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Hi, my name is Leigh.

I am a freelance writer of personal essays, poetry, and fiction living in Los Angeles. I also publish on Medium.com.

Casual Sex Doesn’t Do It For Me Anymore

Casual Sex Doesn’t Do It For Me Anymore

My bid for emotional intimacy over old ideas of connection

Nowadays, I don’t experience as much pleasure with a partner I just met as I do with a partner I at least have some emotional connection with. What does this mean? Well, I think it means my focus is shifting more onto what I truly want for myself, rather than what I expect other people to want from me. The less I care about other’s expectations, and the more I invest in my own emotional health, the less I desire fleeting physical connections. If it’s just a question of pleasure, I can fulfill my own desires without a partner — and I usually do it better than a stranger ever could…

I’ve always treated sex as a bid for connection. It’s potentially an incredibly vulnerable, bonding, and intimate act. For many, sex creates physical intimacy between two (or more) people that can be completely separate from emotional intimacy. This is all well and good if you can do it and feel content with it. However, that’s not always the case. More often than not, sex without emotional attachment leaves me feeling rather empty. Like I just let someone I have no reason to trust into my physical being with nothing but false expectations as a foundation.

I’ve judged myself in the past for not being able to let sex be solely about pleasure. The problem tends to be that if I don’t have a sense of familiarity with the person I’ve chosen to get naked with — I am less likely to speak up, trust I will be heard, and focus more on mutual pleasure than my partner’s pleasure. If I’m never going to see this person again, it doesn’t feel worth it for me to spend time teaching them what I want and allowing them to wholly see me and experience me. That kind of vulnerability requires some insurance for me. I know that feelings can change on a dime and there’s no such thing as a constant when it comes to emotions. I also know that if I at least have a measure of trust, an agreement that both partners want to continue exploring, or enough experience with that person to believe they want to get to know me as more than just a sex object — I enjoy myself more.

The only way I would be deemed enough was if I played into men’s sexual desires and based my worth on my ability to fulfill them.

In the past, I’ve fallen into the trap of using sex to create a false sense of intimacy before I had the shared emotional connection to back it up with. I’ve built relationships off of sexual chemistry and expected the emotional connection to catch up in due time. As I’m sure you can guess — this strategy hasn’t worked too well for me. This goes beyond the age old trope that women need to string along men for a certain number of dates to ensure he’s “committed” enough that he won’t leave as soon as she “gives him what he wants.” (There is SO MUCH that’s problematic about that story….) No, I’m talking about knowing that a person has made themselves unavailable to me, or set a boundary that I don’t agree with — and using sex to wheedle my way through that boundary in the hopes that they’ll wise up and realize they want to be with me. Extremely manipulative? Yes. Unhealthy? Extremely. But it was all that I knew.

I didn’t feel worthy of sexual attention until boys started commenting on my body…when I was about thirteen. Even then, I had been told for the past four or five years that my intellect, my kindness, my creativity, was not enough reason for someone else to like me — “that way.” The only way I would be deemed enough was if I played into men’s sexual desires and based my worth on my ability to fulfill them. Obviously, this gave me a complicated relationship with my own sexuality. Sacrificing what I want and need in order to please my partner is a familiar pattern for me — and it’s gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. In recent years, I’ve discovered that this is more of a risk for me if I decide to engage with someone I don’t know enough to trust with my body. It’s only in only in the past year that I’ve embraced the idea that trust takes time and experience to build.

Trust must be based on repeated demonstration that someone’s words align with their actions. It’s about showing up in the way they say they’re going to.It’s about having discernment around gut feelings and emotional reactions to someone’s behavior — and acting accordingly. It’s about making tough choices when I feel dropped, used, manipulated, missed, or abandoned. It’s about taking care of my own feelings before I try and take care of someone else’s.Finally, it’s about having faith in my own worth, desirability and lovability — regardless of what someone else wants from me. In this way, sex without trust is merely placation. A tryst where I will act out an old story that I must offer up my body as tribute in order to receive connection.

My friends have always told me that they view me as a “very sexual person” — perhaps because I’m more vocal about my experiences than they are. I place a great deal of value on the sexual aspect of my relationships. For me, if sexual chemistry and desire aren’t a constant, the relationship has no hope of surviving. This said, I’m trying to lean more and more into the feeling that truly connected sex brings. I’m talking about the kind of sex I can have with someone I have history with — with someone that I feel wholly comfortable and unashamed with — who I know values the emotional connection even after the physical connection may dwindle away.

For some, this kind of (shall we call it?) “soul connection” comes instantaneously. It’s that kind of “love at first sight” promise that some of us still hold dear. Some are perfectly content to to let the physical connection be enough. Others can start with a foundation of fiery chemistry and build a romantic connection from the ashes. Honestly, more power to you. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Or with needing a basis of shared trust and experience. What I’m learning, more than anything else, is that sex is incredibly subjective. It’s 100% my job to stand up for my own boundaries and expectations when choosing to engage with another person. If our expectations don’t match, no hard feelings, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Ironically enough, I seem to be growing more traditional in my values the older I get. Three years ago I was experimenting with BDSM and non-monogamy. Five years ago I was comfortable being a mistress and felt a certain amount of thrill being in that role. Nowadays, I’m more focused on what keeps me safe when I’m relating to others. I’ve had enough sexual trauma in my life that I don’t wish to continue repeating the same patterns around how I attach. Clearly, they are no longer serving me.

I can draw power from what does work for me more than what doesn’t. I’m definitely not a prude, and I won’t let anyone else place a label of “tease,” or “cold” on me if I express my desire for emotional connection prior to sex. It’s not as if I’m asking for instant monogamy, or waiting until marriage…that ship has definitely sailed. My goal is just to put a bid out there for a genuine connection before I put all my eggs in one proverbial basket. To be especially cliché, I’d love to get to know you before I choose to sleep with you. Is that a problem for you? No problem. I trust that there’s someone out there who wants the same, and I’m totally willing to wait for them.

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