I have a feeling this story isn't going to win me any popularity contests. It certainly doesn't reflect one of my finer moments as friend, ex-girlfriend, or person with a decent sense of compassion and empathy. In fact, what I did was downright ugly. It was also totally hot. That's the thing about sex: It's not always pretty. Sex doesn't always have to be about an intimate connection, a genuine showing of affection, or even a carnal expression of our desires. At least not when it's revenge sex.
Let me start at the beginning. My ex and his former best friend, who we'll call "Chris," spent the best days of their adolescence together. As teenage boys, they competed over everything. In their 20s, they both moved to California and then to New York. They both earned a living working in the nightlife industry. But while my ex was nesting with me, Chris was single, and partying non-stop. He'd occasionally come to our place for dinner and make backhanded compliments about how domestic a life we led. Chris was loud, opinionated, stubborn, and as a houseguest, would stay up all hours of the night. He and I clashed, and on more than one occasion I yelled at him. Fast-forward six years. My relationship with my ex was strained. We were fighting all the time, and I sensed something wasn't right. Then I got the call. Chris had phoned my brother and told him that my ex was having an affair and that, "Jill is a good woman and doesn't deserve this."
When my ex found out I knew about the affair, we exchanged text messages about him getting his stuff out of the apartment we'd shared for so long. And that was the end. In disbelief and misery, I spent a good four months not eating, sleeping, or really going anywhere. Then one balmy September afternoon, I decided to get out of the house and go shopping. High from some retail therapy, I went to a local bar on the Lower East Side where I used to go with my ex. Chris was there. I bought him drinks as a thank you for going against guy code and ratting out his friend, and we talked forever about what a jerk my ex was. That was the first night in six months I felt semi-human. A couple of weeks later, Chris texted me asking if I wanted to hang out. I was busy and couldn't, but saved the text on my phone and kept re-examining it. I was still torn up about the demise of a relationship with a man who I'd loved for six years, who considered my family his, who made plans with me about starting a family of our own. Even writing about how I felt in the aftermath of that breakup makes my stomach flip. To get my mind off the sting of rejection I felt every second of everyday, I would look at Chris' text. Then came the fantasies. Never in the six years that I knew Chris did I find him attractive. He had swagger and was a good-looking guy; he just wasn't my type. But suddenly, all I could think about was what it would be like to kiss him; to be held by him; to touch him everywhere.
So I went back to that bar on the Lower East Side one night, and I have to say, I was looking for trouble. I had this feeling Chris would be there, and he was. The minute I sat down next to him I knew it was on. We were drinking, laughing; his arm found its way around my waist, and before either of us knew it, we were outside walking over to his place. Once there, I felt an odd sensation taking over my body, like I was living in a movie. We were talking, sitting on the couch and sharing a beer when I took off my shirt. Then we went at, it spilling beer everywhere. He picked me up and carried me into his room and we both got naked. "I didn't plan this, you know," I lied. That night we had amazingly hot sex several times. Neither of us seemed to tire; we just wanted more and more. There was no talking, no cuddling in between sessions. We rested until one of us gave the signal that we were ready to go again. Closing my eyes, I can picture that night, and it has to be one of the most passionate times ever.
The next morning I left without saying much, but I was a new person. I'd done something horrible, and the shame had me turned on like I couldn't believe. All the months of anger and sadness had exploded in my night with Chris, and I was left feeling so bad, and yet, as the cliché goes, so good.
I tried to forget about it. I told myself it would never happen again. Then at one in the morning I received a text from him. It read: "I keep thinking about it." To this day, that is the most turned on I've ever been reading a text message. We texted back and forth making jokes about how we could end up on "Jerry Springer," and then he asked if I wanted to meet up again. Did I?! For months, the anger I had inside me had nowhere to go. I didn't know what to do with it. I cried. I whined to my friends. I fell asleep in my mom's lap. But I was enraged that someone could betray me in the way he knew would break me. Sure, mom's coddling was nice, but I really just wanted to f*** away the pain. So I met up with Chris -- again and again.
It went on for a bit in the same way: no talking, just almost primal revenge sex. But the passion I'd felt the first time waned with each subsequent encounter. As I was kissing Chris, I'd get a flash of my ex's face. When Chris would push his chest into mine, it was my ex's body I would feel. Before long, I was hysterically crying -- total mood killer. In the morning, I'd put myself back together and leave his apartment ashamed. The guilt that had been a supreme aphrodisiac the previous week was making me feel like I could melt into the pavement at any second. I knew Chris didn't have feelings for me beyond the fact that he wanted to screw my ex over, another win in the ongoing competition that had defined their friendship -- so he screwed me. The intense revenge sex had backfired: I ended up feeling morally reprehensible and missing my ex even more. As dysfunctional as our relationship was, sex was something we never had problems with. In fact, it was one of the few ways that we were able to be authentic with each other and maintain a connection.
