When it comes to sex and dating, does honesty stop us from having fun? Does being a ‘nice guy’ make a difference? And how do we work out what’s right, when everyone else is telling us that casual sex is wrong? Let’s find out whether ethics matters, with Gordon from Melbourne consulting firm Ethilogical.
This is The Art of the Hook Up – your straightforward guide to a successful sex life. I’m Georgie Wolf – a Melbourne escort, writer and total hook-up enthusiast.
Welcome to Episode 14! When it comes to sex and dating, does honesty stop us from having fun? Does being a nice guy actually make a difference? And how do we work out what’s right, when everyone else is telling us that casual sex is wrong? Let’s find out whether ethics mattrs with Gordon from Ethilogical.
Before we get started, just a reminder that this podcast is adults. And with that said, let’s get into it.
Georgie: Hi, this is Georgie here. I’m a writer, sexual adventurer and independent escort from Melbourne, Australia. My mission is to talk honestly about all the stuff you need to know to have a great hookup. And by that I mean, finding the people that are right for you negotiating amazing sex and walking away feeling good about yourself. This episode is all about ethics – the practical moral choices we all make in our day to day lives. And when it comes to moral dilemmas, sex and dating are full of them. From how to unmatch someone on Tinder to being honest about your other girlfriends, we’ve all found ourselves in situations where we need to make some hard choices. Well, I’m not going to ask you to make them alone. Meet Gordon – he’s a university-educated ethicist who also happens to be single. Together, we’re going to work out what being ethical means, and why you should care in the first place.
And just another quick note here: We recorded this episode a while ago, before the pandemic. So when we start talking about Gordon’s extra-busy dating schedule, just keep in mind that things have changed a bit since then.
Gordon: Thanks very much for having me along. Georgie.
Georgie: Thanks for coming along. I’ve so much been looking forward to this conversation.
Gordon: Absolutely, this is gonna be great.
Georgie: So If you can, just in just a few words or a couple of sentences, like who are you and what do you do?
Gordon: So yeah, as Georgie said, I’m an ethicist. I’ve studied professional ethics at Melbourne University, originally coming from an environmental management background, and eventually just decided to specialise in something that I’d always found fascinating, but which is also very relevant to that sort of work, which is understanding why people make decisions and attempting to have influence over that.
Georgie: So you studied in management and segued into ethics.
Gordon: Environmental Management, yeah. So we’re talking about like, you know, go into a business and they’ve got their waste streams, their energy use, their water use, and we’re trying to find ways to improve the performance in that. So yeah, a very strong people focus. Technical elements to that, of course, but like 90% of the time, you get the people across and the technical stuff will follow.
Georgie: So I guess the point of this, is that, ethics is in everything right?
Gordon: Yeah. Pretty much!
Georgie: And of course, the podcast is about hookups. And there’s so much to say about that. But first, I guess I’d kind of like to ask your opinion, when it comes to ethics in dating. Do you think that talking about how ethical you are is, kind of, a bit of a wank fest? Like, do you think we go, ‘Yes, I’m very ethical. And, and I’m a really nice person,’ but it starts to sound a bit iffy?
Gordon: Yeah, definitely. There’s one of those ‘he doth protest too much’ situations going on there. If a person comes up to me and says, ‘I’m a very ethical person,’ I’m going to be very suspicious of that person right off the bat. One of the ironies of being an ethicist and working in this space – and having met several people working in this space – these days, is that we all self-identify as pretty terrible people. Or, more accurately, we all have the capacity…we recognize that in this space, we all have the capacity to be pretty atrocious human beings.
Georgie: We all have the capacity to be atrocious human beings.
Georgie: This is why I think talking about ethics is important, because we can all be dickheads.
Gordon: We can, absolutely.
Georgie: Having said that, my book is literally called, ‘Your ethical guide to successful sex life.’ And I sort of felt like I had to put that in there, because I feel like we’re so down on sex in general, that it’s just assumed that if you try to pick up, that you’re behaving badly, you know?
Gordon: Sure. Yeah, I did notice that in your book, I found that quite fascinating.
Georgie: What’s your definition? If you can give me a one or two sentence…
Gordon: Ethics is successful decision making, which is to say that you have a clear understanding of what it is you actually want to achieve. By which, I don’t mean the short-term outcome, but also the long-term outcomes and how that fits into your life as a whole. And subsequently, making good quality decisions that actually achieve that.
Georgie: Let’s bring this down to the level of what we’re talking about, which is hooking up. What would be the equivalent in terms of making a good ethical decision?
Gordon: Oh, so many.
Georgie: I mean, that looks good in the short term and bad in the long term, right?
Gordon: I mean, if you want to…if this is just a one night sort of thing, but even then it’s kind of sad, frankly, the idea that you lie to another person, explicitly lie to another person. We can talk about lies of omission, but it gets a bit gray.
Georgie: But we all know roughly what lying is. It’s just how you how you do it, you know?
Gordon: Yeah, if you go in to intentionally mislead the person to, you know, get them into bed. Now, if it’s a one off thing, and it was purely about arousal, the other person hasn’t been misled in some important way, then that’s one thing. But if you’re trying to start a relationship, and you start that off by lying to the person to get them involved in the first place, well, how long’s that gonna last?
Georgie: I you know what, I think I disagree with you. Because I reckon that those choices we make that are set up as ‘good short term, poor long term,’ like lying to someone… I think they’re poor short term decisions too. Because if you lie to someone to get laid, the whole time you’re having sex with them, you’re going to be thinking about it. That lie is gonna fuck with your game, and you’re gonna have bad sex. The connection will be bad because, you know, you’ve lied, the other person senses you’ve lied. In terms of short and long term gain, I think sometimes they’re the same thing. Sometimes we make a decision that we think is good in the short term, but actually, it’s bad in the short term and it’s bad in the long term.
Gordon: Yeah. Now, look, it’s a relevant point, I suppose. What I was thinking is that the short term is just getting them into bed in the first place, as opposed to the quality of experience.
Georgie: My take on this is that once you consider the quality of the whole experience, there are no good short term decisions that don’t involve being ethical.
