Last week a friend and I went to see Shame, a new movie about a man who has lots of casual sex. The protagonist, Brandon, has almost no relationships, though he manages to have a lot of sex. He jerks off at work, tries to pick up women wherever and whenever he can, hires sex workers, watches tons of porn and generally avoids human contact that doesn’t involve fucking. His fortress of casual sex is compromised by his emotionally fragile sister, Sissy, who comes to stay with him. He becomes borderline violent when she tries to get close to him. His sexual adventures escalate as he tries to escape her neediness.
I had read a criticism of the movie saying that it was an inaccurate portrayal of casual sex, but it rang true with my own experiences of men trying to find a sex-only relationship. Perhaps it’s just that society has a default script for what a “normal” relationship looks like: a couple meets, dates, becomes exclusive, (maybe) lives together, gets married, buys a house, has kids, and grows old together. Though that script often breaks down somewhere after the “gets married” part, we don’t seem to know how to do it any other way. On the other end of the mating dance we have the porn model, where a woman will hop in bed with men with at a moment’s notice, and that is all of their relationship. It’s hard to find role models or good examples of what alternative relationships may look like. (The only other relationship that is well-scripted is the affair, which often ends in sadness for all involved parties.)
In my mind, having a relationship that’s based primarily on sex is still a relationship. But most men can’t deal when I try to establish the ground rules for that. I’m not a fan of one-night stands – I want to know the person I’m sleeping with, even if I don’t intend to have a full-blown, meet-the-parents kind of romantic relationship. I find it impossible to be erotic on that level with a total stranger. I am clear about what I am looking for, but they will always try to convince me that I want something that resembles their fantasies, not mine. While men often say they want women who are more sexually open and assertive, when they are faced with it, it scares the crap out of them. I suppose there is too much honest and intimacy for them in my model.
It seemed to me that many of the men I have encountered are looking for something that resembles seeing a prostitute without having to pay for it. It has often been said that regardless of the form your relationship takes, be it seeing a sex provider or being married (or anything in between), the man has to pay. Well, duh. If he’s not paying money, at the very least he has to pay attention. And I think that’s hard for a lot of men. (Staring at my breasts doesn’t count.) After reading rants over the years from men who feel duped by dinner whores – women who go out on a date for a free meal – I decided to either always pay for my own meal or, even better, buy the guy dinner. If I go home with someone after a date, it’s because I want to sleep with him, not because I owe him. As is more often the case, I don’t have any interest in seeing him again, let alone sleeping with him, and I can walk away with a clear conscience that the guy invested nothing more than an hour of his time. I’m not fond of dinner whores myself, and am happy not to perpetuate the stereotype.
I related to Brandon’s cravings, even though I choose not to resolve these cravings with casual sex. I haven’t had sex in almost a year, and the last sex I had was of the lackluster variety with my ex-husband. It’s been six months since a man has kissed me (and that ended quickly and badly). I have spent most of my life being sex-starved and crave physical contact beyond the hugs I get from my friends or snuggling with my cat. I dated a little for a few months after I separated, but my heart still isn’t ready.
They say it’s easy for a woman to get laid if she wants to, but the options fucking suck. I could pick up the phone right now and call one of the emotional cripples or alcoholics who have made their intentions known, or track down a certain ex-lover, but I know that will be unsatisfying. Sometimes I peruse the casual encounters (the two men looking for threesome ads always get me…oh, how I crave getting fucked like that), or contemplate running an ad myself, but the thought of the sorting process just makes me tired. I have varied interests and fantasies, some of which might appear in porn scripts, but most of which don’t get revealed right away, and certainly not with someone who can’t even be bothered to have a cup of coffee and some conversation with me before hopping into bed.
I am, sadly, not bisexual. If I was, I would have started dating women years ago. I am well aware that comes with its own set of problems (lesbian bed death, anyone?), but it would certainly give me more options.
I love Annie Sprinkle’s analogy of different sorts of sex being like categories of food: you have your nutritious sex, your gourmet meal sex, your junk food sex, your weeknight meal sex, your dessert sex. After years of tiny, monthly portions of something that resembled prison food, McDonald’s ain’t what I’m craving.
It may be years, if ever, before I meet a man whose values and interests match my own. Fortunately for me, I’m an expert at masturbating, and am capable of giving myself mind-blowing orgasms; unfortunately for me, my wrists are fried from too much typing. I will undoubtedly be investing in a Sybian sometime within the next year. It won’t do anything to provide emotional or spiritual intimacy, but it will scratch the itch for penetrative sex.