Like, a while ago, I was messaging someone I was into and I had that thing where every text seemed to be a matter of huge importance: the space between a “haha” and a “haa” meant the difference between him asking me out or not. I composed messages on my Notes app and copied and pasted them over, the stress of it making me lob my phone to the other side of the room, only to crawl over on my hands and knees seconds later to see if he’d replied yet.
I stopped talking to him, not because I wanted to, but as a way of protecting myself—ending it before he had a chance to.
I did it again with another guy I liked not long after.
And then there was the boy I recently went on a few dates with. The one I told you about—the one I felt so vulnerable with after sex that I wanted to crawl up the underside of his T-shirt and pop my head out the other side.
There was this sense that, in having sex, I’d given away something I shouldn’t have, that I’d lost some of my power. It’s dumb, because I enjoyed having sex with him; I should have felt like I’d won, too. But that’s how sex is positioned in our society, like something men take from women.
It’s funny, because losing power was kind of why I had sex with him in the first place. He was so keen for me to come back to his. He said he’d make me a negroni, that the heating was on, and he’d get breakfast in the morning. I wanted to have sex with him because I knew I would enjoy it, but also because a part of me felt as if I was wasting his time, that I owed it to him by that point. It was the third date, the one people usually have sex on.
Isn’t it strange that we make up rules for ourselves like this? When I try to work out why that is, I remember a particular night out at a bar with some friends a while ago. I was chatting to this guy, and we were having this really funny conversation about dads on holiday and why they always stand on the beach with their hands behind their backs. He asked me if I wanted a drink, and I said yes. I realized he might have been chatting me up, so I did that thing where you’re like “…my boyfriend,” because I did have one at the time, and seconds later he leaned over the table and took the glass of wine he’d just bought me out of my hand because clearly I wasn’t worth eight quid if I wasn’t a sexual prospect. And then I remember how another friend of mine went on a date with someone recently whom she’d known since art school. He walked her home and, when she didn’t invite him in, said, “This isn’t going to work for me,” and walked off. So many of us are told so many times that our only value is sexual that we start to believe it a bit.