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There’s No Shame in Sharing With a Friend

Why the stigma of “sloppy seconds” is over

I tried to find a great quote about the phrase “sloppy seconds” to open this piece—some classic movie zinger that would make you, the reader, feel both slightly irked in a 2016 “that’s problematic” sense and also in tune with popular culture. But, while a fair few mediocre TV shows toss the term around for an easy laugh, I didn’t think a quote from the 2008 reboot of 90210 would have the desired effect. So let’s assume instead that you, a modern adult, are already familiar with the idea of sloppy seconds — a petty, gross-out pejorative intended to shame a friend who had sex with someone after you did. More likely, even if you’ve never heard the term, you’ve probably encountered some tension or stigma around hooking up with people your friends have already been with.

While used by people of every sexual orientation, the idea has heterosexual (and heterosexist) origins — namely, slighting a (male) friend for getting there (i.e., in bed with a woman) only after you did, and perhaps asserting a type of ownership over the woman’s body even after you’re no longer sleeping with her.

Pepper Schwartz, a prominent sociologist and author of a number of books on sex and relationships, notes that “some guys might have even a homophobic reaction to being in a place where another guy just was.” But women, too, often find it distasteful to fuck a guy who’s been with one (or more) of their friends or is widely seen as a player. While time has changed our cultural conversation around sex, the concept of sloppy seconds remains as a way to maintain physical “dibs” on a person, to enhance their own sexual prowess while demeaning the person they’re no longer sleeping with.

I’ve been the walking, talking, cum-covered embodiment of sloppy seconds since I became a consenting adult; even now, I’m constantly finding myself dating or fucking people who have been around the mutual-friends block. Although I’m sure I’ve been called plenty of names behind my back, no one’s ever tossed it right in my face, probably because I don’t live in a teen movie from the late ‘90s (for the record, I am not a virgin, and I’m a great driver). But my good fortune most likely lies in spending most of my life living in queer communities in liberal pockets of California.

When I first started really coming into my own as an unapologetic slut, I was still living in my tiny hometown. Within a period of six months I had hooked up with three guys who were all best friends, with no hard feelings at any point. The men and women in this group of friends would go on to hook up and break up and make out and get married in various couplings for years, and to this day there haven’t been any fallings-out. When your group of friends is so limited and so inextricably intertwined, even people with jealous, competitive instincts have to learn to not let the little things bother them. (No one wants to be some meme-faced Crying Dawson thinking he has a goddamn birthright to Joey Potter, even though Pacey is obviously her soulmate.)

These days, with social media connecting all types of people from around the world and Facebook and Twitter suggesting the “people you may know” based off of your mutual friends, is it even possible to fuck someone who doesn’t have some connection to someone whose genitals you are intimately acquainted with? Obviously, Tinder and Grindr and OkCupid users would say that as much of the appeal of online dating is the ease with which you can meet people outside your immediate network.But many people want to find people in their networks, which is why someone came up with Bumble, an entire dating app based on hooking you up with romantic partners who know the people you know. There’s a comforting certainty in knowing that a friend you trust has vetted the stranger you’re interested in exposing your genitals (and possibly your heart) to. I would argue that the shame once associated with fucking your friend’s ex has been transformed into something much more… educational.

The small community in which I reside as an adult is the alt comedy scene of East Los Angeles. Naturally, I have ended up fucking and dating a fair amount of comedians. My lady friends, who are also fucking these dudes, will then compare notes with me. I have one very good friend who is my “Eskimo sister” nine times over, including having fucked my current serious boyfriend a few weeks before we started dating. (Sidenote: Can we please come up with a better, non-racist, non-gendered term for people who have fucked the same person?)

In the modern version of “sloppy seconds,” we want to know whether or not someone is worth spending our time on. We prefer that they’ve been taken for a test drive. I have made some of my best friends simply because we fucked the same dude; I have warned and been warned about extreme fetishes, penis shapes and sizes and curvature, STDs, abuse allegations and shitty fuckboi tendencies.

It seems that in today’s world, with the cultural stigma almost entirely erased from those women who enjoy having sex, it is the men who are getting sloppy. And many women would rather share their knowledge and see anyone happy and safe than maintain possession over someone they don’t want to fuck anymore.

So shape up, fuckbois and girls — we’re here, we’re shameless and we’ll tell the whole world about how many times you made us cum.

Eloise LeBel is a writer in Los Angeles. She reviews pot edibles for MEL.

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