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Was this a sign that I should stay far far away from casual hookups?
March 24, 2011 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Was this a disastrous experience because I shouldn't have casual sex, or was it a disastrous experience because it was destined to be a trainwreck? Convoluted details inside.

I'm 22, female, and had not until recently ever had sex with someone that I wasn't in a relationship with.

I recently spent a few months volunteering at a very informal organization in another country. One of the guys who had helped start the organization and still had a leadership role pretty much immediately started hitting on me pretty aggressively (this was in the evenings, when everyone was just sort of hanging out and drinking). I was attracted to the guy and flirted back a little but felt weird about him sort of being a psuedo-boss and about how aggressive he was being, so I didn't let anything come of it for a while.

Maybe a month into my time there I'd a) realized that no one was going to care about admin/volunteer flings, and b) been around him enough to know that everyone loved him and he appeared to be a nice enough guy to everyone. I got the feeling that he had sex with a lot of people, although I hadn't seen this first hand. But okay, I think, as long as he's not an asshole I'm okay with that. So, I go ahead hook up with him 4 times over a couple weeks, end up having sex with him (protected!). I guess a relevant detail was that he was not american (as I am) so some cultural stuff may be in play for the things that happened here. And he was 26, if it is relevant.

It was fun at first and I usually liked him, but I also felt weird about it because it wasn't the kind of thing I usually did (which I straight up told him), and probably some conservative upbringing guilt, too. He would occasionally say things that kept me from being comfortable around him-- joking put downs, and a lot of pressure sexually. And then there were a lot of things that seemed really weird-- he would repeatedly accuse me of ignoring him when I saw him around, which seemed to me to be actually the other way around if anything. He would tell me how much he liked me, and then be aloof when we woke up in the morning, or vice versa. And in general, a lot of flips back and forth from being really affectionate to being really aloof. He complained that he couldn't figure out what I was thinking. The last time we hooked up he first told me “you don't give a f--- about me” and then just kind of treated me like crap the rest of the night, including telling me I should feel lucky to be with him.

I actually am aloof and hard to read. A mutual friend told me that he'd seen us together the day after the first time we'd hooked up and I was acting so weird that he assumed that this guy had hit on me and I'd rejected him. So some of the stuff he was saying may have been valid. But this routine seemed like some kind of weird guilt trip at the time and I didn't take him seriously.

Anyway, after that last time I realized that this wasn't something I wanted to do anymore, and I flaked out on meeting him for something I had agreed to meet him for. After this he basically never made eye contact (I tried) or talked to me again (which wasn't overly awkward or dramatic, we didn't really come into contact on a regular basis, but definitely felt deliberate) and I didn't approach him. The next week he hooked up with another girl and I stopped worrying about it, actually pretty successfully. But then, my last night in the country, we talked a little and he told me again that I'd ignored him and hadn't cared about him and I basically drunkenly flipped out at him and then never saw or talked to him again.

Anyway, I guess what I'm asking, and I'm not sure that it's answerable over the internet, but:

a) As I type this out I'm just really confused, the whole thing made me confused. Was I overreacting or was the situation actually kind of messed up?

b) and then, the original question: This was sort of a test run for more casual sex (all my friends are doing it! hah.), and obviously it was a bad test run. But I'm not sure if this was a disastrous experience because I'm not emotionally built for casual sex, or if it was a disastrous experience because of him or just the general situation. Should I spend the rest of my life having sex only in monogamous, serious, committed relationships, or did I just pick a terrible situation and/or person for a test run? I feel like the fact that I'm trying to analyze this and feeling bad about it and posting questions on metafilter about it means that I am one of those people who shouldn't have casual sex. On the other hand, I feel like I wouldn't have had problems with a less complicated situation. But maybe I'm fooling myself?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Casual sex isn't for everyone. If it's not for you, that's ok. There's a wide range of sexual behaviour between 'fucking some guy in the bathroom of a club 10 minutes after you meet' to 'only having sex in a long-term monogamous relationship'.

You just need to figure out where in that range your comfort spot is, and not give a fuck if that comfort spot is different than those of your friends.
posted by modernnomad at 1:51 PM on March 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


You slept with a jerk. He is not representative of all men, and you will get over it. Once you get over it, feel free to sleep with as many – or as few – people you'd like to.
posted by halogen at 1:52 PM on March 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think that having casual sex when you're not really emotionally wired for it will almost always be more pain than it is worth. You may tell yourself you don't need a romantic attachment, but you sound like you do actually want more respect and affection than a casual hookup is likely to give you. (Which is, of course, fine and perfectly normal, and it's ok to reserve sex for people who are going to treat you the way you want. You do not owe anyone access to your body, no matter how nice to everyone else they may be.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:53 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It sounds like this guy is straight up an asshole. Why would you want to fuck someone, even casually, who is an asshole?

