"I'm hungry," I texted the guy I've been talking to for the past few weeks.
He responded nearly immediately: "I can come over with pizza and wine."
I paused, because I knew "come over" didn't mean chilling on the couch and watching "Broad City." We were going to have sex. At least, that's probably where he was hoping things would lead. If I wanted pizza that night, I'd have to have him as a topping.
I didn't respond. I was tired of the fact that performing a nice deed for a woman -- fixing something around the house, buying food, giving her oral sex -- had to go hand-in-hand with penis-in-vagina. When did dropping $20 on a pizza become the admission price to a woman's panties?
Don't get me wrong, I'm all about greasy food and sexy action. One of my personal fantasies is having someone feed me buffalo wings while I'm on top. But my straight male friends tell me that after taking a girl out for a dinner date, they expect something in return. A nice dinner is expensive, after all, and she should be grateful.
As repulsive as it sounds, I find myself falling for it again and again.
So I formed an experiment: I decided to spend the entire weekend exclusively eating food provided for me by men. I hoped to discover that there were guys out there who wouldn't think a purchase of food and an hour of acting like a decent person meant I owed them sex.
It wasn't as easy as I'd hoped.
I went out with a couple of girlfriends Friday night. Around 2 am, drunkry (drunk-hungry) pangs hit, so I began scouting guys who'd potentially be down to grab drunk food with me.
Eventually, I roped a guy into snagging me a slice. We'd been talking at the bar and he seemed nonthreatening. He wasn't my type at all -- bald, shorter than me -- but I was starving. I didn't tell him about my experiment, but I did tell him I appreciated the slice.
He snapped a photo of me for Instagram. The following day, my mom asked if I was actually naked in the photo -- but that's a separate story. Spoiler alert: I'm not.
By Saturday morning, I'd already broken my own rules and slept with a guy because he bought me pizza.
This guy might've been one of Snow White's dwarves (hey, I'm a height-ist), but he still came home with me that night. I was pretty tipsy and, therefore, horny enough to bring someone back to my doggy daycare of an apartment.
I didn't sleep with him because he got me pizza. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. I think my biggest motivator was that he was just so fundamentally nice and not creepy, which made it OK in my book. But did I think he was nice because he got me pizza or because he was just a nice person? I don't know.
He didn't kill me or my dog in my sleep, which was a win, I guess.
We ventured out for breakfast around the corner from my apartment and he bought me eggs. I don't usually let guys spend the night at my place, and I especially don't let them get breakfast with me, so this was new. I think he wanted to split the bill, but I told him I'd left my wallet at home (I hadn't).
Later in the day, I hit up my gym buddy. Although he's mostly just a friend, we had slept together once -- I figured he qualified for my great food experiment. He works at Equinox, and I've never seen him consume solid food.
I met up with him at his apartment and, despite my best intentions, we fooled around a little. I had started out looking for men who didn't expect sex for food, but obviously I'd internalized the idea that I "owed" a guy something just because he bought me dinner. Or in this case, questionable green goo from a local juice shop before our hot yoga class.
At least he went down on me for long enough to make me forget I was still pretty hungry and could've used a burger or one of those cheesy quesadillas from Calexico. And he made fancy French press coffee for the both of us.
Not even 24 hours into my experiment, and I already slept with two different men at least partially because they provided food.
The thing is, they never even implied that I should sleep with them. I had sex with them both because I wanted to. My brain was linking food and sex without my conscious effort. I was confusing kindness with seduction. Maybe I'm just not used to guys being nice to me.
Saturday evening, I had plans with a guy I was sorta-kinda seeing. He didn't know about my experiment, but still offered to buy me food after I told him I was having a rough month. He appeared to have honest intentions and was truly interested in keeping me from starving.
We had slept together multiple times before, and had an undeniable sexual energy, so I'd expected to hook up. But I didn't expect him to break things off after we emerged from our cocoon of sheets and bodily fluids. We were both sleeping with other people, something was amiss, blah-blah whatever. There went two months.
He didn't buy me dinner.
I left in a daze. I was hungry for someone to brush my hair back from my face and make me feel less miserable. I craved affection — and sushi. Sushi always saves the day.
When I got home, I was hungry but didn't want to give up on my mission. My roommate took pity on me and made me some tea and listened to me bitch and moan.
By Sunday, I was starting to experience the cumulative effects of sleeping with three different people in a 12-hour period. Not to mention the fact that the only one I actually liked no longer wanted to see me.
I didn't talk to anyone outside of several sympathetic friends for most of the day. I also didn't eat or drink anything except the water and coffee in my apartment, which I allowed myself because I'm not a total masochist.
By late afternoon, I was feeling peckish. I hit up Tinder, in hopes I would be able to score dinner.
After messaging a few guys for food ranging from schnitzel to pizza, I felt weirdly hollow. And not just in my stomach. I eventually got so famished I ate something I had lying around in my fridge.
When I'd first decided to do this experiment, it was to prove to myself that food and dating don't have to be transactional — while I do often feel obligated to sleep with a date after he buys me a meal, I didn't think it was a necessity. Yet, of the three guys who offered me food, I slept with every single one — and one didn't even end up buying me anything!
I'm not ashamed of sleeping with those guys (or anyone else), but when I inspected my reasons for doing so, I felt kind of dirty. I had rationalized every single one of the encounters as sleeping with the guy because I wanted to, but deep down, did I feel that I was repaying a debt? I wasn't totally sure.
This experiment made me realize one important thing. The only person I owe anything to is myself (and, OK, maybe my mom.)
Just because someone gets me dinner or fixes a doorframe or spends time downtown doesn't mean that I owe them any part of me. I was my own problem, using sex as a bargaining chip in return for food. I didn't need to see better, less transactional-minded guys -- I needed to work on how I used sex as a tool. I owe that to myself.
That night, I bought myself a bottle of wine. And, afterward, my own dinner.