Sex and the Single Girl: Permission to Want

If you’d asked me what I wished for before moving to Los Angeles, I would’ve rattled off numerous dreams. Never did I imagine that sex-as-a-single-girl would become one of them.

I was in my mid-20s and had moved to the film mecca from Miami, where I’d transitioned from full-time model to model/actress and from married/lonely to single/fulfilled. Prior to that, I’d been a serial monogamist, dating serious boyfriend after serious boyfriend since high school. More recently, I’d overcome a severe eating disorder. A confidence comes from stepping into yourself and feeling passionately connected to your path after years of murky grey. Acting had felt like the reward for hardships overcome, fulfilling me in a way nothing previously had. I no longer needed therapy, vices or, I’d decided, men.

“I won’t marry again until I’m at least 40,” I told friends, not desiring a relationship for what seemed like the first time ever. I could do single, I thought. And adore it. But while passionate career and creative pursuits provide a lot, they don’t supply everything. (Take sex, for example…)

My enthusiasm paired with luck landed me a meeting with a mega theatrical agency within days of my arrival to Tinsel Town. They took me on and invited me to a dinner party—10 celebrities, an esteemed screenwriter, two agents and little ‘ol barely-had-a-headshot me.

The party I attended just before moving to LA was a far cry from Hollywood glam. (I wanted to use photos from that night but my GB supervisor said no. Blah!)

The entire evening seemed surreal, from wining and dining with Hollywood elite to talking shop with actors who’d “made it” as we hopped from one hot spot to the next. Cassie,* a woman I met that night, remains a dear friend today. “What do you mean you went home after? You know you could’ve had any one of them, right?” she asked during a phone chat the next day.

Huh? Had them, as in…sex? Sleeping with virtual strangers, much less their interest in the notion, hadn’t crossed my mind. I laughed Cassie’s question off, but didn’t forget it.

As time passed, history began to repeat itself. I sensed a void, a longing for companionship. But I didn’t want a boyfriend… Did I? Closing my eyes, I imagined what I actually wanted. If I could wave a magic wand, I would... Cassie’s words resurfaced: “You know you could’ve had any of of them…”

Woah.

I wanted SEX.

A virtual room-full of lightbulbs flashed on, illuminating my track record of relationships gone by: the accountant I had to be tipsy to have fun with, the chain-smoking rocker with opposite-me values, the man I barely knew, yet had married. I’d met a variety of men during times of longing, and ended up in lackluster relationships. Being the good girl I’d perceived myself to be, sex had always required a relationship.

What would happen if I prioritized pleasure and self-honesty over being “good?” I decided to find out. (For those of you wondering about the M-word, stay tuned for another post.)

A short time later, I arrived to a casual lunch date with sex on the brain. I found myself sitting up taller, flirting uncontrollably with my eyes, imagining what I hoped would unfold. Within hours, it did. He took me to his hotel room and…took me in a way I’d never experienced. The intoxicating unfamiliarity and our mutual passion inspired overwhelming physical want and play. We were friends fulfilling each other’s needs, caught up in the now, giving and receiving without expectations of more. I left feeling whole again, enlivened and surprisingly relieved.

That marked the beginning of an empowering, pleasure-filled single time. Giving myself permission to enjoy sex minus emotional ties or commitment changed everything socially. The slightest glance or verbal exchange could send my Girl Boner reeling. Subtle touches, alluring cologne, strong arms, soulful eyes and choice conversations became aphrodisiacs paving the way to foreplay. For the first time I understood what it must feel like to be a young man, expected—arguably encouraged—to see breasts, butts and opportunities more prominently than souls, spirits or relationship potential. I also learned the importance of moderation and that even in a sex-driven climate like Los Angeles nightlife, feelings can be hurt—men’s, too.

While I don’t believe that sexually explorative single time is important for all women, I’m grateful for the experience and what it taught me:

  • When we’re secure in our bodies and happy in our lives, sexual desire and confidence are practically inevitable.
  • Sexual pleasure—derived from safe behavior—is an important aspect of physical and emotional health, whether we’re single or not.
  • Our bodies are capable of insanely awesome, gratifying and intoxicating experiences.
  • Adventurousness and curiosity enhance sex if we let them.
  • Assuming we’re healthy, it’s perfectly fine to desire sex however we prefer it, as seldom or frequent as we see fit.
  • Encouraging ourselves to desire and enjoy sexual pleasure is a beautiful, empowering gift.

“The pursuit of pleasure is the central force that motivates sexual behavior,” says Terri Conley, a researcher and assistant professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan. She came to this conclusion after analyzing recent studies on sexuality and gender, which also showed that men and women are equally likely to desire and engage in casual sex, given the opportunity.

Similarly, if we aren’t comfortable pursuing or savoring sexual pleasure, we won’t be motivated to seek it. When it becomes available, a disinterest in pleasure can keep us from growing aroused. Think about that for a moment: a disinterest in pleasure. The fact that humans are made to want to experience sexual pleasure goes to show how intensely negative emotions, beliefs and attitudes can function as barriers.