In the future, maybe trust your insticts a little bit? "Having casual sex" doesn't have to mean "fucking every person who wants to," unless that's your bag. You can still set a bar and say, "No guys who act like X", if that's what you like. And yes, I think it's possible to have casual sex, and still treat each other with respect the next day.
posted by muddgirl at 1:55 PM on March 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think...this was just destined to be a trainwreck. This guy sounds like such a loser, possibly an abuser (looking at the verbal crap he spilled on you), and it doesn't seem that having sex with him in a committed relationship would be better. Forget all that shit he told you; he has his own problems. I don't think he's indicative of casual sex for you in general.
posted by myntu at 1:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


He sounds manipulative and, frankly, rather mean. Casual hookups can work, if you want them to, but not with someone like that.

Don't feel too bad for picking the wrong dude - a lot of us do, especially in our early twenties. Learn how to spot them and avoid them in the future.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


It sounds to me like you can and did handle casual sex just fine. I think you had back luck having your first experience of it be with someone who is not prepared to handle it. Sorry! But don't make his poor behavior mean something about YOU.
posted by pajamazon at 1:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Going back and re-reading, this popped out at me:
been around him enough to know that everyone loved him and he appeared to be a nice enough guy to everyone
This is a pretty classic MO and I wonder if maybe you didn't actually know any other women that he slept with? You can't really find out from someone's friends if the guy is a jerk to women he sleeps with - you sort of have to ask the women themselves.
posted by muddgirl at 1:59 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was a one-off. Every relationship and non-relationship is different.
Do what feels right, whether it be having more casual stuff with someone else or getting into a serious relationship.

Don't let one bad guy turn you off -- it doesn't sound like you are a jealous person or a "can't do casual sex" person. It sounds like he was a weirdo.

One experience can't tell you much either way about what type of person you are, in my opinion. Don't look for patterns yet, just keep trying things out until you hit on what you like to do.
posted by rmless at 2:00 PM on March 24, 2011


This guy is like a textbook manipulator, breaking you down to make you (and possibly also himself and others) believe that the shitty way he treats you is your fault and you deserve it. (Because you're too aloof or don't care about him enough or too "uptight" sexually or didn't make enough eye contact with him or whatever it is.) So, he has the justification to go ahead and treat you however he wants. The thing is, you could be a flawless saint, and he would find the justification (like when this sort of situation gets really bad and you hear of women getting backhanded because they wanted ketchup instead of mayo on their sandwich or something.)

It sounds like you sensed that even before you got involved with him, he was manipulative and not nice, what with the sexual pressure and "joking" put-downs.

So, that's the first thing. I think you totally recognize manipulative nasty people - just stay clear of them next time, whether it's for casual sex, non-casual dating, or whatever.

The second thing, as to casual sex, is it seems that when it works, both people are honest, decent, non-manipulative people. If casual sex is something you want, try to get to know someone and learn something of their character, and it might go better. But you mention that all your friends are having casual sex. Please don't feel that just because they're all doing it, you need to. I'd bet my bottom dollar that quite a few of them experience pain and unhappiness around it, themselves.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:00 PM on March 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


He sounds like he was an arrogant fuckstick, so that's probably most of what happened.

but I also notice that early on you got the sense that he was an arrogant fuckstick (you say he said some things that kept you from feeling comfortable around him), but you sort of tried talking yourself out of it. I get that you're trying to push your boundaries, but there's a difference between pushing your boundaries and ignoring your instincts. He skeeved you, it sounds like, but it also sounds like you wrote that skeeved-off state as your "conservative upbringing". I doubt it really was your conservative upbringing -- it was your gut telling you "this guy is a fuckstick, drop him".

This isn't typical of all casual sex. I'd suggest rather than looking at it as "casual sex vs. committed sex," look at it as, each guy has to have a baseline level of respect for you. You may find guys like that in the context of committed relationships, and you may find them in one-night stands; but it's that level of respect that you may want to make your requirement rather than talking yourself into something just for the sake of casual sex.

Because casual sex may not be for everyone, but having a partner who respects you IS something everyone deserves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:02 PM on March 24, 2011 [27 favorites]


He sounds very sexually aggressive, which you obviously figured out. Also manipulative, and also a guy who believes women are primarily for sex. Maybe some of it is cultural, but it pretty much adds up to jerk. When you declined sex by blowing off meeting him, or being where he expected you to be so he could hit on you, he felt rejected and angry. You feel crappy about this. It's a learning experience; learn from it and don't feel bad about yourself. You don't sound like a jerk, loser, etc. You sound like a straightforward person who doesn't play games. Many people value that in a person.
posted by theora55 at 2:04 PM on March 24, 2011


