NSFW Sunday Endorses Ghosting

Feature image of Valentine by Eva Wǒ. All of the photographs in this NSFW Sunday were taken by photographer and artist Eva Wǒ and have been used with permission. (See below for more about Eva.) The inclusion of a photograph here should not be interpreted as an assertion of the model’s gender identity or sexual orientation. If you’re a photographer or model and think your work would be a good fit for NSFW Sunday, please email carolyn at autostraddle dot com.

Welcome to NSFW Sunday!

Nasty Candy, in a nipple-revealing mesh crop top and thong, lit with pink tones

Nasty Candy by Eva Wǒ

+ “Ghosting is now an acceptable way to end casual relationships. It’s officially suitable — after a few texts or a mediocre date, at least — to communicate your disinterest for someone through silence.” Maybe you’re bored, maybe you died or maybe they showed up to your date in a baseball hat and your ladyboner melted. Whatever the reason, just never texting a casual date again doesn’t make you a monster:

“‘I think there is real value to ghosting,’ says Ben Michaelis, a clinical psychologist and the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. ‘At a certain point in a relationship, it is totally unacceptable — but early on, like after a date or hookup that didn’t go well, ghosting is useful. Trying to ‘let someone down easy’ often results in confusion on the part of the person being broken up with, and even drags on relationships that should be ended.’

Ghosting removes ambiguity and saves time. ‘It’s pretty hard to interpret ghosting as anything other than an indication of disinterest,’ Michaelis says, ‘and in this way, it allows the ghoster and ghostee to move on with their lives more quickly.'”

styrxfoam sitting naked on a stool against a white wall, exhaling smoke

@styrxfoam by Eva Wǒ

+ Why do you keep going out with basically the same person even when you’re seeing different individual people? Dating a “type” can feel safe because it feels familiar (so maybe try something else):

“[C]ertified sex and relationship coach Myisha Battle […] told me that a lot of our issues with type-casting our partners is that we get warm feelings for things that are familiar — despite the fact that familiar is not always synonymous with good.

‘A lot of our attraction to our partners is due to our unconscious roles we developed in childhood. We are often drawn to partners who feel comfortable to us and have similar values,’ she explained.”

Mia Secreto lounging forward to look at the camera on a pale-gold patterned couch

Mia Secreto by Eva Wǒ

+ In American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, Lisa Wade examines the current state of college sex culture and the implications for everyone. In an interview at Bitch, she discusses gender, sexual behavior and the performance of hooking up as meaningless: “In practice, sex without care is tricky to pull off. Because everyone knows sex is meaningful, so establishing that any particular interaction is meaningless is a difficult interpersonal task. So, students actually have a pretty elaborate and arguably brutal set of rules for how to perform meaninglessness. Those rules work, often all too well.”

+ At the Establishment, Kotaline Jones writes about embracing being aromantic and asexual.

+ “There’s a nationwide effort to classify all internet-connected devices as porn vending machines.” Legislators in North Dakota behind House Bill 1185, which if it became law would classify anything that connects to the internet, including smart fridges and routers, as “pornographic vending machines” (and not mean it in a good way), are the fucking worst:

“As detailed in House Bill 1185, the law would legally reclassify any “products ‘hat distribute the internet’ as ‘pornographic vending machines.’ This includes, but is not limited to: a cell phone, laptop, computer, Playstation, smart fridge, or internet service provider’s router. In other words, most North Dakotans would suddenly become porn vending machine owners in the eyes of the law.

House Bill 1185 would also require anyone selling internet-connected devices to automatically block ‘obscene sexual performances’ and ‘intimate image[s].’ (According to North Dakota law, what qualifies as an obscene image ‘must be judged with reference to ordinary adults.’) Users of these devices would have the opportunity to deactivate this filter only if they first submit a deactivation request in writing to the manufacturer, meet face-to-face with the manufacturer to verify that they are over 18 years old, and pay a $20 fee.”

Valentine, in a soft shirt and tall socks and no pants, lounging back in a tuffed leather chair in a bright, plant-filled room

Valentine by Eva Wǒ

+ This week’s NSFW Sunday’s visuals are courtesy of photographer and artist Eva Wǒ, a mixed-race queer femme from rural New Mexico who lives in Philadelphia — where they’ve founded multiple collectives and organized events, and are a current artist in residence at 40th Street AIR Program — and the internet. Check out their portfolio or instagram. On their work, Wǒ notes:

“I am driven by the stories my friends tell me about coming into themselves through their queer and femme identities; especially sex workers, qtpoc, nonbinary folks, amab folks, and fat folks who find strength and liberation in these terms. I aim for my work to be full of joy, vanity, and love for ourselves and each other. What is most satisfying is when I am able to build mutual relationships in which my collaborators feel seen, celebrated, and respected in an affirming environment.”

Lili Afrodite, in a pale green lingerie set, reclining back on a large grey tree trunk in a bright green forest

Lili Afrodite by Eva Wǒ


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Carolyn Yates is the NSFW Editor and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com. Her writing has appeared in Bitch, Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She recently moved to Los Angeles from Montreal. Find her on twitter.

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49 Comments

  1. i think the thing that gets me about ghosting is that in my experience it almost always comes after the other person has, with no prompting, either at the end of a date or in text, been like “oh that was so fun let’s meet up again soon!” and then you are like oh okay cool and text them and then they just never reply. and it’s like what?

    also, unrelatedly, i like the new thing where all the nsfw sunday pics in a given post come from the same source. it’s kinda neat!

    • I agree about ghosting, that’s mainly been my experience as well. I’d vastly prefer that someone be honest with me and just plainly say that they aren’t interested. Especially since I form attachments very easily and am a worrier ghosting just makes me worry that something has happened to someone I care about and is vastly more painful than an “I’m not interested, please don’t call/text anymore.” It’s going to hurt no matter what, at least show some respect and be honest.

