The reason I have been away for almost two months now is that I’ve been busy getting laid, all for a personal and sociosexual investigation that I’ve baptized “The Sexperiment”. Frankly, I hesitated writing this piece for a little while—what with my mom reading my blog and my students online-stalking me—but I have come to the conclusion that:
a. if Lena Dunham can survive Conservatives calling her an incestuous child molester, I can handle this;
b. if my students’ English is good enough to read all this, then I must have done something right as a teacher.
Full disclaimer, this is the least academically sound experiment I have ever undertaken but now that I’ve completely abandoned the idea of going to graduate school, I guess I can do whatever the fuck I want.
It all started about 15 weeks ago, when I realized that just about every single gay man I knew had had at least one Grindr hookup in his life. I, for one, had been exceptionally old-fashioned in my sexual encounters, insofar as even the one-night-stands I’d had thus far were with people I actually gave two shits about. It was never something I preached but it was the sex life I felt comfortable with—and, as I’ve mentioned before, I only started having penetrative sex at age 21 so the scale was pretty small.
For some reason, I decided I was going to test out random hookups 21st-century-style, i.e. by means of sex apps. As little as I care about giving personal details about me on this site (#nofilter), I know there is information that I can’t necessarily take the risk divulging as a middle-school teacher, which means I won’t tell how many partners I’ve had or give specifics on what we did in bed, but I’ll tell you this: there is nothing easier than getting laid when you have a smartphone. On average, I think I got chatted up by 10 to 15 men a day depending on location—needless to say London’s SoHo was a whole other ballpark. I was more or less selective but, honestly, as long as I found the guy attractive and he seemed mentally stable, I would converse with him. If it ever came to hooking up, I had two rules: always be safe, and never sleep with the same guy twice.
The one thing by which I was pleasantly surprised is how friendly all the people I slept with were. I had always had this idea that hooking up through Grindr meant you’d walk through the door and some sleazy sex maniac was waiting for you with their clothes off and their cock out—thanks, porn industry! Au contraire, the men I met were always very welcoming and delightfully ordinary. I am aware I must sound really ingenuous to those experienced gays among you but, yeah, I hadn’t realized most people on Grindr are regular guys from around the corner. [Side note: Of course, there were the occasional creeps but they were quite easy to root out.] Also, once we’d agreed to meet, I knew exactly what I was getting into, which took the pressure off from the usual “first time anxiety” I’m personally used to on real dates. Once we had planned what we were comfortable doing, I felt way more inclined to let myself go with a stranger than the boyfriends I’d had, with whom it was just awkward to have that talk no matter how well I thought I knew them and vice versa.
The one thing I was very disappointed about—and, sadly, it wasn’t really a surprise—was how many guys either don’t care about safe sex or just don’t practice it altogether. Beside the incredibly high number of men who told me from the get-go they only did bareback [Side note: bye Felicia!], there were actually two men I slept with who tried to make it happen without a condom even though I had been very clear about my prerogatives. [Side note: just to reassure everyone, I got tested for HIV twice during The Sexperiment and, although I’m still waiting for the results of the second test, there is no reason I should worry since I was safe the entire time.]
As for the types of people that I slept with, I have to say I stepped way outside of my comfort zone. I used to think of myself as a rather open-minded person when it came to dating, [Side note: “I once had sex with a fat guy, look at how undiscriminating I am!”] but being faced with a geolocated cornucopia of profiles, I couldn’t shy away from the fact that I had only really slept with variations of the same type all my life: young college-educated men—and really mostly white. But in the lower-middle class suburb where I live, I was confronted with all sorts of men who have sex with men, some of whom I never would have considered hooking up with IRL. Yet I met with older men, men of color, thin, fat, muscular, beautiful, not-very-good-looking, rich, poor, thuggish, femme, “straight-acting” and then some. Sometimes it was great, sometimes it was meh, but most of the time, it was pretty good. There were some really funny moments like when a guy was chewing strawberry-flavored bubblegum the entire time we were doing it. I even dated someone I met on Grindr for a full month without ever sleeping with him, which was unexpected but nice.
In the end, it’s not that hard to widen your horizons when it comes to sex. It’s scary to think you might be attracted to people you wouldn’t date but I’m glad I took the time to figure out what I like and what I don’t—flashnews: I’m still pretty vanilla! People are complex human beings with all sorts of kinks and idiosyncrasies and, during what I thought were going to be completely detached animalistic moments, I felt incredibly connected on a human level. I saw a display of vulnerability that you rarely see in strangers and it was comforting to know that you don’t need all the bells and whistles of traditional dating to witness it.
Ten days ago, I deleted everything dating-related from my phone and I’m happy with that decision. Casual sex is time-consuming and, frankly, quite exhausting. I’ve ticked a few things off my bucket list and have come out of this wiser and more confident, which means it is time for me to go back to normal (i.e. watching Bob’s Burgers) with the knowledge that there is no such thing as meaningless sex, just different degrees of meaningfulness.