Friday, August 11, 2006

Sean Pennish

I have only ever had a couple of booty calls in my life. It's been either boyfriends, one night stands, or flings that came out of an unspoken acknowledgment of a surplus of chemistry but lack of relationship material. Then there was one Sean Pennish (three guesses as to which celebrity he resembled).

Sean and I met via the online personals, a breeding ground for ambivalence, promiscuity, and ambivalent promiscuity. What attracted me to him initially was his reformed bad boy persona. This guy toured with a band years ago, had his share of drinking and drugging (and, I imagine, groupies), but was now clean. The only visible remnant of his wild days were the tattoos visible in one of his profile photos in which he was wearing a wife beater.

[This is where I acknowledge both the fact that tattoos do not always belong on "wild" or "bad" people and that "wife beater" might be an incidiery term, but it stays because "undershirt" has a dorky ring to it.]

In the beginning, Sean Pennish was actually all gentlemanly and proper. He paid for dinner and took me to the movies and even uttered the words, "I'm trying to court you." The first two dates contained nothing more than light making out and hand holding. I liked the idea of this rocker-turned-computer-administrator being on his best behavior, even acting a little nervous around me.

Then the third date happened. I made the mistake of agreeing to come over to Sean's place under the pretext of watching a movie. Once upon a time I could actually go over to a man's house where "watching a movie" didn't involve getting naked shortly thereafter. Maybe it was Sean's innuendo and flirtatiousness that did it, or the promise of getting a good look at those tattoos. Maybe his streak of naughtiness and former hedonism made me want to reply in kind. Either way, I made the mistake that oh so many women make. I slept with him and then got emotionally attached before terms for the relationship (or lack thereof) had been established.

Any female who claims she can have sex with a man without getting the least bit attached is either on the rebound, lying, deeply emotionally fucked up, has a penis, or is a robot. I say this as a non-robotic, non-penis-owning female who has been able to have casual sex, but not often, and usually when my emotional core was about as impenetrable as Fort Knox. It can happen, but I believe that more often than not, a bond is created, thanks to our bodies' chemistry. Sadly, it is usually one-sided; even though males and females both release oxytocin during orgasm, it's the fair sex that tends to get attached.

Back to Sean Pennish. While I initially hoped he might be my boyfriend, it wasn't long before I realized how very little we had in common, how few our sources of conversation were, how mismatched we were intellectually, and how he was interested in having sex with me and nothing more. I could take it or leave it. I decided to take it, from time to time. Every few months I would unblock him from instant messenger, get a surprised greeting from him, and take a late night taxi or subway over to his place.

I liked the idea of having sex with him more than the deed itself. I mean, all Sean Pennish needed to complete the bad boy stereotype was a leather jacket and motorcycle. There was something gratifying about doing it with someone I'd have misgivings about bringing home to Mom, even if the sex was mediocre. He wasn't into much foreplay, was rarely able to get me off and wasn't a fan of cuddling (which nowadays is pretty much a dealbreaker). People have asked why I bothered sleeping with him if it was so unsatisfying. Truth is, it was more about maintenance, "cleaning the pipes" as they say, feeling like a normal person after an extended amount of abstinence. Sean Pennish broke a few celibacy streaks for me, one nearly half a year long. The last time I saw him was a little over a year ago, less than 24 hours after being dumped. I spent the afternoon and evening getting sloppy drunk and took a cab over, still buzzed when I got to his place. Not long after that I realized just how unsatisfying the encounters were. This booty needed to do some branching out.

Why this reminiscence all of a sudden? The other day, on my way to work, I saw Sean Pennish on the subway. I nearly didn't recognize him in glasses, a prim button-down shirt and sensible navy trousers. He was reading a book and looked downright nerdy. The other passengers in the car would never suspect that beneath the corporate exterior was a toned body covered in ink with a sex/drug/rock 'n' roll-fueled past. Looking down at my own business attire, I wondered if I looked equally chastened. Who knows, maybe every suit and pair of sensible shoes hides tales of hedonism and unrestraint.

