By Rachel Kramer Bussel
I stopped drinking, pretty much for good, over two years ago. I don’t tend to stare longingly at people drinking in bars, or feel too wistful, but the times when I’m overwhelmed with temptation for alcohol are usually times when I’m consumed by the desire for…desire–for getting fucked, along with getting fucked up.
To put it simply, I miss drunk sex. Well, one kind of drunk sex. I certainly don’t miss the “I’m going to drink so I get up the courage to put the moves on someone.” I tried that last year and while I got my much-fantasized-about makeout session, it was so not worth it, and was also just a one-time thing (as opposed to the let’s-move-in-together relationship I’d pictured). So now every time I see the person, I feel like an idiot. I also don’t miss waking up in someone’s bed and not knowing their name, or getting drunk just so I could get in the spirit of sex. Nor do I miss drinking in the hopes that it would make me look more attractive to someone I wanted to get with.
But I am a bit nostalgic for the sweet, swoony buzz from a good drink or two–the kind that used to make me feel warm and liquid and a little light-headed. The kind of buzz that made me both ferociously horny and oblivious to who saw me making out (or more) in taxis, restaurants, wherever. I miss the bliss of getting lost in both the alcohol and the person I’m with so that it feels like there is no tomorrow.
It’s hard to get to that place of utter focus on sex and just sex, for me, anyway, with the umpteen thoughts, doubts and uncertainties racing through my head. When I am able to reach that place of body over mind, of sensation over stress, though, sex provides both pleasure and relief, along with a way to feel closer to my partner.
The whole reason I stopped drinking is that it didn’t obliterate my thoughts, doubts and uncertainties; at least, not permanently (if it did, well, maybe I’d return to vodka). As soon as the buzz wore off, my feelings would just return with a vengeance, and no amount of hot sex or even being in love could make them go away.
I remember exactly when I stopped drinking, pretty much for good. I was buying fifteen of my closest friends dinner and martinis to celebrate a book deal (ah, hubris!) and getting increasingly wasted. I told everyone I had to leave at 9 for a podcast interview. About sex, my primary beat. Well, 9 rolled around, and went, and I was getting perilously close to the appointed time. I wound up calling in from my taxi home, then blathering away about orgasms from my bed while the room spun around me.
Some things are fun to do drunk, and maybe it’s just me, but trying to act serious and professionally knowledgeable isn’t one of them. I later became good friends with the host of the show, who said she had no idea, but still. I knew.
(Listen here if you want to determine for yourself whether I sound smashed: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/datingroadkill/2007/02/13/a-surprise-valentines-day-show).
I was never one of those savoring-the-fine-wine types of drinkers. I was more like, “Which drink will get me out of my head fastest?” The drunken podcast was the culmination of one too many mornings waking up feeling like I’d made a fool of myself the night before. That, plus coming from a family of alcoholics, made me decide that the best course of action was to quit cold turkey. I allowed myself the occasional (once or twice a year) drink, but even that–I’ve recently decided–is a bit too much for me to handle.
I don’t know if not drinking makes me a better lover or not. I think it probably makes me a boring date. The other night a really hot girl asked in a way that could only be called overtly flirty what I wanted to drink. “A seltzer?” I said in the hesitant way I still have, knowing that’s about as big a buzzkill of an answer as one can provide, since I’ve also sworn off Diet Coke. “I’m a cheap date,” I tried to joke.
“A seltzer with…” She looked at me so intensely, I truly wished I could add something boozy, if only to let her know that I thought she was hot and that I was potentially interested. I think some people take my non-drinking as an automatic sign that I’m not interested in them, which just isn’t true. I hate that drinking is so often the way we define our sexual interests, as if those of us who don’t booze it up are also celibate.
That being said, the kind of sex I’m most likely to be having right now is with my boyfriend, and it is, with rare exceptions, wild, kinky, rough. There’s spanking and choking and bondage and dirty talk and blowjobs and it all happens really fast and furious. There’s no way I could relax enough to submit sexually to him if I were wasted, and I wouldn’t want to be anything other than fully present. I need to be alert to make sure that what we’re doing is safe, to fully process and enjoy it. If I were drunk (or if he were), I’d fear that we might go too far and do things we might regret. With my thinking faculties intact, I can exult in the enjoyment of pushing boundaries.
Perhaps for some people, being drunk gives them permission to “go wild” in a sexual way, but if I’m with someone I want to be with, I don’t have those qualms at all. I like kinky sex, I like pushing my own personal erotic envelope. I get off on the occasional moments of fear or uncertainty that come with trusting someone else to set the tone, rules, and course of the sexual action. If my senses were dulled by drinking, I’d miss out on all the nuances of our play. I trust my instincts more when I’m sober.
That doesn’t mean every time I have sex it’s perfect and magical. But when it’s not, I deal with it; I figure out a way to either make it better or pause and restart another time. When I drank, I rarely checked in with myself like that. I thought I needed sex, and the feeling of being attractive, to “make” me feel better. Now I know that even the hottest sex isn’t a panacea.
Still, sometimes when my boyfriend orders a drink, I’m tempted to have one of my own. It looks fun, easy, comforting. In some ways, it’s not so much about sex as wanting to fit in, because not drinking makes you stand out in most any bar, and for someone who craves others’ approval, that’s not always easy. It’s not that I’d spiral into nightly drunkenness if I had one drink, but it’s infinitely healthier for my psyche, not to mention my body, if I abstain.
Maybe simply remembering my days of drunken sex, as hazy as they are, is enough, but even if it’s not, it’s the choice I’m making. I’ll leave the hot, drunk sex to someone else. May they enjoy it!
Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) is a New York-based author, editor and blogger. She’s edited over 25 anthologies, including The Mile High Club, Do Not Disturb, and Best Sex Writing 2009, and is host of the monthly In The Flesh Reading Series (inthefleshreadingseries.com). In her PG life, she blogs at Cupcakes Take the Cake (http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com), for which she’s appeared on The Martha Stewart Show.