I just finished Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner. It’s fantastic and I highly recommend it. The book made me think about the social constructs and ideas that single women have to battle if they want to be sexually fulfilled by more than one man. However, I read some of the reviews of this book after I read it and they made me want to pick a fight. So I’m writing this instead.
Here’s the basic premise: a woman named Teresa picks up a strange man in a bar. They have sex. She tries to kick him out afterwards. He kills her.
That’s not a spoiler. That’s the first chapter.
Then the book backs up and we meet Teresa in the midst of a seminal physical experience as a young kid – not sexual abuse for once – that forever separates her from her body. The whole rest of the book she tries to get back into her body, swimming through an ocean of self-hatred that she mitigates with work and men and booze and drugs and continual movement. We see her attempt to connect with her life in a deeper way and we also see the way that sex brings her into the body that she’s hated and has been separated from for so long. But she also uses sex to punish herself and her body.
Now, as a psychobiographical thriller, this book is fantastic. It’s tightly plotted (one reviewer called it 'penetrating" lol... sigh) and it's beautifully written without any extra unnecessary stuff or words or scenes. I read it in a day and was riveted for most of it. I really enjoyed how the book was written almost as if the author was Teresa herself – because there are so many things that only she could know – but also with an objective empiric eye for logistical detail, as if Teresa were being followed and interviewed by a biographer who also contributed their own perspective.
The subject matter is rough – a single woman murdered after a casual sex hookup – it's based on a true story (? I'm going to look into that) and it caused an enormous stir when it was published in 1975. I can understand that there would be controversy because sex always causes controversy, but it’s so aggravating to read reviews that miss the entire point of the book. Here’s one of the worst:
“A haunting compelling thriller, guaranteed to make any woman terrified of the next strange man that she meets.”
Oh. My. God. That’s the takeaway lesson? Strange men are dangerous??
How fucking superficial.
I know that common wisdom dictates that any woman who has casual sex with a near stranger is courting rape and murder. Despite generations of women disproving this tropism, it still persists and I find it so disappointing. Especially when this book is so well written to prove another point all together, which is that people find what they seek.
Teresa looked for danger as well as fulfillment in her sex with strangers and she found those things, in the same way that women who want to stay alive and healthy generally do.
When healthy women have sex, it is an expression of their desire. If their act of sex is healthy, that has everything to do with their intent and the people that they choose, whether it’s someone they’ve known for 5 years or for 5 minutes.
In strict contrast to a healthy woman’s sexual expression, when I finished Looking for Mr. Goodbar, I wondered if perhaps this was the end Teresa had been seeking her whole life. Her sexual intent had been largely destructive and her end followed in the same way.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar is one woman’s story of self destruction. It’s not a parable or an educational myth. There’s no equation where casual sex = death. If anything, this story proves that self hatred = death. That how you do anything is how you do everything. If you hate yourself enough to let other people hate on you, bad things could happen.
And the worst part is that you might think you deserve them.
Read this book. It’ll make you think.
I’ve published parts of this list at Nerve. This is an extended edition inspired by the Wicked Wednesday prompt a few weeks ago called My Fucket list. I originally read that as “My Fucked List” and then couldn’t get it out of my head. In writing this list out in it's entirety, I find the prevailing themes so interesting. Perhaps I'll write a post about those at some point. In the meantime, feel free to come to your own conclusions:
We met at a yearly festival and had sex in the back of his station wagon parked in the middle of a big field with the back door open to the stars and the night. I felt like such an American girl. We talked a few times after that but I never saw him again and I never learned his last name. I was 26.
7 months later, the Celt. A pagan uncut Irish man a few years younger than me. So good. So fun. So much sex. Also, my introduction to BDSM-lite because he had a thing for blindfolds and he made his own whip. One of the most open-minded men I’ve ever met and still one of my most favorite lovers. We broke up because he liked the idea of monogamy more than the reality of monogamy and we both needed to grow up and move on. But now, 20 years later, if I ever needed anything, I could call him and he would pick up the phone. I’m also friends with his ex(?)-wife.
A one off. He called his dick “Little Elvis.” The “little” was correct and the “Elvis” was just for style. I hardly knew him but he bought me roses afterwards and I still have his picture. He had shark teeth tattooed on his chest.
