Fact about me: I don’t do casual sex. At all. Ever. This is not an accident or a “this is how things turned out,” but a conscious and deliberate choice.
I am, by some people’s definition, a ‘prude.’ I’ve been told to lighten up, accused of being repressed, I’ve even been called sex-negative. I think this is entirely inaccurate, because actually I think sex can be a great thing, and I fully support the right for everyone to have sex – or not – in whatever ways and with whoever they choose, so long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. (There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what sex-positivity actually means, so this is my personal working definition.)
I am just very anti-casual-sex – for me personally. I tried it, more than once, and I didn’t like it. It took me quite a bit of self-analysis and soul-searching to figure out exactly why this was something I just couldn’t enjoy, and the conclusion I came up with was roughly as follows:
I’m very body-conscious and quite shy, and it takes time for me to get to know somebody well enough to be completely comfortable around them. And to enjoy sex, to be fully present and engaged with my partner and what we do together, I have to feel that level of comfort, and I have to have a pretty strong emotional connection with them. I’m also, as a young and apparently attractive woman, highly conscious of being seen as only my looks. Therefore, sex with somebody I’m not emotionally connected to makes me feel objectified, used, self-conscious and uncomfortable. Not exactly the recipe for physically or emotionally fulfilling sex!
As such, I made a decision a little over a year ago: no more. And this decision, knowing myself to this degree and putting in place what I knew was best for me, felt like a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders. It’s not as though I have a list of “I will do X, Y and Z after 1 date, but only A, B and C after six or more dates….” No. It doesn’t work like that. The best short explanation of my policy (if you can call it that) which I use for myself is as follows:
A level of physical intimacy which is coherent with the level of emotional intimacy that person and I share.
This is certain to be different from one person to the next, and what this means will likely look different in every relationship. But that’s okay. The beauty of polyamory, as I so often say, is that not every connection must look the same.
(Physical intimacy needn’t mean sex, either. I have plenty of friends who I will never have sex with. Those who I am not very close to I will hug occasionally, but people I’m very close to are likely to be people I share more hugs, cuddles and general closeness with. But that’s probably a different topic entirely.)
Making this decision was a hugely empowering thing for me. In deciding to stop having casual sex, realising that it didn’t work for me, I found the empowerment and feeling of freedom and autonomy that I’d been seeking by trying to have casual sex in the first place! I didn’t realise what a burden it had been, carrying around everyone else’s expectations of what my sexuality should be and what I should do with it…. until I stopped.
Here’s a secret: I sometimes catch myself envying people who can have casual sex. I tell myself if I stopped being so prudish, I could find far more partners and generally have more fun. But then I remind myself that I could go and do it, if I wanted, but that I wouldn’t have fun, and it would – emotionally speaking – damage me far more than do me any good.
For others, casual sex might work really well. But we’re all different, and just knowing something of what works for me and what doesn’t is such a huge relief. It took a few mistakes to find out, as most things worth knowing about oneself seem to, but you know what? It was worth it, because this little titbit of self-knowledge has done me more good than I can easily express.