It turned out that my decision to change my lifestyle for a less promiscuous one was excellently timed on my part. During the 60s and 70s — as far as the average, sexually active person knew — STDs resulting from indiscriminate sexual contact could be treated and cured with antibiotics — and dreaded exceptions, such as Herpes or genital warts, could at least be treated to manage symptoms. And this mindset, based as it was on lust and ignorance, generated a less than desirable level of vigilance about safe sex. But with the advent of the 80s and the newly discovered AIDS epidemic, for many people sexual behavior underwent an immediate and radical change.
The term “safe sex” entered our vocabularies. Bowls of condoms began appearing at party houses and sex clubs. Casual hook-ups, even with the use of condoms were viewed as potentially dangerous behavior. Consequently, one-on-one came into vogue again. Romance was back. Celibacy was celebrated. True love waited. People talked of marriage again.
Personally, I didn’t plan on taking matters that far, but although I retained grave reservations about the institution of marriage itself, I did feel ripe for a committed relationship. What I wanted was a special type of partner — a sexual main-man, so to speak, someone strong and emotionally secure — with the steadfast dependability and trustworthiness of a platonic best friend, combined with the erotic focus of my most favorite lovers. And I wanted this, please, all rolled up into one hot, hard, erotically adventurous man, to be enjoyed on a longterm basis.
Missing from this equation was someone to have that relationship with.
With further pursuit of casual hook-ups now off the table, I found men who turned me on and who were likely candidates for commitment to be disappointingly few and far between. But although I felt lonely and horny without my accustomed sexual distractions, I was unwilling to settle. My main social interactions were with my young adult children or women friends, or an occasional fling with an old friend-with-benefits. Aside from that I stayed home a lot, adopted a dog who turned out to be excellent company, and began to clarify my specific relationship needs in my mind, based on my plethora of personal experience.
The culmination of this semi-celibate time in my life was the personal ad I placed in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, in late 1983. The responses were many, but the one that mattered came from a man who had somehow read between the lines of my relationship ad, and responded with a letter — we wrote actual letters in those days — offering me “a special kind of erotic intimacy”, that he sensed I craved. I have no idea how that clever man knew that the most secret desire of this strong, capable, feminist woman was sexual submission.
How could he know, I wondered, when I barely knew myself?
But the man was right on, and I became his woman on that same night we met, following our initial meeting and negotiation at a San Francisco coffee-house — although I always maintained I wasn’t easy, because I made him buy me coffee first. And to our genuine surprise and delight, our alternative lifestyle relationship resulting from my newspaper ad has endured to this day.
Yes, there was a life after promiscuity. And yes, there was life after vanilla sex.