As we near Thanksgiving, I’m intensely grateful for Girl Boners. (Shocker, I know. ;)) I’m also grateful for everyone who embraces them, and for the freedom to discuss them openly here. We are blessed to live in a day and culture in which female sexuality can be accepted and celebrated. The more we take advantage of these gifts, the more abundant they’ll become. If sexual freedom or all-things-Girl Boner make your “I’m grateful for…” feast proclamation this year, I’d love to hear about it.

If this is your first time visiting my Girl Boner series, feel free to check out Girl Boner: An Introduction and Girl Boner: The Female Body, Turned ON for more details.

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts. Have you enjoyed sexually explorative single time? Or learned similar lessons I did another way? What sex-related experience or advice are you most thankful for? All respectful thoughts and beliefs are welcome.

Leave a comment

44 Comments

  1. mgmillerbooks

     /  November 19, 2012

    We really do have so much in common. Lol. I’m most thankful for the skills that come only with maturity. How’s that? 🙂

    Reply
  2. See? Now THIS is a LessonLearned! Hot hot hot! I had some time alone after a bad relationship and I will just say *ahem* Best. Eight. Months. Of. My. Life. Seriously. I love my husband and my son, but I tried some stuff in there that made me very happy to be alive. IYKWIM. 😉

    Reply
  3. “I’d met a variety of men during times of longing, and ended up in lackluster relationships.”

    Boy, can I relate. For too many of my college and early 20’s years, I didn’t know how to be alone and fell into that serial relationship pattern. Escaping from an abusive relationship was the final straw for me, and I forced myself to live alone and single for a while so I could gain that confidence. I needed to know who I was–on my own–and be strong in that life so I didn’t make relationship decisions for the wrong (read: insecure) reasons.

    Now I think a year of being independent should be a prerequisite for all young women before they get into serious relationships. 🙂

    Reply
    • That would make the young women’s world a much stronger place. 🙂

      Kudos to you for exiting that abusive relationship and having the wherewithal to prioritize solo time. It’s not an easy decision for many women, and arguably one of the most important.

      Reply
  4. Sex is perhaps God’s greatest gift to us (or so I often remark to my husband). As far as casual sex . . . I reckon that for me it depends . . . from a religious and spiritual standpoint, I view sex as something I do within the (safe) confines of a committed relationship. For me, safety is a huge issue. But that of course doesn’t mean that I judge what others do, and as long as it is consensual and not hurtful to anyone, I wish that everyone could enjoy sex as frequently as possible.

    Reply
    • Amen to that!

      I respect your views fully, El, and your non-judgment of alternate beliefs. I think what matters is finding and embracing a sexual lifestyle that suits us on all levels. Different um, strokes, for different folks. 😉

      Reply
  5. prudencemacleod

     /  November 19, 2012

    Good on you, August. Know thyself and enjoy, I always say. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Yes, yes, yes! So much of this makes me insanely happy. I think this bit needs to be taught in all sex ed classes: “Assuming we’re healthy, it’s perfectly fine to desire sex however we prefer it, as seldom or frequent as we see fit.”

    My younger sister is currently taking a college course on Catholic moral thought, and I was incensed to learn that her professor is teaching them that premarital sex is terrible and horrible for women (no mention of men, of course, because PATRIARCHY… based on my analysis, at least. :P). She and I had a whole talk about how damaging her prof’s mindset is, so I’m glad that I could use it for a teaching moment.

    Yet another wonderful post, August!

    Reply
    • Thank goodness your sister has you! And hats off to your analysis. 😉

      I’m continually baffled by the damaging ideals being promoted regarding women and sexuality, which contribute to a slew of common problems: poor body image, depression, relationship strife… The world needs more role models like you.

      Reply
  7. August, like you I always thought that sex was appropriate only in relationships. I never, not once, had a one-night stand or anything even similar before I got married.

    I think it is important for women (and men) to respect themselves, but I know longer believe it’s impossible to respect yourself while engaging in fun and casual sex. Just wish I’d gotten to that realization sooner…

    Reply
    • I imagine many share that wish, Julie. I’m grateful that there are so many ways to be adventurous within the bounds of a secure, committed relationship. And I know many couples who’ve stayed happy and fulfilled without sexual experimentation-filled single time. Thanks so much for weighing in. 🙂

      Reply
  8. I’ll just say that I’m too damn intense for the casual stuff.

    For what is it to hunt and conquer, if I do not also Dominate and devour?

    Reply
  9. So far in my life I have not done the “casual sex” type of life experience. There are a lot of ingrained things in my upbringing which take the fun out of it. However, I have come to rethink a lot of ideas of late. This is one which is going through my head. I suppose what I truly wanted to say is that women aren’t the only ones who struggle with the idea of sex for the pleasure of sex.

    Reply
  10. All i can (or even feel I need to) say is… What a wonderfully empowering post. LOVE!!!

