Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Why Do Her Guy Friends Act Strangely After Sex?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Straight cis female in her late 20s here. I don’t date a lot and sometimes crave physical intimacy, so when I do have sex a few times a year it’ll typically be with a friend I’ve noticed seems open to it (to be clear, different friends, not one specific person). Usually we’ll be drinking and hanging out and it turns into a sleepover. The past year, though, I broke this habit because I’ve lost some friendships this way — basically, they all ghost me after sleeping with me, even if we’ve been friends for years prior.

Tell me this: why are guys so weird about casual sex? As far as I can tell, it’s not that they develop feelings for me… it’s that they think I have or will develop feelings for THEM and therefore distance themselves so they don’t have to face the awkwardness of turning me down for a relationship. Problem is, I don’t want anything more from them! I just sometimes want to have a fun sexual encounter and would rather do it with a friend than a stranger, for a variety of reasons including but not limited to safety. I don’t think this is a bizarre or extraordinary concept, but I could be wrong.

It really feels like the guys I sleep with have been conditioned to assume the girl always “wants more” and it’s their job to fend her off. That in and of itself I find injurious, but it’s adding insult to injury knowing that these guys like me enough to f

k but not to date (irrespective of how I myself feel about them). Also, side note: the offense I feel about this might have something to do with a deep-seated insecurity about my weight — I take care of myself and I know I’m pretty, but I’m tall and generally large. (Think Ashley Graham but WAY less smoldering.) There’s this notion that fat girls are fine to sleep with but not be seen in public with, and I can’t help but let that tinge my thoughts sometimes.

If these friends DID develop feelings for me, I assume they’d do something about it, but none of them has ever asked me out after sleeping with me, so I come to that conclusion by process of elimination. If they weren’t weird about being friends after sex, this wouldn’t bother me, but as it stands, it just magnifies their lack of interest in me as a whole person, with both sexual and social needs. So I lose a friend and feel undesirable. Super fun.

Recently I messed up and slept with a friend of 2-3 years I had always told myself I wouldn’t sleep with. When it was clear that’s where things were headed one drunken night, I said I wanted to keep being friends even though I knew sometimes things can get awkward after intimacy–I didn’t want that to happen because I value our friendship so much. I even paused while making out (pre-sex) because I was really worried it would mess up our friendship. Ultimately we kept going because I knew acting so torn probably WAS seeming weird and anyway we had already started down that path, so even if we stopped then it probably wouldn’t have made a difference in terms of what happened between us afterward. (I didn’t voice any of that last part, just reasoned through it in my head.)

Surprise surprise, now things are markedly weird between us. He’s gone completely AWOL on our friendship–we used to see each other every couple weeks and occasionally text in between, but he hasn’t responded to any of my 2-3 texts over the past month about random, innocuous, friendly things. I also recently ran into him at an event we used to sometimes attend together with other friends. He always used to invite me if he was planning to go, but clearly isn’t doing that anymore. Essentially, I acted the same way after we had sex as before we had sex… and apparently there’s something wrong with that? I know better than to ask him why he’s being weird; guys loooove gaslighting in response to that question, as I’m sure everyone knows.

Am I crazy for having the expectation that I can maintain a friendship after sex? Is there something wrong with wanting that? My solution these days is to not sleep with friends anymore, which is fine and easy and not a problem, but I still can’t get over the baffling pattern I encountered over the past few years. It could very well be I’m in denial and either REALLY bad in bed or somehow otherwise deficient, but I’m pretty self-aware and have decent self-esteem, so I doubt this would be the case–then again, if it’s happening every time, maybe I have a giant blind spot to something really crucial.

For what it’s worth, the most recent sexual encounter (the one detailed above) was good. Not the best I’ve ever had, and I’m guessing he’d say the same, but we both got off and I, for one, had a fun time. So why would he ghost our friendship like this? Why do they all?!