Gordon: Look, in many ways, that’s exactly the point. People have a tendency to think of ethical decisions as being cherry on top. You know what I mean? It’s like this gold standard. If you are acting ethically, then you’ve gone well beyond what’s reasonably expected of a person and you’re doing Superman stuff, right? Whereas my definition of ethics – and most practitioners – is more along the lines of like, is it a good quality decision? Are you aware of what you’re trying to achieve? Are you aware of how you’re going about achieving it, and is it going to work? I mean, you’re doing this every day. That’s one thing I’d like everyone to be aware of, and your listeners included, the fact that you are doing ethics right now. You do it all the time, right?
Georgie: It’s not just for lecturers, and students.
Gordon: It’s a real problem I have with my own field, to be perfectly honest. There is a tendency, I mean, what what do you think of when you hear philosophy professor?
Georgie: That someone’s gonna come and give me a big lecture about what I don’t understand.
Georgie: And this is why I brought this up, because I think as soon as we start to talk about ethics, people are like, ‘Ah, someone’s about to give me a big lecture.’
Gordon: Yeah, yeah. Which unfortunately, has been true. I mean, you do get this in every field to some degree. People who enjoy using their advanced knowledge on a topic, to not enlighten other people, but to basically keep them out. Use it as a sort of bullying, sort of like an elitism tool.
Georgie: And I kind of feel that happens with people that say they’re ethical, also. That we try and use the fact that we’re ethical as leverage over other people, like ‘I’m a better person than you because I’m more ethical than you are.’ And I don’t think that’s what ethics is for.
Gordon: It’s kind of ironic really, isn’t it? It’s like, hey, you’re making another person feel bad and not trying to help them out and choosing a destructive approach.
Georgie: That’s really fucking ethical.
Gordon: That’s real ethical, good job.
Georgie: For me, I guess I’ve always felt like being ethical, especially when it comes to sex and dating, has just been about doing my damnedest to do my best.
Gordon: Yeah, I cannot ask for better than that. Honestly. The additional factor from my definition of ethics is that context is massive. Right, like if you try and take a simplistic sort of approach where, ‘Here is a general set of rules, always follow them, never break them,’ what we’d call a deontological set of ethics…
Georgie: Basically we’re talking about like moral standards at this point. All those things people say we shouldn’t and shouldn’t be doing.
Georgie: Oh, you’re a good or a bad person. If you do this, this stuff
Gordon: Right. But it really falls apart almost immediately. Here’s a classic one, right? Like we were just talking about lying before. There’s very few people that you talk to who say that honesty is a bad thing, right? Like people genuinely speaking, say honesty is a good thing to uphold.
Georgie : About the same number of people that struggle to actually be honest.
Gordon: There’s not a single human being on the face of the planet who hasn’t lied multiple times today. It’s just what we do. And there’s reasons for that in the, again, it’s easy to characterize any sort of liars as unethical. But quite frankly, if you’re in a situation where lying minimises the harm and maximizes the benefit, which is more of a sort of a utilitarian approach to the topic that’s obviously superior…
Georgie: ‘Do those jeans make my butt look big?’
Georgie: And of course, you’re not going to go hell yes.
Gordon: Yeah. Well, not to get straight back to my personal experience, but I had a recent date where I went on two dates and had to wrap my head around the fact eventually that I was not physically attracted to the person.
Georgie: And at that point, it’s like, how honest is ethical? Because brutally honest might not be ethical…to go, ‘You know what?I just find you really unattractive.’
Gordon: That’s not kind. What the hell am I gonna do with that information? You know, like, what am I asking them to do?
Georgie: It’s not their fault that you don’t find them attractive. So honesty…so just saying ‘be honest,’ it’s not enough. It’s not good enough.
Gordon: No, no, no.
Georgie: We need better rules.
Gordon: It’s simplistic and you can easily, for any sort of simple virtue like that, or simple rule. It’s so easy to construct a scenario, a really plausible scenario, or an example, where it doesn’t work. Like it’s an exception.
Georgie: Super easy. And in fact, people that want to act like assholes can do so while staying within the rules. ‘I was just being honest,’ you know, or ‘You shouldn’t take offense, being honest is good. Oh, do you feel bad now? Sorry, you’re crying.’
Gordon: The most dangerous bullies in the world are the ones that use the rules to their effect. My overriding thing is that I’m absolutely petrified about hurting another person in this sort of situation. And that guides everything I do, to a compulsive level.
Georgie: By its whole nature, having these difficult conversations that we have with our partners…people do get hurt. And even when we’re doing our best, people take it badly.
Gordon: Yeah, yeah. Look, it’s sometimes necessary. It’s sometimes very necessary or very beneficial to do some short-term harm or say things that are gonna upset a person, provided it’s done with that long-term benefit in mind, and you’re considerate, and you’ve minimized that harm.
Georgie: And for them, too. I can’t imagine how awful would be if I was a few months into shagging someone and I found out that they didn’t find me attractive. I’d feel so humiliated. It’d be awful. I’d want them to say, ‘Sorry, not really feeling a connection,’ second date. I wouldn’t want them to be just putting up with it. God, that’d be so awful.
Gordon: Yeah, by contrast, there was another girl who I was dating up until recently, who I’d seen five times. Now that was starting to get a little bit more serious. And that actually sort of brings me to one of the more valuable tools as an ethicist that I bring to play, which actually surprises people a lot. Empathy. People tend to conflate that with sympathy, or with being nice…
Georgie: They think it’s the same thing.
Gordon: Yeah. It’s not. Empathy is a source of data. Which is to say, if you can imagine how another person from a different perspective is experiencing what you’re putting out, it’s useful, right? It’s useful because, one, you can cater to their emotional needs or their intellectual needs or whatever’s going on…
Georgie: Which is a win win for everyone, right?
Gordon: Right, but at the same time, you can also make sure that you’re not misunderstood, or at least minimize the chance for that. I mean, we were saying earlier on, I used to actually suffer very badly from the whole ‘nice guy’ syndrome.
Georgie: Okay. Tell us about that. Because that is the the ultimate ethics misfire, the ‘but I’m a nice guy. You should date me.’ Tell me, how did that happen?
Gordon: Shyness, basically. Teenage me was very, very, very shy. And that turned a little toxic in the sense that I was lonely. Basically, I had good male friends around but I didn’t never had a very good sense of self worth. I didn’t substitute ego for self worth too much, which I think stopped me from going too toxic…I didn’t resort to bravado or anything like that too much. But it just meant that the idea of approaching a woman was so outlandish. For me, it was never worth the risk. I was so caught up in the potential outcomes and the potential humiliation, the potential of upsetting or hurting them.
