My Crazy So-Called Sober Sex Life
I assumed my confident sexual persona would disappear along with the drinks. But in sobriety, I found myself acting out sexually more than ever.
I wasn’t drunk when I lost my virginity.
I hadn’t even had a sip of beer. And yet, in the decade-plus since my freshman year of college, every single time I’ve told the story I’ve lied and said that I was hammered.
After all, it was to a frat boy who I’d never met before, on the floor of a barely-used second floor meeting room while a party was raging downstairs. I was a 19-year-old good girl virgin who normally spent Saturday nights watching romantic comedies and eating pizza with my equally sheltered dorm mates. In order for the narrative to make sense—to my friends, even to myself—I decided it was easier to lie than explain that even though it was frenetic and unromantic, in the moment it was exactly what I wanted.
The next year—and for the next decade after—I didn’t have to lie. Almost every sexual encounter I’ve had has ranged from not-quite-sober to blackout drunk. It was hard to figure out where my desire stopped and a drink-fueled destructive force began—especially when kinky or edgy elements came into the mix.
A first date: Walking toward the subway after a few drinks, he pulls me into an embrace and his fingers travel down the waistband of my jeans. I half-heartedly push him away while opening my legs to make it very clear that I want him to continue as it registers that people are watching. Would I have done that if I hadn’t had half a bottle of wine and two strong margaritas?
I loved the rush and the sense of breaking the rules and the fact that I could still be the edgy girl who had sex with strangers even if I was in AA.
Three weeks into dating a 30-something Irish guy: Five (or six, but who’s counting) oversize glasses of wine into the evening and sex starts getting rough. He spanks me, and I’m intrigued. But I’m horrified when I realize that bruises are everywhere—not just on my butt but on my arm, my collar bone, other places that I can’t easily hide at work.
Threesomes, toys, performing oral sex on one man while his roommate watched…my list of sexual experimentation began getting longer and longer. I wasn’t embarrassed by it. I even ended up writing about a lot of the experiences, trying to turn myself into a bold and adventurous heroine. But I couldn’t help but realize just how much I was glossing over the amount of alcohol I was drinking, not to mention the danger I was putting myself in every time I made a decision to go home with a semi-stranger.
For the near decade I was doing this, I was ridiculously, implausibly lucky. Yes, I had murky memories and all-over bruises but I was never ignored when I gave a firm no. I knew I was playing with fire. I knew that there was a very real chance that I could get hurt, raped, or killed. And on a far less dramatic level, I knew each encounter was chiseling away at any chance of me having a fulfilling, complete, sober sex life. After all, without a drink in my hand, I was so shy I could barely make myself speak to guys, much less ask one to spank me.
When I stopped (finally, after countless stops and starts) drinking a few months ago, I was sort of hoping any kind of kinky, exhibitionistic fantasies would disappear. I wanted to concentrate on sobriety, not sexuality. But instead I became insatiable, spending hours watching porn and feeling frustrated and subtly trying to ask the people I met in AA which meetings had the most number of straight, single men. I knew you weren’t supposed to date in your first year. I knew no one was supposed to hook up with newbies. I’d heard of 13th stepping. But I wanted to do it as an experiment—to prove I could be sexy and sexual while sober.
Which was why it seemed like divine intervention when I got an IM from a guy I’d taken a writing class with a few years ago. After chatting a bit, I told him about my decision to stop drinking and he began telling me about his social life, which consisted of sex parties and his hobby of photographing BDSM-inspired scenes. And then he invited me over to “play”—the euphemistic term for ultra-adult fun. Of course I said yes.
Later that week, he gave me a thorough introduction to his very well stocked toy drawer. But the evening wasn’t so much about bondage and more about bonding. I loved the way my body responded, and was surprised by how turned on I got. The next morning, it was weird to wake up in an unfamiliar bed, hangover free. At work, I kept replaying moments in my head. There weren’t regrets or murky memories or endless hours trying to reconstruct what had happened. Instead, I just felt pleasure mixed with pride—I’d had sex, kinky sex, sex where I didn’t have to feel ashamed about what I wanted, and I’d had it sober.
And I wanted more.
The next weekend, we went to a sex play party together. I didn’t feel shy, I felt free. I loved the rush and the sense of breaking the rules and the fact that I could still be the edgy girl who had sex with strangers even if I was in AA.
And getting to know the guests ensured more invites—plus play partners—for future encounters. I’d go to one or two parties a weekend, stripping down and allowing strangers to touch me or kiss me or spank me. During the day, I’d feel edgy and distracted, my mind constantly replaying various moments and wondering when I’d get that next rush. I’d skip out on dinner plans and obligations in favor of staying home and fantasizing about the next encounter. I’d swap endless back and forth texts with a play partner. I felt excited and a little bit out of control.
Clearly, even to me, I’d swapped one high for another. I know I’m looking for a release, a few moments where I can simply get swept up in something that feels larger than myself. And in the big scheme of things, I figure it’s better to hold off on a drink and instead hook up with just-for-fun friends with benefits. After all, it was a relief to know that I had access to sexual pleasure without booze, that there is a world of excitement and intrigue that doesn’t depend on drinking. But until I learn to say no—even to something I really, really want—I know I’ll never be able to say yes responsibly.
So for now, I’m single, sober… and finally, for the first time, not the girl who’s always ready for action.