Allegedly in an open relationship but his girlfriend agreed to that arrangement just to keep him around. As a result, the parameters were never clear and it often felt like he was cheating. I had moral apprehensions and I was also friends with her, but I wanted him more. So for a year we talked on the phone for hours every week and had sex as often as he could get away. I fell for him really hard but eventually the sneaking around was too much and I told him it was her or me. He said, “It’s not that simple…”
The Body Builder
Post-Blacksmith, all I wanted from the Body Builder was a hook up but he was divorcing and wanted a return to stability. I was still in serial monogamy mode so we were together for a year while we tried to get our collective shit together. I finally left him when I realized I didn't want to be with him. Six years after our breakup I ran into him on a plane (literally), about 30,000ft above Texas. Our interaction was awkward and uncomfortable and I haven’t seen him since. Possibly he’s remarried? Probably. He always identified with being a husband.
The Blacksmith again
We knew it wasn’t quite over and when we started talking again he was still with his girlfriend but this time he actually left her. We dated for 4 more years during which time our sex life went from good to terrible. He was very distressed about it but I didn’t want to have sex with him and at the time I didn’t know why. In retrospect, I know that I never forgave him for choosing his girlfriend over me the first time around and after 4 years of denouement, we went through the ugliest break up I ever hope to endure. We recently stopped speaking to each other, more at my behest than his, but I’ll be in his town soon so he’s on my mind.
A South African actor I had been flirting with during the last days of the Blacksmith. I went to Simba’s apartment the night I broke up with the Blacksmith and we had rowdy athletic sex on the red couch in his living room. After a weekend together he stopped answering my calls and I never saw him or spoke to him again. He was the first black man I ever had sex with.
Austin31 friended me on MySpace (remember Myspace?) and one day sent me a long strangely written email and told me it was encoded with a separate message. Inside the first letter was a filthy and glorious second letter about all the sexy things he thought we should do together. Having never had sex with him before, I flew to Austin to spend a weekend with him and (fortunately) had the most amazing sex I’d ever had in a 36 hour period. He could cum and stay hard. It was incredible. For the next 10 years we hooked up whenever geography allowed. We’re still friends now but we’ve both moved on.
A musician with whom I went to Central Park, smoked a lot of pot and had a lot of sex covered by the screen of bushes while people walked right past us. We could have gotten caught, but we didn’t. He was(is) intense and unpredictable, hot but mentally unbalanced and that combination was too much for me. I think of him fondly and occasionally Youtube him; but when I’m in NYC I don’t call him.
A hot black surgeon I met at the gym. The first time we had sex was nothing to tell stories about but the next time he told me that he liked girls to fuck him with a strap on and how did I feel about that? I was fascinated, so he brought out his big black strap-on and I fucked him with it. It was awkward and vulnerable and thrilling and hot and afterwards the world shifted on its axis a couple of degrees. For the last 10 years we’ve seen each other occasionally. I always fuck him and we both love it. We’re two smart people who always want the upper hand and our lives have very little in common except our history together. I think now we’re in the rearview mirror but we still talk occasionally.
A tall tattooed Bermudian stagehand who liked to be spanked. He was so smart and interesting but he was also a 24 hour stoner, which made me wonder what he was avoiding. After a few months he wanted exclusivity and I didn’t so we stopped talking.
My best friend’s brother’s best friend. One night we had drinks and ended up making out in the parking lot. We had sex a few times after that but we were always better in fantasy than in practice. Over the subsequent 8 years we developed an extensive sexual fantasyland by text and sexy pictures. He eventually got married and had kids but somewhere there’s a place that only the two of us inhabit.
The Celt’s older brother. Years after I dated the Celt, Jack friended me on Myspace. (I know, again with Myspace) and we flirted by IM for months and then met up in Bangkok. We went to sex shows, got sudsies, had sex in dance clubs and generally tore it up for 3 weeks. He liked water sports so I explored that kinky fetish and discovered that while I don’t mind peeing on someone or having them pee on me, it’s not something I want to do every time I have sex. I really liked him a lot. But he was still divorcing his wife and he wanted a girlfriend more than he wanted me particularly. So, I went back to work, Jack went back to the sandbox and we tried to do a long distance thing for a couple of months but it didn’t go well so I called it off. He has since remarried and we don’t talk but I hope he’s well.
Casanova was a charming, good-looking world traveller who I met on a Caribbean island while I was visiting a friend. A month later he came back to the states and drove 1,200 miles to see me on my day off and then sent me 3 dozen roses after our first weekend together. I wanted to marry him. He was a whirlwind and the King for the Grand Gesture and it was the most romantic relationship I’d ever been in except the sex was always puzzling. He couldn’t/didn’t want to/wouldn’t let himself cum with me and in the months we dated, he orgasmed only a couple of times. He withheld emotionally as well and after struggling long distance for 3 months, I flew to Australia to break up with him because I was too unhappy to live in perpetual unfulfilled desire. He broke my heart and it took me years to get over him.
