Everyone knows that the freedom to engage in casual, meaningless sex with strangers at will is pretty high on the list of reasons to be single. There’s not a huge case for me to make here. Sexy lovely sex with hot randoms – what’s not to love, right? It’s the euphemism everybody thinks you’re using when you say you’re enjoying single life, or that you’ve moved on from your ex. ‘Oh’, they think – a bit jealously – ‘she’s having all the sex’.
I don’t know about you, single people, but I am definitely not having all the sex. You’re forgiven for thinking I am, because I like to use sexual metaphor to make joke (it’s funny init?), but I’m not. No, really, I’m not (I know! Look at me! I don’t get it either).
I’m not drawing attention to my lack of sexual liaison because I’m worried you’ll think I’m a slag. If anything I hope you do think I’m a slag, a little bit. It’s one of the more perverse of my many perversions that when I am called a slag it gives me a thrill. ‘Ooh’ my inner-voice says, ‘that person thinks you’re sexually promiscuous, and therefore a lot more interesting and free-spirited than you actually are’. My inner voice admires wantonness and indiscretion almost as much as I do and keeps trying to convince me to engage in more of it. Maybe I should listen to her.
No, I draw attention to my lacklustre sex life because I wonder if it’s just me that’s perplexed with the social expectation surrounding the frequency and quality of sex you’re supposed to have as a single. It’s the media who are to blame for my concern here.
A great big red statistic on the pages of a two-week old ‘Stylist’ magazine I found under some wet towels this morning suggests my lack of sexual activity puts me well in the minority. ’58% of you have sex at least once a week!’ it shouted, until I tore it into little pieces and told it to go fuck itself.
Obviously, some single people are having all the sex and enjoying it. One of my favourite friends, who is also my old housemate, for example. In the short while we lived together she had more sex than I thought was possible, with more people than I thought existed. A particularly memorable moment was coming home from work early one rainy Wednesday afternoon to find her dressed in a silk kimono, breathless and pink-faced in the kitchen, whispering ‘there’s a man upstairs, and we’ve just had sex ten times!’ under her breath as she stirred hot chocolate into a Winnie the Pooh mug. You’ve got to give credit to a person who is so totally and completely willing to indulge her every bodily desire. But, even though I admire her, all that shagging about looked like proper hard work. I wondered why she bothered with sex when one could derive equal amounts of pleasure from just going outside and smoking a quiet fag in the sun.
I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression. I am having some of the sex, occasionally. And it’s alright. In fact, it’s varying degrees of totally amazing, depending on how much you fancy the person and how pissed you are. But sexy lovely sex with strangers is simply not one of my favourite things. It definitely comes behind form-filling and eating the crusty burnt bits out of the bottom of the grill-pan when no one’s looking. I can’t be the only one.
What I find especially disagreeable is that the best thing about the one night stand is also the saddest: it’s fleetingness. The mutual agreement that this connection you’ve made with another human being will – no matter the intimacy, inhibition and velvet-sharp sensuality of your encounter – end, abruptly, with an embarrassed departure and one or both of you never calling or texting again. It’s too depressing. Too much like opening your soul for the purpose of letting a bitter, chilling wind inside. This is not wise behaviour, especially not for people (all of us) who are only pretending to be shallow in order to avoid engaging with the oily black reality that is waiting somewhere deeper, ready to pull us under.
Sorry, I appear to have gone dark and maudlin there. That was unexpected, but explains, possibly, my reticence to embrace the one night stand as the most best of bestest things for a single person to do. Still – we live in difficult times – it’s always worth seizing the pleasure of the fleeting moment when it presents itself. There’s no point in being single if you’re just going to sit indoors and fail to engage in any unwise behaviour that might be both fun and totally heartbreaking. Just remember, you don’t have to do it too often. Sex isn’t, you know, the only thing.