No, She Doesn’t Want More From You

DEAR NO, SHE DOESN’T WANT MORE FROM YOU: These sorts of questions can be difficult NSDWMFY because there’re a number of possible causes for the guys ghosting you.  Yes, it could be a case of dudes who have an issue having been with a big beautiful woman and they worry about people giving them s

t if anyone found out. Or it could be that these guys feel weird and awkward about having crossed a line in your friendship and they don’t know how to discuss it with you. It could be that you aren’t sticking the dismount afterwards and something about your behavior is making them think that you want more. It could be that they worry that you’ve had a thing for them all this time and you functionally Nice Girl’d your way into their pants. Alternately, it could be that the fact that you don’t want anything afterwards weirds them out and they don’t know how to process it. Hell, treating it like nothing happened afterwards could be disconcerting to them and they decide that they’d rather ghost than actually talk about this.

Without my being on the scene like a relationship David Attenborough, it’s almost impossible for me to say.

That having been said, there’re a couple things in your letter that set my Spidey-sense tingling.

To start with, there’s the fact that alcohol is usually involved. That’s quite likely a contributing factor. While booze isn’t Jekyll and Hyde serum — it’s not going to turn someone into a different person — it can lead to people making decisions they would otherwise not make in sober circumstances. The disinhibiting effects of drinking don’t unlock secret desires so much as turn down the volume on the parts of the brain that says “hey, this is probably not a great idea.” As a result, a guy who might have reasons that he wouldn’t want to sleep with a particular person might find themselves thinking “why yes, some oral sex WOULD be nice tonight,” after a few drinks and cross a line that they would otherwise have never gone near.

This is especially true if you’re having the “no wait, I really don’t want this to mess up our friendship” in the middle of making out. If the volume on the “this is why I wouldn’t do this” was turned down AND they’re in the middle of things, it’s a lot harder to hear the part of your brain saying “yeah, maybe call it a night, chief.” A drunk hard-on has a tendency to ignore a lot of warning signs.

Plus, if they’re worried that they took advantage of you… well, I could see why guys would be freaking out about this and just vanish.

At the same time, however, your letter gives me the impression that you’re not actually talking with your friends about this — either before you have sex or afterwards. And I don’t just mean a “here’s what this would mean” conversation beforehand, but your general outlook on casual sex and FWBs. If your guy friends don’t know that you’re open to a casual hook-up, then they might be forgiven for thinking that this means far more than it actually does. This is especially true in the light of your not dating much. If all they know is that you rarely date and you two hook up, it’s understandable that they might think that you’re more invested in that in the first place. They have no idea that their qualifiers are “Well, you’re convenient, available, safe and attractive enough,” and so they may think that this is the precursor to your treating this like the start of something serious.

And frankly, as a general rule, if you can’t talk with them about sex in the abstract, you probably shouldn’t be sleeping with them in the first place.

But just as importantly,  you don’t seem to talk about things afterwards. As much as you mention the stereotype that guys will assume that a woman — especially someone they may think is attractive in a non-conventional way — will just get clingy and needy after sex, it seems like you’re starting with the assumption that guys aren’t going to be honest with you if you ask them what’s up. And while there are guys who will either not want to come clean, or may even not know why they feel weird about things, you can’t be sure that all your f

kbuddies are like that.

All things considered, I’d start with the most immediate commonality in your encounters: the booze. While it may be a social lubricant and one that might facilitate hook-ups for you, avoiding hooking up while either or both of you are buzzed would be a good start. At the very least, you’ll be sure that your guy friends are doing something they want to do, not something they might regret in the cold light of sobriety. Not all guys are necessarily going to want to f

k a friend, even if they are legitimately attracted to her. Some folks prefer to keep pretty distinct lines between friends and potential partners.

The next is that I would talk with folks about this — before and after. If they know that this is just a hook-up, that you’re good at compartmentalizing and have no problem having casual, FWB style relationships, then your seeming ease after sex might seem less disconcerting. If they’d be down for a no-strings fling in general, they’d be much more likely to be into it if they knew that’s exactly what you’re looking for. And talking about things afterwards, especially giving dudes non-judgmental space to express themselves if they’re feeling a little weird about it might ease any tension or lingering “wait, did I do something wrong” anxieties.

TL;DR: leave the booze out of it and use your words — early and often. That should help cut down on the guys who seem weirded out the morning after.

Good luck.

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