You know those people where you have instant chemistry? The flirting is intense and sexual and every time they touch you it feels warm all over your body and you just know that the sex is going to be mind blowing but then you actually go to bed and you’re like “What the hell is happening?” because it’s all awkward and nothing they do is working for you and then they say “we should do that again” and you say “…probably not.”
It was like that.
An Egyptian/Puerto Rican tutor who was pretty and the sex was fun but it was the kind of sex you have with a young pretty person where it’s clear that they have no idea how great sex can actually be. We didn’t live in the same city and I got tired of answering texts that just said “hey” so we stopped talking...
He had blue eyes, a pierced tongue and a history of criminal tendencies. He was also my instructor when I trained as a dive master. For 5 weeks the sex was amazing and continuous. We’d have hours of sex, wake up a couple hours later to have more sex, sleep a few hours, wake up and have a quickie or two and run down the beach to work at the dive shop. I never got tired of him and we never slept together without fucking. We both left the island to go work other jobs and occasionally messaged each other afterwards. I wanted more from him but he liked to be available to whatever might be coming down the road. He never followed thru on any of our plans to meet up so we don’t talk now.
Adorable, young, really good with his tongue, and one of the biggest penises I’ve ever seen. But it didn’t completely click for me. We’ve sexty texted since then but there’s been no repeat. If we were ever both single and in the same place at the same time there might be a repeat. Maybe?
Tall and tattooed with a handlebar mustache. Months of flirting followed by a couple weeks of great sex that all fizzled when I suspected he had lots of secrets and more than one girl on the side. He was more fun to flirt with than to be with because he only wanted what he didn’t have. We finally parted on friendly terms and he later married his third baby mama. I wish them well…
Days of flirtation followed by intermission sex during our final show together. Strong like an ox, hung like a horse, wanted (and probably had) by all the girls in town. If you google him, his mug shot comes up first.
The Other Swede
My Stockholm liaison and the first guy I’d ever met in a bar and had sex with the same night. My friend Luminous took his friend, the handsome white supremacist drug dealer. I got the better end of that deal because even though my Swede had trouble staying hard, he made up for it with his tongue and excessive complimenting. I don’t expect to ever see him again but it’s 2016 so we follow each other on Instagram.
French speaking Belgian with very little English who I met in Brussels and saw again in Paris a month later. Big and uncut with a beautiful body, the sex was good but peculiar since he had a thing for choking me and I was thinking about someone else for most of the night. He did give me an entertaining last night in Europe though and we occasionally talk about a repeat.
Beautiful but emotionally shut down with a lot of potential and too much ego. We’ve known each other several years now, I like him as a person and the sex is usually fantastic because his stamina is unparalleled and he can be adoring and attentive. I used to want more from him but now I know who we are. We love each other but we don’t inhabit each other's worlds.
I liked the attention, he liked having his marriage and me. Weeks of glorious flirting and kissing in abandoned hallways at work was hot but the whole thing felt inevitable and unstoppable and ultimately destined to end, which it did when I left town. Seeing him again is a terrible idea but I still think about the kissing.
Sweet, shy and unassuming, none of which I usually go for but looked really good on him. I met him on Tinder in Rochester and we chatted for 2 weeks before I asked him out for a drink. It took several beers in the bar to loosen him up and another one in my hotel room before he kissed me. Dark smooth skin, big arms and a luscious dick that curled like a comma, the sex was really fun so we saw each other again a month later. I liked him but our lives are very different and there’s no long-term potential. The texting has since fizzled but I think of him fondly.
Southern Comfort -
Tall lean Memphis boy with a thick country drawl and a girlfriend. It started as really really good texting on Tinder and progressed to an afternoon in my hotel room. He was great with his mouth and so grateful to be touched and kissed that it was clear his current relationship was light on affection. He’s the first black man I’ve seen with an uncut dick. He hits me up every now and again but he’s still with his girlfriend so I won’t see him again. Too little to gain and much to lose.
My kissing date for my 43rd birthday. We spent a week making out and he made me squirt, which I found intriguing but not all that appealing since it didn’t come with an orgasm. Penetrative sex between us doesn’t work that well but he’s an extremely comforting person to be around and whenever I’m in his city, I call him. The kissing is always outstanding.