Georgie: These are real fears.
Gordon: You know, the irony actually is I look back at photos myself at that age…damn, I was attractive.
Georgie: Oh, that’s like when you look back at pictures from when you’re young. ‘I did not appreciate how I was!’ I gotta tell you though, when you talk about being afraid to approach people and afraid of how crushing rejection is gonna be when it happens…that stuff has never left me. I was at a party on the weekend. It was a ‘party.’ I’m doing the inverted commas with my fingers, ‘party,’ which means it was a naked party. And I’m like, ‘Hey, you do stuff all the time. You’re surrounded by naked people that are really nice. Go up and ask one for something.’ And then I’m thinking, ‘But that would be really scary. I can’t do that. What if they say no, I’ll feel really depressed. And I’ll feel like I’m a terrible person.’ And I’m like, ‘What the fuck, dude, you’ve been doing this for years.’ So I think that stuff sticks around. But the difference is the story we tell ourselves about it, right? So when we start blaming that on other people, which kind of sounds like what what happened to you? Being super afraid to approach other people is totally common, universal human experience. It’s just what do you do with it, right?
Gordon: The thing was, for me, it was a self-defense mechanism. It’s like, ‘I can sit down here and continue to wallow in the horrible realization that I am so paralyzed by fear that I can’t find I can’t even begin the process of finding a partner.’ And God damn, did I want someone like that.
Georgie: Admitting that is so uncool. Admitting how lonely you are and how afraid you are to change, that’s a really hard thing to sit with.
Gordon: Yeah, and like it all compounds. It’s like a nasty cycle because like my lack of self worth meant that I couldn’t find a partner, which in turn worsened than that self worth. And I couldn’t be on my own because I loathed spending time with myself, because I just had to spend time with this loser. Really, the turnaround for me was reading the Dalai Lama’s guide to happiness, mainly as a pretentious thing if I’m honest…
Georgie: Yep, I’m sure we’ve all been there too.
Gordon: But there was a line in that, and the realization I came to – and I’m not saying that the book did this to me so much as it gave me the catalyst to, you know, bring some ideas together that I’d been having – that I’m allowed to be happy. Something as simple as that, I realised that for such a long time, I’d been basically beating myself up because I’d been doing that as a means to motivate myself. Like, ‘I feel bad. That means I’m failing. Therefore, if I punish myself, I will improve.’
Georgie: And that spills over onto other people, right? So if you spend your whole time hating and judging yourself, invariably end up hating and judging the people around you and you hate you hate the people for not giving you what you want you hate the people you want to date because they’re not giving you what you want. But really, it’s just an extension of hating on yourself.
Gordon: And it was only after I started to allow myself to look for things that made me happy, as opposed to find ways to punish myself as a form of discipline. I was able to start relaxing, frankly. I actually now really enjoy moments where I fuck up.
Georgie: Oh my god, can I high five you here? Yes. So fucking good. I don’t like them when they happen. But afterwards, oh my God, there’s so much mileage to be gotten out of that.
Gordon: Oh, man, it’s the best. It’s sort of like equal parts. You’ve got a position in your brain, right? Like, I have this horrible long term thing of breaking chairs.
Georgie: That sounds scary, Gordon.
Gordon: I don’t know why. I broke an ottoman. It shouldn’t be possible to break an ottoman.
Georgie: Okay, so when you said that, what I was seeing was like WWF – you start lifting the chair up in a rage because you want to ask someone out, but you’re too scared and you’re smashing it on the ground. But that’s not what we’re talking about?
Gordon: I just sat on it and he collapsed really slowly.
Georgie: This is a weird life problem.
Gordon: I know. I don’t know, I’ve got an ass that just won’t quit. Point is is, in some ways, it makes for an interesting person, right? Because the way I can talk about this, I bring this up all the time because… imagine a situation where you’re sitting down with a group of friends, and they will give each other shit to some degree or another. And like all four legs check out simultaneously, it was like a fucking cartoon.
Georgie: I think I would have enjoyed that immensely.
Gordon: Well, everyone else had a great time with it. But now, how I react to this situation, and how I train myself to react to that situation in time makes a crucial difference, right? Like, imagine if you’re like sitting on the ground and you feel humiliated. If that’s the angle you go with. That’s it shit night. That’s killed the night.
Georgie: And you’re talking about this because, rejection. Right?
Gordon: Right. It’s how you take it, right? I mean, if you fall into that response or not. And don’t get me wrong, it’s very natural, but at the same time, there’s other ways to learn how to respond to things like that. And what I’ve learned to do over time is laugh at it. Because actually, it was hilarious.
Georgie: Wow. So your coping strategy is different to mine. I’m very good at responding to rejection, in terms of, ‘Thanks so much for your honesty, I really appreciate it. It was really nice meeting you regardless.’ All that stuff. But then I’ll go home and I will sit in my room with the lights turned off and I will have a good half hour of absolute self loathing. I will just let it sit there and I’m like, ‘This is about you, it’s not about them. Why do you feel so bad about yourself? What is that about, dude?’ And then just sit there with it. I literally can’t laugh it off. I still take rejection really hard.
Gordon: See, I think that’s slightly different though because, I mean, you haven’t done anything wrong in that situation.
Georgie: But you didn’t do anything wrong.
Gordon: I did destroy the chair.
Georgie: You didn’t do it, the ottoman decided to do it.
Gordon: That is pretty much true. But in a rejection situation…yeah, I agree with you, in the sense that I will be sad for a bit. And I’m okay with being sad. That’s fine. Denying the emotional reaction is the biggest problem, right? If I try and cover that up, inevitably what happens is, I get angry.
Georgie: So we can’t necessarily laugh it off. Because that’s what’s gonna happen.
Gordon: Yeah, it’s a defensive reaction. It’s like I have a whole bunch of emotion sitting on my shoulders that I can’t get rid of, because I’m not willing to process it. And therefore I’ll just get angry at where it came from, or where I think it came from. Right? That’s not helping. I mean, you know, certain circumstances, relationships, absolutely not. But yeah, you’re gonna bring up the book, aren’t you?
