In the six years of having my autoimmune disease, I've learned what I need from a person in order to view them as a potential long-term partner.
I had this boyfriend before I met Ed. He was not, as it turns out, a really great guy, because I have awful taste in picking people out for myself. We broke up once, and got back together, then broke up again because, "No, really, this is not OK."
At the end of that relationship, my self-esteem was in the toilet. He'd made comments about my body, yeah, but also about my work ethic, my creativity and creative process, and my future prospects as a creative person. I was reeling from the years I'd spent accommodating his jealousy.
It was balls, y'all.
When that relationship ended, much like HuffPo's Jennifer Cullen, I was sad but also hugely relieved. Things were simple again and I didn't have to evaluate my every action, my every interaction, for whether or not it would make my possessive boyfriend angry.
And so, even with my wounded self-image, I decided that what I needed was a little bit of a good time. I consciously and deliberately flirted and casually dated.
By "casually dated," I mostly mean "made out with strangers and had sex with some of them." Hey, I'm being honest with you because that is the xoJane way, right?
Now, obviously casual sex does not work for everyone. If casual hookups make you feel cheap and used in a bad, no-fun sort of way, that is totally valid. If they are against your moral code, I support your right and choice not to have them. I am never going to advise you to do something that you know will make you feel worse.
But I've also got to say, if you're flailing around, feeling like you've lost control of your life due to a bad breakup, sometimes there is nothing like initiating a casual encounter on your own terms.
Does that put me in the fuck zone? I don't know and I never have really cared -- casual sex isn't meant to be relationshippy anyway. I think most fuck zone angst comes from incompatible expectations anyway. You like my businessy framing of this? I like slipping that in. Next thing you know, I'll be talking about maximizing synchronization.
No one is here for my management vocabulary -- don't worry, I know that. Instead of continuing to dazzle you with fancy terminology, I will give you my easy (yes, that's a pun) guide to casual sex!
Actually, wait, here's a caveat: Even if you aren't into the full monty of whatever you consider sex, there is a lot to be said for the noncommittal makeout (a term that was introduced to me in a church setting). That's right, the NCMO. You know it's official when there's an acronym for it. But especially if you've been in a long-term relationship with lots of physicality, the shock of not having a cuddle partner if nothing else can be really jarring. It can make you feel isolated. A little NCMO without the pressure of a relationship can heal.
1. Set Your Intentions.
If what you want is casual sex, remember that you are looking for casual sex. Think about what that means: physical pleasure without emotional baggage. That's your goal, not the romantic relationship that women are all fabled to want according to stereotypes. I mean, you can still want that -- but for our purposes here, on the Venn Diagram of you getting laid, casual sex and relationship sex are in two circles that don't touch each other.
2. Pick Your Standards
What are you looking for in a casual bed partner? I'm not saying you need to lower your standards, but there are plenty of people I'd consider a casual hookup with even though I'd rather not date them. This isn't a suggestion that you screw anyone who offers -- it's just a reminder that you aren't playing chess with these folks. It's OK to follow your crotch on this one.
3. Respect Your Boundaries
If you head out to the club and you pick out someone you want to bone for the night and then you decide that, actually, you don't think you are going to respect yourself in the morning -- listen to yourself on that one. You can say no. That's not something you give up when you go looking for casual sex. In fact, remember that you are in control of your sexuality on this one.
4. Enjoy Yourself
When you're starting a physical relationship with someone you are dating, sometimes it's easy to worry what they will think about your kinks or your boobs or whatever it is you're insecure about. Casual sex is a hedonistic indulgence. And since you may or may not ever see this person again, who cares if they think you're weird for wanting them to pull your hair? Tell them to pull your hair!
5. Don't Obsess
This is, for some people, the hardest part of the process. Don't think that just because you had a good time, you might be able to turn this into a relationship. Remember your intentions! You're only going to break your own heart if you fixate on this person. Does it happen that one-night stands sometimes turn into relationships? Sure. But don't bank on it.
There are other practical tips -- don't have casual sex with your friends unless you are sure they are also casual; have safer sex, using condoms and dental dams and so on; try to bone on neutral territory (I worry about taking strangers home). That all seems common sensical to me. Where I think our conversation needs to happen is where woman are not generally encouraged to think about sex as a physical action independent of emotional connection.
When I read about this, the article almost inevitably brings up how this is approaching sex like a man. Whatever, gendered assumptions! This is approaching sex like an activity that feels good, that doesn't have to be tied to some idealistic notion of love. I'm not knocking love; there's a reason I signed up on the monogamy train with Ed. (Taxes. No, that's a bad joke.) But there really can be more to sex than love. (The reverse is also true.)
I'm not cynical. I'm not saying romance is dead or anything like that. I'm just saying that sometimes no-strings-attached sex is a good reminder of how good you can feel, especially after a breakup.