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Dear How to Do It,
I’m a woman in her late 20s. I recently hooked up with a college friend when he was visiting my city. To me, this felt like the culmination of a long game of “haha…unless?” and was emotionally (though, frankly, not very physically) satisfying. Directly after the sex, we talked briefly and agreed that we wanted to remain in contact as friends. Then came the day after.
He cut me off almost completely right away. I know adding sex to a friendship changes things, but without talking to him, I have no idea what’s changed. I’d like to talk to him for the sake of maintaining a connection that’s important to me, but I’m concerned about coming across as pushy or not abiding by the unwritten rules of hookups (I have far less experience in this realm than he does). Is there an appropriate way to say “Hey, what the fuck?” or to at least open the door and let him know that, if he’s willing, I want to know what he’s thinking?
—Down a Friend
Rich: I mean, don’t say, “Hey, what the fuck,” if you want somebody to answer, but something like, “Hey, you’re important to me and I don’t like not being in communication with you,” something along those lines could be useful. I think the important thing to do is to lead with how much you want to be talking to this person still. Let him know that you care about him in that platonic kind of way, and go from there. Don’t accuse, don’t point fingers. Don’t say how upset he made you, et cetera, at least not at first, I think.
Stoya: Yeah, underline “platonic,” underline “miss talking with you” or whatever it is that the two of you did for interaction before you introduced sex to it, and ask if he’s willing to let you know what’s going on on his end.
Rich: I would gander a guess that he is probably responding to the same lack of physical satisfaction that she is, and maybe feels embarrassed or worried about having to discuss that. There could be a lot of things, of course. And there are definitely guys who are super, super interested and like immediately just feel almost like partners of some sort. When you begin to negotiate the sex that might happen, and then the sex happens and that changes and it may have seemed good to you, it may have seemed good to both of you, there may have been chemistry—and yet it still changes. You just don’t know what is going on; it could be fear of commitment, cold feet, they didn’t like one aspect of it, you just don’t know. But to me when this happens and I didn’t particularly enjoy the sex, that’s not a mystery. That’s okay, there wasn’t the chemistry. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t popping off.
Stoya: I’m thinking about this partner I’ve had—I’ve had sex with them several times. And one time was for me, it was completely lackluster. And they said that was some of the greatest sex we ever had.
Rich: You never know.
Stoya: And it’s not like they’ve only had bad sex, right? I’ve had what I felt was very good sex with them, and yet this was the sex that they found to be the best.
Rich: It just goes to show that like, no matter how intimate you are with somebody, there is still the matter of there being these distinct experiences that are happening simultaneously. And hopefully they’re converging and hopefully you’re on the same page, but no matter how much you are, there is still your individual subjective experience, which is going to necessarily deviate from another person’s because that’s what makes people, people.
One of the themes that we kind of talk about is this notion of you’ve already done the time with the sex, now you’re going to have conversation about the sex being bad or giving pointers or whatever. And it just seems like a burden. It seems like something people don’t want to broach. And I think that’s fair. I just think that offering this partner an alternative to that to say, “look, let’s get things back to the friend vibe that we had and share what we did have.” It doesn’t have to be about the sex. It doesn’t have to be about litigating what happened or sorting that out, or like, how do we go forward with the sex or not. Let’s just come back to where we met and resume things there. And it might not be possible, but I think it’s at least worth a shot.
Stoya: Yeah, I think the way that you’re describing it as to communicate that they don’t need to talk about the sex that happened, I think that’s really useful.
Rich: Now, another thing that might happen, she may approach him and he may want to explain and discuss and that might not be what she is looking for. He, in fact, may reveal things that she doesn’t want to hear his evaluation of the sex, right? Needless information. We’re not going to be doing this anyway, who cares? So this is a case of being aware that you might not get the answer that you want should you reconnect. And that’s part of life, but it can be particularly brutal in this arena, that kind of feedback. So you just prepare yourself.
But to me, this is worth a shot. To me, you had this friendship with somebody, just don’t let sex change it passively. Sex may have changed it as it is. You might not be able to put the genie back in the bottle, but you might be able to, and it’s worth a try.
More How to Do It
I have a friend I met a few years ago on a dating app. We had sex a couple of times, but it fizzled out. I was kind of confused by this but realized over time that we’re not especially compatible, sexually speaking. But we have remained close platonic friends. She’s the only person I regularly say “I love you” to. She says it too, but we are clear that we are friends and that we will never be sexual together. Occasionally some of our behavior is kind of sexualized (like checking to see if we have compatible kissing styles, or skinny-dipping), but I’ve felt like there were still clear boundaries that we’d never move beyond.