I Stopped Having Casual Sex. Here’s How It Changed Me.

The first month was really boring, but giving up on hookups had to be done.

My first real exposure to the world of casual sex was Samantha Jones from “Sex and the City.” She was my idol: successful, gorgeous, independent, and not reliant on any man. She was a master in the bedroom, impressing lovers with her talents and leaving them in the dust when they begged for more.

Under Ms. Jones’s tutelage and a stack of Playboy magazines I hid from my parents, I embraced my sexual freedom as a young woman. Eventually I got married, and the casual sex naturally came to a halt.

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Being intimate with my partner was special, of course, but eventually we realized we wanted different things, and our relationship wouldn’t work if we stayed together. We divorced, quickly and amicably. I won’t lie — the post-divorce freedom to sleep around as a 30-something excited me. I was eager to see if my mojo was still on-par with that of Austin Powers. And for the most part, it was, but something always felt off.

Casual sex didn’t seem to bring the same level of satisfaction it once did. I felt more empty and alone than ever, and super dejected when guys wouldn’t even send a followup text the next day. It made me realize that I likely wanted to find someone who would provide for me the things my ex-husband couldn’t, especially emotionally, and that an actual relationship was really what I wanted most of all.

My therapist put it plainly: “You can’t hold space for a new relationship if it’s constantly filled with other peoples’ penises.”

These days, I don’t want to be a one-night stand. I want to cultivate something special with someone new. So I’ve challenged myself to do something very uncharacteristic: I’m only sleeping with someone if I’m in a relationship with them.

Here’s what I learned after four months of no casual sex.

Giving up casual sex is really boring…at first

Like any withdrawal period, I had moments of panic and regret. I didn’t realize how much time I spent on hooking up with no strings attached. Becoming celibate literally gave me hours of my life back, and honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Gravitating towards Bumble swiping made me realize I only used the app when I was bored, and that casual sex in my 30s was more of a time-filler than it was about pleasure. It was a good indicator that I was definitely in need of a change.

It’s forced me to talk about sex more than ever

Swapping sex stories with my girl friends is easy, but my guy friends? I never felt like they understood sex beyond porn fantasies.

Because I was horny as hell, but wasn’t acting on it, I did the next best thing — I began having convos about sex topics, especially with dudes. Yes, guys think about sex a LOT — and while most actually want a real emotional connection and to please their partner, their insecurities seem to get in the way much more than mine ever did.

“Women have great sex with a guy and think, ‘This is it, this is what I want, this is what I’ve been waiting for, let’s keep the momentum going,’” one of my guy friends explained.

“Men have great sex however, and they get totally confused and scared,” he admitted. “They feel intimidated, knowing that this person is probably good at a LOT of things, not just sex, and that they won’t ever measure up.”

Now if a Tinder match straight up ghosts me, I don’t overanalyze why. I simply chalk it up to their lack of readiness to be with a stronger woman and move on.

My tolerance for disruption is now zero

I used to be overly accommodating with guys because I equated being “casual and carefree” as attractive and cool. Like if a guy asked to meet up somewhere that was an hour away from me, I’d deal with the inconvenience because I figured he’d appreciate the effort.

But of course he wouldn’t even notice. It made casual sex much easier for him and more exhausting for me. So I’ve started asking to meet guys for coffee or drinks at spots that are literally around the block from me, at times that are convenient for me, and that’s it.

If they whine about the distance or try to reschedule a million times, or give me any other response other than “see you later!” I drop them. If he’s that complicated before we even hook up, the sex is usually bad anyway.

I’m letting go of my controlling tendencies

I used to pick up the check for dinner or drinks thinking it was a “power move,” and that along with my skills in bed, he’d think I was the perfect woman. But all it did was leave me broke and annoyed when he didn’t send a followup text.

I do struggle with power control because of my hyper independence, and I, of course, support equity in dating, but honestly, the least a guy can do is the bare minimum. So now I let guys pay for things on dates and compliment me. Instead of Samantha Jones, I’m embracing my inner Charlotte York.

Because actually, I do need and want those things — to be admired, to be rewarded, to be worthy enough for someone’s attention. And I can have these things in healthy ways without guys assuming I will immediately sleep with them if they give it to me.

And I’m slowing down my emotional energy

I’m totally guilty of rushing to have sex on the first date because the energy is just ELECTRIC, then daydreaming of wedding plans, naming kids, and Zillow house hunts in his neighborhood. I’d end up falling for them too fast, blurting out my rushed feelings, only to realize I was being vulnerable with commitment phobes who immediately rejected me.

Sexual activity does not always equate emotional intimacy, and that’s what I used to get wrong. How much did I really know about the people I had casual sex with? What good and bad qualities could I honestly glean from a few hours of chat and a roll in the hay?

Since holding off on sex, I’ve become more emotionally balanced and level-headed. I’m finding relief in taking things slow, so I can learn more about my crushes. It has allowed me to build stronger bonds with more compatible men, and quickly cut off the more toxic dudes.

Holding off on sex is the right choice, right now

Even if we want to believe that there are no strings attached with casual sex, there’s always some kind of connection made with the person we sleep with. In avoiding those ties altogether, I’m able to process what I want and who I want it from in a more constructive way.

Having sex on the first date used to be totally fine and cool for me, but for now waiting a bit longer feels better. Slowing down on my sexcapades forced me to realize that there is no “right” way to bang. What matters more is owning your sexuality and engaging in sex in an honest way. And when all else fails, at least I know I’m able to give myself a rockin’ orgasm at a time and place that is most convenient for me.

Katka Lapelosova
Kat is a born and raised New Yorker exploring the world as she writes, eats, and everything in between. Read more
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