Roe: Casual Sextiquette

Roe McDermott

Roe McDermott is a journalist, arts critic, Fulbright awardee and sex columnist from Dublin. She lives in San Francisco, where she's completing an MA in Sexuality Studies. You can contact her at dubinq.com/ask-roe.


Dear Roe,

I’ve had a casual fuck-buddy situation with a guy for nearly a year and it’s been great – he’s a nice guy and the sex is great, so we always have fun. But I’ve recently met someone and it’s going well, so I think I have to end my casual thing soon. Seeing as me and my fuck buddy only get together to have sex, do I have to officially break up with him, or can I just not answer texts? That feels mean, but officially ending it feels weird. What’s the protocol?

Dear Letter Writer,

As a general rule, I am firmly anti-ghosting, in sex and in dating. (Ghosting, for the uninitiated, is the art of disappearing into thin air and never texting someone back after sex/ dates/ flirtations.)

If you’re not adult enough to send a text saying “It’s been really fun, but I’m not feeling it right now. Thanks for the good times, take care of you!” I also do not trust you to be adult enough to wash yourself or use contraceptives with the required care, and therefore I am officially revoking your sex privileges.

There are caveats for people who have behaved horribly, but your causal boy hasn’t done that. In fact, he sounds like a perfect fuck buddy – respectful and great in bed. Great fuck buddies are rare and valuable finds, so I think you should give him a heads-up for two reasons.

1) Because it’s the decent thing to do, and 2) in the shocking event that things eventually end with this new guy who you’re not even with yet, wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to return to the fun casual sex?

You don’t have to give a big emotional “It’s not you, it’s me!” speech, just be honest. Let him know that you’ve had such a great time over the past year, and he’s been the perfect fuck buddy, but you’ve started seeing someone so you’re going to have to take a break from your night-time excursions. But if it’s okay with him, you’ll keep his number and give him a shout if anything changes – winky face or suggestive vegetable emoji optional, problem solved.

***

If you’re casually hooking up with someone on the regular and you both want to try a few kinky things that require toys or props or, ahem, costumes – who pays? It’s not really practical to go shopping together. And if you stop sleeping together, who gets to keep them?

Going Dutch isn’t just for dates, m’dears – you can also split the bill when that bill is full of filthy toys rather than appetisers. (Or both, if you go for the right edible underwear.)

Shopping together online isn’t only a fun activity that ensures you’re both on the same page about what you want, but it makes it easy to split the total. Or if one of you wants to pick toys or props up in an adult store, PayPal or Venmo (depending on your location) makes it easy to settle up.

But, admittedly, things can get a little trickier if toys or props seem to be more obviously catering to one individual – for example, with straight cis couples, it may seem like splitting the cost of a clit vibrator may seem unfair.

Or if one individual is into a particular fetish that requires their partner to wear an expensive costume, and the other person knows they probably won’t be re-wearing it with anyone else, does the person who wants it or the person who wears it pay?

It’s important to remember that whatever you bring into the bedroom is ideally heightening the sexual experience for both of you, so it’s not about keeping score of either your finances or orgasms.

But that’s only if all things are equal. If money is tight, or if one person is requesting all the external materials, being considerate and fair is important.

Casual sex should be fun, not a source of stress or financial strain. Don’t make requests for toys if you’re not willing to at least pay half, and if you know you’ll want to keep if for yourself should your sexy situation end, pay up yourself.

Bear in mind that should you decide to split up the sex toys in the event of a break-up, you’re going to be dependent on being on good enough terms with your ex fuck buddy that you can negotiate – and if not, real estate usually wins out.

If you usually hook up at the other person’s house and so you keep the sex toys there, you’re at a greater risk of losing them in the event of a bad break-up. So if you’re particularly attached to one toy and don’t want to lose it should the sexy turn sour, maybe turn it into a commuter toy and bring it back and forth each time.

Which leads us into the question of the etiquette regarding re-using sex toys over several partners or relationships. There is an unofficial tradition among some lesbian women (some, she emphasized) to dispose of sex toys after each relationship, in respect to the energy and experiences shared.

Now, I don’t think this is always necessary. As long as you have anti-bacterial wipes and a decent philosophy regarding hygiene, I think non-penetrative toys like paddles, handcuffs and external vibrators can be kept in the nightstand after a break-up.

When it comes to penetrative toys like dildos and strap-ons, you can certainly keep them for your own masturbatory purposes – but your new partner can also reasonably object and demand new toys. In which case, see above for figuring out who’s paying.

***

What’s the etiquette for accidentally bumping into a one-night-stand in a bar or shop or something? Blank them or make awkward conversation?

In the spirit of a column about gender and sexuality, I’m going to reject the binary conditions of your question.

I believe that between pretending this person who’s been all up in your business doesn’t exist, and interrogating them about their life, there’s actually a beautiful, simple and beautifully simple other option: be polite and breezy.

This is a person you had sex with. Assuming that both of you were respectful and had fun, why wouldn’t you smile, say hi and ask them how they are before going back to what you were doing?

Ignoring someone you’ve had sex with isn’t just rude, it also enforces the idea that the sex you had was something shameful and regret-filled, to literally never be mentioned, like Voldemort. And we know that’s not true.

Even if you have your own reasons for not loving the memory of one-night-stand – rebound, beer goggles, you were mourning the end of Mad Men and he was in a suit – none of these reasons are the other person’s fault, and so you’ve no reason to make them feel bad by being anything less than friendly and polite.

It’s almost like the people you once had sex with are, you know, people. Crazy, I know.


Have a question for Roe? Submit it anonymously at dublininquirer.com/ask-roe

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Roe McDermott: Roe McDermott is a journalist, arts critic, Fulbright awardee and sex columnist from Dublin. She lives in San Francisco, where she's completing an MA in Sexuality Studies. You can contact her at dubinq.com/ask-roe.

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