- Anti-Porn and Anti-Prostitution Writer, Speaker and Activist
- AntiPornography.org Volunteer
In this article I'm going to focus on the topic of "hooking up." By this I mean one night stands, "friends with benefits" arrangements, and casual sex in all of its various forms. This sort of sex seems to be considered pretty harmless these days to a lot of people -- particularly young people. These people often think, "Well, it's not recorded," (most of the time, anyway), "no money is involved, and it's consenting adults. So there's no problem with it, right?" Wrong.
I write about this subject from the perspective of someone who has really lived this sort of lifestyle to the fullest. In fact, I even used to call myself a "proud slut." I had many sexual encounters over the past decade, both with men and women, all with "no strings attached." Sometimes I didn't even know their names. I thought I was a new, "empowered" form of woman, a woman that used men just like they used me. I couldn't have been more mistaken.
But yet I managed to lie to myself (and everyone around me) for years, about how my promiscuity wasn't affecting me. I thought I was "just like a guy." "I can hook up and it's no big deal! It's all in good fun! Why not? I'm empowered!"
I laughed at people that thought of sex as sacred. I looked down on them and thought of them as prudes that were stuck in the 1950's. Now I know better. I'm done lying to myself, and I've had to face some harsh and sobering realities about how my former "career" in the porn industry and my promiscuous behavior damaged me. I'm also trying to make up for the damage done by sharing what I've learned so painfully, which I hope you will be open to listening to...
"Hooking up" is all the rage these days, and some people say, "Isn't it a good thing to promote the idea that women can have their "fun," just like men?" In short, NO. But unfortunately, most people don't understand this, (just like I didn't), and many people think of sex as no big deal, something that doesn't need to be done in the confines of a relationship. This is a sad and misguided view. I can see where those people are coming from, after all, it really doesn't seem like a big deal, does it?
But thinking of sex in this way is so harmful. Having sex with strangers, and in "friends with benefits" situations, never leads anywhere good. (Or at least only very rarely.) It usually only leads to heartbreak, low self-esteem, sexually transmitted diseases, sadness and depression. When you sleep around just for "fun," you cheapen sex and you disrespect yourself. It may now be considered "cool" to not care, but the problem is (particularly for women), that even when you don't want to care, that you often end up doing so anyway.
I'll share an example from my own long history of engaging in casual sex, and some other examples from my friends. My own example: last year I started "hooking up" with a young man just for the hell of it. My fiancé had recently passed away, and I figured that maybe a distraction would be good for me. Instead of dealing with my finance's death and coming to terms with it, I ran from it. So I seduced this new young man and had sex with him on multiple occasions. The sex wasn't even good, to be honest, but it gave me a false sense of "power" to "use him."
Well, this young man ended up falling for me, and clearly wanted something more, and of course that complicated things. So I had to tell this sweet guy that I wasn't the woman for him, and see his sad face when I broke it off with him. For the first time I thought, "Maybe this isn't the right way to treat people." I still feel badly about how I treated him and hurt him, and how I did the same with so many others before him.
It's a shame that our culture today endorses and sometimes even glorifies this type of behavior. If I had been responsible and not had sex with this young man, we would still be friends today. I should have valued a real friendship over the "friends with benefits" sham of a relationship.
These "friends with benefits" arrangements tend to go that way. It's next to impossible to avoid developing feelings for someone when having sexual relations with them -- particularly if it's on a regular basis. You can deny it all you want, but the fact is that it's natural for sex to produce feelings. Sex is something that connects people even when they don't want to "catch feelings."
It often happens to men, but women especially tend to get romantic feelings of attachment and caring for people they have sex with, which is why the "friends with benefits" arrangement is often a bad deal for them. The bottom line is that no matter whether you're a man or a woman, treating people like sex objects doesn't just affect the other person -- it affects you too.
In particular, though, I've known many women over the years who have engaged in casual sex, for whom casual sex always ended in disappointment. One woman I knew slept around quite a bit. On the surface she seemed to just be a very sexual person that didn't want a relationship. The reality was that she did in fact want a relationship, but felt that "since men only wanted sex anyway, why not just give it to them?"
If this woman had gotten to know these men she had sex with first, and maybe went on a few dates with them and then decided whether she wanted to become sexually intimate with them or not -- based on whether or not they were compatible and sincerely liked each other as human beings -- she most likely would have found a decent guy who cared about her. But because she slept around so much, she became known as someone to go to for easy sex and nothing more. Maybe it's not fair, but any guy worth being with just wasn't interested in her.
This is one of the big problems I have with the relatively recent "sex positive" movement that preaches that women can sleep around just like a man. They can't. Men and women are wired differently, and most men are simply not going to look at a girl that frequently "hooks up" as relationship material. Sure, guys might pretend like it's cool (after all, they have something to gain from that!), but ultimately most guys don't respect women that indiscriminately have sex with random people that they hardly know. No matter what anyone says, the majority of men just don't want to have a serious relationship with women that they hook up with.
Many men I have talked to see women in two categories: the "sluts" that they take home for the night, or call when they want someone easy to have sex with, and the women that they respect and pursue for actual relationships. Fair? Probably not. But no amount of complaining about it is going to change the fact that men have different wiring and see things differently than women. (And yes, education of these young men can and will definitely help their attitudes, but it's still not going to resolve the inherent problems that result for both men and women from engaging in meaningless casual sex.)
The unfortunate reality is that a woman will hook up with men thinking that she's showing how "advanced" and fun she is, and the men she's hooking up with will think of her as nothing more then a hole. A toy to play with for the night.
