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    CLIQUE STORY: I’ve slept with 1,000 men

    Apparently, during one of our all-too-rare meet-ups, I announced to my friend Mouloud, “I’ve done it! I’ve slept with my 1,000th guy!” Mouloud always laughs when I say things like that to him.
    He’s a great guy, and not for a second would I question his memory, but I just don’t remember the incident at all.
    I don’t remember saying it. I don’t remember when I'm supposed to have said it. I don’t remember when it was that I reached the 1,000-man mark. And I don’t remember who it was with.
    In itself, this is nothing more than an anecdote to smile over for two friends who don’t see each other often enough (which reminds me, Mouloud, honey, are you going to come back and see me in Brussels one day or what?). Unless, that is, the charming gentleman in question decides to commission an article on it.

    How can I talk about a non-memory? What does that faceless person mean to me? And all those notches on my bedpost?

    I’m glad I don’t know who Number 1,000 was. I’m glad I didn’t realise when it was happening. I sleep with people, not symbols!
    I’m also glad to have friends who enable me to think about my life from a new perspective and to express those thoughts. Thanks to you, Mouloud, I’ve written my very own ode to the opposite sex!
    It’s a long time now since I met Number 1,000. Since then, I’ve kind of stopped counting. In the end, what does it matter whether it’s two thousand or three thousand? I kept losing count, anyway.
    Guys — and girls, for that matter —, caresses, encounters, tenderness… I’ll give all that up when I’m dead!

    Once you’ve stopped giving a damn about being called a “slut”, about being judged, about all the crap pop psychology people come out with, about the disgusting compassion of those who assume you must have been raped, it’s easy being easy. It’s easy to follow your desire. You just have to listen to it, anticipate the pleasure, think about the moment when you will take your clothes off. Silence those bitchy voices in your head, and abandon yourself to a world of sensations. You just have to want it. Badly.
    It’s easy, once it has dawned on you that the person in front of you is a person too. That all you have to do is ask him, then listen to make sure you understand what he is saying to you. That if he says no, he’s not rejecting the whole of you. He’s just saying no to what he sees of you at that particular moment, to what it is you are offering him.
    Falling in love isn’t easy. It is horribly scary. It’s scary because it’s important. And that’s why you need to go for it.
    It takes a while for life to seem so easy. The bitchy voices inside your head or emanating from other people’s, the voices that call you a “slut”, that judge you, that try to explain why you do what you do, that pity you… none of that helps. But, in time, you can get to the point where you have slept with over two thousand guys in 15 years or so of sexual activity. That, in any case, is the path I trod. It wasn’t something I set out to achieve. I think I would call it a passion. A passion for sex. For people. For pleasure. For freedom.

    I refuse to number them. I make approximations. Ballpark figures. Just to know where I’m up to. There’s a little bit of showing off in it, and a lot of self-affirmation. It’s who I am. I have a Rabelaisian love of excess.
    Slept with ten men? You’re no prude. A hundred? You’re more than a casual dabbler. Two hundred? That’s some going. Five hundred? People will start telling you you’ve got a problem. But a thousand? A thousand seems so many. It’s beyond judgment. It puts you on another planet.

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    Number 1,000 was a while ago now. I know that it happened. But not when. Or with whom.

    It might have been a love affair – someone I built my life with. Or maybe I wouldn’t even recognise him if I bumped into him in the street today.  It might have been a friend, a colleague, a stranger… Maybe we’re still sleeping together. Maybe we regretted it.

    In my head, this non-memory prompts a procession of all the men I have known in my life. All those men in my life! I smile with affection. It’s difficult to imagine a thousand people all in one place. But I wouldn’t feel claustrophobic if it was those guys. They are people I have desired. People I have met. People who have got naked with me. People who have touched me.
    There are so many reasons to desire someone. So many different ways of desiring.
    Maybe I met you in a bar. I wanted to fuck. Neither one of us wanted to open up too much. It was just two lives colliding. We were honest enough not to ask for each other’s numbers. We experienced the liberating feeling of not having to try to be too many things at once. Of living in our desires alone. No promises.
    Maybe you were a nice boy. Your shyness appealed to me. There was desire in your eyes and in your wavering voice. Your puppy-dog awkwardness made me feel all warm inside. I thought things could work out. But soon enough I was angry with myself for thinking that. They never do. I felt like I was too much, an embarrassment.
    Maybe you were playing a gig. Seeing you on stage turned me on. I fought to be the one that went home with you. My love for music mixed up in my desire for you. Acting like a seventies groupie. A member of the big rock’n’roll family. Imitating our teen idols.
    Maybe I was obsessed with you for months. You didn’t know what to do with all that unbridled affection. My “I love you” came too early for you. There were letters, recriminations, tears, silence.
    Maybe you’re a friend. We expressed our affection for each other through our bodies. You needed to feel desirable. We were there for each other. We were brave enough not to feel ashamed. We were brave enough not to try and be a couple. Because that wasn’t what we wanted.
    Maybe I wanted to have children with you.
    Maybe I waited for the first metro so that I could make my getaway. “Honestly, I’ve just got so much to do!”
    I loved the little boy in you. Or your intelligence. Or your passion. Or your strangeness. You made me laugh. We made each other come. Or we made each other bored. We introduced each other to books we loved.
    Maybe you didn’t take me seriously. Maybe I didn’t listen to you.

    Whoever you were, thank you. There are so many reasons to get naked with someone. And those reasons belong in the moment.
    You just have to have the courage to be honest. Honest about the moment and honest with yourself. Thank you.
    Even if we didn’t come, even if we disappointed each other, even if we hurt each other, thank you.
    You are part of a web that makes me what I am. That time, whenever it was, was an encounter. An encounter with you. With the things our bodies do when they are together. With our ideas. Sex, relationships, loneliness. With our fantasies. With our pasts. With our fears.
    Maybe we didn’t form the relationship we wanted. But that encounter happened. And it made us what we are. Whether we remember it or not, whether we know it or not. I carry you inside me.
    You have to give the best you can. Or at least get close. To learn. Thank you.
    To Number 1,000, and all the other people I’ve slept with, thank you. Thank you for the one-night stands and the lifelong affairs.
    Thank you for your trust. Thank you for the laughs. Thank you for the intimacy. Thank you for the pleasure. Thank you for all those moments in life when I felt most alive. Thank you for being little pieces of me.
    Thank you for having the courage to reach out to someone else. For not letting fear win. For giving. Even if all you gave was a bit of flesh to someone you don’t remember. You created a bond. And bonds are the very stuff that life is made of.

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