I'm Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I'm very, very open about it). Over the years, I've had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I've learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I'm here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn't just "communicate with your partner," because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It. To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.
This is an edited and condensed transcription from last week's "Sexplain It Live," which was recorded on Men's Health's Instagram. I was joined by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT author of I Want This to Work.
I was dating this girl for a month and really liked her. We just had sex and it was awful. So I kindly broke up with her the next time she asked me to hang. She called me a raging asshole and said I only used her for sex. I don’t know whether I should feel bad. Did I do something wrong? Am I the asshole here?
EE: So you get to break up with someone for any reason at any time, right? We get to choose whether or not we want to continue on with the relationship or not. There are certain things that of course are better to work through. And if you're really into a relationship, you might decide that the sex was awful, but I really like this person, so I'm going to figure it out. And the thing is, sex is not usually that great the first time with somebody because you might still be doing the things that you were doing with your previous partner, or you might not totally be in sync yet. With that being said, if you have an interaction with someone while you're dating, and you decide that you want to end the relationship, you get to do that. And the other person also gets to think that you're an asshole, and you can't control how they think or feel, no matter how you said it, or how you did it. If you continued the relationship, you might've still ended up being an asshole if you decided to end it in the future. So something that's really important for you to remember is that if you actually think it was the right choice for you, and you did it in a fair way, then that was your decision. You have to be able to sit with that, and the other person is also allowed to have their feelings about the way it went down.
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ZZ: You brought up a few good points here. I think it's interesting that he decided to not give it another shot. Of course, he doesn't have to. And who knows? Maybe she did something really weird and off-putting.
EE: I would love to dig in about what "awful" is. Because it could be it sucked or it could be egregious, like something horrific happened.
ZZ: Exactly, if it just wasn't good, and they didn't mesh, he could express the things that he likes [sexually], ask what she’s into, and try again. So I find it interesting that he didn't try, considering that he said he really liked her. But again, he's under no obligation to try again, and as you said, maybe it was just truly awful. This situation really is tough. They're going to think of you as an asshole, and there's really nothing that you can do about that. People take rejection poorly and personally. She might think you're an asshole or call you an asshole in that moment. And then two weeks later from now think to herself—I'm really happy he said he didn't want to do this as opposed to ghosting me or fizzing out or leading me on. I'm glad he gave me a direct answer. The thing is, you don't see how two weeks from now, she's actually much happier that you did this. You just saw that initial response where she was angry because she was hurt and rejected.
ZZ: I'm trying to think. I've slept with probably 2000 people. I'm sure 500 of them hate my guts.
EE: That's actually not too bad of a percentage!
ZZ: It's just a matter of when someone likes you and wants to date you and you reject them, they will feel crummy. And I think as long as you reject them in a nice and compassionate way, you have nothing to feel bad about.
EE: I want to add that if you think there's a possibility [you did something wrong], you can explore that with yourself. Was there something I could have done differently here? Did I indicate that we were closer than we really were, or maybe I could have worked through this? Did I not have a conversation that I could've had that would have allowed her to try something different next time? So you can explore that with yourself. But at this point, the decision was made, and you're going to have to sit with those feelings of having someone not like you. And that's really hard.
Watch the full conversation here:
Zachary Zane is the author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto and co-author of Men’s Health Best. Sex. Ever. He writes “Sexplain It,” the sex and relationship advice column at Men’s Health, and is editor-in-chief of the BOYSLUT Zine, which publishes nonfiction erotica from kinksters across the globe. His work has been featured in New York Times, Rolling Stone, Washington Post, Playboy, and more.