Georgie: No, no, I wasn’t! I was going to say, sometimes when we get angry, it’s useful. But there are some times when it’s not. How did we get here? We’re talking about you breaking chairs, like, oh my God. When do you feel like you’ve been in a situation where your ethics has been challenged, where you’re like, ‘What’s the right thing to do here?’
Gordon: Well, that one I was talking about before with the five… I dated her five times before breaking up, I actually did have a conundrum, and I sought advice from friends and-
Georgie: Tell me about that.
Gordon: Well, she was getting pretty invested. You could tell from the body language and so forth. And a couple of you know, pretty obvious social cues like, ‘Hey, do you want to come up to my place for a cup of coffee?’ and I did and then didn’t sleep with her, didn’t give her the opportunity?
Georgie: Ah, this is why I think you should ask for what you fucking want. Like you should say, ‘Hey, do you want to come up to my apartment? Because I’d like to bang you.’ At least then you know what’s what.
Gordon: I think it wasn’t a badly negotiated space on this occasion because she gave me the opportunity and I didn’t take it. You know, I didn’t reject it. But at the same time, we had a nice chat up in her space.
Georgie: And would she be cool when you’re talking about this, by the way, just checking in?
Gordon: Well, I’m not gonna name her. Yeah. She’s unlikely to ever hear this podcast.
Georgie: Yeah, yeah.
Gordon: But the thing was, is like, after the fifth date, and it was during the fifth date, where I’m sort of sitting there going, ‘Okay,’ and things are crystallizing in my mind. Yeah. This isn’t gonna continue
Georgie: And then you know, right. You get to the point where, you know.
Gordon: I bailed! As in, I didn’t pull the trigger. I should have. I should have done it in person. I should have had the courage to do it to her face. But man, it’s a tough conversation. I hate that. I hate knowing that I put another person into pain, and-
Georgie: So you do it remotely so you don’t have to watch putting them into pain. But you’re still still putting them into pain! You’re just not there at the time!
Gordon: Exactly right.
Georgie: It’s a total cop out.
Gordon: Yeah, exactly. So I felt like I owed her to do it in person. But I just couldn’t summon the courage on that occasion and, yes, I could have done better. Will try to do better in the future. But that’s what it was.
Georgie: Having said that, you can’t always assume. I always assume that the conversation in person is best if you’ve been seeing anyone for any amount of time, that it shows a certain level of level of respect. But I have had friends say, ‘God, no. If someone wants to break up with me, and they know that I’m going to be upset, I don’t want them to see me upset. So I want them to do it by text, so that I can have my ugly cry or whatever, and it’s not in front of them.’ And I went ‘Oh, shit, really? I just want people to tell me to my face.’ But maybe that’s a character thing.
Gordon: Well, this is where the dilemma emerged for me, if I’m honest. Because, having failed to do it in person at the appropriate time, which would have been awful for everyone and may have been extra bad for her. To have that happen in person, but-
Georgie: So you’re literally sitting there and the moment happened and you’re like, ‘Okay, I know I have to say something,’ and then couldn’t quite find a way?
Gordon: My clever self had managed to engineer a dinner date. So you know, sitting across the room in a public environment. I’m like, ‘No, I’ll wait for the right time to do this.’ When’s the right time though?
Georgie: No, there is no right time. There is no right time.
Gordon: It should have been in the car on the way home or something like that. But anyway, that is now not on the table. So I am thinking it through and like, going like, ‘Okay, so what’s the best way to do this? Should I do this by text?’ Which is what I want. Because, you know, emotional distance is easier. Or do I set up another date-
Georgie: At which point, they’re getting looking forward to seeing you later. To be honest, I’d be a little bit pissed about that, too.
Gordon: Yeah, it was a bad situation, but that’s the practical reality I was in at that point.
Georgie: Or, you can go, ‘Hey, we need to talk,’ at which point she spends the next like, eight hours till she gets to see you stressing out and that’s a really shitty experience. I’ve had partners that have gone, ‘We need to talk.’ I’m like, ‘No, no, no, you don’t pull that shit with me. If you got a problem you say it now, because I’m not spending days before we get get to talk stressing out.’
Gordon: Yeah, I got advice from a couple of female friends that I’ve got a good, friend relationship with and yeah, they gave me some good advice and pointed out that it probably will be misinterpreted as, ‘Hey, guess what, things are going well! Let’s go on another date!’ At which point I’m going to immediately shut it down-
Georgie: That’s a sad Saturday night, Gordon.
Gordon: Or, worst case, bail on that one too.
Georgie: Oh, no, and then have this never-ending string of asking someone out so you can break up with them and then working up the courage, and three months later…
Gordon: At that point, that’s well over…look, this is not me saying that this is what the standard should be. But for me, the way I deal with this sort of thing – dating multiple people at once, which I was twelve at once-
Georgie: You were dating twelve people at once?
Gordon: Yeah. Okay, so let me just put this into context.
Georgie: I was joking when I said ‘three girlfriends’ in the intro I didn’t think that was actually-
Gordon: God, I think I actually went to seventeen-
Georgie: The ethical ship has left the shore at this point! Okay, so just for disclosure, I’m non monogamous. I don’t believe…I mean, I think you should be able to date multiple people but it’s all how you do it, right?
Gordon: The way I was rationalising this to myself – because I sort of accidentally did this to a degree – I sort of treated it like networking, which is something that I do a lot and I’m very good at.
Georgie: I treat my sex life like networking.
Gordon: Fair enough. But the problem is, when I’m networking, I’m cramming literally as many people into the week as I can.
Georgie: Still sounds legit.
Gordon: So fine, so far. So the problem is, is you’ve had one first date with all these people and you’re sort of sitting there at phone and going, ‘What have I done?’
Georgie: And then because I’m clueless, if someone says. ‘How’s your week?’ I’d blurt out, ‘Yeah, great. I’ve been on seven dates already so far,’ but it does not go down well, with your average person.
Gordon: There was one particular day, it was one Sunday, where I had four in one day.
Georgie: Dude, why are you doing this to yourself?
Gordon: But it’s like networking!
Georgie: But that’s a lot of emotional stuff, though?
Gordon: This is the thing. First dates are not a problem because I treat it like networking, right? It’s like getting to know the person. It’s fundamentally about forming a relationship. A platonic relationship. And this is how I ended up rationalising it to myself, was the basis that I hadn’t slept with any of them.
