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Sobering Up, And Facing The Reality Of Sex Without 'Liquid Courage

Dibbler

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I happened to hear this on NPR the other day and thought it might be useful for both sexes and those in between too.

I stopped drinking at the age of 35, roughly two decades into my sex life. I was scared to quit for a lot of reasons. I thought I'd be boring. I thought other people would be boring. When you drink as long, and lovingly, as I did, you will find a lot of excuses not to hang up your beer mug. But nothing frightened me as much as sex without alcohol. As in, no way. Not happening.

I've always been self-conscious about my body. In high school, I would have worn a scuba suit to pool parties, if I could have gotten away with it. Some mixture of shyness, early puberty and a Hollywood beauty warp kept me in hiding for many years, but alcohol pulled me out into the crowd.

This is the eternal story of alcohol — liquid courage — although it's acquired something of a modern twist for women. In Peggy Orenstein's book Girls & Sex, the veteran journalist describes how young women today rely on booze to stay down with a hookup culture that increasingly takes its cues from porn. I can't speak for anyone else, but if I'm going to be giving a lap dance, someone better bring tequila.

I applied the same logic to anything around sex. Scared to be seen naked? Drink. Scared he doesn't like you? Drink. Scared you don't like him? Oooh, honey, drink up.

In my 20s, I longed to be one of those marauding females who had one-night stands and didn't demand anything girly in return like commitment or phone calls. But being that vulnerable with another person — a real human person, whose last name I probably did not know — was so confounding to my native sensitivity that alcohol was really the only way I could power through.

Drinking and sex make for an appealing rebellion, a pushback to centuries of female repression — and it doesn't hurt that guys like girls who drink and let loose. Of course, when casual sex becomes the norm, it feels a little less rebellious and a little more mandatory.

Drunken hookups are so normalized among single people in their 20s, 30s and beyond that opting out can make you feel like an enemy of sexual freedom. It can make you feel like — yes, that old slur — like a prude.

When I quit drinking, that's exactly what I feared I'd become. One of those dull women who ordered seltzer at the party and would probably never dance on a table again. I stayed in my hidey-hole for more than a year, and I had an imaginary love affair with a barista named Johnny. Sometimes the little things get you through.

I began to inch back into the dating world, more slowly than I wanted but more confident with each passing month, and what I noticed was how much I actually cared about physical intimacy. I'd spent all these years trying to detach myself and pretend none of it was a big deal, but my experience was leading me to the opposite conclusion. Sex was a big deal to me.

Around this time, I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with the comedian Louis C.K., and he said, "If you're intimate with a total stranger, it's a reckless thing to do." He talked about how strange and wrong it felt for him to be that close to someone he didn't know, and I felt validated, in part because Louis C.K. is the great philosopher-comedian of our time, but also because here was a man — a straight dude, the kind whose emotional detachment from sex I'd been trying to imitate to prove I was down — and he was saying casual sex didn't live up to the hype, either.

Over the past couple of years, I've been more open about my feelings on this topic, and I think it makes people more open in return. I've spoken to friends who agree with me, and plenty who don't. They like casual sex. It scratches an itch. It's fun. They might be straight or gay, male or female, but the more I hear people speak honestly about what they want in the bedroom the more insane it seems to me that any one way of being would fit us all. Conformity and sexuality do not mix. It's like demanding that everyone be the same height.

Giving up alcohol didn't end my sex life. You could argue it made it more thrilling. There is something rare and radical about daring to be fully present, and fully revealed, to another person. It scares the hell out of me sometimes, but the fear of vulnerability is part of the price of real connection.

Sex is a journey outside our comfort zones — and the trick is making sure that in that exploration, we feel safe. I don't know how you'll get there. Sometimes I don't know how I will, either. But I can promise the best way to power through isn't alcohol. It's paying attention to your own wants and desires, and being true to them.

Audio at link

Abstinence From Alcohol Without Giving Up Sex : Shots - Health News : NPR
 

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Yeah I'd definitely need atleast a 6 pack for that one
 

SmokeAndMirrors

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I happened to hear this on NPR the other day and thought it might be useful for both sexes and those in between too.

Audio at link

Abstinence From Alcohol Without Giving Up Sex : Shots - Health News : NPR

I dig.

I think it's a fairly harmful belief that a lot of people have picked up that in order to be sexually liberated, sex has to mean nothing to you.

That's at odds with the foundations of what we are as social beings.

That doesn't mean sex has to be about undying love and all the typical marital trappings people put on top of that. But it's a bonding moment you share with someone.

Sex can be a million things and still be meaningful. You can sexually liberated and still never hook up. You can be sexually liberated, hook up, and actually have a meaningful experience with someone. You can be sexually repressed, never hook up, and never enjoy your sexuality even with that one special person you marry. You can be sexually repressed, hook up, and do nothing but stare into the void you're leaving in yourself.

One cannot say who is "liberated" and who is not purely by how many sex partners they have, or what sort of situations they have sex in.

But trying to go into sex with the belief it should mean nothing, and taking chemical measures to ensure it means as little as possible, strikes me as a pretty damaging goal.

I love sex, and I have a very specific bend to how I see sex. And where this has landed for me, navigating these troubled social waters where half of people condemn women who enjoy sex as sluts and the other half tell them if it means anything they're not sexually free, is that I only want sex with people who are oriented towards it in the same way I am, and I do want it to mean something. It doesn't necessarily have to be undying love (though that is welcome too), but something, and for me, that's something only a regular and consistent partner that I feel free to be myself with can do.

That has drastically limited the number of people I'm willing to have sex with. And yes, I almost always do it sober.

But I don't care if the self-medicating hook-up culture thinks that makes me "un-free." We should be striving to conduct our sex lives in the way that make us and our partners happiest, not conforming it to some kind of mandate -- whether that mandate says that enjoying sex is slutty, or wanting it to mean something is square.

Whatever.
 
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