Monday, November 26, 2018

Dangerous Hookups

It’s not the perils of Pauline, but it’s certainly the perils of the hookup culture. Or better, it’s the problem that arises when a woman gives it away for free.

So, let’s see. A woman who is giving it away for free-- I am sure you know what “it” is-- discovers that when she tells her hookups that that she does not want to continue hooking up, they try to convince her to change her mind. They do not force her to do anything. But they try their most persuasive wiles to entice her back into… giving it away for free. After all, why go out and pay for something that a comely lass is giving away for nothing.

Said lass is so concerned by the fact that men do not take No for an answer that she writes to Carolyn Hax. On this score, Hax has not quite gotten it right. But, perhaps she has.

The correct answer is simple: if the letter writer acts as though she does not respect herself, why would she imagine that men are going to respect her.

To provide the relevant context, here is her letter:

Meet a guy online, engage in light "sexting," maybe even meet and have sex. Neither of us is interested in anything serious and we establish that at the beginning. I lose interest — just not feeling the connection — so the next time he contacts me, I text back something like, "Hey, I'm sorry but I don't think we're a good match."

In response, the guy argues with me, tries to convince me to give him another chance, or asks questions that are really just arguments disguised as inquiries. Almost any reply seems to be an invitation to convince me to continue texting and/or hop (back) into bed.

In a more established relationship, I would feel terrible about "ghosting" someone. But in a casual, hookup situation where both parties have explicitly stated they aren't looking for anything serious . . . is it wrong?

For what it's worth, a few guys have done this to me, and it didn't upset me; I sent a message saying, "I had fun! Hope to see you again!" and when I didn't hear back, I figured that was my answer.

I don't want to be hurtful, but I also don't think I owe anyone an explanation for not wanting to date/sleep with them, especially when the relationship is explicitly casual and very brief. Is there a kind but firm way to convey that my lack of interest is nonnegotiable? Or is this just the price I pay for casual sex?

Needless to say, she is not at great risk of developing a relationship. As it happens, she lights on an important point in her last sentence: it is the price she is paying for casual sex. Actually, it isn’t very casual at all: it more closely resembles a business transaction. I am intrigued by the fact that, given that she is not requesting that the man pay for her favors, she discovers that she is the one who is paying… and who is also being used.

Naturally, the question of whether or not she is ghosting these men-- how many are there, pray tell?-- is ancillary to the more important issue: she is acting as though she does not respect herself and should stop it. It has nothing to do with the men, and everything to do with her personal ethics.

By the way, we must consider the fact that what she calls her light sexting puts her at risk of exposure. The men who are hassling her for more free love also have in their possession compromising pictures of her. Such pictures constitute an implicit threat. Has she considered that by sending out such pictures she is putting herself at risk… and will find it more difficult to say No?  

Either Hax misses this point, or she is being excessively tactful. She seems to condone this woman’s conduct:

As for your parting shot, “Or is this just the price I pay for casual sex?,” it’s a fine line and I fear you’ve put yourself on a shamey side of it. I hope as a society that we’ve matured beyond “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” cautionary tales where women who own their sexuality are depicted as sacrifices to homicidal man-karma.

She put herself on the “shamey side.” Wherever did Hax find that inane locution? This woman is not owning her sexuality: she is giving it away for free. She is acting as though it is worth nothing. She is acting as though it belongs to someone else.

But, I repeat myself. And what is wrong with explaining that picking up a strange man at a bar does entail more risk than would a date with a man she knows. I trust you all know the story of the woman who picked up Mr. Wrong in a bar and was murdered by him. It is the subject of the book: “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.”

But then, in a strange but welcome reversal, Hax points out that this woman might very well have put herself in danger, and that she ought to reconsider her behavior:

However, anyone who seeks anything from other people, be it a restaurant meal or ride sharing or app sex, casts his or her lot in with strangers. That’s life, so I’m not suggesting we all treat every single stranger as a danger to us. The numbers don’t support that and sanity doesn’t recommend it — plus, the people we know mess us up plenty. However, we all have to understand and own the amount of risk we assume. If your experiences have you rethinking your risk tolerance, then honor that with your choices. Entirely your call.

The threat assessment must recognize that these men are strangers. They are, to use the old phrase, sex objects. She is using them for her pleasure and for nothing more. This behavior, in and of itself, is demeaning, to the men as well as to her. Obviously, not all strangers are dangerous, but the risk is much higher with a man you do not know.

So, Hax ends up by telling this hookup queen that she is placing herself in danger by having carnal interludes with strangers. It is a rhetorical ploy-- a way to warn her about the wages of her behavior without being too judgmental. One understands that if Hax had been very judgmental the woman might have recoiled. Does this woman really want to know and could she really accept that she is harming herself? I do not know.

If the Hax approach brings her to her senses, I am for it. I regret that she also told this woman that she was owning her sexuality. She is doing anything but owning her sexuality. And besides, whoever got the idea that your sexuality is something you own?

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