Georgie: Can we talk about demisexual stuff?
Georgie: Because you’ve told me in the past that you need to get to know someone and like them before you’re attracted to them, which is the textbook definition of demisexual. So this is a really cool way to do it, right? Meet a whole lot of people when all you expect is a friendly connection. And then giveing it time, right, rather than trying to force things straight through to anything really fast, because that’s not gonna work for you.
Gordon: Yeah. And it took me a long time to figure that out. Which made for some unpleasant experiences before I got my head around that, unfortunately.
Georgie: Especially with blokes, because we tell them that they should just want to rush straight to sticking their dick in things, and that that should make everyone happy. But for a lot of guys, that’s not what makes them happy.
Gordon: Yeah. Especially….well, post-thirties dating is an interesting space. But in a couple of prior relationships, the woman has moved faster than I did, frankly. Which I’m-
Georgie: Guilty as charged. Sorry, not not with you, just generally. I’ve horrified some blokes.
Gordon: I was 110% on top of that at the time, but at the same time, it’s a strange place. The idea that I, as a man, should turn down sexual advances, when they’re first offered is-
Georgie: Because society often tells guys that they should never turn down any sexual advance.
Gordon: Right. And that’s where that toxic masculinity comes in. What I’ve had to come to terms with, over a very long period of time – through seeing a counselor. I make no bones about it, best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. Definitely worth your time. Um, even without trauma. Like I was saying, the counseling for trauma after my relationship ended went for about 10 months. I stopped doing it and six months later was right back in there, because I realized there’s a whole bunch of stuff under there that just – yeah, I’m still finding stuff. It’s amazing.
Georgie: Good on you for doing the work.
Gordon: Yeah. Well, I mean, once I get my head around a thing once, I’m usually pretty good to keep going. But it’s one of those things that you worry about other people judging you for. But in reality, no one gives a flying fuck. In fact, 90% of people are going to give you total props for doing that. But yeah, the demisexual side-
Georgie: Yeah, it’s really cool to note to the way you’re going about it, setting up a whole load of dates, and then just meeting people. That’s gonna work for you. Unless you go on five dates with someone and they decide they might be falling for you. Which brings us back to your story…
Gordon: Right. And that became a problem, because I could see the direction that was going and I wasn’t comfortable.
Georgie: So what did you end up doing? You didn’t ask them out again on another day?
Gordon: I did send a text. And I tried to do the whole connection thing, but I gave more effort into it considering the circumstances-
Georgie: Did you consider a phone call? Like, halfway between?
Gordon: Yes, and in some ways that’s the worst of both worlds. Like, it’s impersonal and I still have to listen to the emotional reaction.
Georgie: Oh, dude.
Gordon: And also awkward. No one’s good on the phone.
Georgie: And trying to trying to come up with something to say on the fly and maybe fucking it up. And I kind of feel like, particularly, when I’ve been rejected by guys, they’re really worried about saying the wrong thing and then having me call them an asshole. Because of course, no one likes being rejected. Of course, we’re gonna turn around and go, ‘Yeah, well, you rejected me wrong, and now I feel bad.’ And so there’s an almost paranoid avoidance of any sort of conversation, because they’re afraid that it’s going to be used against them. It might well, because we don’t like rejection. And yeah, we’re going to blame the person that rejected us, right?
Gordon: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, to a degree reasonably so, because, I mean, in this case I WAS getting personal.
Georgie: But how are you letting them down? Everyone’s allowed to say ‘no.’ And if you’ve noticed it’s not right for you, it’s amost your duty to do that, from an ethical perspective. I feel like it’s your duty to let the other person know what’s going on for you.
Gordon: Again, this is where ethics really becomes valuable. Ethics is not important when there’s an obvious good answer and an obvious bad answer, right? Because when we just know it’s easy, just do the thing.
Georgie: Right? But when it’s easy to do the thing that we know is the productive, useful thing, we just do it we don’t need to think about it too hard.
Gordon: The time when it really matters – the time when you really really need to have those methods up your sleeve and ability to really deeply interrogate how you make decisions and why it’s a good decision – is when there’s going to be pain either way.
Georgie: Right? So when you’re choosing the least-bad decision.
Gordon: Yeah. And in a situation like that it’s a simple fact, right? We’ve dated for long enough that someone’s going to get hurt. It’s been an emotional investment. If both of us realized at the same time we’re not into each other, that’s fine.
Georgie: Well, you could both still feel bad about that. You could still be disappointed.
Gordon: That’s a matter of basic communication, isn’t it? As long as you can communicate how you’re feeling, and the other person is clear on where they stand, there’s a degree of disappointment.
Georgie: I feel like you’re quietly trying to assign blame here though, because you’re the one that wasn’t interested. It’s somehow your fault that they’re attached to you. And I don’t think that’s the case. I think we’re responsible for our own feelings. If you fall for someone, you acknowledge that maybe that they might not reciprocate. And if they don’t, they’re allowed to do that. And it is not, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.
Gordon: That’s definitely some of my baggage coming into play there, in the sense of like, yeah, I do take responsibility. Okay, my overwhelming thing that I learned out of the 10-year relationship was that I have a horrible tendency to own other people’s shit.
Georgie: I’m gonna call you on that like a motherfucker.
Gordon: Please do. It sounds like a positive quality when you put it on paper, right? It’s like, ‘Oh, he cares so much about other people that he’s willing to take their problems on board as well.’
Georgie: Whereas I’m like, ‘No, get off my turf.’ If I decide to get annoyed at you about something, those feelings are mine. And it’s not up to you to fix them or change them or take the blame. I will admit that often I feel like I have a greater responsibility to a duty of care because I’m so experienced at hooking up and so experienced – not at dating, but just so much more confident than your average person. Sometimes just, you know, not including what I said about sitting in a dark room crying before, but I feel like I need to try harder to not upset other people. But then I remember that actually, I’ve got a right to say ‘no,’ and that other people’s feelings about themselves and their rejection -i f they aren’t given the opportunity to work through that…you know, it’s good for them.
Gordon: So like on the point you made earlier, had like, it’s not my responsibility that the other person has gotten attached to something. Not a bad thing from their end.
Georgie: But it might be your responsibility to disengage compassionately as possible.
Gordon: It doesn’t change the fact that what I’m about to do is going to cause harm.