Sean Pennish got off at the next stop. I sighed in relief, grateful that he didn't see me and that I no longer feel the urge to take cabs to outer boroughs, tipsy and emotionally cold, for a cheap hookup.

19 comments:

StrangerInTheseParts said...

I'm pretty sure the most incendiary name for a wifebeater is "guinea tee".

Other thought: if the sex was not good, did it really 'clean the pipes'? If you didn't really like him much, did you need to be with him for emotional reasons?

Could it be more that we carry an image of ourselves ("I can get laid" "I sleep with cool people" whatever) and when reality isn't bearing those ideas out, we get involved in these not-actually-very-satisying experiences because, however marginally, it soothes that part of our self-image that has been bruised lately.

Auntie Mom said...

Any female who claims she can have sex with a man without getting the least bit attached is either on the rebound, lying, deeply emotionally fucked up, has a penis, or is a robot.

Oh, you probably knew I'd up and disagree with that! I'm representin' yo. I've had plenty of sex with men whose last names I never caught and was never emotionally attached, and I'm not on the rebound, lying, etc.

Although maybe there's a ratio. I'd say maybe 1 out of 5 I'd get attached to. Someone should do a study.

pookalu said...

do i have much to say about

-booty calls
-running into "ex's" on trains
-emotional availability.

but i won't. too exhaustive. anyway, you know, dolly. you know.

how funny!

Betty on the Beach said...

I used to think I was one of those women who could have numerous, nameless hookups...chew them up, spit them out and move on to the next conquest. I actually convinced myself my choices were empowering. It took a while to figure it out, but I was so totally lying to myself.

Sex IS emotional for women. My reason for why it's emotional (and this is my theory at least) is that sex is internal for us. We welcome a man into our bodies and that is why we develop these attachments.

Now that I'm older I'm much more reserved about the men I choose to sleep with and I think I'm all the better for it. Less destructive to myself...and THAT'S empowering.

Anonymous said...

"Celibacy streaks", "one nearly half a year long" - !!! You are a complete amateur. A year is nothing, even a few years isn't difficult. The most interesting thing is that one's brain begins to function rationally. So much so there seems increasingly little point to resume sexual relations.

Constant Dater said...

Sadly, sometimes "cleaning the pipes" is more psychological than physical, meaning that even though you didn't get off, you feel better for having broken the seal and reset the "No sex since X" clock.

Anyway, this part hit home: ". . . the online personals, a breeding ground for ambivalence, promiscuity, and ambivalent promiscuity." So, so true. So true in fact that in self-interest, I've decided to take down my profile and brave it in the real world come 8/31. Too many rebounders and flakes.

coasta said...

it's the whole sex and the city thing again. meaningless, promiscuous sex for young 'powerful' women just ain't the solution. for most women it just ain't genetically mandated.

Anonymous said...

I think I'd feel like a real slut if I had sex with men who's names I couldn't remember, and I think most emotionally well adjusted women would say something similar! I feel quite lucky to have had great sex with all the guys I've slept with, made all the better by the fact that with each and every one there was some sort of emotional attachment at the time. A simultaneous orgasm with someone you are crazy about and who is crazy about you can be F@#cking fantastic- try it auntie mom!!

Constant Dater said...

Wow, let's give anonymous 9:10 a cookie. /sarcasm

Dolly said...

Stranger,
I think Constant Dater's first comment really (pardon the pun) nails it. Sometimes it's a matter of resetting the clock. And yes, absolutely, being with Sean Pennish was a nice ego boost.

Auntie,
I would say you are one of the exceptions and thought of you when I was writing that statement. There are always going to be those who do not fit generalities. For the most part, though, from everything I have seen and personally experienced, women can't have casual sex as easily as they think. Sooner or later, the feelings tend to catch up or they want something more.

Pooka,
Yeah, I know you can't relate. At all.

Betty,
I've been thinking more and more about what you said with regards to the physical act of sex and how it's more personal for women because we have a man inside of, which is very intimate and intense. Moreso than what a man goes through physically, I think.

Dolly said...