The only hot man on Tinder in a remote area of the Southwest. We had one night together in a town neither of us lived in. We are both gypsies with no homes and I thought perhaps we had more in common but after a couple of months of trying to meet up again, I realized that his gypsy life came from not knowing who he was and my gypsy life is an expression of all the things I know about myself. Through him I learned that I need men with passion and purpose even if they don’t come with a permanent addresses.
A gorgeous Canadian I met in Berlin at an experimental theatre show. We talked for hours with an honesty only possible between two lonely travelers who know they won’t meet again. He was a great kisser, dominant and affectionate. We spent one night together before he left town and it was the best sex I’d had all year.
A 27-year old I met off OK Cupid. I set up a fantasy scenario and he fulfilled it, fucking me in a public parking lot in the middle of the day. I saw him a few more times after that afternoon and we always had short intense sexual interactions. We’ve never talked much but we have a strong connection where we recognize each other on some kind of primal level. 10 years from now I could text him and we’d meet up and have exactly this same connection.
A sweet 26-year-old who wanted a casual sexual relationship. I was looking for something fun for the summer and we texted for a long time before we met up so I thought he’d be more mature than he actually was. Despite that, we hooked up a few times and the sex was always passionate and sensual and lasted for hours. He was an attentive lover but we had literally nothing in common and nothing to talk about. Our relationship ended when I left town and neither one of us got everything we wanted out of it.
Is there’s anything worse than a good looking charming man with enjoyable conversational skills and a hot body who is only interested in his own pleasure? I can’t think of anything. All this guy wanted was for me to suck his dick until he got off. Everything else we did put us right back at his dick and my mouth. I tried to salvage the evening but minutes after he got off, he was putting his clothes on and saying “You were a delight. Hit me up if you get bored.” To which I said, “I don’t get bored.” I had a lot of sex that summer where it was been all about me. This guy leveled those karmic scales.
A delightful end to my summer of sex, The Fisherman was better read than me, perhaps the first guy about whom I could say that. We met on OK Cupid and even though his pictures weren’t that alluring, his conversational skills were stellar. We met casually at a bar for a drink and he was much more handsome than his pictures indicated. We talked for hours and the kissing was epically delicious. The sex wasn’t that great at first but it got better and then I had to leave town to go back to work. I really liked him and wanted to keep the relationship going but distance got the better of us.
The Carolina Biker
The guy who helped me get over The Fisherman. He brought me flowers, we had sex and we both wanted more from the night than we got. He’s a sweet soul with a soft spot for abandoned cats and I think he’d do well with a full time girl. We text every occasionally and I wish him well but I wouldn’t call him again.
The Boyfriend (but not mine)
On our first date, he drove across town to bring me dinner after a long day of work. We then had an uneasy week where he wanted a girlfriend and I wanted a hook up. The sex was… good? It was much better than the Biker and my body responded to him. I squirted when he went down on me but my mind resisted him. He could sense the divide, that my body wanted him but my mind couldn’t give in, so he pressured me. I wanted to like him but I didn’t want to be with him full time and after a week I left him unhappy, which is the main thing I remember about him.
A one night stand in Houston. This young 23-year-old had the longest dick I’ve ever seen. My gay boyfriends estimate him at 10 inches by his picture. It was like being punched repeatedly in the cervix. Occasionally I bring out his picture like a party trick and tell the story of bedding him. You can’t see his face in the picture and now I only barely remember it.
A 22-year-old bartender I picked up on a travel day when I realized he was flirting with me even though I had makeup smeared under my eyes and I was exactly twice his age. I left him my number with my check and he called me. The sex was stellar but afterwards he was… whimsical. I tried to see him again and it didn’t happen. He’s one of the ones that I wonder what story he tells about me.
Another young one. He was my second choice in that city and I was a consolation prize for a girl he loved who had abandoned him. The sex was ok for me because I know how to take care of myself and good for him because I’m old enough to know such things. We saw each other a couple times that week, and months later he wanted to see me again but I declined because I couldn’t think of any good reason for a repeat. According to facebook he has a girlfriend now, which is great.
My god, the sex was so good! If ever there’s an argument for biology and how some bodies just fit together, this guy is it. He was only 23 but he drove across town at 1am to meet me at my hotel and we had an amazing night together before I went on vacation. We text occasionally now but I’m rarely in his city so I think we’ll mostly be a really good memory for each other.
