"I WANT TO F*CK HIM," my melodramatic best friend Violet* spilled to me during one of our three-hour Skype sessions. I could see the first snowfall of the year gently falling outside of my dirty Upper East Side apartment window, covering the city in a chic, cream-colored blanket.
"He's so gorgeous. His body looks like it was cut from MARBLE. God, if only you could only see him, Zara. He's SO my type. He's actually, like, HOT. Like, TEXTBOOK HOT. Plus, I haven't been laid in MONTHS. My sexuality is wilting like a dying plant. The other night, he asked me to go back to his place, and it took every ounce of restraint inside of me to resist having sex with him. Ugh! I'm so horny it actually PHYSICALLY HURTS!"
"What the HELL is wrong with you?" I asked, genuinely wondering why gorgeous, sexy, luscious-lipped, hyper-confident Violet would ever hold out on anyone. Violet is the kind of girl who has sex when she wants to have sex and does so without an ounce of apology.
"Do you have some sort of STD and you're waiting for the antibiotics to kick in?"
"No. But I'm 30 now, and I get the game. Basically, men want sex. When they get the sex, they stop wanting you--"
"That's so archaic!" I cried, cutting my dear friend off.
"The trick is that you hold out on the SEX for about 3 months," she said. "By that time they're going CRAZY, they want it so bad. So they keep taking you out, hoping that this night will be their lucky night. But you tease 'em and you tease 'em and you tease 'em, until you can tell that you've lured them in. Only then do you screw their brains out."
She lit up her fourth cigarette of the conversation, and I gazed at the smooth, gray smoke slowly slipping out of her lips.
"Isn't that, like, manipulating a dude into being in a relationship with you?" I asked.
"Maybe. But that what it takes these days, ya know?"
I took in Violet's hazy face staring at me through the static Skype window. The connection was so bad it made her usually sharp features look blurry. Suddenly, I was met with a vivid flashback.
When I was 10 years old and living in Connecticut, I had a babysitter that I totally worshipped. She was a perpetually tan 17 year old, with the most perfectly straight, caramel-colored hair I had ever seen. She smelled like menthol cigarettes and Victoria's Secret vanilla body spray. She always wore low-rise, acid wash jeans and she had her belly button pierced.
Clearly, she was cool as hell, and her authority was never, ever to be questioned.
Her name was Lilly*, and when Lilly was in charge, she would bestow incessant pearls of wisdom about life. She told me which drugs to try (weed) and which drugs to avoid (cocaine). She schooled me on what was classy (cigarettes) and what was trashy (gum).
But best of all, she talked to me about sex. And let's be real: I was a horny kid. I forever had sex on the brain, and I wanted to know everything about it.
One night, as I was gorging on cheese pizza and she was picking at her Greek salad, she explained The Golden Rule.
"You know Leah*, in my grade?" she said. "Your brother totally hooked up with her a few years back. I mean, who hasn't? But anyway, she's a nice girl, but she really screws up with boys. She never gets a boyfriend because she puts out too soon."
"I thought boys WANTED you to put out!" I cried, my adolescent brain bewildered. (Excuse the use of the term "put out," but it was the mid 90s, and that's how we talked.)
"They do. Of course they do. But hasn't your mom ever told you that 'No one wants to buy the cow when they can get the milk for free'?"
I was angry at my mother for being a sexually liberated woman who had NEVER explained this pivotal sexist theory to me. I shook my head solemnly.
"No one wants a girlfriend who will just have sex right away," Lilly said. "You have to wait a long time before you can have sex with a guy. Trust me, I waited six whole months before I gave it up to my boyfriend. It's just what us girls have to do."
Her frosty blue eyes looked world-weary as she stuck a piece of dry lettuce into her mouth. She looked like she'd seen too much, despite being 17.
In hindsight, that conversation was the end of my own innocence as well. The message was loud and clear: Sex isn't for female enjoyment. Sex is a powerful weapon you use to get things that you want.
You covet a boyfriend? Use your sexuality to tease him until he likes you enough to call you his girlfriend. And if you happen to have sex just because you like sex a lot, you make a sacrifice. You get a bad rep and end up permanently single.
This was a particularly tough pill to swallow, because even though I was well aware that I was probably a lesbian -- I had initiated enough "Let's practice kissing our boyfriends on EACH OTHER" sessions to realize that I liked kissing my girlfriends a little too much -- I also knew that I was a very sexual creature. And it made me sad to think sex wasn't ever going to be about pleasure. It was to be used to manipulate.
When I started dating women in my early 20s, I experienced a shift in logic. In my experience, there's no stigma about having sex early in a relationship between two women. I've had sex early on and I've waited several months, but regardless of the timeline, sex isn't needed to rope the ladies into wanting something more.
But I've stood on the sidelines and watched my straight girlfriends use their sexuality to lure boys in one too many times. Even girls as strong and confident as Violet fall victim to this game.
And in my own way, I realize I have done the same thing. Not with physical sex, but I've shamelessly held back from expressing my sexual orientation in order to get the free drink, the best table in the restaurant or the special treatment on a job. It's all the same thing, really. I was using my sexuality as a way to manipulate men to give me something.
And the whole thing breaks my heart.
But after 30 years on the Earth, I've realized that if anyone, boy or girl, authentically likes you, they won't neglect you after you have sex with them.
Ladies, you are not just a vagina. You have far more to offer than sex. The right guy won't feel like he's "done with you" after he has sex with you. He will feel like he's just starting to get to know you.
If someone ditches you after you have sex, and you shame-spiral, thinking that you gave it up too quickly, just remember this: He or she was never really that into you to begin with. When it's real, we don't need to trick someone into liking us. We are likable on our own!
Sex is a powerful thing. You never want use something so powerful and so precious as a weapon. Have sex whenever the hell you want to. Whether it's the first date or two years into a relationship or walking down the damn aisle, it's your choice.
Because ultimately, your sexuality is for your own, wonderful, amazing, mind-blowing pleasure. Nothing else.
*Name has been changed.