We’ve all been endlessly briefed on the benefits of sleeping with someone we love, but what can we get out of fucking a totally random person (besides feeling like a slutty secret agent)? By Karley Sciortino. Image by Petra Collins.
I met Richard at a hotel bar in Soho. He was British and had the bone structure of a sexy serial killer. I was experimenting with a new pair of nude thigh-highs, and couldn’t tell if they were hot in a retro way, or just made me look like a Russian flight attendant. Still, I felt good—like a slutty secret agent. Richard had a martini waiting for me when I arrived, which is pretty much everything I’m looking for in a man. I’m not sure if he was the one, but what I do know is that we were both scrolling through our apps at the same time, which is basically the sort of Fate the Greek Gods used to talk about, right?
Richard was a corporate lawyer, but luckily he didn’t want to talk about that. Instead, he told me a random scuba diving anecdote and then led me to his room. There’s always that weird, half-exciting half-awkward moment when you get into bed with someone new, where you’re like “So who are you, really?” Turns out, Richard is the kind of person who refers to himself as “Daddy” in the third person. Usually I would find that vaguely gross, but somehow the addition of my nude stockings turned the whole thing into a 70s porn throwback moment. I was very down. The night was fun and spontaneous, and then we mutually ghosted each other and I got a week of self-induced orgasms playing it over and over in my head.
I met Richard on PURE, a hookup app that brings a new spontaneity and transparency to the heterosexual dating world. With Pure, you can find exactly what you want and when you want it (e.g. “a man with an excessively groomed mustache who’s down for reverse cowgirl on a sheepskin rug at 4pm on a Wednesday”—or whatever creepy shit you’re into), and your profile lasts only one lustful hour before it self-destructs. It also gives you an exhilarating sense of choice; it’s kind of like Seamless except when the guy shows up at your house, he isn’t carrying a plastic bag.
It will not surprise you—especially if you’re a regular reader of this blog—that I am very pro dating app. It’s crazy to think that, just a handful of years ago, we were all pretty confined to fucking within our social scenes (unless you were somehow extraordinarily skilled at picking-up people on the subway or whatever). But today, thanks so technology, escaping our romantic echo chambers is merely a click away.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my social scene. My friends are my friends for a reason. But sometimes I want to fuck someone other than a scrawny Jewish writer with a crumpled copy of the New Yorker stuffed in his tweed jacket, and perpetual armpit stains due to his insistence on traversing the city on his bicycle. For legit years I pretty much only fucked various editions of that same model. Until the day when I reached app enlightenment and the dating world cracked open.
“Random” hookups like my evening with Richard always remind me that, when you escape your network, dating can become like anthropology-lite. Curious what it’s like to bang a yoga bro? Now you can find him though your phone, from the comfort of your bed. You can meet him in his van for some downward dog-ging and you don’t even have to nama-stay over. You can essentially adopt a new life, just for the night. Of course, I’m not saying that you have to create a new identity every time you fuck a random—that would be exhausting. But sleeping with someone who doesn’t know you—who doesn’t know where you work or who your friends are, and who’s clueless to all of your scary emotional baggage—can be really freeing, because it allows you to be whatever version of yourself you want to be. And sometimes, bizarrely, I end up being more open and honest with total randoms than with my friends and partners, because I’m not beholden to their judgement (and vice versa). It’s like this weird, perfect bubble of transparency and fantasy.
Some people like the idea of dating and/or fucking with in their social scene, because it’s a way of vetting people. Basically, your date is way less likely to be an asshole to you if there’s going to be social repercussions for that behavior within your shared friend group. For instance, if your date throws a drink in your face, or worse, if he shows up to Lucien for dinner wearing cargo pants unironically, the community will shame them accordingly. But this type of social monitoring can also be restrictive, especially for women, in a culture where female sexuality is constantly policed. I don’t have to tell you that slut-shaming abounds, even among close friends. And, unfortunately, when you fuck within your network, the regular gossip-mill usually results in everyone knowing how busy your vagina has been. As well-meaning as our friends are, sometimes even our most urbane, sophisticated friendship groups function like a busybody rural village trying to arrange you with a suitor. But sometimes we just want people to get their noses out of our slutty business, OK?!
Apps like PURE are empowering because they eliminate the social-shaming paper trail, and grant you a degree of autonomy over your sex life that hasn’t previously existed. Until now, the choice to make your sex life basically invisible if you want pretty much a slut pipe dream. And also, forcing ourselves out of the pattern of our lives can be a really positive thing. Okay, so maybe you won’t marry that shaggy hobo-chic guy, or the British corporate lawyer, but not meeting up with him simply because he isn’t The One seems like a missed opportunity to embrace the randomness of human connection.