Georgie: Okay, you can see that and you don’t want to make it any worse than it necessarily has to be. This is where the ethics is complicated, right? Because you have a bit of responsibility. And they have a bit of responsibility.
Gordon: Yep. So my job at that point, using my various ethical frames I’ve got, was to minimize the harm, right? That means a person walking away from that, not feeling bad about themselves, not blaming themselves, preferably not hating me.
Georgie: I mean, you can’t necessarily stop them from blaming themselves, but you could minimize-
Gordon: I can minimize the cause to do so.
Georgie: You can do your best, you can’t really control how other people are gonna react.
Gordon: Again, that’s exactly the point isn’t it? It’s about deploying some empathy, positioning the message in such a way that it’s as accurate to what I actually feel as possible, while also not being a dickhead about it.
Georgie: So, ‘I’m not feeling a connection’ or ‘I’m not feeling that connection I think we would need for a relationship,’ is a really good line. And it’s really applicable for dating, it’s applicable for, casual dating too. Just like, ‘Hey, like, you seem really awesome. And you’re really interesting. I’m just not feeling a sexual connection,’ which is the same as saying, ‘I’m not attracted to you.’ But it’s not blaming the other person, shaming them for not fitting your idea of what’s attractive.
Gordon: So it’s just a compatibility thing. It’s as simple as that.
Georgie: And so how did it go down? You sent this text message which you crafted fairly carefully…
Gordon: Well, as it turned out, I wasn’t quite as clear as I thought I’d been. And she tended to be quite a bit more invested than I expected. Yeah, so that meant quite a bit more discussing and talking it through and like explaining myself in a bit more detail, or at least making it much clearer where my stance was. But you know, the grand irony of all of this is that, so a lot of this went down and about a weekend ago, about a week ago. And one of the catalysts for making these calls – because I did that to several women at the same timeframe. Most of them I’d only seen once or twice.
Georgie: So you actually called things off with a whole load of the people that you met all in that week.
Gordon: Several. Yeah. The reason for that was that I’d gone on a date that weekend was really good. I had met someone who really, really had a lot of the qualities I was looking for. So I called it off with several of those people and went, ‘Okay, I’m going to focus on this one. Not putting too much expectation on the table here. I’m just gonna focus on this for a while.’ Yeah, well, it’s a good thing I didn’t invest myself too much, because literally the next day…
Georgie: Oh no! So, do you take it as well as you give it, Gordon?
Gordon: Okay, yeah, I do. Because the way it happened, I got a text message saying, ‘Hey, it was really lovely to catch up with you on Sunday. But I’ve just realized that that I’m not ready to do the dating thing yet.’
Georgie: So you actually literally copped the same thing back as you dished out, except slightly different wording. And I’m not laughing. It’s not funny, like, it’s hard to say it and it’s hard to receive it. All these things.
Gordon: So I like to sit here thinking that I – you know, of course you go through this gamut of emotions. A part of me was sitting there going like, ‘Maybe it’s literal. Maybe maybe she’s saying literally what she thinks and maybe she’ll come around.’
Georgie: Yeah, I’ve been there.
Gordon: Maybe…maybe maybe if I beg a little bit…
Georgie: Oh no, I’ve done that too! It’s really bad. Oh my God, now I’m re-living my excruciatingly embarrassing dating moments.
Gordon: I’ve learned not to beat myself up for having those reactions, because you understand where they come from. Right?
Georgie: And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to meet someone that you think might tick that box or wanting a good anything – wanting a good one-night stand, a good lover, or a fuck buddy and you meet someone you think is gonna fill that role and you really want it to happen. And that’s not a failing, that’s just human nature. We want what’s gonna make us happy, and if it doesn’t work out, of course we’re gonna feel disappointed.
Gordon: You remember right at the start of all this, I said that me and a whole bunch of other ethicists actively recognized that we are, if not bad people, that we have the potential to be bad people? I extend that to other people, in the sense of saying that it’s okay to fucked up things. I mean, it wasn’t that fucked up really, what I was thinking, but yeah, like the whole thing of, ‘Hmm, maybe I could, like beg her into giving me a second chance. Or maybe I could bully her into it. Maybe I could just like increase the pressure and like overwhelm the natural resistance there.’ It’s fucked up.
Georgie: But people do this! Sometimes people actively try and manipulate other people into sleeping with them or dating them. This is the whole ‘I’m rich,’ thing, right? That’s literally trying to manipulate someone into liking them. We do some fucked-up shit to get people to like us.
Gordon: And the ‘grand gestures.’ Yeah, the grand gesture falls into that as well. You know, showing up at their house after they’re rejecting me that one time with the fucking red roses. John Cusack with a stereo…
Georgie: Let’s not beat about the bush – after someone has rejected you, you do NOT turn up to their house-
Gordon: It’s fucking stalking! It’s very bad! Look, it’s okay to to feel the impulse to do that and to even think thoughts. Where the problem arises is to indulge those thoughts, right? You can understand why you have that reaction, right? It’s human nature, you have a thing you want and you’ve been denied it. And now you’re looking at options to get it.
Georgie: The child inside us is like, ‘Fuck that. This is fucked.’ But of course, where this stuff comes in is where we go ‘Oh, but is that really a good idea?’ And what I’m curious about, right, is what’s the motivation? Apart from just, ‘Oh, actually, I’m not going to do that, because that would mean I’m a bad person.’ And sure, that’s one thing to go on. I’m not gonna turn up to their house and be a stalker, because that would be weird and creepy and wrong. And sure, that’s, that’s a great reason to not do something. But I’m also curious as to whether there are other reasons that we might not do go do the bad thing straightaway.
Gordon: Very, very practical reasons to do it. One, it’s not gonna work.
Georgie: Number one practical reason.
Gordon: If it did work, you wouldn’t be getting the person you were after, would you?
Georgie: Right. And this is the thing about consent, people going, ‘Oh, I just I prefer not to ask and take the risk that I’m accidentally violating someone’s consent.’ It’s like, but you do want to be sleeping with someone that doesn’t want to be having sex with you? God, that’s awful. The sex would be awful. And in the back of your head, you’d know that they didn’t really want you and you’d feel humiliated and gross. This is why not only does it not work, even if you get what you want. Sometimes if you do it the wrong way, you feel you feel bad, yeah, and the outcome is bad.
