Last summer, this article popped up in my Twitter feed “I Talked To 1,400 Strangers About The Intimate Details Of Their Sex Lives. Here’s What I Learned”(I am a sucker for “I did xyz and here is what I learned” articles.)
I liked what Jared had to say and thought his Touchpoint events sounded really cool…and also really scary. In case you were too lazy to click the links or read the article:
Touchpoint is a town hall where real people
share stories from their love and sex lives.
I found this idea fascinating. I don’t have many friends who are having sex on a regular basis and/or want to talk about it. And it’s not always comfortable to talk about sex with your friends, but we should talk about it! Sex happens. Most of us are doing it or want to do it. And whether we do or we don’t (and how it goes if we do) has a big impact on how we feel physically and emotionally.
When I found out that these events are held in NYC every month, I added this to my “New Things in 2017” bucket list but it didn’t happen in 2017. Yeah, I think we SHOULD all talk about sex, but the idea of doing it is intimidating. I don’t enjoy saying ANYTHING to a room full of strangers and talking about sex in a room full of strangers would definitely be a first. I was also pretty sure I would be the oldest person there. Its hard to find group events (when I am not trying desperately to avoid them) where I don’t feel a lot older (or sometimes a lot younger) than everyone else. I am like Goldilocks in the Big City.
After stalking Touchpoint on Instagram for six months, I saw that “casual sex” was on the agenda for March which definitely piqued my interest. As a single woman dating in NYC in the 2010’s, it’s hard to avoid the topic of casual sex. In the age of dating apps, there is a perception that people can very easily “hook up” on-demand and that they do it, and like it (and that many prefer it to relationships). This is not my experience or the experience of any single women I know, but it is the experience of many men who have come into my life through dating apps. I was very curious to hear more perspectives on this topic. I was also missing doing new things (since I slowed down my pace this year) and my schedule was free!
So, last Tuesday I showed up at The Assemblage in Nomad ready to learn more (and possibly talk) about casual sex.
I have to start with The Assemblage itself.
The Assemblage is a “coworking and coliving space that aims to nurture community and ignite consciousness and collaboration.”
I can tell you that the space is beautiful. Every person I saw there was beautiful (and probably 20 or 30 something). And it smelled amazing (like really awesome incense that is not too overpowering.) WeWork is cool, but The Assemblage is cooler.
I can also confirm that the “director of vibes” kicks ass at her/his job. The room where Touchpoint met had candles and pillows and feathers and an overall great vibe. It was a good mix of genders and races and most of them were very attractive.
(2021 Update: The Assemblage has permanently closed)
As we entered the room, we were asked to take off our shoes and handed a card with four questions about casual sex to help frame the discussion. This card is part of a full deck that people can soon buy to encourage conversations among themselves on the topic of sex. I have to say that Jared is a great marketer and businessman. He got 100 people to pay $30-$40 each to sit in a room for 2 hours (30 minutes of that time just waiting) and listen to less than 10 people tell stories about their sex lives. And now he is going to monetize his concept with cards. Nice work.
We did have to wait a very long time on our comfy pillows before things got started. I said hello to the women sitting on either side of me who had both been to Touchpoint events before and found them “very inspiring”. (That was the only talking I did all evening).
Things kicked off with some very cool drumming and African chanting followed by a beautiful rendition of Adele’s “To Feel My Love”. Off to a great start.
Then Jared opened it up, gave the backstory of Touchpoint (read the article if you want to know) and outlined the four rules of the evening that are also four rules of great sex (which was funny and also true). I can’t remember exactly what they were but they were something like this.
- It’s not all about you
- Everyone should be allowed to finish
- Something about listening?
- What is said at Touchpoint stays at Touchpoint (I am pretty sure this was #4)
Although there is a rule about things staying at Touchpoint, this event was also recorded for the first-ever Touchpoint podcast! I will summarize for you without revealing anyone’s identity (not that I know who any of these people are) and you can also listen to the WHOLE thing on iTunes as soon as the podcast is released here.