The Dive Master
My hookup in the South Pacific on vacation. We didn’t come from the same culture and I knew I might be getting into deep tricky waters. Plus there was always the chance that I would be jeopardizing his job. But after a week of flirting on a remote island, we had a better chance of stopping a tsunami than our affair. We had sex on the beach one night and it was good but he didn’t handle it well the next morning. He was emotional and felt abandoned when I left the island. I feel bad about fucking him even though I know he liked it.
I met this American in a foreign country and we embarked on a strange affair of public sex around a European capital, acting and fucking in a way that was out of character for both of us. I’ve written more about that here. We haven’t spoken since we parted even though we’re facebook friends. It was vacation fling for me but again, I wonder what stories he tells about me.
A guy I met at a party and found out afterwards was in an open relationship. A real one this time. I decided to keep seeing him despite my gut feeling that I’m not good at being the third party to a twosome. I really liked him and we had a deep emotional and mental connection that went beyond sex but I couldn’t get into his fetishes – especially how he wanted me to be his submissive slut – and even having really good sex with him wasn’t enough for me to keep our relationship door open. We had a brief fling and I occasionally hear from him now but it’s always uncomfortable, mostly because of the possibilities of what might have been.
We worked and flirted together for a year and then tried a relationship. It lasted a few passionate months before flaming out because we couldn’t agree on what we wanted. Very few people we work with knew what happened, which made it feel like perhaps it never happened at all. But we both know it did. We’re currently in the space of not speaking to each other but I expect to get over that soon. We were friends for far longer than we were lovers. And sometimes I get the feeling that it’s not completely over? We will be working together for a lot longer so who knows.
To say that from the moment her lover had left O began to await his return would be an understatement. She turned into pure vigil, darkness in waiting expectation of light.
— Pauline Reage
The Story of O
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were talking so brave and so sweet
Giving me head on the unmade bed
While the limousines wait in the street
- Leonard Cohen
“Yes, I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
— Oscar Wilde
The term Wicked Wednesday has never been more apt.
I find myself wondering if sexy pictures even matter in the world I woke up in today. I suspect they still do but I wanna get this out first.
Trump is president. I can’t even believe I’m typing those words.
I knew Hillary wasn’t popular – hell, I didn’t like her either – but given the choice between a seasoned politician and a reality show? I didn’t think that choice would be so hard.
The more worrying thing proven by this election, however, is the American level of insularity. We Americans have shown how much we fear change and that we would prefer to lock our doors and block our borders and hope we can return to a mythical “easier” time when definitions were simple. When American presidents were white(ish) and marriage meant a man and a woman, when there were only two bathroom signs and when boys could be boys behind closed doors with no harm to their public reputations.
But this isn’t a thing. Trump will be able to do a lot of things, like make us the talking point of the world stage and cause every American traveler to suffer through the question “WFT just happened to your country??”, but he will not be able to put all Americans back in the closet. He doesn’t have that power.
The world is connected. We are connected. No one person can tell us how to act and who to fuck and who to love. We’ve come out of that dark place and we won’t go back.
But somehow we all have to wake up to the world as it actually is. We Americans need to learn to see our country as a multi-colored lusty community of humans, some of whom vote for Trump and others who want to visit Mexico. We need to accept that this is America and stop yearning to live in a country where everyone agrees with us.
I’m included in this group.
I clearly live in a country where a man I disrespect who horrifies me can be elected to the highest office. But I'm the minority. It will take me some time to figure out how absorb that. How to accept that my view of the world has also been insular and padded by people who agree with my views. That I too am intolerant and out of touch with people who don’t agree with me.
There are deeply disappointed and heartbroken people in our nation this morning. And there are those who feel like it’s Christmas morning and they’ll finally get everything they’ve always wanted. Their disappointment and heartbreak is coming because no one gets everything they want.
We all have to wake up to reality. This is it. We are a nation of vast differences and we are not helped by wanting all the tolerance for ourselves while refusing to give tolerance to anyone who disagrees with us.
We are all connected. To each other. That reality will be a harsh mistress for the next four years. So, we all have a job to do. All of us Americans.
We need to learn to live with each other.
At night I dream that you and I are two plants
that grew together, roots entwined,
and that you know the earth and the rain like my mouth,
since we are made of earth and rain.
— Pablo Neruda
I believe in the sweet spot,
opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve
and I believe in long,
kisses that last three days.
— Crash Davis
You say you'll give me
A highway with no one on it
Treasure just to look upon it
All the riches in the night
You say you'll give me
Eyes in a moon of blindness
A river in a time of dryness
A harbor in the tempest
But all the promises we make
From the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you