How The Hook-Up Culture Makes Me Feel Less Human

by Gigi Engle

I didn't go into this with strong emotions. I liked him enough; I was even ambivalent about starting anything serious, but there are strange emotions that manifest from sex when it's mixed with rejection.

A friend’s mother once told me that every time you have sex, you lose a little piece of your soul. I think she meant casual sex and had good intentions when she gave us this little insight.

My mother says I am supposed to value my body. Sometimes, I don’t even know what that means. Does having sex mean that I don’t value my body? I think I value my body -- I certainly value myself. But girl power, right? Aren’t we Gen-Yers supposed to be allowed to sleep with someone without feeling guilty afterward? Without that feeling of blackness and shame? Maybe we’re just having sex in hopes that it will lead to love. Maybe we’re all wrong.

I have a very complicated relationship with sex.

Like I said, there are emotions associated when rejection follows sex, regardless of whether or not you were initially interested in the person. Sometimes, I feel dirty and weird, like I gave something up that I shouldn't have -- like I wasn’t, as my mother says, valuing my body. I’m constantly struggling with the notion that women are sexually free while simultaneously battling my own demons and self-doubt.

I'll admit that I'm nervous about writing this post. Yet, somehow I feel more human for doing it, as if I’m somehow admitting that sex is power and sex is fragility at the same time: one f*cked up, two-headed monster. There's something cathartic about admitting and sharing this thought.

I don't seek to generalize all women or say that women can't have casual sex — I have casual sex on occasion. I just want to point out the delicate nature of my own womanly sexuality in sexual situations. For me, sex, coupled with subsequent rejection (or fear of rejection), can shake me so thoroughly that it leads me to question my strength. For a few tender days or weeks, I feel anxious and broken.

We women should be strong about our sexuality; female empowerment is a good thing. So why do I still feel like nothing after sexually giving myself to a person and promptly being dropped? Rejection. It's ugly and it hurts. Even if I didn't like the guy that much, getting rejected is so painful and it makes me feel ashamed. I’ve added one more notch to the old belt — and for what? I wish men didn't have that kind of power; I wish I were more like a man in terms of sexuality. I act like I am; I tell myself I am, but I’m lying to myself.

I'm a confident person. I have an amazing support group of people who love me and yet, I still feel this way every time: a little bit shattered and a little bit shaken.

I enjoy sex, but like I said, my relationship with sex is complicated. When rejection happens, it makes me question myself. It's often because I wonder: Why? Why didn't he want me? Even if I didn't want him, why didn't he want me? That's where the doubt comes from and the deep feeling in the very bottom of my belly. A demon lives there, deep inside of me, in the place where I wish I could shrug and say "carpe diem."

Another night, another sexual encounter in my experimental early 20s. It was a fourth date and I was supposed to be able to do it without feeling guilty — I was supposed to come out of this okay.

But, there I am, standing on the train platform at midnight, alone again. He could have paid for a cab, but he didn’t even walk me to the train. I hear my mother’s disapproval in the near future (and, frankly, my own disapproval). I hear her asking me why I didn’t value my body more than this. I feel the onset of that sinking feeling, that depth of despair that no one can fully understand until they've felt it themselves: dirty, used and alone.

All I can do is pray that this will be the last time, but I know it won’t be. I know I’m not finished making “mistakes” of my youth -- not yet. Am I less of a person, standing there on that damp train platform in my army coat wishing I were somewhere else, wishing that I were someone else? I’m waiting for that train to arrive, the one that will take me home.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It