Here's the Thing: It's Ok to Want More Than Casual Sex
TODAY’S MASSIVE SWEETIE:
I’m a college senior and I need help. So I think like most girls, I’ve always wanted to be in a relationship and I’ve had worst luck than most. I’m 21, and I’ve never gone beyond situationships or being the one getting ghosted. I feel crazy behind all my peers.
I’m a straight, black woman who goes to a PWI and I’m also on all the apps (tinder, hinge, and bumble) and I’m not like making a connection with anyone? I also wonder if my standards are crazy high? Like I just want a guy whose nice to me, and slightly attractive. I wonder if I just have a garbage personality because I feel like it’s decently easy to get guys to have sex with but hard to date. Going deeper in the dating situation, so far I’ve only had causal sex which has some mixed results? On one hand, I feel like I’m decently good at it, and it’s pretty fun, but on the other hand I feel like I can’t keep having causal sex because that makes me less desirable? I’m totally against slut-shaming and this might be leftover from coming from a religious immigrant background but I’ve had sex with around 9 guys, and I wonder if that number getting higher makes me undatable? I also wonder if I actually enjoy causal sex? Like if am I one of those people who isn’t in to causal sex, or if I’m one of those people whose into it but accidentally slut shaming myself because of *society*.
I also feel like whenever I complain about not having a man, everyone’s response is focus on yourself, but in that regard I feel like I’m doing fine? Like I have pretty good grades, I have had about 5 internships since I started college, and I’m really involved in research and in my school in general. I also feel like the other common refrain is focus on your friends and sometimes I feel like that makes me feel worse because all my friends are super hot girls who always have a boyfriend or a boy in orbit. Not to Natalie Bach myself, but I’ve always been insecure about my body/face but I’m working on it. Hopefully this kinda made sense, idk i just want to make sure I’m not an undateable loser whore-type?
This photo will make sense very shortly. Hopefully.
[I’m doing a fun little song and dance at my desk as I write this, so please imagine that] 🎶 LEEEeeeeT’S BREAK. THIS. DOWN. 🎶 *clap* *clap*
Seriously the song and dance I’m doing is very enjoyable and cute. Everyone would love it. Sorry I can’t covey it over text. There’s a lot here so I’m going to be a tiny bit lazy and break everything into sections, so we all know what we’re dealing with and so I don’t spend all my time faffing about regarding one issue.
“I feel crazy behind all my peers.”
Ok. So? So what if you are behind all your peers (you’re not, but please play along with me). What is the fear there? What are you afraid that it means if you are behind your peers? Try to fill in that next blank because that might be worth addressing with yourself. Maybe it’s something like “I’m afraid that people will think less of me” or maybe it’s “I’m afraid I’ll always be behind them” or maybe it’s that you feel you’re not as worthy as your peers. None of that is true. You are not behind your peers. What if you meet someone at age 27 and your best friend met someone at 22 and they date for five years and then get married and then get divorced and now you’re both 40 and you’ve been with your partner 13 years and she’s alone. Which one of you is behind one another? Neither of you. That’s simply not a thing. It’s like thinking that you’re behind someone else at Target because they’re in the shoe section and you’re browsing books. It sounds ridiculous! Sophia!!! Shopping at Target isn’t a competition! YEAH? Guess what? Neither is dating. To quote the indomitable Kris Jenner, “You’re doing amazing sweetie.”
One sad, fucked, hateful truth of your romantic life is that as you date you will, of course, encounter racism, and it won’t always look like loud, bold, in-your-face racism. It will often look like the quieter, more muddled racism of people wanting to have sex with you, but not wanting to date you seriously. Or treating you poorly and making you question your own standards. OBVIOUSLY you know this way way way better than I do or ever will. I’m probably not even explaining it well, and it might not be worth my words on the topic. I just want to validate any feelings you may have that this whole dating thing is rigged against you because as a black woman, I imagine it often is. That is not to say it always is, or that trying to date is hopeless. There are A LOT of people out there who can and will love you fully and well. This aspect of your dating experience is so beyond fucked, and I’m sorry. I don’t have answers or insight; it’s fucked, and I imagine that a lot of people in your situation feel frustrated and hurt. (Ok, I still feel like I’m not helping much here, but I will include links at the bottom of this page to writing from black women who can actually speak on the topic, on the off chance that any of it helps).
“I wonder if my standards are crazy high.”
THEY ARE NOT. NEXT TOPIC.
In no way, shape, or form are your standards the issue. Unless your standards are “must be a man named Thomas who grew up in a yellow house in Tuscaloosa, AL and is a Libra and has three brothers who are all triplets and was born on the third Wednesday of the month” you standards are not unreasonable. Don’t you dare change them!!!! We love your standards!!!!
It can be very, very difficult as a person who is dating men to feel like your standards aren’t too high because men are constantly lowering the bar in new, creative ways (remember when people got excited that John Legend helped Chrissy Teigen take a necklace off when she was drunk?? The standards are low enough!!!!). This is like going to rent a U-Haul and they’re out of trucks so they offer you a shopping cart for the same price and you start questioning yourself like, “Do I really need a truck to move my bed and couch?” YES YOU VERY DO. Keep your standards. Society is going to try to convince you that you’re being unreasonable. Society likes to do that to women in general and black women in particular. You are not being unreasonable. I’m going to find a chrome extension or a bot or something to send you an email every morning that simply says, “You are not being unreasonable.” The standards stay; this is nonnegotiable.
