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Question #127: “I had a drunken threesome with my roommates, and now it’s all weird.”

Dear Captain Awkward, 

I moved into my university apartment with some people about a month and a half ago. Last night, I went drinking with a couple of the guys, and we got drunk. I ended up in bed with both of them, but I was too dry and they left. Then, because I was still drunk, I went to one of the guys in his room, and he was a gentleman about it and turned me away. Then I went to the kitchen and long story short, I ended up giving the other guy a blowjob. 

Now that I’m actually awake and functioning properly, I don’t know what to think. Mostly, I feel like a slut. I also oscillate between freaking out and feeling weirdly detached from my situation. I feel like I lost respect for myself. I feel like I’m in a bad drama playing out in my head. I can’t believe I actually allowed myself to do that. I can’t believe I threw myself at 2 guys, because what the actual fuck. I also feel like I’m whining, because probably a lot of people feel like that after something like this (so sorry). 

I’m also feeling really awkward, because I don’t know how to face them. I can’t avoid them because we’re sharing the same flat until June next year, and pretending I can’t remember isn’t an option because I clearly wasn’t drunk enough (I also feel like a coward for even considering those 2 options). I just want to face them and see what happens, but I may really just end up making it more awkward because I may freak out and say something really stupid, or obviously try too hard to act like nothing’s happened. 

Basically, I don’t know what to do. 

Sorry for whining at you, 
Feeling Terrible 

Dear Feeling Terrible:

Can you do me a favor and remove “slut” as a mean thing you say about yourself?  In this story, it took three to tango, and every single other person involved in what happened was just as drunk and horny as you and is probably feeling just as awkward the morning after. You’re not a bad person for seeking connection, sexy adventure, acting out a super-secret fantasy of having sex with two men at the same time, orgasms, or whatever else you were looking for that night. It is very possible to bounce back from this, shore up your relationship with your roommates, and figure out how you want to handle sex (and alcohol) in a way that’s healthier and more fulfilling for you going forward.

You can choose to talk with your roommates, singly or together, by email or face-to-face, and say “I feel really awkward about what happened the other night. How are you feeling about it?” and talk through the thing.  Opening The Talk with a question, rather than worrying about whether you’re feeling what you “should” be feeling is the shortest distance to an honest, real conversation if one is to be had here.

You can choose to talk with your roommates, singly or together, by email or face-to-face, and say “I feel really weird about the other night.  Can we agree to make it The Night We Never Speak Of Again and start over as if it never happened?” You can say “The other night was a one-time thing, I know you’ll understand and respect that.” If your plan is to never repeat it and to find a way to act as it never happened, why not bring that out in the open?  That will be much better than worrying about a “hopeful” knock at your door.

“I feel really awkward about the other night, but it was sexy and I’d like to try that again when we’re all sober” is another possible way this conversation could go, but the rest of your letter does not make it sound like the most probable outcome. It doesn’t make you a slut if you DO want to try it again, and it doesn’t make you a prude if you don’t. It’s just one possibility among others – what’s important is what is comfortable and right for you.

Know this:  It would be expensive and difficult to move out, but not impossible to move out. If you really need to move out, you can and should move out. A good reason to move out?  If you say “let’s never speak of it” and “that was a one-time thing” and one or both of them constantly refers to it or tries to initiate sex with you and if you feel that your safety is threatened in any way.

Since you’re at a university, I assume they have some kind of counseling services that can help you talk through everything. You’re not the first person to have Weird-No-Good-Bad-Idea-Sex under the influence of alcohol and youthful hormones, so go seek out the people who can listen to you and help you stop beating yourself up. Please make sure you’re taking care of your sexual health. Get tested.  Shore up your birth control. Invest in condoms and lube, because being prepared for sex doesn’t make you a slut, it makes you a grownup.  Do some thinking (and maybe some journaling) about what you’re looking for from sex and what your boundaries are.

I’m not recommending counseling because you did something bad and need OMG! PROFESSIONAL HELP! – If you read this blog you know that I think pretty much every adult could use the services of a trained professional to talk through their issues at some point in their lives, and you sound like you could use some help shoring up your confidence and not fixating on what happened. I haven’t read it yet (soon!) but I’m pretty excited to read Jaclyn Friedman’s new book, What You Really Really Want – The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety and feel absolutely comfortable recommending it to you.

In my dream happy ending, this story ends with you and your roommates cooking a massive batch of pancakes and eating them while you watch cartoons.  You make fun of each other with many Three’s Company jokes and form a fond sister-brother relationship and you watch each other’s backs.

Note: I will be moderating the living daylights out of all comments to this post. If you try to slut-shame the Letter Writer, I will set you on fire with my mind.

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22 comments
  1. Lexicon said:

    “I can’t believe I threw myself at 2 guys, because what the actual fuck.”