Anonymous 1:48,
If not desiring sex equals thinking "rationally" then I hope I never attain that kind of thinking. Having physical desires is normal and healthy and when in a fulfilling relationship, having sex is far from pointless. May I forever be a celibacy amateur.

Constant Dater,
I can't agree with you more. And good for you for taking a break with online dating. It has its uses, but gets tiring after a while.

Anonymous 9:10,
Woah, somebody took her judgmental vitamins today! There's nothing wrong with a fling or one night stand from time to time. And yes, sex is usually better with someone you love. Not exactly a newsflash there. No need to be so condescending, either.

Sarah said...

Every time I click to read the comments on your site, I get a PAGE SIZED pop up from something called Bravenet. Stop it, Bravenet!

Anonymous said...

I am entitled to my opinion, right Dolly? I'm sorry about the "judgemental vitamins", but I'ts my personal opinion that it is not okay to preach that one night stands with someone who's name you don't even know is okay from time to time. We are living in the world of AIDS as you are well aware, as well as a myriad of other sexualy transmitted diseases. This kind of activity not only perpetuates and spreads disease, but it also says something about the real moral decay of society on so many levels. Call me a prude, I guess (and no, I'm not a Christian conservative).

Auntie Mom said...

Dear anonymous,

Could you please do me one favor? Pray for my depraved soul. I hope I can be redeemed in the eyes of the Lord for my amoral behavior. Obviously He's forgotten to smite me by giving me sexually transmitted diseases, knocking me up, making me irresponsible and hurting all in my path. Cause frankly, all I remember getting out of it was some good clean fun at no one else's expense, least of all yours.

There are a lot more evils in this world than consensual sex, and if you haven't experienced any of them, start counting your blessings.

SecondarySight said...

Anonymous said:
I'm sorry about the "judgemental vitamins", but I'ts my personal opinion that it is not okay to preach that one night stands with someone who's name you don't even know is okay from time to time.

Ok, then you are saying that it is not ok for people to have one night stands with people who's names they don't know, even just from time to time. For this claim to make any sense, I was expecting you to provide some reasons why casual sex is so bad.

AIDS? The chances of heterosexuals contracting through protected sex are extremely miniscule. It doesn't make much sense to say that people should not have casual sex because of some miniscule, but nonzero risk of contracting AIDS. By that logic, we should also not drive cars, because there is a nonzero chance of getting into a crash. In reality, many people find the benefits of having casual sex, and of driving cars, to justify the risks (though if either of these risks aren't acceptable to you personally, you don't have to take them).

The other reason you provided against casual sex was that it "it also says something about the real moral decay of society on so many levels." What you are basically saying here is that casual sex is bad because it is, well, bad. Hmmm.

Something you are correct about, unfortunately, is that many women (well adjusted or otherwise), will feel like sluts after having casual sex. I have never had a random sexual encounter that I did not feel ambivalent about (though that doesn't mean I regret them overall; again it's an issue of cost vs. benefits). Luckily, as a guy, I have not been trained to feel guilt or shame about doing so.

Anonymous said...

Secondary sight,
I went to your blog, hoping to read some interesting and enlightening thoughts on sexuality and ethics: unfortunately, there aren't any yet. Please write something, I'm interested.
I'm sure Dolly doesn't appreciate that I have monopolized this space to discuss my opinions, so this will be my last post.
I never thought that I would have to defend my stance that random, casual sex with strangers is not a good idea, but here goes. I mentioned AIDS as one possible VD which could be contracted, but there are many others to be concerned with, even through "safe sex" as you mention: herpes is an infection which can be contracted through skin touching skin alone, even around a condom, and even when the infected person is not having an outbreak. Genital warts is another such infection. And what makes you presume that all casual sex hookups involve condoms and safe sex? I think you are naive to believe that everyone that practices casual sex with strangers always uses condoms. I could go on and on about VD and the fact that condoms aren't 100% foolproof, but I have limited space here. As far as my other reason goes: it's my personal opinion (take it or leave it) that sex is something beautiful to be shared with someone special and important to you. Especially for a woman, it's a very personal and intimate act as the partner is inside of your body. It seems to me that there is nothing sacred in our culture anymore- anything is said, anything is done, and it's okay as long as you aren't "hurting" anyone else. So this leads me to an even bigger question of morality: is everything okay as long as you think it only affects you? Is it okay to blow someone on a dirty toilet in a public restroom, because it isn't hurting anyone else? Is it okay to urinate or defacate in an alleyway, as long as it isn't hurting anyone else? Is it okay to have sex in a park on a blanket, while a family with two little children walk past with their picnic basket? I don't know what is okay or isn't to you- maybe those things are okay to most. And another thing- how do you know that it isn't hurtful to you? You are a man, so maybe sexual encounters aren't tied into your self esteem like they are for alot of women. As a woman, every time you have sex with another nameless man, you cheapen yourself as well as the act. It isn't special anymore, it isn't sacred. It's something you do to pass the time and make yourself feel temporarily desireable, until you realize that there is nothing special about you- you were just another notch on the old bedpost. That is what I'm talking about when I say it's morally wrong: you keep giving it away for free, eventually it's nothing special and it's cheap. Okay- rant over.

