With Tinder, I discovered what it could be to have sex then walk away without a backward glance. Sex didn't have to be wrapped up with commitment, and "will he? It could just be fun.
Sometimes I had nothing in common with the guy but there was a sexual spark. In "real life", he was the ultimate knob. He didn't fit with my politics, my views, I'd never have introduced him to my friends. In bed, though, he was passionate, eager, energetic. For a while, we'd hook up every six weeks. But there were a lot of negatives. It could feel … seedy. Where do you go for sex? I didn't feel comfortable taking someone back to my place, as he'd then know where I lived, and I live alone.
If we went back to his, I'd have no idea what to expect. With "Aldgate East", we had to walk through a pub to get to the bedroom and I swear there was a train going through the lounge.
You're trusting people you barely know. After a few dates with "Manchester", I agreed to visit his hotel room next time he was in London. I'd always been diligent about practising safe sex, but he had trouble getting in the mood with the condoms and went against my wishes at the last moment. The next morning I wrote him an angry text. I've never felt so violated. Most often, though, I didn't have sex at all. I generally left home open to the possibility but found, when my date showed up, that I didn't want to see him again, let alone see him naked.
There was no spark, or he was dull or gross or just too pushy. One date chased me to the tube trying to shove his tongue down my throat.
Another — who started promisingly — changed after his second drink, spilling a glass of wine on me without apologising, and cutting me off each time I spoke. It can be harder to walk away when you've met through Tinder. When you're matched, you can spend days — in some cases, weeks, months — exchanging messages, texting and working yourselves up, filling in the gaps with your imagination. By the time you meet, you've both invested so much, you've raised your hopes and his. In some ways Tinder can even work against you finding a partner.
I met one guy who was a likely contender for a boyfriend. We went on five dates without sex, just a kiss and a hug. Then one night, he arrived at my place stinking of booze and likely high on something. The sex was over in seconds — a massive anticlimax after such a build-up. We never saw each other again. If we'd met another way, that could have been a blip, an awkward beginning. On Tinder everything's disposable, there's always more, you move on fast.
You start browsing again, he starts browsing — and you can see when anyone was last on it. If five days pass with no messaging between you, it's history. At times, Tinder seemed less like fun, more like a gruelling trek across an arid desert of small talk and apathetic texting.
More than once, I deleted the app, but always came back to it. It was more addictive than gambling. I never dreamed I'd end up dating 57 men in less than a year. I'm off it now. Four months ago, I met a man — "Hackney Boy" — through Tinder and at first, I carried on seeing him and dating others.
After a while, he wanted to get more serious. He's older than me and didn't want to waste time with Tinder any more. I had one last fling with "French Guy", then made a decision to stop. What did Tinder give me? I had the chance to live the Sex and the City fantasy. It has made me less judgmental and changed my attitude to monogamy too.
The contrarian responses were fast and furious: If he's looking for sex without the emotions, the e-mails and online comments and phone calls argued, a professional, monetary transaction is the way to go. Everyone has a talent! I had not a clue this would cause an uproar. I thought most people were on the same page — I mean, we're talking about reducing someone's daughter to a paid means for sexual enjoyment. So I felt it important to clarify, to dig deeper into these pro-prostitution beliefs that had rattled me for days.
This debate isn't about the criminality of sex work, a heavy and complex subject filled with grey areas — that's a matter for the Supreme Court of Canada, which is currently battling all sides of the debate. At issue is what values embody worthwhile sex, and my philosophy is this: Whether it happens during a one-night stand, a summer fling, a friends-with-benefit arrangement or a life-long marriage, there must be a base human connection — two willing, interested humans agreeing to a good time — and a special, intimate experience.
Stephen de Wit, a sexologist I talked to last week about what makes good sex and with a PhD in human sexuality, he knows a thing or two about good sex. Even a casual, Internet-brokered one-night stand would be good for my reader in need, de Wit says. So putting a monetary value to this encounter, like getting your carpets cleaned or your nails done, removes all the fun. She's not there because she finds you attractive, charming or seductive, so what's the point?
The reader may not be looking for love — but he is looking for good, mind-blowing sex. I've never been into a strip club, for related reasons: I'd likely end up talking the ladies into attending night school, or walking my dog for a nominal fee. Yes, I write this from my middle-class pedestal. I've never fallen on life-threatening hard times, but I know this: Women, every single one of them, are worth more than their bodies.
In an ideal world, everyone would see that. But clearly, I'm a newbie in this world. In the interest of exploring all sides of the debate, I tracked down a friend-of-a-Facebook-friend who agreed to talk to me about his experience with prostitutes — or "prosties" as he called them — and why he frequents a Toronto brothel.
Tim, a divorced year-old from Mississauga who hasn't had free sex in over six months, met me at a pub. I was shocked at how easy it was to find someone with personal experience and didn't know exactly what to ask. Thankfully, he wanted to share. He admits that "regular sex" would be a better option, but says it's difficult to meet people in his circles.
Still, "doing it with someone I see a lot … that'd be better I guess. He tells me about his lost love, his ex-wife. His eyes light up when he talks about their honeymoon heat — but they darken again when the conversation turns. He starts ranting about one lady in particular at the "house" he frequents.
His emotional attachment to her is clear "she's pretty and really sweet, you'd like her, I swear" and he genuinely thinks she cares about him. What about your safety? Tim's response is quick, and blunt: He uses protection, but admits, "when I get to that point and I'm there, I'm not worried about safety.
When Tim and I part ways, I walk home, confident in my original advice, but saddened for those who can't avoid prostitution. The decision to pay someone for sex not only diminishes the act, I think to myself, but devalues both parties involved...