    Reply
  11. I’m going to be very discreet here but thank you for reminding me of someone. 😉

    Reply
  12. I went through a similar phase in my late teens/early twenties. Unfortunately I don’t look back on it with any degree of fondness. Those experiences were far from good, or exciting, or anything else. Now I’m at the point where, for sex to be good for me, there has to be a whole lot more. Non-sexual touch (and lots of it), cuddling, definitely a best friend kind of thing going on, knowing someone understands me. If most of that stuff isn’t there, I just can’t work up much of an interest. :-/

    Reply
  13. I learned more about myself and my body living alone for a few years than at any other time in my life. This was surpassed only by the time I spent with my husband before marriage which is a huge part of why I married him — he helped me learn about myself. 🙂

    Every woman should experience amazing, outrageous sex before they settle for whatever… There’s so many ways to settle. A lackluster sex life is only one of them.

    Reply
  14. I did things the other way round, and it helped me choose a husband who is my best friend, partner-in-life and still my lover after 20 years. Prior to that, I’d never had a relationship last more than a week. I wish my 17 year-old self had been able to discuss her needs like this.

    Reply
  15. Raani York

     /  November 19, 2012

    You know, I really enjoyed this article August.
    As for me… I guess, after I started accepting myself with everything that belongs to me – after a few really “back-then-heartbreaking-but-now-amusing” relationships only a young woman can have that has been growing up thinking that only a married woman really is one as long as she gives birth to a few kids… – after finding out more about myself and finally realizing I will never ever be slim, beautiful and/or even pretty and started to “just become myself”, deciding I enjoyed being a woman and as well decided I wanted to make a few experiences that might teach me something. – And yes, they did.
    I found out a few things about me, enjoyed who I was and I don’t regret anything – and I still enjoy who I am, being in a happy relationship now – and 100% faithful.
    Making experiences for this particular period of time was one thing…
    But being in a relationship to me faithfulness is the base of it.
    Thanks August, for reminding me of a kind of experimental, amusing, free and self-confidence developing and highly amusing phase of my life!! 🙂

    Reply
  16. Ah, the cycles of being a woman. I lived that life too. After I divorced at 22, I was single for 13 years before I married again and the last 2 of those 13 I didn’t even date. I was perfectly happy.

    Then – bam! I met my husband, he swept me off my feet, I knew what I wanted, and what I didn’t, and here I am today. Happy!

    Great post!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Reply
  17. I wonder if we’re in a new era, or returning to a kind of sexuality women enjoyed once in a pre-historic time. Did you read Hanna Rosin’s article “Boys on the Side” in the Sept. Atlantic magazine? Similar theme, G rated. A firestorm of response, as you can imagine. Wonderful and courageous post.

    Reply
  18. My response warrants a personal email to you, August. Hope you don’t mind. I have questions I’d prefer not to put on the ‘net. IYKWIM.

    I will tell you this topic engages…

    Hmmm. I’ll leave it at that for now. 😉

    Reply
  19. My experience has been one of some serious lack luster. I haven’t been single too much bouncing from one not great relationship to another. Living vicariously through all the free and sexual healthy people I’ve known over the years has been it for me.

    Reply
  20. I have so been enjoying the different turn your blog has taken. It’s nice not to be thinking about literary genres and the challenges of editing all the time!

    I feel lucky to have come of age at a time and in a social setting when experimentation was the norm. I’m not sure all of it was healthy, but it did afford me a lot of opportunities and a chance to arrive at an understanding of myself and my sexuality. Now I’ve been happily married for more than 20 years without the restlessness that might have afflicted me had I jumped into that kind of commitment earlier.

    Reply
  21. Kourtney Heintz

     /  November 20, 2012

    This is definitely a new spin on the Thanksgiving day post, and I like it! 🙂

    Reply
  22. good post, August. thanks for the series…it’s great

    Reply
  23. So wise, August. I’m here a little late but inspired and empowered too! I have been in a loving, monogomous relationship for 20 years. And truly I wish we did it more! *Blushing* to admit it! 🙂

    Reply
    • Desire is a fabulous first step! No need to blush, though you’re welcome to. 🙂 Congrats on your long-lasting happiness! Wishing you much more.

      Reply
  24. I’ve spent so many years trying to self-analyze the sexual freedom time of my life (particularly as it ended with a pregnancy that sent me home with my tail between my legs, as you read about recently, thus making me feel shame about it), that it’s nice to see that ‘opportunity’ from a different perspective. I always knew that ‘sowing my wild oats’ first for a time–it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for long–allowed me to be a better single mother than most, but I hadn’t considered the fact that that freedom, per se, could have been embraced and appreciated all these years. Mush introspection to follow, I’m sure. You write beautifully, August. So easy to read. ^Also agree with Kecia, above. *Blushing* But agree! 🙂 @KimWCPosse

    Reply
  25. Reblogged this on The Sexy Cynics.

    Reply
  26. Great post. Thanks

    Reply
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