SecondarySight said...

anonymous,

There are no thoughts yet on my blog, because I made this account for posting. I have been thinking of starting a blog, but first I want to research other blogging engines besides Blogger. This will also be my last response in this discussion.

Yes, there are risks of other sexually transmitted infections. Yet they are either treatable, preventable, rare, or not terribly malevolent. Some people may decide that the benefit of casual sex to them exceeds the risks. Furthermore, these risks aren't limited to casual sex; they exist in "meaningful" relationships also. And note that having a one night stand with someone carries less of a risk of infection than sex over a long period of time with them in a relationship, assuming protection in both cases (and a much higher chance of pregnancy).

What I am saying here is that casual sex isn't inherently bad. Yet by defending casual sex, I do not defend all quantities of casual sex. Having large amounts of sexual partners indeed becomes a stupidly high health risk.

Nor do I defend all types of casual sex. You say: "I think you are naive to believe that everyone that practices casual sex with strangers always uses condoms." I would indeed be naive if I held this belief, but I don't, and I am not defending unprotected casual sex. I do believe that it is risky, perhaps even to an unethical degree.

If someone has "a fling or one night stand from time to time," as Dolly put it, and with protection, the chances of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection are pretty low. Low enough that people can rationally decide that casual sex is worth the risk.

It seems to me that there is nothing sacred in our culture anymore- anything is said, anything is done, and it's okay as long as you aren't "hurting" anyone else.

Yup, actions that do not hurt anyone else are ok. Yet you have a limited conception of "hurt," which is why your questions are confused:

Is it okay to urinate or defacate in an alleyway, as long as it isn't hurting anyone else? Is it okay to have sex in a park on a blanket, while a family with two little children walk past with their picnic basket?

Neither are ok, because they do negatively impact other people (which I consider a type of "hurt"). As for blowing someone in a public restroom, I might even argue that it is not OK for a similar reason: it negatively impacts other people who use the bathroom and are forced to listen. If people who don't know each other's names have oral sex in private, however, I have no problem with that, because they do not negatively impact anyone else.

As a woman, every time you have sex with another nameless man, you cheapen yourself as well as the act.

You mean that every time you have sex with a nameless man (hypothetically), you feel like you cheapen yourself. But let's assume that this is true for all women. In this case, your claim that casual sex is bad for women would make sense, except for one factor that you are underestimating:

You can't just get tunnel vision on the costs of casual sex; you have to look at the benefits also to understand why people do it. You've been saying "casual sex has costs, casual sex has costs!!" Well, yes, but it also has benefits, which may exceed the costs for some people. Even if a woman does feel "cheap" or like a "notch on the old bedpost" for having casual sex, it still might be worth it to her. Many people do things they enjoy knowing full well that they may regret it later (e.g. ice cream, anyone?).

Why do I think casual sex may be worth it to some women, despite their negative feelings about it? Because many women go on having it despite their ambivalence. For instance, Dolly kept hooking up with Sean Pennish despite her ambivalence about the experience. Nobody was forcing her to do this. Apparently, she estimated the experience to be worth it, at least at the time.

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