I said, 'It was pleasant. He was nice and not creepy!'
'Will there be a second date?' Raffie asked.
'He seemed to be hinting at it; he asked if I was free before heading back home on Saturday, but I said that I'm going to be busy [which is true].'
And then came this barrage of questions: 'Didn't he walk you home? What are his qualifications? Two bachelors? In what? What's his job? Does he have a steady income?'
I couldn't stop laughing. Raffie sounded exactly like my father, who was very dismissive of my coffee stories; he literally said, 'He's not even a Cambridge student.' Raffie also said something to that effect a few weeks ago.
It's actually really nice that I have someone to help me reinforce my criteria for the simple reason that I have proven, time and again, that I have this unstoppable tendency of getting too caught up in my feelings and letting myself get swept away by them. Raffie will serve as a helpful check, and the fact that he's my friend, not my father, means that I will be more open to listening to him.
Like I told Raffie, though, the date was pleasant and nice...but I didn't really feel a spark. He was also older-looking than his pictures. I generally enjoy talking to people in an intimate one-on-one setting, so that part was interesting, but I wasn't super excited or remotely gush-y after I got home. It stood in sharp contrast to my giddy excitement after I went out with Wouter for the first time.
I was supposed to go on another Tinder date tonight but the guy hasn't texted to confirm. I am actually glad about this because dating is quite tiring. It is very tiring. And it is hard to feel excited about meeting someone for the first time because you don't know what the chemistry is going to be like, and it doesn't quite make sense to get excited about something totally unknown. I mean, there's a difference between a total unknown and a partial unknown - a partial unknown arises when you meet somebody in real life and you interact with this person and there's enough of an intrigue and initial mystery to get you interested, but you obviously don't know this person that well, and so the unknown is only partial. This kind of unknown is the kind that I would get excited about: I go into the date with this person already having some inkling of how we would interact face-to-face and having established some level of physical attraction. So if I were to go out with Matt, for instance, I would be excited, at least prima facie.
Meeting someone off an app or the Internet, however, is totally different. All I have to go on on are words on a screen - how very stimulating. Of course, there are exceptions, such as this French guy I was texting on Tinder last year in Singapore before I came to Cambridge. We talked about classical music and art and philosophy, and I was excited to meet him because I was intrigued...but alas, I met G first, and after meeting G for the second time, I didn't want to meet anyone else.
So far, though, no one that I've been texting has generated that high a level of interest. The only person that I've matched with on Tinder that's piqued my interest more than others is this guy who says he's an academic in English literature - speaks for itself, no? I hardly ever send the first message, and he didn't message me until two or three weeks later, saying, 'I think we should meet.' I replied, 'I don't disagree with that!' He texted me his number a few days later. Alas, I don't have time for him right now; I am going back to Singapore on Saturday and I've got things to do, people to meet, etc. But I've never met someone who is dedicated to the number one love of my life, and so I am genuinely curious to meet someone like that. I guess that would have to wait until next year.
And this thing with V. When I was coming back to Cambridge from London, he texted me to ask if I was ever going to reply to his message about how he was glad we met blah blah. After some deliberation, I sent back a perfunctory message, saying that I was also glad that we met in Cambridge (notice how I limited it to the night in Cambridge, leaving out London) and I trusted that he'd got back safely.
'Why you so cold?' he said.
Long story cut short, he didn't realise that I had a decidedly different take on Saturday night. He didn't realise that anything was wrong. He asked, 'What's wrong with Saturday?'
That was on Friday. I haven't replied. I don't feel like it. I don't feel like going into the details because what's the point? Does it matter? It's not like I'm going to see him again ever, and it's not like I want him to be my boyfriend because I really fucking don't.
But what was he thinking? That he'd waltz into my life in Cambridge, in England, spend two nights with me, take what he wants, and then leave, and that would be okay? How would that remotely be okay? How do you sleep with somebody that you purport to care about and just leave and get on with your life as if it hadn't happened? At least I didn't sleep with him, but the events of Saturday night leave a horrible taste in my mouth (no double meaning intended here).
I also hate how he couldn't just let it go, this thing that I didn't want to do, and I hate that I was stupid enough to be emotionally pressured into doing it. I am not 16, but I behave like I am, and I fucking hate it. Is that what he wants to know, then? Does he really want to know? What difference would it make?
