Someone once told me that there is no such thing as casual sex. I had no idea what they meant — I had friends who had friends with benefits, benefits with friends, friends to have sex with at parties, and sex with people they didn’t even know. It all seemed so adult, so grown up. And it was casual — too causal to come without consequences, I decided. I soon discovered that the worst consequences were not the ones they warn you about in sex ed. They were different, and abstract– usually involving one of the most loaded words of all: Feelings. I watched one party almost always get hurt, deciding we had fooled ourselves into thinking that our generation could somehow forgo the previous dating rules set out by those before us and “just have sex.” Although we were trying, we were not being very Samantha, or sorry, Jessa, about the whole thing.
I was sitting in my kitchen this past weekend, scouring the internet for something good when my neighbour barged in with smudged mascara and a venti Starbucks cup.
“There’s a guy still in my bed,” she announced. “I need him to leave so I’m just going to stay here till then. Do you have a cigarette?”
In the hours that followed, she came to the conclusion that last night’s sleep over was a good thing, it was fun, and most importantly, she felt empowered. Despite my own prudish hangups that occasionally flare up without notice, I was happy for her. Sex should be fun. The STDs and pregnancies that we dance around (hopefully in sock-less feet) wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t.
I have never been able to “just have sex” with someone. Some people would probably tell me that it’s because I have hangups and guilt. “You are part of the reason why sex is still so taboo today,” they’d say. Maybe. But to have sex with another person requires them to see you at your most vulnerable state, to give that person a part of yourself that no one else can see. Even if sex is deemed purely physical, are we not fooling ourselves by claiming we can throw our emotions on the floor, with our bras and boxer briefs, and only slip them back on when we’re finished? Leaving emotions out of any decision we make seems to me to be equal to taking our skin off and then putting it back on after the decision is made. If we could ever convince ourselves that it’s possible, it would only be an allusion.
My friend recently met someone online. On their second date, when they were hooking up he said, “be my dirty little slut.”
All she said was, “what?”
He didn’t spend the night.
The emotions tied to sex shouldn’t be negative — they can and should be positive, empowering, and make us feel really, really good. But we can’t deny their presence. I support individuals who can have sex with as many people as they like if it makes them feel good. But it’s hard for me to understand this mentality because I know I’m not one of those people. I am of the school of thought that, because it is the most intimate act you can engage in with someone, sex is better with a person that you know and like. It is my hope that we haven’t become so afraid of ourselves and our emotions that we’re more comfortable engaging in the act when who we are, and the emotions tied to that person, are removed.
The University of Toronto’s Sex Education Centre is currently hosting a sex party at Oasis Aqua Lounge, where “People (U of T students) are allowed to have sex on premise… there is not any type of ‘You should be having sex when you’re here.’ It’s very much, come and enjoy the space, there’s no prodding or pushing in that direction.” Until 7 p.m. when “the party becomes clothing-optional so you can get naked with all your new friends,” as education and outreach co-ordinator Dylan Tower, 22, told the Toronto Star.
As a U of T student I agreed to cover the event as long as I could wear a disguise. I came up with an elaborate ensemble, it involved a short black wig and the name Svetlana. As I write this, it’s 3 pm and the event started four hours ago. I’m still sitting in last night’s pyjamas letting the reality of standing in a room with my classmates having sex in front of me absorb through my flannel pants, hoping it becomes more appealing soon. The experience could, of course, be liberating. My black wig is also not going to wear itself.
But the idea isn’t becoming more appealing. First, I’m under the impression that those who decide to attend will be doing so in a completely serious way. I’m assuming the people present will be there to “enjoy the space,” and engage in the clothing optional element of the event. I don’t think I could participate in either of these facets of the party, leaving me stranded in a dark corner, feeling like a creep with a notepad, saying, “Don’t worry, I’m writing about this!” to any passerby, watching the few brave souls who try and approach me shake their heads and walk away. Which brings me to my main point, one that regardless of gender, sexual orientation, hangups and sexual history, I think everyone can get behind. When it comes to sex, no one should do anything they’re uncomfortable with. Whether the sex is tied to a relationship or a one night stand, an STD or a breakup, we’re going to keep having it because we need it. If people can have it in a public place with strangers and feel good about it then they should. As for me, I’m going to go return my wig.
Claudia McNeilly writes for Toronto Standard. You can follow her on twitter at @claudiamcneilly.