Of course that's a generalization, it isn't always like that. But the vast majority of the time, that's how it goes. I've seen so many women over the years try to play the "proud slut" role, just to end up getting their hearts broken and dreams crushed. I've seen many of them sleep with men, hoping deep down that maybe the man would want something more. The men almost never do, and if it does happen to grow into something more, it's often not a long lasting or stable relationship. Fair or not, many men don't want to have a relationship with a woman that slept with them within hours of meeting them.
But still, many young and so-called "sex positive" women claim that engaging casual sex is just fine, and even fun and liberating, as long as both parties consent to it. Well guess what, there's nothing "positive" about sleeping with a stranger or "friend" that has no respect for you. (And by the way, just because they might say that they respect you, in order to make you feel better about having casual sex with them, doesn't mean that they really do!) Chances are the sex won't even result in much emotional or physical pleasure for the woman involved, let alone an orgasm, since the majority of women don't orgasm easily, and these guys who use women for casual sex usually don't care much about doing what is required to sexually satisfy their "hook up" partners.
Studies have shown over and over again that women gain the most sexual and emotional pleasure while engaging in sex with people that care for them -- not when they are just engaging in mindless, emotionless "stranger sex." I never needed a study to tell me that, because most of the time when I'd ask my friends how the sex was with their latest "conquest," the answer was "eh" or "so-so."
Does it sound "positive" to let men use your body for their own sexual release, and then throw you out? Because that's exactly what hooking up is. Promoting this type of behavior is damaging to women, not empowering. Being truly "sex positive" should be about respecting your body, not treating your body and other's bodies as sex toys to play with and then toss out.
I had another friend, a pretty young woman that was known as a "party girl." She slept with both men and women, and thought she was "just having fun." But even with that attitude, she still often ended up heartbroken when a "friend with benefits" stopped returning her calls, or told her that they didn't want to take the relationship further. She tried so hard to be emotionless, but she couldn't help falling for some of the people that she slept with.
I'm ashamed to say that I actually had a contest going on with this friend at one point, which consisted of "who could sleep with the most people." It seemed funny back then, but now I get embarrassed when I think of it. All of the people who knew about our contest probably laughed at us, (not with us), and called us degrading names behind our back. Sure, they encouraged us and had sex with us, but I highly doubt that they had any respect for us. Both men and women are not going to respect someone that doesn't have respect for themselves.
But there are more negative consequences to casual sex than just emotional harm, or a ruined reputation. There are STDs and unwanted pregnancy to worry about too, which often happenbecause some people are just too drunk or caught up in the moment to use protection. (Keep in mind that you can still contract STDs and get pregnant even with precautions. Protection is far from a guarantee.)I heard a story once from one friend who was a "swinger," meaning he and his wife regularly went to "swingers clubs" and had sex with various random people. He had just found out that a female friend they used to "swing" with contracted herpes. This friend was devastated and had no idea how it had happened, since she always used condoms.
The thing with herpes is that it's a skin disease, and can still be spread even when a condom is used during intercourse. It can be spread through oral sex and through protected sex, because the sore isn't always directly on the genitals. Sometimes these sores are barely noticeable, so you can never be sure that the people you hook up with are clean.
Regarding pregnancy, I have met quite a few women who ended up getting pregnant by men they didn't know, and didn't know what to tell their child. I knew one girl that had three babies by three different men. None of these men were men she knew well, and none of them stuck around to help her out with their child.
Does it seem like I'm being judgmental about how people have sex? If you're anything like the way I used to be, it probably does. If I had read something like this a few years ago, I would have laughed and thought something like, "She obviously hasn't met me! I'm having a great time 'sampling' all kinds of people. What a prude. She just couldn't handle it."
Well, I've realized that I wasn't happy back then. I thought I was because I distracted myself with meaningless sex, sex for money and partying. But when I finally started facing the truth about my behavior, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I treated myself and my body with such little regard. Ashamed that I used people for sex and let them use me. I wasn't happy -- I was covering up depression and extremely low self-worth.
It's simply not empowering or positive to seek attention from strangers for your sexuality, (or even from people you know), or to sleep with people that don't care about you. Letting people just use you for shallow pleasure and using them back is not any way to live.
But you know what really IS empowering? Respecting your body, and who you share it with. I'm not saying that sex is bad, quite the opposite. Sex is a beautiful thing, and should be shared with someone who cares for you, and someone who you care for in return. Someone that respects you and knows you as a person, not just as a "hole" or "random slut".
Don't you want more for yourself? You deserve more --everyone does. I'm not saying that you have to wait until marriage. Just think carefully about who you sleep with! Why "give it away" to some random guy from a bar? Why not go out with someone a few times, and at least get to know them before jumping into bed with them? I assure you that sex is so much better when it's with someone who cares about you on a personal level. Please, love yourself and love your body. Treat your sexuality like what it is, something special to be shared with a person you connect with. I guarantee that you will feel so much better about yourself if you do.
REMEMBER: You are special, treasured, and worth something better than one-night stands and fake "friends with benefits relationships." Now that's REAL "sex positive" thinking.
NOTE:I share my own story and experiences out of love, not judgment. I hope anyone reading this who engages in casual sex, or who might do so in the future, thinks about what I've written, before you go ahead and "hook up" with a stranger. I had to learn so many painful lessons the hard way, and I hope that other girls and young women will hear my story and not have to learn that way too. :)
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