If you're a sexually active young woman, chances are you've had sex with someone for no other reason than just feeling like you should. You weren't particularly enthused about it, nor were you vehemently opposed to the idea – it wasn't nonconsensual, but you only really consented out of a sense of obligation, or guilt, or even duty.
After Cat Person – Kristen Roupenian's short story for The New Yorker – went viral over the weekend it was praised for putting into words the thoughts and feelings many young women have had while navigating the world of dating, and the world in general. Women tweeted in their hundreds that the story perfectly illustrates how many of us can be prone to putting others' needs and feelings before our own – that we work "extremely hard to keep everyone around [us] happy", as Roupenian observes in a follow-up Q&A about the writing of the short story.
Tied directly to this is the recognisable fact that many of us have consented to undesired sex simply because we felt like it would be rude or hurtful to do otherwise – as is the case with the story's protagonist, Margot. Also intensely relatable are Margot's observations about this kind of sex: that, unsurprisingly, it's absolutely terrible.
I spoke to four young women about their real-life experiences with "cat people".
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When I was 19, at university, I was doing what they call "living my best life". After my first year exams I invited this guy from back home I'd been flirting with to come down to visit my uni accommodation. He was older – 31, if my memory serves me correctly. He wasn't my "type" – he was sort of on the short side and he was a little fluffy, but he had a really handsome face. He was a father, but he owned his own barber's, so on one hand I didn't see anything serious happening with a man with children, but on the other he seemed to have his life together.
Anyway, he came down, we Netflix-and-chilled before Netflix existed, and then he put the moves on me. I was going with the flow and then I changed my mind, mid-third base. It felt a little rude to tell him I wasn’t in the mood any more, so I just let him thrust himself inside of me.
I just laid there, thinking about when to call my dad to drive down to collect me and my things for the summer holidays.
Sex with my man is shit. He's older, so you'd think he would be experienced in how to pleasure a woman. He doesn't do foreplay. I know, I know – "Why am I with him"? I'm too young for awful sex. But I'm prioritising being with someone responsible with a good job and good prospects. Often, I don’t want to sleep with him, but girlfriend duties call. I can teach him what I like down the line. I'm going to have to: seven years of bad sex isn't my portion.
"Can the male ego take being told they aren’t good at pleasing women? I don’t think so."
Last year I got matched with a tall glass of sexy on Tinder. We flirted and bantered on there, and then it moved to WhatsApp. We decided to first meet up in public, of course. We went for drinks in a local bar. When we met it was just like it was via texts: no awkwardness – it was easy. So sleeping with him on the first date didn't feel like a stretch.
Usually I'd say to my girls they were being lame if they ever said "it feels like I've known him ages", but that's honestly how it felt. He asked if I wanted to go back to his and I obliged. You don't get connections like that all the time. At his place is where we first kissed, and that lip sucking, hoover experience should have been my cue to leave. It's up there with the worst kiss ever. Actually, no, that was the worst kiss ever. My first one, at my year seven school disco, wasn't even this bad.
I proper felt compelled to sleep with him. I know I have autonomy over my body – pussy power and all that – but I felt like after all the drinks and agreeing to go back to his that I had to. Let's just say that it was bad – more than bad; I was heaving as he moved on top of me. If he lacked rhythm kissing me, of course he’d be rhythmless between the sheets. How could someone so good looking be that clueless in bed?
A couple of months ago I decided to let a uni fuck buddy give me head. It was my first time doing that with a guy, and it was trash. The experience with my fuck buddy: 1) Put me off oral for the foreseeable future; and 2) caused me to end things with him. Every time I see him around campus I see the image of his clueless face looking up at me to see if he was doing a good job. I just had to smile nervously. I wanted to tell him to stop, but it just seemed pointless, so I endured and, finally, faked an orgasm.
Can the male ego take being told they aren’t good at pleasing women? I don’t think so. If I'd told him, next thing you know my name would’ve been all over uni. I just kept it moving.