    This sentence struck me as especially laden with emotion and yet at the same time it’s almost totally nonspecific. LW, if it’s possible I’d like to ask you to take a few minutes and unpack this statement in your mind.

    What does it mean to “throw yourself” at a guy? What kind of assumptions about yourself are shrouded in that statement? And what about the ball of anger and self-loathing wadded up in the “what the actual fuck” part?

    What would you say to someone who had sex two men over the course of her time in university? That’s fine, right? Even a bit tame by some standards. What if she had sex with two men in a year? In six months? In one month? A week?

    When does it stop being okay? The answer is: it doesn’t. As long as sex consensual and enjoyable, there is nothing wrong with it. There is no mandatory waiting period.

    The Captain’s advice here is great and I can’t really expand on it except to say that “slut” is a word used to shame women about their sexuality and it has no bearing on actual reality.

    • Rei said:

      This is interesting, actually, because whenever I’ve ended up in a sexual situation unexpectedly – whether or not I was drunk – my reaction the morning afterwards has always been shame because I “threw myself at” the person or people involved. I feel as if (whether I initiated or not) I was the only person implicated in the thing happening, when, as Jen said, it does in actual fact take n to tango. Did I talk to the person beforehand? Out for sex. Did I talk to them while thinking that I might want to have sex with them? Definitely, definitely out for sex. Did I kiss them or ask if they wanted to kiss me, rather than letting them approach me? They didn’t want anything to do with me. I mind-controlled them into doing it, and so it’s all my fault. I thought I was the only one, but perhaps this is more common than I thought.

      LW, change the narrative in your head. You are involved in this situation, but you are not at fault. You didn’t make these guys have sex with you or want to have sex with you. Sure, it wouldn’t (at least I goddamned hope it wouldn’t) have happened if you hadn’t been up for it, but that still leaves two pretty big participation slices up for grabs. You were all drunk, you were all horny, and you all made a decision that’s now proving awkward in the light of day. Awkward doesn’t always feel good, but awkward happens; it’s not your fault, any more than it was your fault that you were drunk and seeking connection with a couple of other people who were also drunk and seeking that form of connection with you.

      And also, I know it’s hard, but don’t beat yourself up for things that you’ve thought. You’re not a coward because you considered avoiding them or pretending nothing ever happened; you’re a person reacting to an unfamiliar situation by trying to work out what to do next. People in your position have done the same thing, because the things that you have done and are doing are things that might have happened to and might be reacted to by anyone. It’s okay.

      • duck-billed placelot said:

        May I request Captain Awkward t-shirts that say ‘It takes n to tango’? Or even, “It takes 1+n to tango, where n is an integer larger than 0.”

        Also, LW: person, you will never be younger than you are now. By which I mean to say, this is an EXCELLENT time to take (physically safe!) risks, try new things, behave goofily, and be naked with people who turn you on. Of course, both of those sentences apply equally to any given stage of your life. You tried a thing that is outside your normal comfort zone – how awesome and brave and cool.

        • Cate said:

          I would wear that shirt until it literally fell from my body in thin, see-through smithereens.

          • Me too. I would buy seven of that shirt and wear one every day of the week.

  2. I think we’ve all had situations in our lives (sexual and otherwise) that we feel weird about. Getting involved in sexual experiences that turn out worse than expected doesn’t make you a slut, it makes you human. The Captain is right; you weren’t alone in these shenanigans and therefore should not shoulder the responsibility alone. As awkward as it might seem to talk to your roomies about the situation, I agree that it’s going to be the fastest way to get passed that night. And if you ever want or need support on this or anything else, you let me know! :)

  3. In my dream happy ending, this story ends with you and your roommates cooking a massive batch of pancakes and eating them while you watch cartoons. You make fun of each other with many Three’s Company jokes and form a fond sister-brother relationship and you watch each other’s backs.

    Seconding this dream ending. It doesn’t have to be completely awkward forever, LW! I promise, awkward sex happens, and even more awkward mornings-after happen, and people survive them. Talk to your roommates; the script the Captain provided is excellent. Then, do some soul-searching to figure out what you want and/or need in terms of boundaries around sex and alcohol and relationships, and to figure out how you need to be in the world in order to live with integrity.

  4. No answers or advice but I just want to bring the LW a cup of tea and give her a hug.

    Also, if I could post a picture of Drew Barrymore in Firestarter, that would be cool too.

  5. Mercutia said:

    I sort of want to take Letter Writer out for cupcakes and tea and figure out how exactly one gets from Point A (bar) to Point B (bed) with two dudes at the same time. Because I have no idea myself, and far from being a shameful situation, this strikes me as the epitome of the sort of skills every lady should have at her disposal.

    • L. said:

      Seconded! ;)

      LW, everyone else is right on–your exploration of new things was normal, and it’s also normal to feel embarrassed or weird or confused about it all. Great advice from the Captain here. Good luck in sorting out your feelings and talking to your roomies. It’ll be OK.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      ITA. I want these mad skillz!!