Gordon: You feel like a terrible person. Like I mean, you you’re basically making a rod for your own back at that point, right? Just fucking yourself up. And you’re not gonna like who you become in that process. Because I mean, it’s so easy to fall down a rabbit hole of resentment, right? And like this is one of my most shameful moments. But yeah, during my undergraduate years, when I was still bubbling away in the ‘nice guy’ sort of space. I’d started to learn how to like myself and relax a little bit more, but hadn’t quite made that metamorphosis to a point where I was a functional human yet.
Georgie: I’m still not sure I’m a functional human.
Gordon: There was a girl in uni who I quite liked the look of. I had a few conversations that seemed to go well, asked if I could give a her a call some time, and she gave me her number. Now, where the nice guy bit starts to kick back in is that I took that as carte blanche, basically of like, ‘She gave me a number. She’s my girlfriend now.’
Georgie: Off we go.
Gordon: Right. Cue forty phone calls in one day.
Georgie: Oh, no.
Gordon: All this horrible, horrible shit. And it didn’t go straight into that – it started out small. I’d leave a message or something like that and didn’t hear back for a week. So I’d leave two messages.
Georgie: Oh, no. This is another one of those social ‘poor judgment’ things. I mean, obviously it’s…the main problem is that you’re showing that maybe you don’t yet understand how a reasonable should act. But this is what growing up is all about.
Gordon: Metamorphosis. Right. You can’t change your mistakes, you gotta learn from them-
Georgie: And this is how we learn, by excruciatingly-
Gordon: Please don’t. Learn from other people’s mistakes as well. Don’t do this. Because what broke it for me… what stopped it for me was that I realised – once things started to get a little bit bonkers – that the reason I was doing this at this point had nothing to do with this other person. I did not want to be with that person now. I was so resentful over being ignored. Or having my feelings hurt.
Georgie: You wanted to have that feeling taken away by getting a response.
Gordon: I felt like I just wanted to punish her, frankly. Oh my god, I had gotten to a point where I was like, ‘You gave me your number. What the fuck did you think I wanted to do?’ Right? Like, the very least you could… you could have just said ‘no’ in the moment or you could have, at the very leas,t just responded the first time I called and said. ‘Sorry, I’m not interested.’ Fucking get in on the table, right? And then that spirals because the more I increase my intensity, the more she’s gonna get scared, of course, and subsequently, you know, try and distance yourself further and further from me. And that led to more resentment. And I eventually realized that hey, I don’t even actually like this person. And in fact, felt quite resentful towards this person at this point.
Georgie: Yeah, it’d all get pretty awful.
Gordon: What’s the goddamn point?
Georgie: Why, why? Why are you still doing this?
Gordon: And I didn’t like what I was turning into. I was turning into a very unpleasant person to say the least. And yeah, so…if I could have skipped that particular step, but yeah.
Georgie: Well, I mean, thanks for your honesty. It’s really good to acknowledge those times when we just got stuck. And sometimes we don’t realise that we’re going somewhere a bit scary until we’re there. And I have had this experience. And unfortunately for me, when I did it, it took a few years for me to look back and go, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ Because I just didn’t have the information. And then you realise and then you look back and realise how scared and hurt – or even possibly terrified or traumatised – that person might have been. And then we feel bad, right? But of course, that that nasty payoff is so far in the future that at the time, it’s hard to understand that during that is going to hurt us down the track. But when we violate the consent of other people – that when we push or manipulate other people – we think that we’re getting a short term gain, but what actually happens is that it’s bad. It’s, it’s really bad for us. But when that happens, I guess sometimes, it’s a long time.
Gordon: This is the problem, right? It’s a bad analogy, a broken analogy at any rate. You know, the frog in the boiling pot of water. Increasingly I see this in my corporate work as well, inside that system, that person has been inculcated or grown into that culture over a period of time, how they should behave. Everyone inside the group thinks that it’s just normal.
Georgie: And I feel like we’ve sort of contradicted ourselves too, because a while back, we were saying that not being ethical hurts you in the short term. Because even if you get what you want, it’s still terrible, but then also saying that sometimes we don’t realise that it’s bad for us until the long term. Now I’m confused about how I feel about that. I feel like maybe sometimes it’s bad in the short term, and we feel it immediately, right? And sometimes we think we’ve won until years later, we go, ‘Oh, my God, I have to live with this for the rest of my life.’ Maybe there’s not a blanket rule for that.
Gordon: Yeah, well look, it’s sort of like scales of goals, if you know what I mean. And that sense of like, so broadly speaking, you want to have a high quality of life, right? In the long term. Now, regardless of what that involves, but generally speaking, you should be constructive. We’ve got psychology to tell us what some of those positive aspects should be.
Georgie: Whether we’re getting all those basic things that keep us happy.
Gordon: Like by contrast, you do NOT want to be in the situation where you you’re sixty-five, you’re sitting around, you’re retired, career’s behind you. Everything’s behind you and you realise, ‘I fucked up.’ The things I thought I was doing that were good, the things I was trying to achieve…either I didn’t achieve them, or worse, it turns out those things were not in fact, good things.
Georgie: I mean, I don’t mind fucking up, and there are tons of times I have fucked up. But I don’t want those times where I’ve fucked up and I’ve hurt someone. And when I think back about those times I fucked up and I’ve hurt someone, those are the things I regret. I don’t regret fucking up around anything else, because it’s a learning experience, right?
Gordon: This is the sort of perspective I’m talking about is like, it’s too late.
Georgie: Well, yeah, that doesn’t help us right now, right?
Gordon: Five years worth of effort poured into something that turned out to be bad. You know what I mean? Like it’s too fucking late.
Georgie: And this is why I often talk about, like ethical hookup stuff as being beneficial in the short term and why I emphasize the short term stuff not the ‘you’ll be a better person in the future’ stuff, even though it might be true. Or, ‘you’ll feel bad in the future if you do something bad’, even though it might be true, because I think we need we need that short-term payoff in order to change our behavior. So I think finding those ways that ethical behavior can actually make our lives better immediately is really helpful. Otherwise people just can’t see the point of doing anything differently. And that sucks. And that’s human nature. But hey, this is what we’re working with. You’re not a fan of oversimplifying things..if I were to say, what do you you wish that people who are out there on Tinder, Hinge people who are dating, people who are getting laid? How do you wish that we thought more about ethics around this stuff? Like, how do you know what do you wish we did differently?
