My dating life followed a very specific pattern in my early 20s. The personal translator who used to reside in my brain would listen to those words, and then rejigger them to fit what I wanted to hear: So, baby Maria would stick around, expecting a deeper connection to form, only to be left crushed a month later when surprise! It was like I was on a hamster wheel. Their heads bobbed in agreement. They, too, had been dealing with paramours on the prowl for no-strings sex.
And frankly, we were sick of it. But, ever the optimist, I continued to date, wary of guys who would tell me they just wanted casual sex right off the bat. I was meant to have early drinks with bachelor number one, followed by a casual cocktails-and-appetizers date with bachelor number two. When I got to the bar to meet my first date, I spotted a really attractive, broody guy in the corner, scribbling in a notebook.
My date turned out to be a total dud, but writer guy and I kept making eyes. After just one drink, I told the dude I was with that I had to go, put him in a cab, and then sent off a text to my second date, faking a headache. I marched back into the bar, sat down next to writer guy, and ordered myself a drink. He was taking notes for a play he was writing. We immediately bonded over our love of cheap beer, theater, and Johnny Cash.
For the next five hours, the booze flowed; we moved to another bar, split a plate of nachos, and then drunkenly fell into a cab together back to my apartment. We continued to see one another, but we were explicit about keeping things casual. So we laid down some ground rules: Until we got back to my place, of course. But I still had so much fun with him. But, all good things come to an end. The passion that made our sex so good also meant we bickered regularly.
So, I encouraged him to go after the other girl. We had one more night together and then we parted ways. I was a little bummed, because I really enjoyed the arrangement that Will and I had set up. But it also opened my eyes to one pretty amazing fact: Casual sex can be a lot of fun if both parties are on board.
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.
I used to be committed to it — now I think, if it's just sex, a one-night hook-up, where's the harm? I'm more open to the idea of swinging, open relationships, which is something I'd never have expected. At the same time, it has taught me the value of true connection.
It's really obvious when you have it, and usually, you don't. I hate to say it, but sex in a relationship beats casual sex. Yes, the rush of meeting someone new — new bed, new bodies — can, occasionally, be great. More often though, you find yourself yearning for a nice partner who loves you and treats you well. New app Tinder, in which users rate faces as hot or not, is changing the way we date.
Holly Baxter and Pete Cashmore test its matchmaking skills. Sally, 29, lives and works in London I'd never dabbled in casual sex until Tinder. Topics Dating Sex Uncovered Sex Sexuality Apps Tinder features.
British sex survey Jim Mann analyses the results and discovers some surprises. Britain appears to have lost its libido, with men particularly affected....