Nights like last night are my favorite times to go out. There’s nothing like going to a bar in the middle of the week, ordering a drink you actually enjoy (read: not Keystone), and being surprised by the number of eligible men to mingle with on the dance floor. I pre-gamed with wine, ordered a vodka cranberry at the bar and waited for both to hit me before I started dancing. I would need that warm feeling in my legs before I could consider hitting on a stranger.
My friend (let’s call her Sarah) and I were approached almost the second we hopped off our bar stools. My suitor was dressed more appropriately for the couch than the club, but it was getting late so I took what I could get.
“Hey, can we join in on the dancing?” he asked, grabbing my hand and motioning to his friend, who was eyeing Sarah.
“Sure,” I said with a smile before he twirled me around. We danced only for a minute when we realized we couldn’t hear anything the other was saying.
I leaned in close to his ear, yelling, “What’s your name?”
“John!” We shook hands awkwardly before laughing.
John and I talked for a while about risk-taking. I didn’t even realize we were flirting until he leaned in and kissed me. It wasn’t the best but it saved me from awkward small talk.
I told Sarah I was leaving with him and going to the fraternity where he lived. She laughed, saying how quickly things had progressed and I just smiled and laughed with her.
The walk to his house, then up to his room, went even more quickly than our conversation. He put some music on the TV and leaned into me to continue what we started at the bar. Soon enough, we were on the bed and our clothes were off.
And for the first time in a long time, I was totally not into it. I am pretty much down any day, any time. But I remember a few times, just like this one, where five minutes in I would really just not be feeling it. Unlike those times though, instead of just going with it (because why not?), I told John I had to go, and I left.
What changed this time, I can’t tell you. Why didn’t I want to have sex? And why did I choose to leave? Maybe it’s because I knew the taco truck was open and I’d much rather be there. Or maybe I remembered I had a paper due Friday and drunk me thought I could totally write it all tonight. But I think the most likely explanation is that I didn’t feel like I owed him anything, least of all sex.
I remember that when I first started having sex, I stopped enjoying all the build up. I just wanted to get right to it and not take any time for anything else. I didn’t want the guys I was hooking up with to see me as selfish, or worse, scared. If I went right for having sex, they couldn’t doubt that I knew what I was doing, that I didn’t care and that I wasn’t going to get attached. I thought I owed them this reassurance, that sex was just sex and that was all I wanted. Honestly, it was that simple for me, but I was so afraid for a second they might think otherwise. I did anything to avoid that confusion, even sacrificing my own pleasure for their’s.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more confident and have stopped automatically prioritizing my hook-ups’ wants over my own. Despite this growth, I still get caught up in smaller ways. I don’t ask guys to go down on me. I don’t expect them to even try to be good at it when they do. I still hook up with guys that do things I’ve told them I’m not into. I give guys my number even when the sex is mediocre. And, until last night, I still had sex when I was not 100 percent into it.
I am thankful that John respected me when I said no — some people are not as lucky as I am. Mostly because guys have been trained to think we owe them sex, especially sex that is low-commitment and requires little work on their part. If it is, they also expect that we’ll do it again when they text.
I love having sex, and, despite some old-fashion stereotypes, I love having sex that doesn’t lead to a relationship. There is something freeing about sleeping with someone you don’t know beyond the formalities. But I don’t owe any sexual partner anything. Not keeping quiet about what I want, not a text the next day, not going with the flow when I’m not into it.
I guess it’s taken me this long to realize but I don’t have to be polite when it comes to sex. I just have to be respectful, to the person I’m sleeping with, but more importantly, to myself.
The Uptight Tart is a student at Cornell University. Slutty Endeavors appears monthly this semester.