I confess—I’ve been a ho.
Now, my confession is not to say that I think harmless flirting and even hardcore fucking around are bad things. I’m a pretty sex-positive guy, and I don’t see anything wrong with people enjoying themselves. But I do want to, uh, no longer be a ho. At least not for a while.
I ran this thought by some good friends over a few beers and was glad to find in them some kindred spirits. One said that his sleeping around began to make him feel empty, and made him question his worth. He asked: Is sex all I’m good for? Another said that casual sex stopped being worth his time and effort. His hookups would often happen late at night, he said, throwing off his sleep schedule and productivity the next day. Now he wants a long-term emotional connection. If he’s not getting that, then jerking off just makes more sense. I, embarrassingly, realized that I gave up what could have been a long-term emotional connection for the one-night stands I’m now tired of, too.
My friends and I agreed that it was about time to end our ho era.
Urban Dictionary defines “ho phase” as a time of exploring promiscuous activities with several, often random, people. The activities can include everything from incessant teasing and flirting to making out and having sex. It also says that people can stop these activities and snap out of the phase. On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #hoephase have a combined 70.5 million views. Some users on Reddit celebrate their ho phase, while some say they regret it.
Sexual desire, of course, is completely natural—just like hunger or literal thirst—and many have it in varying degrees throughout their lives. But after some time of sexual exploration and discovery, some get a better sense of what they like and what they don’t like. Sometimes, the novelty of things wears off, what was once thrilling becomes tiring, and priorities change. “Ngl, ‘hoe phase’ can be draining too. I miss the feeling of having ‘my bebi, my person, my home,” wrote a TikTok user.
So what do you do in times like these? How do I have less sex?
According to Anna Tuazon, a clinical psychologist based in Manila, Philippines, the first step is to not feel bad about feeling good.
“It’s not automatic that we have to feel bad about that phase in our lives, or about what we’ve engaged in,” she said, adding that it’s important to take the stigma away from sex and sexual experiences.
In a ho era, she explained, most people just want to explore and seek out experiences.
“If you were enjoying it, and it was between consenting adults, and no one was hurt by it, then there really is no rational reason to regret that.”
Sometimes, however, people do get hurt. Some things are regrettable—like leading someone to believe you’re going to commit to them when you know you’re not yet done with your ho era, for example. Or skipping protection and regular testing for STDs. In these cases, Tuazon advised people to accept accountability, and try to repair what was damaged.
It’s important to remember that both the positive and negative experiences in a ho era have already happened, and no amount of guilt or shaming (from one’s self or others) will change that. What people should do, Tuazon said, is to learn from all of it—to actually discover what you like and don’t like, and what hurts people and what doesn’t.
One way to do that is through what is in therapy called “radical acceptance.”
“Just radically accepting that this happened… At that point in your life, that was important. Having these experiences was important, sexual exploration was important. And today, it is no longer important,” Tuazon said. Our priorities do change over time, she added, but that doesn’t mean our past priorities were wrong.
If our priorities don’t change—if we want our ho era to be a ho life—there’s nothing wrong with that, either, Tuazon explained. Provided, of course, that it remains between consenting adults and doesn’t hurt anybody. For people whose priorities do change, however, Tuazon offered some actionable advice.
Ho eras are when sexuality becomes a central aspect of a person’s life, so one good way to get out of a ho era is for a person to redirect attention and focus on other things.
“If [sleeping around so much] is no longer something I want to do, then [ask yourself] ‘What does give me fulfillment? What can give me excitement? What are the other things I can enjoy with other people?’” said Tuazon.
Another way to have less sex is to lessen the time you hang out with people whose priority is, well, sex. It’s like smoking, Tuazon said. It’s easier to quit if you spend time with non-smokers. But that doesn’t mean ditching certain crowds and certain scenes altogether. If you usually take someone home after a night out, then you can still go out, but try being a good wing person for a friend instead, so they can live out their best ho era, too.
None of this is to say that you should become absolutely celibate when working your way out of a ho era. You can still flirt around and have fun, of course. It all boils down, Tuazon said, to intentionality, or deciding to do something only when “you know the impact, you know the consequence, you know how to handle it.”
Intentionality can also help people avoid doing things they might regret or might hurt other people. Whatever your reason is for getting this far down this article, Tuazon had a final piece of advice:
“Don’t even think of your ho era as a problem that needs to be solved. It was a part of you, it was a part of your life. Hopefully, you enjoyed it. Hopefully, other people enjoyed it. And again, with every experience—as long as we learn from it—you never need to regret.”
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