of which are boring, but one of them is that I’m not that interested in casual sex.
This surprises me. I like casual sex. And I have had very good experiences with it. Not only has it not been damaging in the way that so many nay-sayers warned that it would be, but it has played a positive role in my personal development.
After a sex-negative upbringing and ending a semi-monogamous relationship that stretched across most of my college years, I was left frustrated at missed opportunities and unsure about how I wanted to deal with my sexuality. Much of my thinking, education and choices around sex had been based on fear of disease, pregnancy and violence. I was coming to the realization that I did not want any area of my life to be run by fear, that I wanted to be able to develop a more comfortable and engaged relationship with the world, rather than maintaining a constant posture of self-defense. My sexuality seemed to be a good place to start.
So I came up with the idea of putting a profile on Yahoo! personals (this was almost 10 years ago now), since it was free. I posted that I was in my early twenties and was interested in NSA sex. At the time, I didn’t know anyone -male or female – who would admit to wanting NSA sex (in fact, I learned about the term from an issue of BUST magazine – people on the coasts do all kinds of things 😛 ). Long story short, I was shocked at how many people were interested in casual sex with a twenty-year old. I thought I wanted to meet these people and figure out who else would have sex with a stranger and why.
What I did get was the chance to meet lots of people from all walks of life learn a little about their experiences and hear their stories. I also learned to communicate clearly about my sexual wishes and to experiment. Contrary to some thinking, the ‘low-risk’ nature of those encounters actually made it easier for me to be really open about what I wanted and to not worry about what my partner thought of me. I could try on different roles and personalities without being stuck in any single persona. Also, since I wasn’t under any illusions about my sex partners being ‘soul mates’ as I had been in my relationships, I knew from the get-go that I would have to be very explicit in articulating what I wanted – a move that gets you 80% of the way to great sex.
Those months were good ones for me, not only because I learned to accept sex and pleasure as natural and important parts of almost everyone’s lives, but more importantly because I learned to have more confidence in myself and to trust my intuitions. The 30-year old Anna cringes when she thinks about the risks that the younger version of herself took, but looking back I am impressed with the smart precautions that I knew to take as well — especially after finding out how similar they were to the tips included in this guide to casual sex:
- meeting the person for a ‘date’ on which there were no expectations of sex. I really think that there are some people who are motivated to have casual sex out of shame. Shame is self-oppression and self-oppression leads to oppression of other people – not a good scene in a hook-up situation. Insisting that people have coffee with you, look you in the eye and talk to you like a person helps to weed out people motivated by shame.
- ALWAYS using STI protection as well as birth control (obvious).
- letting my best friend know where I was and setting a time at which I would call her. If I was more than 10 minutes late, she was supposed to call the police. I also had a code word in case I was being coerced (maybe this is paranoid, but . . .). The people that I was having sex with were aware of this (not the code word part).
- paying close attention to who respected and accepted my boundaries. Balking at them was a definite deal breaker. I really appreciated the people who bent over backwards to establish trustworthiness. One gentleman voluntarily showed me his driver’s license. One couple that I hung out with a few times suggested that I ask for a photocopy of i.d. This seemed like too much, but this did give me the idea of asking to see i.d. to make sure I had been given a real name. Later I also asked to write down the license number. Yeah, this scared some perfectly safe people who needed to be extra-discrete, but it was also a great asshole-filter and I’m sure that it helped me to have a great experience.
My story is a pretty common one. In this AlterNet article, Monica Shores discusses the advantages of casual sex – the chance to learn more about yourself sexually and emotionally, the empowerment that comes from asserting your desires, etc. So if there are so many gifts to be had from exploring casual sex, then why is it so often maligned as damaging, unhealthy and a sign of low self-esteem? In part #2, I’ll cover some common ‘concerns’ raised about women and casual sex, and how a closer look at the evidence complicates the picture.