Gordon: Two main things really come to mind with anyone in any situation frankly, hookups or otherwise. Spend the time – and don’t let me give you the impression that I think this is easy or painless – but spend the time figuring out what you want as a person, right now. The best and, frankly, I think the only way of doing this is spending time on your own.
Georgie: Big fan.
Gordon: In your own head. Now, you’ll find some pretty disturbing shit in there. And that’s okay. That’s all right. That’s my disturbing shit. Yeah, like what I’m basically describing here is an existential crisis. What I’m suggesting to you is that you should willfully engage in an existential crisis from time to time, like, really genuinely ask the ‘why’s…
Georgie: I think you might be scaring the bejesus out of most of our listeners.
Gordon: I am really sorry, but there is no alternative. Those questions are there, you know, they’re there. You know, when you talk about them, you know when you think about them. There’s ways of doing it that are much less traumatic than otherwise …and, like, deliberately putting some time apart to think about stuff.
Georgie: So, this is a time where we sit down and we go, ‘Am I happy? Am I getting what I want? Am I happy about how I treat other people? What’s been going well for me in my sex life and my dating life, what’s been going badly and how have I contributed to that? And this is good learning shit. Again, we’re not coming from an ethical point of view, as in, ‘This will make you a good person.’ But in terms of, ‘This shit works.’ Sitting down, going, ‘What can I be doing better? How can I be treating other people better?’ This is really good learning stuff.
Gordon: Unfortunately, the horrible reality is, that question will always be there. And if you don’t engage with it now, you’re gonna have to face it a lot further down the track. And by that point, to a degree, you’re going to be a little bit late.
Georgie: And you miss out, too. You know, there’s a lot of good learnings there. When we want to better ourselves when we think about what we might be doing differently, or better. Things we should immediately be applying.
Gordon: So there’s that, And the other thing is, then ask yourself about how you figure that out. So we’re talking about objectives, like goals, and then we’re talking about decision-making methods. It sounds so simple on paper, right? What do you want, and how do you go about getting it? But in practice, obviously, is all ten times of just horrible complications,
Georgie: Well, because people, right? People are complicated. So when other people come into the mix, suddenly…
Gordon: So keep it simple, keep it tight. Keep a nice, tight scope around it. Do it because that helps a lot. Ask yourself questions like, What’s something that I value? Keep it simple. Like, do I think that honesty’s perhaps one of my defining characteristics? How would other people describe you, Right? What’s something that you’re you’re proud of in yourself?
Georgie: So you’re telling people to sit down and work out what ethics means to them, basically. Rather than going, ‘This is what you should do,’ or, ‘You should do better. I should be good person.’ It’s like, well, what? What do you think? What do you think this stuff means to you? And what’s important to you? Is it being honest or is it being kind…
Gordon: This is the flip side of all this, right? Like, you’re already probably pretty good at this, yeah? I mean, if you haven’t set a school bus on fire recently, then you’re off to a good start. Yeah. I mean, we do this constantly. We’re making decisions all day, every day-
Georgie: We’re always trying to make the best decision for ourselves.
Gordon: So there’s ethics involved in that. And then what I’m suggesting to you is, not so much that you need to completely reform that. You need to just be able to articulate it a little bit more. Because that way you’ll be able to see if what you’re doing is actually in line with what you think about.
Georgie: So think about it, and then have a little conversation with yourself, basically. Okay, so, you know what, why do I do it this way? And is this the best way? Do I feel good about this?
Gordon: Think of it like exercise. You know, no one…well, maybe some people really do enjoy it, but going out and doing a run or something like that. It’s largely about improving as a person, right? Like, that’s essentially what we’re talking about here as well. It’s not like there’s some sort of mythical goal you’re gonna reach. Actually, as a flipside to all this as well, certainty is the enemy. Like, if there’s one thing I can point out and say, ‘That’s bad,’ certainty-
Georgie: So, being sure that you’re doing the right thing-
Gordon: Confidence is one thing. But confidence is a matter of practice, right? Like in seeing a pattern. But certainty is poison.
Georgie: And the only thing worse than being 100% sure that you’re doing the right thing is being 100% sure that you’re doing the right thing and then telling other people. That’s a really bad sign. If that happens I’m like, ‘Yeah, okay, but…really?’ lucky you. Like, maybe just go sit alone in a dark room by yourself for a while and have, you know, be honest with yourself. Because at the end of the day, no one else’s opinion fucking matters about this stuff. It’s only how you feel about yourself.
Gordon: Disturbingly, a lot of the time, what you tend to find is that the people that are the most willing to get out there and tell other people how to live and moralize, use ethics as a weapon basically, have done the least amount of navel-gazing and checking in on themselves and are the most scared about what they’ll find.
Georgie: But this is why, like, feminists always bitching about male feminists…and I think anyone who’s a feminist is awesome. But there’s that thing about people who go around saying how great they are and how ethical they are. Like, ‘I treat women really, really well.’ It’s really easy to say one thing and do another. And we’re so mistrustful of that, because so many of us have copped the ‘I’m a nice guy’ thing, and then it’s just not true.
Gordon: Well, I mean, it’s an abuse too. That’s what virtue signaling is, right? It’s basically like, ‘Look how virtuous I am,’ without necessarily backing it up in practice.
Georgie: And it means nothing. You can say anything. It’s only your actions that actually let people know what you’re actually like.
Georgie: This has been a really good chat. I segued back and forth between…no, we didn’t follow the script at all, but it was good. It was a good chat.
Gordon: It was badass.
Georgie: Thanks for sharing, particularly about some of your latest adventures, just really appreciate that. Can you tell our listeners where they can find you? If they’re interested in hearing more about what you do?
Gordon: Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. You can also find me at ethilogical.com, which is T – god how do I spell my website at? HILOGICAL. Yeah, look and LinkedIn – always happy to take questions or shoot me an email. More than happy to share about this sort of stuff. I love the concept of this podcast, your book and the other things you’ve been doing Georgie, it’s extremely important and a really valuable conversation to be having.
Georgie: Thank you. I will take that compliment.
Gordon: Well, you don’t get a choice.
Georgie: And thank you!
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