“I wonder if I just have a garbage personality”
YOU DO NOT HAVE A GARBAGE PERSONALITY. YOU ARE A GEM. People wanting sex more than they want relationships is not because of the individual they’re hooking up with’s personality. Despite the narrative otherwise, a relationship is not a leveling up from sex, something that you “earn” by being more likable or lovable; it is simply what the person wants. They just want sex. That’s fine. It’s fine if you just want sex, too. Maybe you want a relationship, instead. Ok, cool, then you two are not compatible right now. And it’s not because you suck!!! Brace yourself for ANOTHER terrible Sophia metaphor: wanting just sex is like going to Taco Bell. It’s easy and fun and convenient (and it sounds great when you’re tipsy). Wanting a full relationship is like making Thanksgiving dinner. It’s hard work and totally worth it…but seriously really hard work. It’s totally understandable that some people do not want to make Thanksgiving dinner right now. They want Taco Bell. You cannot get a Thanksgiving turkey from the Taco Bell drive-thru no matter what your personality is, ok!??!?!? You are lovely. Please stop ordering mashies from people who make Crunch Wrap Supremes.
The remnants of religious shame are a real nightmare to deal with. Shame is an incredibly useful tool for powerful people and institutions, which is why it’s such a common weapon in this hell country (and in many others). I’m sure that you know this, but I want you to hear it again in case it helps you believe it: there is quite literally no difference between having fucked two people and having fucked 22,480 people. None. None at all. Sophia, what about— NO. NONE. There is no difference. At all. NOTHING.
Devaluing someone because of how many times they’ve had sex or how many partners they’ve had is like devaluing someone because of how many times they’ve played tennis or how many different tennis partners they’ve had. Sex, like tennis, is a fun activity that you can do alone or with someone else. That’s all.
Sex is good. It feels good. It’s fun. It doesn’t clog arteries. It’s often free. The shame around it is a holdover from when men wanted to pass houses and land on to people who they could feel sure would have the same genetics as them (which is weird, but ok). We’re over it. It’s 2019. We love sex. Sex is good.
That does not mean that you need to have more sex or need to enjoy casual sex. You are not needy or unreasonable for wanting a relationship. It just means that you do not get to judge yourself for having fun in the sun with another person’s body. You don’t get to. Sorry. Maybe you realize that you used to like casual sex, but now it doesn’t feel as fulfilling. Awesome! Maybe you realize that, but then you meet a spicy spicy hottie on vacation and you have a quick fling that is just casual sex. Wonderful! Maybe you never have casual sex again! Tight!
“Focus on yourself”
There are a lot of things people might mean when they tell you to focus on yourself. Most of those things are bullshit and dismissive of your actual feelings which are, “I’m feeling like I’m missing out on something.” That’s a hard feeling to deal with. There isn’t always a “cure” for that feeling, or even a salve. It’s lovely to suggest to someone that they just go have a more fulfilling life and that will distract them from wanting this thing that they clearly want, but that’s not how life works. I haven’t forgotten that I really want to buy these faux crocodile cowboy boots from ASOS simply because my relationships with my parents, siblings, coworkers, and friends are going well. Sometimes, you simply have to allow grief in. You have to say, “I am sad that I don’t have a boyfriend.”
It’s ok to be sad that you don’t have a boyfriend. It isn’t petty or small or weak or pathetic or any of the other words that society tried to tie to love in order to make women feel lesser. Romantic love is delightful and you will experience it. It’s maddeningly hard to find and it often disguises itself as A Numbers Game when it is not. You can’t game this system. There’s no way to speed it up. You can “put yourself out there” 4,000 different times and ways and still not meet someone and then one day you hire a handyman to fix your bathroom door hinges and you fall madly in love. It’s random and terrible and you have to wait it out, which in my opinion, is bullshit.
I don’t think you need to focus on yourself, and I don’t think you need to grow up or forget about wanting a relationship. I think you might benefit from focusing on fun, on finding things that feel exhilarating. Not because that will attract someone. Not because “you find someone when you stop looking.” But because The Waiting for someone is more long and dull and boring than an ultramarathon (sorry marathon people this is just an opinion of mine and I am wrong!!! I know!!!) and you might as well have some fun in the meantime. Have so much fun that when a person comes along who is more exciting, more fun, more everything than this life you’ve built for yourself, you will be like hellllllllllll yesss time for Thanksgiving dinner, babbbbbbyy.
Here are some links to articles by black women about dating. I promise they are not all pessimistic or articles that ignore the joy of dating. Maybe some of them help, maybe none of them do:
Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter, she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tries to write about Fleetwood Mac for GQ, avoids writing by tweeting at @1followernodad, works full-time as a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. She’s also working on a book and at least five TV pilots at any given moment. (But for real, there will be a book soon). You can reach her or yell at her at firstname.lastname@example.org.