There were a few people selected ahead of time to tell their stories so we started with those. We heard from a woman who had casual sex with a younger man at a college alumni weekend a year after a traumatic breakup. Then an agender man told us about his casual sex experience with a hot cop he went to high school with and ran into on the streets of Newark. Finally, the very nice bi-sexual woman sitting next to me (surprise!) told her story about how she and her awesome, hot boyfriend (that she met on Tinder) had a threesome with a stripper in Florida (her idea). It was a long story but a good one!
After each person spoke, Jared asked them if he had permission to ask them questions (a little dramatic but intended to drill home the importance of consent). Then he asked them a couple of questions and we moved on. The questions were not very deep, but there was a time constraint. There were 100 people there and I am sure he wanted to give as many people as possible time to speak.
We heard from a few more people who had mostly great casual sex experiences. A couple of people (men, actually) talked about exploring casual sex after assault or to help improve body image, but in general, the theme was that casual sex was empowering and fun. The very last person to speak was a woman who said that she always has emotional expectations when she has sex with someone and she found it very hard to believe that she was the only one who felt this way. Jared responded by saying “I say this with love…” and then went on to tell her she should “listen” and not assume that everyone’s experience was the same as hers. To me, it felt like she was being scolded.
I get it. He is selling a safe space where people can feel free to talk about whatever their experiences are and not feel judged. So if you say your sex was fun, it was fun. But what if your experience is that you don’t want to go to sex parties, or pick up strippers (or cops) and that casual sex leaves you feeling empty? That perspective was not shared at all and this was the perfect opportunity to go there. He didn’t take it. I might be projecting my own thoughts on to that exchange, so I look forward to listening to it back on the podcast and re-assessing, but it left me with a bad feeling.
In the end, I did not come away with great insights on how people feel about casual sex overall but I heard some interesting stories. As much as I dread events where you have to “turn to the person next to you” and say anything, this event could go deeper if it there was some of that “turn to the person next to you.” I am sure everyone in that room had something to say and 90% of them were not comfortable speaking up or needed more time to work their way up to it. We were encouraged to stay and continue the conversation amongst ourselves but it was 10pm by then and I was tired (because I am kind of old). So maybe it’s on me for not mingling.
I did get confirmation that the generation after me DOES go to sex parties and have threesomes way more than people my age did back in the day. We definitely had “casual sex” in the 80s and 90s (I think we called it “one nighters”) but I remember it being pretty traditional stuff.
So what would I have said if I had the microphone at Touchpoint?
Casual sex is a part of my life because most of the men I am attracted to can only have this kind of sex. Some of that is on me, and some of that is on them. (Sex and attraction are complicated.) When I have the choice between casual sex or no sex, I sometimes choose casual sex. It is not my first choice but sometimes that is all that is on the menu. Some casual sex is more casual than other casual sex. The more connection that I have with someone, the better the sex is, always. I can’t say that casual sex has ever served me in a meaningful way. It is usually fun, but I know it also distracts me from looking for a deeper connection, which is ultimately what I would prefer if it were on the menu (and would also lead to better sex..for me). To date, I have not attended any sex parties or had any threesomes but I do not judge (sorry if you read this far and were hoping that was where this would go). I am not sure how fun those would be for me, but who knows what the future holds for Goldilocks in the Big City!
I have an analogy that casual sex is like eating a cookie. Some cookies taste better than others. Sometimes the anticipation of eating the cookie is better than the actual cookie itself. When you are eating the cookie, it might be super delicious but then it’s over and what do you have to show for it? The sugar and flour cause inflammation (that mysterious condition that is killing us all) AND then you have to put in extra time at the gym to keep looking good so you have another cookie!!! Because after you have one cookie, you always want another one. And so the cycle continues. I should really be eating more kale.
And that is what I would have shared if I actually had the nerve to raise my hand at Touchpoint. I wonder what Jared would have asked me?