Embedded: The new discretion

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Melissa Gira Grant gets deep about the San Francisco sex scene every Thursday on SEX SF.

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“He and I aren't ones to alert our Facebook network about our relationship statuses, you know?” Michelle is describing her latest love affair, carried on entirely without the involvement of online friends, fans, or frenemies. She explains this new kink so that the rest of us may look more knowledgeable at parties.

A casual friend had introduced her to the boy, who was in finance. He was in his 20s and well-taken care of: he preferred suits that only looked sharper on him because it made no sense that he could still afford them. It was on a very proper date at Jardinière – miyagi oysters, him whispering in her ear, her letting him know just when she was wet – that Michelle decided she would take the boy to bed.

He was a gracious lay, fond of giving head, “but he put his own needs on the sideline, which was sort of a bummer for me,” she explains. “I love receiving oral sex as much as the next girl, but I also love to give it.” As sweet as he was over dinner and later at the hotel, says Michelle, it was hot that he had to push himself to keep up with her. “I don't want to feel like we're holding hands and running after a unicorn in the fairy forest. I want to feel like we're engaging in hand-to-hand combat.”

She was falling for him. “I'm turned on by men who work hard for something they are passionate about,” she explains, “to a point where they're willing to fight a dude over it.” It’s an intensity that matches how Michelle approaches her own career -- she writes the kind of knowing, idiosyncratic blog that PR people would pay serious money for, and it’s become indispensable to her design business. Though what she covers there concerns the industry first and herself second, she laces her commentary with enough personal detail that readers approach her as if they know her. Her passion, she says, “is a double-edged sword, because I take it so seriously. It's not work to me -- it's personal.”

Though Michelle gains from blurring those boundaries on her blog, she chooses deliberately not to when it comes to her sex life. “There are a lot of men who are interested in my work, to a level that’s odd,” she says. “One guy wanted my phone number so that he could call me when he was in San Francisco next, to take me out to dinner. I know that traditionally you take a gal to dinner or coffee to get to know her better, but it's different online.”

The finance boy was insulated from all of that ambiguity. He existed in his own private space. The relationship continued in relative isolation, with Michelle soon on her way back to visit him for an impulsive getaway. (One night, after telling her how much he already missed her after a few days apart, he instructed her to check her email. A ticket he bought her was waiting.) It was thrilling, maybe even more so, because she couldn’t tell anybody the whole story.

Even as the affair came to an end, as these things always do, the secret of it wasn’t worth breaking. After Michelle returned to San Francisco, the boy’s attention didn’t waver, and without warning, it became unmanageable. “If he text messaged me and I didn't respond right away, he'd get upset and say things like, ‘You disappoint me.’” When Michelle confronted him, he became hostile. So she let him go, still with no one the wiser.

Michelle isn’t engaging in some new return to discretion – “It’s not difficult, I like discreet!” -- because she can’t handle sexual attention. It’s that she can’t imagine giving up the attention she does like on account of just any boy. She’s hardly chaste; she’s just managing sexual expectations – and no, that sort of talk isn’t meant to sound like a vow to save yourself until marriage. Status updates don’t have hymens to lose, and you can still get laid while you wait.

Melissa Gira Grant writes about sex & the internet at her award-winning blog, Sexerati and at the sex workers' group blog, Bound, not Gagged. Her work has appeared in Best Sex Writing 2008, $pread, Make:, Valleywag, The Frisky, and The Huffington Post. She has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Cosmopolitan (France), Wired News, NPR, SexTV, BBC Radio, and Penthouse Forum, among many others.