I suppose it's nice that he would love to be my boyfriend if things were different. But maybe I don't want him to be my boyfriend, period. Somehow it doesn't seem to matter at all, what I want; somehow my wants and desires don't seem to feature in his thinking which seems to make no room for what I want. Even when there was a part of me that liked him back at the LSE, I'd never wanted to date him. I liked him as a friend, and for the past three years, I had fond memories of him as exactly that.
But now, I feel as if it's all been tainted by last Saturday night. I hate that any of it happened. Am I supposed to be flattered that yet another guy wants to fuck me? Great, there's a line of them, some of whom are actually hot, so tell me something that I don't already know. He played right into my biggest insecurity, and in the moment when I was trying to convey that to him, all that he cared about was his sexual gratification.
I can't respect someone like that. I can't talk to someone who caused me to disrespect myself. Have I mentioned that I hate that any of it happened? And how can anyone genuinely think that you can't decide whether to get into a relationship with someone until you've had sex with the person? It is incredible, the sexual permissiveness that plague some people. Where is the value in sex without commitment? It becomes a cheap instant gratification, but I lose a part of myself every time that happens; I lost myself over and over during those few nihilistic months in London, those months in which I didn't care, I really didn't care, all I wanted was another man, and another, and another. But it was all so cheap, so meaningless, so devoid of value, so empty and hollow.
There is a clear dichotomy between my liberal politics and my personal conservative sexual values. But then again, being liberal isn't about being permissive; like Ronald Dworkin said, liberty is not a 'licence' to be 'free from social or legal constraints to do what he might wish to do' (Taking Rights Seriously, page 262), to act in a non-discriminate, 'anything goes' way just because one feels like it. In the same vein, liberalism isn't simply about choice; it is incoherent to valorise choice as the ultimate value because it then robs the act of choosing - and the act of choosing something important - of any real meaning or value. As Charles Taylor said, if choice is the ultimate value, then it would mean that the choice of pasta or chicken for dinner is morally equivalent to one's choice of sexual orientation (granting, for the sake of the argument, that sexual orientation is something that one can choose).
That's not what liberalism, properly understood, is about. It is rather about protecting the sphere of especially important human interests from unwarranted external interference. Of course, it raises the question of what interests should be counted as 'especially important' so as to be included in this sphere; I don't have a carefully thought out answer to this question, only an intuitive response that can give only examples and not any principled criteria to determine what counts and what doesn't. And one could certainly say that sexual autonomy should count as an especially important interest. I would not deny this. But I think one undermines the force of the argument - of the importance of sexual autonomy - when one takes it to its logical conclusion, that one is free to be sexually permissive. But does that not lose sight of the initial reason for protecting sexual autonomy? It is to prevent the state from telling us what to do with our bodies, and so the state cannot tell us not to use contraceptives, or that we cannot get an abortion, or that we cannot have sex with someone of the same gender. It is not about being given a free reign to sleep with whoever we want indiscriminately.
Undoubtedly, I can see how indiscriminate sexual autonomy is the next logical step, and that is why liberalism is attacked for being nihilistic or morally bankrupt by conservatives. But I think there's an important distinction between sexual autonomy and sexual desire. Liberalism protects sexual autonomy; it is silent on sexual desire, and I certainly disagree vehemently that it valorises sexual desire. It says that we should be free to choose and to express ourselves sexually; but it doesn't say that we should therefore exercise this freedom in a cavalier manner. Maybe it is logically implied, but then again, being autonomous isn't about being free per se; it is about having the capacity for reason, for judgement, for deciding between right and wrong. It is this belief in human practical reasoning that liberalism seeks to protect autonomy - and so the seemingly logical step from sexual autonomy to sexual desire may not be that logical after all.
I am aware that I am conflating different forms of liberalism, etc, but whatever. The point is, I am a liberal when it comes to things that matter, that truly matter; and the ability to sleep with people casually and indiscriminately is not something that matters to me. In fact, that this phenomenon of casual sex is so prevalent these days only points to the importance of reminding ourselves what liberalism is actually about (or should be about).
Anyway. That was a massive digression from the initial bitching. I shall now work on my 'abs', make some lunch, and go to the library.