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#singlelife / Feminism / Relationships

I Can’t Do Casual, and That’s Okay.

"I constantly felt used, shorted, abandoned, and undervalued."

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Written by Naima Cooper.

When I got out of my first relationship, I was curious about what sleeping with other people would be like. However, after a while of having meaningless sex with guys that couldn’t pronounce my name correctly, I realized it was intimacy that I truly craved.

I had a lot of sex with a lot of different guys. Sometimes the it was good and sometimes it wasn’t. However, there were two constants with all the guys I slept with. For one, I never had an orgasm once. Secondly, I always wanted to establish more of an emotional connection, a desire they unfortunately never reciprocated.

I was lonely. Meaningless encounters were not all I wanted, but I figured it was as close to the intimacy I desired that I was going to get, and dating apps made casual sex very accessible. Besides, I felt driven by my needs, and that it wasn’t fair to deprive myself of pleasure simply because no men in my vicinity had recognized my worth, right? But I constantly felt used, shorted, abandoned, and undervalued.

But I constantly felt used, shorted, abandoned, and undervalued.

Even though I was settling for less in all of these encounters, it still felt close to impossible for me to go over a week without having sex. I would be distracted during the week with school, but when the weekend came and I was alone with my thoughts, sex became like a drug that I needed to have. My friends became worried and thought I might have a sex addiction.

In my mind, I was being a sexually free woman and breaking down double standards. However, in hindsight, I wasn’t being honest with myself about my feelings and my needs, and what I was doing was very emotionally damaging to my spirit.

Even though I wanted to be, I learned that I am not the kind of person that can have healthy casual sexual relationships. After over a year of disappointing sexual encounters, (some may refer to this as my ho phase), I bought my first vibrator and decided to try my best to refrain from having sex with people who didn’t treat me how I knew I wanted to be treated. I learned that sexual liberation does not have to only look one way – sometimes it looks like not having sex with anyone except yourself.

In my mind, I was being a sexually free woman and breaking down double standards. However, in hindsight, I wasn’t being honest with myself about my feelings and my needs, and what I was doing was very emotionally damaging to my spirit.

My decision to be more particular with who I had sex with was in no way influenced by the shame I was likely to endure from society if I continued. This decision was 100% about what would be best for me. I learned that I need commitment, respect, intimacy, and an emotional connection to feel fulfilled in my sexual relationships, and my relationships in general. I learned that being alone is healthier for me than accepting company that would provide instant gratification but ultimately bring me emotional pain and anguish long term.

It has been difficult, but I feel now that I am in a much better place then I was. I am proud of myself for the progress I have made. I still struggle often with discipline, discernment, and advocating for myself. I still struggle with attaching my worth to my sexual performance and what I can offer with my body. I don’t always make the best decisions, but in those times, I try to remember to be honest with myself and not to minimize my feelings regardless of what society says a woman should accept. I also try and remind myself that healing and growth are not linear and that it’s important to continuously practice self-compassion and acceptance as I wrestle with different challenges.

My decision to be more particular with who I had sex with was in no way influenced by the shame I was likely to endure from society if I continued.

I still struggle often with discipline, discernment, and advocating for myself. I still struggle with attaching my worth to my sexual performance and what I can offer with my body. This passage from Adrienne Maree Brown’s incredible book, Pleasure Activism pretty much sums up my experience and gives me hope for the future.

“But I will say I am having the best sex of my life, and it isn’t an accident. It is because of years of practice and hard work. It is because of friends who saw me having the most unhealthy sex of my life in my twenties and said “Honey girl, no.” It is because I have been blessed with lovers who were tender and taught me things and let us explore together. It is because of periods of intentional celibacy in my life.”


About the Author

Naima Cooper is a writer, filmmaker, and black feminist with a passion for storytelling and facilitating radically honest conversations that foster increased understanding, compassion, and collective healing.

Follow on IG: @storiesbynaima | Follow on Twitter: @


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