When it was all over, I followed him onto his balcony to indulge in a cigarette. “How appropriate,” I thought to myself, both amused and repulsed by the sequence of events as they transpired in real-time. I suppose it was my general detachment from my body that night that allowed me to objectively register just how cliché this appeared, and how cliché I appeared as a part of it. He was standing, I was sitting. We both knew what this was. Then he asked me, ostensibly bemused, “I pursued you so many times, Bella, why now?” It caught me by surprise that he even cared enough to inquire about it, though It was a completely sensible question considering our history.
Prior to this, I’ve turned down every one of his transparent ploys to get me into bed for years, not months, but years. In response, I told him that this time I guess I felt “in the mood” and that this was “what I wanted.” He told me he liked the new, free-spirited me (presumably to manipulate me into continuing this arrangement) and that years ago I would have never done this because of all my “rules.”
He was right, but not for the reasons that he was mentioning and praising me for. The truth was, years ago I was a starry-eyed, somewhat naive, hopeless romantic. I put sex up on a pedestal and felt that it was inextricably tied with love. I felt that having casual, unemotional sex meant that I was being used as a vessel for someone else’s pleasure; my own pleasure never really fit into that logic. And even though I always recognized that women crave physical intimacy as much as men, it just intuitively felt like a bad deal to reveal myself that way to a man I didn’t care about. I guess a lot of it came from repeated anecdotal evidence of seeing numerous female friends getting heart-broken over the years by men who they had insisted that they have been using “for fun.” I didn’t want to be “that girl.” I was also very self-righteous.
I actually felt that I was morally above a casual hook-up, as if it had absolutely anything to do with morals. And though I would have never admitted it out-loud, I secretly judged every single woman that I had known who had exposed herself so easily to a man who didn’t truly value her beyond her physical use to him. But there I was, sitting naked on this obvious predator’s balcony, engaging him in innocuous, obligatory small talk much like all of his other conquests probably have.
You know, the kind of talk that it would be extremely rude not to have once you’ve shared bodily fluids. The kind that’s there to fill the pauses of silence that often follow the abrupt transition from being face-first in each other’s reproductive parts and back into the murky territory of friendship. It wasn’t bad, really. I actually felt extremely comfortable. There were times he made me laugh. We confided in each other about our past relationships and let downs. It turned out that we’ve both have had quite a few. Something about us having had just been naked with each other a few minutes prior made this type of conversation feel organic. In a sense, the physical intimacy facilitated the subsequent emotional intimacy in this particular case. It was surprising how much we revealed to one another in the hour exchange that followed. And then, it happened.
As he delved deeper into his heartbreaks, disappointments, and insecurities, the man who I had categorically written off as a soulless womanizer became human to me. All I saw, in that moment when I really looked at him and really listened, was a damaged little boy who constantly felt inadequate because the love of his life had disposed of him as if he never mattered. I felt compassion for him for the very first time. The truth is, his pain eerily resonated with my own. I knew exactly how he felt; I had JUST been broken up with by a man I loved. That was the actual reason that I was there with him in the first place. The bitter ending of my last relationship had left me reeling in heartbreak much longer than any previous one had. I needed to feel the affection of new man. It was more than a desire, it was an impulse.
I needed to disassociate myself from my ex boyfriend. He was the last person I had slept with, and it made me angry. I didn’t want him to be my last intimate experience anymore. It made me sick to think that in some twisted way, I was still “his.” This was my last attempt at completely purging him out of my system. That was my rationale, at least.
And honestly, overall, it wasn’t a bad experience in the way that I thought it would be. Pretty much all of my preconceived notions of what it would be like to have casual sex had dissipated except for one.
You see, I didn’t feel used. I didn’t feel degraded or demeaned. I didn’t feel as if my value had lowered over night or that I was suddenly “attached” to the object of my satisfaction because he put his penis in me. No, I truly believe now that if there is mutual respect, no one should ever feel that way in any arrangement. The physical act of sex in itself isn’t what causes emotional pain and insecurity, but the dishonesty and selfishness of one partner may.
If anything, I felt a certain clarity and camaraderie over why we both “used” each other so to speak. It was because we were both sad. We were both trying to fill the void that our last heartbreak had left us with. Neither one of us was a victim here, or perhaps, both of us were. But we were open and honest. The objective was clear for both parties. We were both trying to numb the pain in the only way that felt right at the time, filling a loss of true intimacy with its cheaper alternative.
The only thing that I would have to say, remained consistent in my perception about the nature of sex, is that it is undoubtedly intimate. In my personal opinion and experience, I still believe “casual sex” is actually an oxymoron. There is nothing casual about sex. Even in this experience, where I purposely sought out someone I knew with certainty that I wouldn’t be interested in romantically for a lustful embrace or two, intimacy still occurred. I just think that sometimes when people get that close on a physical level, for a moment or so, it fools them into feeling more connected than they actually are. That’s not to say that I regret it because I don’t. But ultimately, no matter what angle I look at it, there was a certain emptiness to it when it was done. I enjoyed it for what it was, but it made me long for more.