When I'd meet up with Chris, I could tell his feelings had shifted as well. The novelty and taboo had worn off, and the silence that had once been a sign of our lust lingered awkwardly. Unable to bear it any longer, I voiced my concerns about what we were doing. As soon as I mentioned my ex's name, Chris jumped up and yelled at me not to ever say that name in his bed. Then Chris and I were yelling and carrying on, and it was all so reminiscent of being with my ex I couldn't take any more. Chris texted me the next day and said he didn't think we should see each other any more. I threw my phone against the wall. I was being rejected all over again.
I can only speak from my experience: Revenge sex might give you a cheap thrill, but it doesn't end well. Not because sex has to fit into a pretty little box where everything is always morally taut. To this day, my ex still doesn't know about my affair with Chris. I don't think he reads my column, and I'm not writing this to exact my final revenge. In fact, I hope he never reads this, never finds out. What Chris and I shared was between us -- the way sex works best in my opinion -- as something between the people engaged in the act. The problem with revenge sex is there's always a third party lurking in the bedroom, haunting.
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It's too easy for us women to convince ourselves to settle for less. We're so helpful and accommodating, so eager to please and afraid of rejection that we're quick to give up the things we need, including when it comes to sex. What we need to see is that doing this will leave us chronically frustrated. While it's true that every relationship requires a certain amount of compromise, going without the things that we really need just doesn't work. We'll end up unhappy in the relationship or resentful toward our partner. The bottom line is, we need to know what we can't live without, sexually, and what we just can't live with. We ignore these non-negotiables at the expense of a fulfilling sex life.
If you can't ask them for what you want in bed, you shouldn't be sleeping with them. Good sex happens when we feel safe and at ease. If we're afraid to ask for something or to tell our partner that we don't like something, sex will never be more than mediocre. This second tip follows from the first one, in that once we identify what we want and don't want, we have to express these things clearly. It's unfair to expect our partner to be a mind-reader and "prove" that they care by somehow knowing what we want without our having to tell them. Healthy sex comes out of healthy communication.
We need to be in touch with our bodies; with what feels good, what feels not so good and what feels wrong. We also really need to stop judging ourselves in terms of our weight and our shape. Only a superficial dope would give us a hard time over our imperfections. If someone makes us feel bad about our physical selves, this is more a reflection of his inadequacies than of our own. Our negative self-talk has to stop. The running commentary on how fat we are, how much cellulite or how many wrinkles we have is guaranteed to kill the mood, often before it even starts. Feeling good about our bodies is crucial if we're going to let go and enjoy ourselves. Being physically self-conscious will keep us from experiencing the joyful abandon of great sex.
In the bad old days, some women were led to believe that the way to get a man to toe the line is to offer sex for good behavior or withhold it when the man has displeased them. Most of us today recognize this as hateful behaviour and a recipe for disaster. Men don't want to be controlled or punished, especially around sex. They don't want to be made to feel like little boys. When we're hurt or angry at our partner, we need to share our feelings with him in an adult way. We can even say that we're too upset for sex, right now. What we mustn't ever do is make him feel like we're deciding when he gets to have sex, based on whether he's been "good" or "bad." On the other hand, using sex as a reward turns us into sex objects and makes sex into a commodity for our partner to "earn." It's no longer two people being intimate or enjoying each other. Commodifying sex makes it into a business transaction and our bodies then become objects for trade.
We might love Fluffy or Rover, but they don't belong in the bedroom when we're being intimate. Our pets are very territorial and could get jealous or want to play, too. Dogs might bark or even growl. Cats might jump onto the bed and start walking around. We can avoid these disasters by remembering to shut the door and leave our four-legged friends outside.
Sex is about connection and intimacy, but also it's about having fun. It can be mind-blowingly great or occasionally, things can go wrong. Having a good sense of humor about sex will keep things in perspective. Being able to laugh at ourselves and at the comical aspects of sex will take the pressure off the whole experience. We might love and adore our partner, but we don't have to be so serious about making love to them. Humour relieves pressure and is a great way to connect.
The best sex is the kind in which each person is trying to please the other one. The sharing in sex is one of the things that make it great. It can be technically amazing, but when one person gets the impression that the other person really isn't there with them, it can ruin the whole experience. What makes someone a fantastic lover is not their technical ability or their repertoire of moves but their attentiveness and their efforts to make their partner happy. When both people show that they really care about meeting their partner's needs, sex becomes something wonderful.
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