EmpressCallipygos got it. It's not necessarily about whether sex is casual or not. It's about whether or not you feel respected. If you don't feel 100% respected in a situation, especially before anything has even happened, bail. Or say something about it, and if you don't feel heard and listened to and nothing changes, bail.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:05 PM on March 24, 2011


Setting aside whether he was a jerk or whether casual sex is right for you, I want to point out something about the environment in which these events took place. I don't think this situation is analogous to casual sex in normal day-to-day life. Y'all were in a crucible: foreign country, shared mission, small group, charismatic leader, daily alcohol, etc. It's like going to the high school in Fame or being at camp. In real life, you have jobs and live in different places and don't run into each other all the time; there isn't the opportunity or the time for this set of circumstances to repeat.
posted by carmicha at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2011


Here, I rewrote one of your paragraphs:

"It is as fun as it was at first, if not more so; I like him. I felt weird about it because it isn't the kind of thing I usually do (which I straight up told him), but I feel ok about it all. He occasionally says things that make me feel comfortable around him-- jokes, and reassurances; there's no pressure really. And there are a lot of things that are just really nice-- he notices when I'm around, smiles and makes small chat, but lets me go do my thing in peace. He tells me how much he likes me, and is sweet to me in the morning, and I to him. And in general, he's consistent with his affection and attitude towards me. He doesn't complain or pester me about what I am thinking. I feel lucky to be with him, and he feels the same about me. And we both know it."

When you can write that paragraph about somebody you're interested in, stop and go have some wild casual sex. It'll be great.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


been around him enough to know that everyone loved him and he appeared to be a nice enough guy to everyone

He sounds like the type of guy who seems to get what he wants and is in control of most of his relationships. You sound like a independent person who gave him as much as you felt comfortable with but not as much as he wanted. He responded by acting immaturely, probably because this had rarely happened to him.

All of these things could have happened if he was your boyfriend rather than casual sex partner. Fortunately, he was the latter, so you should treat this situation as that (casual) and a learning one and realize that one-night stands and husbands can all either be assholes or saints. It's finding out which is which, and doing with them what you want, that's important.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:07 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


This take might be a bit harsh, but I've been told by people who've worked in that environment that it rings true.
posted by holgate at 2:07 PM on March 24, 2011


I got the feeling that he had sex with a lot of people, although I hadn't seen this first hand.

Are you sure? What if he really hadn't, and you (and he) expected this to mean less to him than it did? He may have been trying to act casual, but not managing it.

If one imagines the genders reversed while reading the question, it's a little familiar...
posted by amtho at 2:31 PM on March 24, 2011


He may have been trying to act casual, but not managing it.

I had the same impression, actually - my advice to have casual conversations with other people that he'd slept with would also work here. If he's been conveniently celibate the entire time he's been in-country, that's a sign that his player reputation was just an act.
posted by muddgirl at 2:39 PM on March 24, 2011


Congratulations, you're realizing one of the big failings of American culture in raising women.

You have been very effectively taught to be nice to people. You have been taught to give the benefit of the doubt. And, worse yet, you have systematically been taught to sacrifice your comfort for the comfort of others.

Now, for your sanity and safety, you get to embark on the work of unlearning all that bullshit.

Because you don't have to be nice to assholes. Your doubt is most likely going to be well founded. And your comfort is valuable.

Seriously. This was not your fault and casual sex can work. But as folks above said, not between you and jerks like this, because you have the sense to know that you won't stand for being treated like crap in the long term. Now, you get to expand that knowing into keeping yourself from being treated poorly in the short term.

I'm so proud of you for asking this question in your early twenties after one unpleasant experience, and not after 10 of them.

Go you!
posted by bilabial at 2:48 PM on March 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


He's an asshole. This situation was messed up, but definitely not unusual.

He's a guy in a pseudo-boss position being sexually aggressive, jokingly putting you down, hooking up with someone else immediately, trying to make you feel bad for things you may/may not have done.

IMO, casual sex is not supposed to be filled with so much drama. Hence the casual part. This was Drama! If you like your casual sex to be filled with drama, seek out other partners like this guy. If not, find people who are level-headed, non-manipulative, and mature about casual sex and sleep with them.
posted by mleigh at 2:50 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charismatic leader types often have narcissistic traits coming out of their pores. They need to be admired/worshiped by everyone. It should be enough for you simply to reflect their glowing presence. Anyone who isn't with the program needs to be get on board!

Unless submissiveness excites you, these kinds of folks are probably not the right people with whom to experiment with casual sex beyond one or two times.

They don't care much about your experience, unless it's totally positive about them. They can be viciously insulting and quite abusive if they sense that you aren't totally into admiring them (unless, of course, you accept the idea that it's *your* problem that you aren't awed by them).