    • Windupbird said:

      Werd. Instructions to induce this scenario should be in every “how to be a lady” book/magazine/blog/whatever.

  6. kate said:

    I just wanted to say that even more important than figuring out how to deal with the aftermath vis-a-vis the guys is figuring out what it means to you. It’s natural (especially as a girl) to freak out about what other people think about what happened, rather than focusing on what you think. You tell yourself you’ll get to that later, after you deal with the public aspect. But truly, what you think is more important, and should decide how you approach the issue with them. I know you feel like you’re under some time pressure, cause your first encounter is looming, but try try try to carve out some time to think about it for yourself before you have a big “can we talk?” conversation. The big conversation doesn’t have to happen the first time you see each other.

    So: if the guys would go along with whatever you said you needed, what would that be?

    Maybe it is to make it the night we all pretend never happened… but how is that going to work if you actually are seriously attracted to one or both of the guys when the sun is shining and you’re sober, and it is not going to be one of them wanting to reenact some part of that night, but you? Be sure what you’re asking is something your own future conduct will be consistent with. Nothing devolves into drama quite like agreeing on the ground rules, then having the person who asked for them be the first to break them.

    Figure out, as best you can, what you would like (need?) your future ongoing relations with your flatmates to be, and ask them (I think together, since this was a shared experience) if that’s something they think can work. If not, pursue your options for moving out — you surely have them, and June is a long way away.

    Good luck. It doesn’t have to be horrible, if you can figure out what you want and be brave enough to be open about that.

    • kate said:

      P.S., I guess part of what I mean is that if you think you SHOULD regret the threesome bit, but to in your heart you mostly wish it had been a success, you should look that in the eye before attempting to square everything neatly away. And clearly, you’ll get no condemnation from the rest of us if that’s how you feel!

  7. Elizabeth said:

    Watch this video, then tell me if you still feel bad: http://vimeo.com/26413468

    It’s OK, it really is.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. The letter here really resonated me. I cannot even tell you how much. The shame and the regret for pursuing something sexual…ugh. I rarely, if ever, feel that way anymore, but sometimes it is still a battle. Even if someone intellectually knows everything you said is true, it’s good to have a reminder.

    Thank you, Captain Awkward, and thank you, commenters.

    And to the letter writer: Girl, seriously. “Slut” is not even a real thing. Be kind to yourself; you deserve it (in addition to all of the orgasms you are within your rights to seek).

  9. I hear that little voice sometimes too. Not too long ago, I wondered aloud whether hooking up with two men in the same weekend (though not at the same time) was kind of slutty. My friends quite rightly scoffed, and gently scolded me for using a word pejoratively on myself that I’d never use pejoratively on anyone else. “Besides,” one added, “Everyone loves a slut.” True, true.

    So, what with SlutWalk and all, there’s been a lot of talk about how women are harmed by the idea that having [some arbitrary quantity of] sexy activity makes a lady a slut. What gets a little dicier, I think, is the inverse idea, which is also a very present narrative and also appears as a voice in the head sometimes: that women should be sexually inviting and pleasing. It’s hard to be critical of that trope, because it can veer uncomfortably close to slut-shaming or prudery. (Although, really, “prude” is just as meaningless a word as “slut.”) What I’m trying to say, LW, is that sometimes it’s easy to talk yourself (or act yourself) into a sexier situation that you’re actually willing to be in. Sometimes it’s because you start a flirtation and feel like you ought to finish it; sometimes you’re trying on the role of Sexy Party Girl, the wild child everyone loves; sometimes the internalization of the idea that women are validated by male attention becomes its own drive*. I’ve been in all three circumstances more than once. That’s nothing to beat yourself up about either. I’m putting it out there in case some of your regret stems from having crossed a boundary you didn’t know you have, or were allowed to have – and that’s good information to have about yourself.

  10. In a few years, I hope the letter writer in a place where she can be proud of herself for having some kooky adventures in college.

  11. Also, next time you have a threesome with two dudes, don’t let it end without getting some major cunnilingus out of it. There’s two tongues in the room, so no excuses.

    • Lexicon said:

      Such good advice!

  12. Amanda said:

    Working on Jaclyn Friedman’s book right now and it is definitely something I’d recommend, but it is WORK. Good work, but be prepared to set aside a lot of time to process the questions she poses and for the journaling prompts. I mistakenly tried to start the book during my commute to and from work and I couldn’t fit the book and the requisite journal on my lap at the same time.

  13. As part of the recommended counseling for the LW, I hope she explores with her counselor/therapist the role of alcohol in this incident. The fact that she drank , then did things that cause her great shame to recall when sober, strongly suggest alcohol either is or could be a problem. At the very least, it’s probably a good idea to refrain from drinking in the presence of these roommates.

    Wishing the LW all the best– and without a load of shame attached, seriously.

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