addictions, says a study from Georgia Gwinnett College. Another study found that guys believe curvy women are best in bed, without knowing them.
Well, I need those high expectations about as much as a padded bra. For much of my dating life, men treated me like a glorified blow-up doll. My body triggered a primal side that made them lose all etiquette in bed. My curves may be more explicit than the average woman's, but my libido is just as nuanced. Still, instead of foreplay, there were porn-inspired penis-slapping-against-breasts moves. There was no tenderness, just animalistic thrusting.
But instead of being honest about how unsatisfying it was, I played the role they expected, with rehearsed moves and animated moans. On dates, I made my voice breathier. I cracked sex jokes before guys could, to gain control when I felt like I had little. And though I had always dressed in fitted clothing (curvy bodies look frumpy in loose ones), I turned it up: plunging necklines and tight skirts with thigh-high slits. Friends said to tone it down, but a part of me loved the attention — after all, it was the only kind I'd known. I was catcalled, not courted. I was fetishized, not romanced. It had become so much my identity that I just gave the crowd what they wanted. Why would I wear minimizing bras and tasteful tops? The men would stop coming around.
Even so, admittedly they never stayed for long. My longest relationship in my 20s lasted just three months. And a study from the University of Texas at Austin proved what I had been thinking: Men view curvy women as a fling, not relationship material.
Then, during my late 20s, I dropped from a size 10 to a size 4. I had lost my job and had lots of time to exercise. It was a joyless period, except for one thing: For the first time, I shrank to a small C cup. Suddenly, men treated me differently. Instead of booty calls, there were flowers, dinners, and introductions to friends. And the sex changed, too. It was softer, romantic; there was cuddling. The experience was enlightening — this was what dating was supposed to feel like. Why couldn't it be like this normally? Still, I grew more confident and decided to demand this treatment going forward, vowing to feel good in my body, regardless of its size.
Over the next year, I got a new job, had less time to exercise, and slowly returned to my default curves. Then I met my future husband. On our second date, I told him that he probably noticed me because of my boobs. There I went again, behaving like a sexpot. But he wasn't having it. "No, it was your hair and smile," he said. "I'm not that into boobs. I'm more into brains, and I can tell you've got a big one."
He was the first guy to see past my curves, and as a result, I was able to completely let go. We had (and have) amazing sex because he has sex with all of me, not just my parts. Just the way it should be.