Touchpoint and Casual Sex

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 its 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.

IMG_9433After 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, its 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 the experience of any single women I know, but it is the experience of many men who have come in to 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 the the director of vibes (as mentioned in the article) 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.

IMG_9451As 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 business man.  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.

  1. Its not all about you
  2. Everyone should be allowed to finish
  3. Something about listening?
  4. 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 in to 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 its 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 is 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 its 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 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?

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100 New Things in 2017

Two years ago, my sister sent me copy of a book called I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day. She had seen the author, Lu Ann Cahn, speak at a work event and thought of me and my ongoing struggle to get unstuck. I read the book immediately and was super excited to take on the challenge. I convinced my sister to do it with me in 2016, set up a blog for us to post our new things, and started brainstorming new things to do every day. But as January 1st, 2016 approached, work stuff happened and I got stressed out and bailed on the idea.

Fast forward to the end of 2016 which turned out to be one of the worst years of my life. My job got more and more stressful (which I honestly did not think was possible) and my body finally screamed “ENOUGH” so loud that I had to listen. I lined up a new job that would start in early 2017 and got re-inspired to take on the “new things” challenge.

Instead of a new thing EVERY DAY, I settled on 100 new things, which seemed like a nice round number. Two new things a week seemed challenging, but doable. I also decided that blogging AND doing was too much, so instead of blogging I decided to record each new thing with a post on Instagram and Facebook. Social media seemed like an easy way to record my new things for posterity AND keep me accountable. Once you tell the internet you are going to do something, you have to do it (especially if you are an Upholder)!  I didn’t have a set list of new things. I had some ideas on a bucket list, but mostly, I just winged it.

So, why did I really want to take on this challenge?  To me, “recharging my life” meant forcing myself out of my daily grind (and comfort zone) on a more regular basis. I wanted to stop using work as an excuse for not really living. I wanted to stop busying myself with to-do lists of chores and really DO things.  Fun things!  Important things! I thought it might be like changing your set point weight. It’s doable, but hard. It requires consistent, sustainable change and you have to stick with it until it becomes the new normal. My goal was to change the set point of my existence! 

Fast forward to the end of 2017 and I have successfully done 100 new things this year!  (#100 is till a secret, but will be formally announced in my next post, tomorrow.)  You can find the full list here with hyperlinks for more info and you can see how they all played out in pictures (with #hashtag commentary) on Instagram.

Since I didn’t post about them as I went along (which I kind of regret), we will all have to live with this very long summary post and some reflections on the year. (One of my Facebook friends thought I should write a book.  This blog post is almost as long as a book. Not a great blogging technique but keep reading anyway…)

As I look back on the list, there were some key themes. Many of my new things (17 to be exact) were new yoga and meditation experiences. These new things did not take me out of my comfort zone (except for hot, hip hip, candle lit yoga which almost killed me), but my choice to spend so much time on these activities reinforced that these are important practices in my life that I want to continue to grow.

Another key theme was my re-acquaintance with the theater. I forgot how much I love the theater!! This year I saw an interactive theater piece at The Public, Hamilton (an unbelievable work of art), Dear Even Hansen (broke my heart wide open), Indecent (beautifully done), Waitress (not a great show but Sara Bareilles rocked!) and three shows at my local theater (which I am now a member of because they were all amazing).

I also got out and about in nature.  I explored Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, finally made it to the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park, rode a Citi Bike for the first time during Summer Streets, visited Prospect Park, hiked in the Poconos, and did some indoor climbing at Brooklyn Boulders (which was kind of like being in nature).  These activities were among my favorites for the year. I love to move and be outside and MUST do this more.

Looking at the rest of the list, these are my top five highlights:

  • Phish on New Years Eve (#1) was really fun. I had never heard a Phish song until the week before the show (and I generally prefer Justin Bieber and Kelly Clarkson), but a Phish show is definitely an event. That was an amazing way to kick off 2017.
  • Safari in Botswana (#20 – #29) was life highlight. This trip covered 10 new things because so much amazing stuff happened there! (and it was REALLY out of my comfort zone). Being surrounded by a herd of elephants (#26) and having a hippo walk under our walkway less than 10 feet away (didn’t even make the list because it was dark and flash photography would have been life threatening!) are two encounters I will never forget.
  • The night I went to see Michael Moore’s The Terms of My Surrender (#68) happened to be the night he decided to rent two buses to take the audience up to Trump Tower after the show for an impromptu protest (with some famous friends).  That was very cool (even though I didn’t make it on the bus because I had to stop to pee…but I did walk 10 blocks and met them there).
  • I decided to volunteer for a political campaign for my local city council person this fall (#76). While handing out flyers, some one from the opponent’s campaign tried to get me to switch sides and it almost turned in to a brawl between the campaign managers in Tompkins Square Park.  Then the mayor randomly showed up for some promotional shots with my candidate (who is more liked than he is) and I got sucked in to walking around with him, carrying signs while continuing to fight off the opponent’s supporter who would not give up. That was a crazy morning. I was also intermittent fasting (#73) so I was starving during all of this drama!
  • My acupuncturist convinced me to attend the Womanly Arts Experience .  The intent of Womanly Arts is to help women unleash their full power, have fun, turn on, find their happiness, let go of what is holding them back, and live big.  (Sounds amazing, right?) The weekend involved lots of dancing, female bonding, and intimate sharing with complete strangers.  It is impossible to describe and was not something I thought I would enjoy at all, but it was a lot of fun and I made some great new connections!

So what were my key takeaways?  I definitely had a different mind set this year. I always had to make sure I had something new on my schedule. Some things just happened (like Mac-N-Cheetos and Hardywood Bourbon Barrel Gingerbread Stout), but most required planning and a deliberate effort to get off my couch and do something different than I would have otherwise chosen to do. I was ALWAYS glad I made the choice to try something new and most of them would not have happened if I had not promised the internet I would get to 100.

I have often struggled with the question “Am I afraid to do this, or do I really just not want to do it?” What I learned this year, is that if you are not sure whether you want to do something (and it does not require a huge investment)…just fucking do it! I had so much fun doing things that I had no idea I would enjoy.  I definitely did some things I didn’t love (Tatooed New York, Inscape, Intermittent Fasting) but I was still glad I did them.

Did I change the set point of my existence? I think so!  I hope so! My life does feel bigger.  I always have something to talk about when people ask me what I do outside of work which means I have to keep doing stuff because saying “last year I did a lot of cool stuff” will not fly for long!!

I wasn’t thinking about anyone else but myself when I did this, but I ended up with a tribe of people following and cheering me on, which was awesome.

One of my dreams is to be wise and inspirational enough to sit across from Oprah on Super Soul Sunday and say really important stuff that helps people live better lives.  (I realize that is a BIG stretch goal.)  What did happen this year, was that people seemed to be very inspired by my 100 things and some even said they would incorporate in to their lives too!!  Maybe I changed lives without Oprah! (I am sure she would dig that.)

Looking back on how this year unfolded –  what I chose to do, what I didn’t do, what I enjoyed, and what I didn’t – has helped me get more clarity on where to steer my ship next. For 2018, I want to focus on quality over quantity and really hone in on activities that will enrich my life.  More on that to come….

Net net, 100 New Things in 2017 was definitely a huge success…and there is still one more to go!