Second-guessing the rules of casual sex |
More Lifestyles

Second-guessing the rules of casual sex

Carolyn Hax

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 or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.