'I Love My Boyfriend, But I Never Realised How Hard It Would Be To Give Up Casual Sex'
The Debrief: How do you go from master pick-up artist to committed girlfriend? And is it weird to miss those walks of shame?
Illustration by Anna Sudit
I was a late guest to the casual sex party. Sleeping around was something boys did. Everything formative in my teenage life - friends, Hollyoaks, and CosmoGirl all told me this. Girls were wired differently, so they couldn’t have sex without falling in love.
Googling 'can women have casual sex?' returns over 50 million results, while a comparable search for men returns less than a third of that number. The cultural taboo around female promiscuity persists to this day. From apparent academics citing medical studies to explain why women can’t sleep around (it's all in the oxytocin) to 'experts' postulating that 'loose' women are working out some childhood trauma, even in a society as relatively liberal as ours, theere's a lot of cultural pressure out there for women to stop misbehaving and put their lady parts away.
Being promiscuous helps you learn about yourself. You get to explore all of the different yous that make you You.
But eventually I worked out that I could have sex just like a man, and nothing would terrible would happen to me. And what a revelation it was. It’s like those kits you used to get to dress up your Barbie. Doctor Barbie with her stethoscope and lab coat; equestrian Barbie with her jodhpurs and riding hat. I liked the way I could transform depend on who I was sleeping with. With hard-partying DJs I’d be mysterious, with rugby-loving mummy’s boys I’d be softer, more timid in bed. Being promiscuous helps you learn about yourself. You get to explore all of the different yous that make you You. It was also really good fun.
But what happens when your one-night stand becomes a boyfriend? Falling in love was easy, but after years of having sex 'like a man' (or like a woman who likes having casual sex), embracing monogamy was far harder.
To start with, without knowing it I’d turned into an embarrassing PUA after all my years of hitting on men in bars/clubs/the Fabric cloakroom queue. Not to put to fine a point on it, I had finessed my game considerably and I’d inadvertently become the sort of girl who got her mates to put her coat in the cloakroom and then was already getting off with someone by the time they came back with the tag. I’d also achieved the holy-grail for any single girl; a couple of awesome fuck-buddies who I actually enjoyed hanging out with.
Giving this up to have sex with one person felt like a loss; a loss only made worthwhile because the person I was giving it up for was so much better. But, as with all losses - like losing a friend, or the ability to fit into half your clothes - you still feel it.
One study I read told me that I was supposed to be twice as likely to reach an orgasm now I was in a relationship
Now that I was in a relationship, as a girl, I was supposed to be fulfilled. After all my years of having sex like a man - freely, without ties or regrets - now I was expected to go back to having sex like a girl. Commitment; intimacy; all the things we’re supposed to want and need. Even science was telling me how to feel. One study I read told me that I was supposed to be twice as likely to reach an orgasm now I was in a relationship.
But mostly, I felt like a failure. Missing my salad days made me feel like a bad girlfriend. A bad person, but mostly, a bad woman. Here I was with this thing that all women want - so why was I reminiscing about all those walks of shame?
Of course I got over it in the end. It took time, but I realised that I was beating myself up because I didn’t conform to a particular gendered role (*insert feminist klaxon*). Now I’d never dream of having any other feet sticking out of my duvet in the morning. As the great Mae West once said: 'I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.' Life after casual sex wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it.
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Illustration by Anna Sudit
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