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Second-guessing the rules of casual sex

Carolyn Hax
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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Meet a guy online, engage in light “sexting,” maybe even meet and have sex. Neither of us is interested in anything serious and we establish that at the beginning. I lose interest — just not feeling the connection — so the next time he contacts me, I text back something like, “Hey, I’m sorry but I don’t think we’re a good match.”

In response, the guy argues with me, tries to convince me to give him another chance, or asks questions that are really just arguments disguised as inquiries. Almost any reply seems to be an invitation to convince me to continue texting and/or hop (back) into bed.

In a more established relationship I would feel terrible about “ghosting” someone. But in a casual, hook-up situation where both parties have explicitly stated they aren’t looking for anything serious … is it wrong?

For what it’s worth, a few guys have done this to me, and it didn’t upset me; I sent a message saying, “I had fun! Hope to see you again!” and when I didn’t hear back, I figured that was my answer.

I don’t want to be hurtful, but I also don’t think I owe anyone an explanation for not wanting to date/sleep with them, especially when the relationship is explicitly casual and very brief. Is there a kind but firm way to convey that my lack of interest is non-negotiable? Or is this just the price I pay for casual sex?

— Not Interested

Wait — what? Let’s get our definitions straight: You can’t “ghost” someone you’ve explicitly said no to. OK, “Hey, I’m sorry but I don’t think we’re a good match” might not be as explicitey-explicit as, “I am not interested in seeing you anymore,” but it’s close enough not to be “ghosting,” which is leaving without explanation.

You tried it, you didn’t like it, you broke it off. Fair enough.

And no, you don’t owe casual dates “an explanation for not wanting to date/sleep with them.”

Please stop second-guessing yourself, and please stop explaining yourself to persistent men. It’s appropriate to say, in response to anyone who attempts to challenge a breakup: “This isn’t a debate, it’s a decision. I am not interested.” But after that — and certainly once someone has pushed a boundary — for you to stop responding. Block anyone who persists.

As for your parting shot, “Or is this just the price I pay for casual sex?,” it’s a fine line and I fear you’ve put yourself on a shamey side of it. I hope as a society that we’ve matured beyond “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” cautionary tales where women who own their sexuality are depicted as sacrifices to homicidal man-karma.

However, anyone who seeks anything from other people, be it a restaurant meal or ride share or app sex, casts his or her lot in with strangers. That’s life, so I’m not suggesting we all treat every single stranger as a danger to us. The numbers don’t support that and sanity doesn’t recommend it — plus, the people we know mess us up plenty. However, we all have to understand and own the amount of risk we assume. If your experiences have you rethinking your risk tolerance, then honor that with your choices. Entirely your call.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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