You experimented, found something out about charismatic guys. Move on without a backward glance.
posted by jasper411 at 2:50 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Should I spend the rest of my life having sex only in monogamous, serious, committed relationships, or did I just pick a terrible situation and/or person for a test run?

From an interview with Susie Bright on Salon:
“Well, first of all, I detest the term “casual sex” — since when is it actually casual, this so-called casual sex? Every time I was with someone it was intimate. It was intense. I got to know them and they got to know me on levels we certainly wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t gotten together — and I don’t just mean what their bottom looked like, I mean their personality, their feelings. You’re vulnerable with someone. I mean, some people say, “No, I’m made of steel. I just go in there and fuck.” Have I ever experienced that, at all? I just don’t find sex to be this jaded, cynical, stoic exercise. How do you manage to do that and have an orgasm? I don’t.”
Just wanted to point out that maybe you're not doing yourself much of a favor by calling the sex you had with this guy "casual" and, since it was a distaster, wondering if you're just not built, emotionally, for "casual" sex. That term implies that a person that has sex outside of an exclusive, serious, long-term relationship is just going about it willy-nilly and there are never any emotional complications and it's all fine and good always and if you can't handle that you will never be able to. I'd argue that it will always depend on the person you are sexing with is gonna change the situation every time and you don't have to resign yourself to not having any flings just because it went bad once.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:50 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


You didn't fall for his jerky charm; whatever stress he got from you he richly deserved.
posted by londongeezer at 3:00 PM on March 24, 2011


Should I spend the rest of my life having sex only in monogamous, serious, committed relationships, or did I just pick a terrible situation and/or person for a test run?

As others have noted, there is a huge middle ground between the two opposites there. And I think you should be trying to avoid the situation of allowing "casual" to mean sleeping with someone you don't much like and who treats you poorly. I don't think that's ever called for, honestly.
posted by Forktine at 3:20 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what would really have been a disaster? If you'd entered a serious relationship with this guy. He made you distrust yourself so with much his hot and cold shouldering that you actually needed to ask whether this situation was messed up. But it was casual and you pulled out because it wasn't making you happy. Go you!

Anyway, you're 22. I think this will help you recognise jerks in future and deal better with them. It's distressing now, and I'm sorry if you feel bad about it. But don't see it as a disaster, see it as a valuable lesson and experience that will push you further a long the path to the relationship(s) that will make you happy (casual or not).
posted by Omnomnom at 3:33 PM on March 24, 2011


Casual sex isn't for everyone.. but..

very informal organization in another country

you should consider that perhaps casual sex is a different situation than being the american girl overseas who is perceived as a sex toy by the locals. Not a pleasant situation but not exactly uncommon.
posted by rr at 3:37 PM on March 24, 2011


I thought about this dilemma myself at about the same age and came to the conclusion that if I liked someone and respected them, and they liked and respected me, and we had sex- Well, isn't that basically a relationship? The paradox is that you never want just casual sex with the really good ones, and therfore anyone you do have casual sex with you have to see certain huge flaws in, almost by definition. I have heard there's a sweet spot in between, but to me it's largely mythological. Something to consider.
posted by Nixy at 3:59 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the guys who had helped start the organization and still had a leadership role pretty much immediately started hitting on me pretty aggressively

He would occasionally say things that kept me from being comfortable around him-- joking put downs, and a lot of pressure sexually. And then there were a lot of things that seemed really weird-- he would repeatedly accuse me of ignoring him when I saw him around, which seemed to me to be actually the other way around if anything. He would tell me how much he liked me, and then be aloof when we woke up in the morning, or vice versa. And in general, a lot of flips back and forth from being really affectionate to being really aloof. He complained that he couldn't figure out what I was thinking. The last time we hooked up he first told me “you don't give a f--- about me” and then just kind of treated me like crap the rest of the night, including telling me I should feel lucky to be with him.

The next week he hooked up with another girl and I stopped worrying about it, actually pretty successfully. But then, my last night in the country, we talked a little and he told me again that I'd ignored him and hadn't cared about him


This is all monumentally dick behaviour. The fault is not yours. The guy is a monumental dick. Seriously. Guys should be nice to you and not play head games or pressurize you sexually. Please don't ever forget that.
posted by Decani at 5:03 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's totally OK not to be built for casual sex. I'm not, and I'm a guy. FWIW on the rare occasions it's happened, it's always been an emotional disaster for me.
posted by unSane at 7:32 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


This guy sounds like a total creepazoid. I wouldn't trust anyone who was as self-important as he sounds at 26 (or any age, but especially that young (i am 26 myself)).

As far as caual sex and you? I don't think this is indicative of casual sex being a failure for you, and you dont really talk too much about how the sex part made you feel as opposed to the other parts, but I wouldn't take this as an indication that you shouldn't have casual sex even if you decided to not do so.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:51 AM on March 25, 2011


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