Developing a deep bag of tactics for bailing out on dating scenarios gone awry is one of the most immensely useful things a young, sexually active woman can do. Of those, the most critical tool, and the one you should focus on building a skill at before any other, is the ability to know when it's time to derail the train (that could be literal, depending on what kind of group activity you might have found yourself in the middle of) and get thee to the safety of a cab, or your bed, or a bar with your friends to laugh about the asshole you just successfully didn't have sex with. There are a million ways to get out of sleeping with someone, but really only one failsafe way to determine if you do or don't want to.
It can be tricky to know when the shaky feeling in your gut is merely anxious, excited date jitters, and when it's your primal alarm alerting you that this might not be a thing you really want to do. Here's how you know: you just know. Butterflies don't make you want to run away. They make you want to stay and play. If anything in you is saying "I'M LE BORED" or something more urgent, just listen and leave. Besides, it's not even that serious. Sex happens, but it also doesn't, and neither outcome should be super game-changing. Any potential partner who feels otherwise is almost definitely an insecure, selfish douchetronaut. The worst that can happen is you later realize maybe you called it wrong, and maybe that is a person you want to get naked with, and if that happens, I promise you it won't be that hard to get back on track.
Now I, being the unstoppable grace factory that I am, have let myself get so far into some evenings before realizing I wasn't into things that there was no chance at all of getting out without looking like a mental patient. I'm weirdly unbothered by this. Fuck it. When keeping it classy goes wrong, you sometimes have to settle for just trying to keep it together. "It" meaning "your thighs."
Claiming to be sick
In the best of circumstances, with the maximum foresight into my upcoming disinterest in sleeping with a person, the seeds of "I ain't feelin' so hot" are planted early in the evening, giving me a chance to slowly build from a fake inkling of illness to a full-blown fake bout of something deadly that unquestionably prohibits vagina games. But I don't always know what I don't want until I don't want it, so occasionally you're balls deep in... balls okay? Balls deep in balls before you realize you aren't into it. That happened to me, and I pretended to have some kind of undefined stomach pain and hastily left. To be fair, I wasn't entirely full of shit; this particular fellow's dick smelled 40 flavors of not okay. Stomach: turned. Date: over. See you never, poo peen.
The fake emergency text
No single woman is an island. This is what friends are for. In this case, I had met the guy just once before (I had, like, no goddamn vetting process when I was 20) when he asked me out, so how could I have known that his idea of a first date with a total stranger was to sit in his loft and watch Twin Peaks in the dark? It was an anti-magical evening that felt like getting time-warped into a night in the life of a years-old relationship between two people who had lost all but a wispy memory of sexual interest in one another, which is entirely befitting the amount of vagina juice I was not generating for this bro. He kept offering me mojitos he had made before I got there, which I declined because I just wasn't in a GHB-y kinda mood, ya know? I think I mumbled some excuse about the Atkins Diet. I sat on his couch for an entire 45 seconds (I have manners like that) before excusing myself to the pooper to text my friend to text me in 30 seconds with a crisis. I returned to the couch (he had scooted closer to where I had been sitting), got the text, half-assed urgent fluster, and booked it out of that rape den. The actual text said "If you be my bodyguard, I can be your long-lost pal" because my friends are solid individuals who like to test my straight face-keeping abilities with Paul Simon lyrics in times when laughter wouldn't be appropriate.
"Please put your dick away and drive me back to school."
The problem with smoking weed as a teenager ("IS NOTHING!" says 17-year-old Jessica, who is an idiot, and probably stoned) is that it gives you this false sense of camaraderie with anyone else who smokes weed. This is a dangerous social precedent to walk around with, especially if you're also walking around with a lack of time-earned world experience, endless confidence and an ass that don't quit. So one day when this guy asked me if I wanted to skip fourth period and smoke, I was all "duh, yes, duh, let's go." The scenario I thought I was agreeing to: go to the parking lot, share a blunt, walk to the gas station for a Sprite, go back to class having made my upcoming worm dissection in Bio seem a little more intense. The scenario as it played out: He says we have to go to his car, which turns into we have to go to his apartment, which is right down the street so it's fine (it wasn't). He didn't have a key to the front door, so he picked the lock. We go inside, he disappears into another room. Even my underdeveloped red flag sensors were engaged. I went back to his car without him, which seemed moderately safer than inside his home. He found me there, and got in. He pulled out a small amount of shitty (okay, we're really done here now) weed, and some aluminum foil to smoke it out of. And the kicker: he doesn't want to smoke. I question. He answers, "I figured we would come here, you would smoke, and then we would... ya know." *Eyebrows*
Well, fuck your eyebrows, sir, and fuck your life! I demanded to be taken back to school. I was pretty sure we just robbed someone. I was scared, but coming off indignant and annoyed, which is what I was going for, because while he was much bigger than me and had me in a vulnerable position, he was also clearly dumb as hell, so I just started being a bitchy bitch to him. He started driving back to school, a short drive that afforded him just enough time to pull the hail mary of sexual predators, the "Imma-Pull-My-Dick-Out-Real-Quick-And-See-if-She-Goes-For-It" Manuever. To be fair, it was a nice dick. I felt bad for it that it had to be attached to a guy like that. I didn't tell him that. I told him forcefully to put it back in his pants. He did, and by then we were back at school. I walked quickly inside, and swear to god, I never saw him again. I'm not even sure he went there. The experience did, however, deliver on one of my expectations: cutting into that helpless, flaccid worm in Biology was an entirely altered task. It basically became me reclaiming control and carrying out knifey revenge on offensive phalluses everywhere. #therapy.
The "I'm too drunk and oh noooo I'm passing out now! zzzzzzzz"
Sometimes you're having a genuinely lovely time with a gent, drinking beer at a bar, sharing some tots, talking about bullshit, deciding you want to see each other naked. But then you actually get to the sexy part and it's just not... working. He's not a creep or a douche, or really not doing anything to merit bailing on him in some abrupt, jarring way. He's done all the necessary things, taken all the requisite respectful steps to earn your nakedness, and you're a grown ass woman who entered into this willingly, so while there's never any reason to not do something you're not into, not matter how far into it you've gone, there's also no reason to hurt this guy's feelings just because he kisses with a slug tongue, or makes sounds like an ACTUAL PUPPY when he's feeling you up. This happened to me, and while trying to decide how to get out of the in-progress hookup with minimal emotional scarring to this nice enough guy, my brain got a brain-text from God's god-phone that read: "Pretend you're real, real drunk! And then fall asleep! So it is written, boo!" Divine inspiration, you guys. So I did. He wasn't the kind of awful person I needed to run away from; I felt perfectly safe sleeping in his bed. He thought it was endearing, and we slept, and went for brunch the next day and split the check, and I never called him again. I feel like it worked out pretty well for everyone.
A version of this article was originally published on Thought Catalog.