After I got divorced last year, I wrote an OKCupid profile in which I let it be known that I’m down for casual sex. I don’t enjoy meaningless sex — which I had the last five years of my marriage — but I am all for high-octane adult fun. And since I had spent the last 20 years married, I was in no hurry to get back into another long-term, monogamous relationship.
My profile essays hinted at my open-mindedness, but the answers to my questions cleared up any doubt. I answered in the affirmative to questions about sex toys, midday masturbation, hair-pulling, safewords, and submission (negative to dolphin-squealing, however). I unleashed my irreverent sense of humor in the explications to the questions. Responding to “would you ever date someone simply because they were well-endowed?” I answered yes, with the comment: “I’m deeeeeeply superficial.”
Most of the men who wrote me got my sense of humor, and reached out in part because they thought I was funny. One man, however, took offense at my profile. He said, essentially, that I needed to grow up. He told me it was unseemly for a 50-year-old woman to speak so openly about sex and penis preferences (my facetiousness went about a mile over his head).
“How do you ever expect to find a serious relationship if you emphasize sex?” he asked. He then offered to help me re-write my profile to attract the “right” kind of man — “right,” I presumed, being right like him.
Although I was tempted to fire off a message reaming him for his slut-shaming and age-shaming, I realized that he was mostly likely jonesing for an outraged response, which would then invite further moralizing about my tawdry nature and dismal long-term prospects.
So I deleted his message and tried to forget about it.
But I couldn’t. As I sat on my bed trying to bring my boiling blood down to a simmer, I found myself wondering, what if he’s right?
What if all those books and web sites telling women that men won’t see them as relationship material if they put out before the eleventh date are right? And if men don’t respect a young woman who’s honest about wanting sex, how much less will they respect an older woman who still — still! At 50! — wants sex? And doesn’t try to hide it?
There’s an extra layer of shame to being told you’re an old slut. A young woman’s “sluttiness” can be excused in part because she hasn’t lived long enough to buy into social mores, and she’s too hormonal to delay gratification. But an older woman who admits that she likes erotic pleasure without all the packaging? That’s not just slutty, apparently, it’s freakish.
After a few moments of imagining my 75-year-old self aimlessly padding around my apartment in a tattered negligee like some burlesque cat lady, I decided to stop indulging the narcissism of a guy who perhaps was not eliciting the response he’d hoped for from women, and decided he’d project his sense of inadequacy onto a woman who likely wouldn’t want him.
If my honesty was weeding out men who liked their women conventional and their sex vanilla, then all the better. That was not the kind of man I was hoping to attract anyway. And if I couldn’t find a guy who could love and respect a mature woman who was both overtly intelligent AND sexual, then better to share my bed with my books and my cat.
I also wanted to weed out serial seducers who con women into thinking they want a serious relationship in order to get sex. So I decided to ratchet up the honesty factor to force suitors to admit their true intentions.
I deleted my previous, not particularly attention-grabbing comment in the “what I spend a lot of time thinking about” section and inserted the following:
Sex and Transparency.
Now that I have your attention, let me elaborate. Please be honest about your intentions. If you tell me up front that you’re just looking for a sex partner, I will respect you and find you incredibly appealing. That doesn’t mean I’ll sleep with you, necessarily, but it won’t make me any less likely to sleep with you.
If, however, you look me deeply in the eye and tell me you think you could fall in love with me, and you gasp with smitten-ness whenever I walk into the room, and you tell me you want to whisk me away for a jaunt to Paris, and you buy me baubles, and you wine and dine me all over L.A., and otherwise intimate that you imagine a life with me, when you’re imagining no such thing, and then I sleep with you, and then you vanish into the ether, I will not look kindly upon you. That is a lousy, disrespectful way to treat anyone. So don’t do it.
And, finally: sometimes I have casual sex. But I never have meaningless sex.
Adding this clause did exactly what it was designed to do: it has given men who are really just looking for sex permission to contact me and say just that. It has attracted men who have a sense of humor and who respect a woman who owns her sexuality. It has prompted conversations about the wasted time and hurt feelings caused by the lack of sexual transparency. And, I’m happy to report, it has not elicited a single outraged response from a man who thinks he has the right to regulate my sexuality.
Owning my sexuality, both on OkCupid, and in real life, has been profoundly empowering. It’s a gift that has come with age. I was so crippled by social conventions when I was young that I compartmentalized my sexual persona — a move that killed the chance for true intimacy with any man.
The only regret I have about coming out of the “good girl” closet is that it took me until I turned 50 to do so.