    • That’s been my experience as well, and it frustrates me, especially as someone who spends a lot of time in areas where I don’t get cell service. Because even with close friends sometimes I just…don’t get their messages, or sometimes I’ll get messages WEEKS after they send them. And I know these people aren’t ghosting me, but with people I don’t know well, I…just don’t know why I stop receiving messages. Is it because they don’t want to talk with me (which is cool) or is it because I spent the past three days in the mountains without service and sent messages were just never received by me?? It was especially annoying when I was living in a place where we needed to use a cell booster to get signal reliably, but didn’t have the booster on all the time since the only electricity we had was what could be collected via solar and stored in the two big batteries…

      • yeah, I feel the same. ghosting in my opinion is just a really, really shitty thing to do. It’s just so unneccessary, like if you agreed to meet up for one date, you must at least communicate your disinterest, it’s just lazy not to do that, it’s gonna hurt either way. I have been ghosted so many times and it has definitely made my anxiety worse. I just cannot think of a gentle/polite way to do that and it should only be done with someone who is really being a burden to you.

        • I mean, (A) the choice is between ghosting or agreeing to things you don’t want to do, then yeah, ghost. And whatever has happened so that you feel like ghosting is the only way to stop seeing someone, I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve it. And (B) you already told someone and they aren’t accepting your answer, yeah, you don’t owe them a reply, no reply is probably your safest bet. Again, I’m sorry, that’s a scary situation to be in!

          But otherwise, I really don’t like how ghosting fucks with me. For one thing, now every time I meet someone and then they don’t immediately reply I’m like “oh, I guess that they don’t want to interact with me anymore.” It takes me months to get a sense of a new person’s pattern of communication, and that whole time every gap longer than an hour triggers the fear that I will never see or talk to that person again. Additionally, because I have also met people who will drop out of communication, and then contact me six months later, it actually takes me months to let go of the hope that someone who ghosted will at some point contact me.

          I really appreciate it when people tell me just “this isn’t working, I don’t want to spend time with you.” Or “I’m not really interested in another date. Take care!”

          I don’t know, I understand the avoidant-anxiety that leads to never having that awkward conversation, but unless it’s either actually unsafe, I think it’s pretty rude to just not reply to someone you had connected with. (Of course, maybe they deserve your rudeness!)

    • I’ve been there, and it’s horrible to get ghosted; especially if they were flirting with you, or saying stuff like we wear eating snacks in a dream, or blushing happily after asking for consent to go in for a kiss.

      Side note I have a weird feeling person I was good friends with is ghosting me, and I may know the reason, but it’s just a guess. Like why let a person guess, if you don’t want to be friends or date someone. I’m okay if it was say after say a 2 months, but I think the cutoff should be at least half a year, before ghosting can get hurtful, and arguably rude.

    • Yeah, the only people who have ever “ghosted” me were people who were really emphatic about how we should meet up again — like, suggesting specific plans when we were hanging out and then just disappearing when I texted them. So it seems fishy to me, like they wanted to “win” the date or something?

      Lukewarm date endings are usually a pretty good hint, and luckily everyone I’ve been into enough to “Hail Mary” text has been self-assured enough to text “no thanks!” in response to me asking them out again so I’ve never really had to agonize.

  2. So with the pornography vending machines, would TVs qualify too? Since cable channels will just sometimes show porn during nighttime hours? Would you have to have cable channels blocked unless you go through this process?

    Also just how would this work in general???? This doesn’t seem like a remotely enforceable law, but if this is able to pass and be enforceable this is frightening because the same type of thing could be used to block access to anything else “unacceptable”–information about queer people, information about socialism, information about healthcare.

  3. To each there own, but ghosting just cones off as cowardly and showing one’s inability to asset themselves. The would issue of the gov’the trying to censor Internet devices (though an important topic) seems completely irrelevant to the original discussion.

  4. idk. I think there are some folks who communicate really passively and who only ever express themselves in ‘soft’ no’s and there’s a lot of inference, and while arguably we are super culturally focused on saying things out loud with a great deal of clarity, it can also be confusing and upsetting to folks who don’t communicate that way. which is not the ghoster’s responsibility, but I think there is a middle ground.

  5. I guess I’m in the minority that I think ghosting, *as long as there isn’t an established relationship*, is fine. Some people just need to be ignored to get the point.

    When I was in high school, I hung out with a group of people who did a lot of platonic cuddling. A mutual friend introduced me to a guy and we all hung out after school on the last day before summer break, and he asked to cuddle with me so I said sure because it was common. He got really touchy-feely, which didn’t bother me because, again, that’s how our groups of friends were. Then he tried to kiss me when I left and over the break he kept calling my house (back when landlines were still a thing) to meet up and say he missed me. At no point during our brief meeting did he say he was romantically interested in me or ask me on a date or anything. He just assumed that because we cuddled, we would obviously start dating. I never picked up or returned his calls. I even told my mom that if he calls to say I wasn’t there. We didn’t see each other face-to-face again, but when he found me on Myspace (remember Myspace?) a couple years later he was like, “We almost dated in high school.” No. No, dude. We didn’t.

    So, ghosting can be an effective way to dodge people who are shady, creepy, or clearly do not understand boundaries. Giving people who freak you out any more of your time isn’t good for you. And, like I said, if you’ve only been on one date (or no dates) it’s not like you owe them anything anyway.

    I think if you’ve been out multiple times though, and the person isn’t giving you bad/scary/creepy vibes, it’s better to be honest. Because at that point you’ve obviously expressed a real interest in the person and they’re clearly interested in you. Telling someone you’re no longer interested is awkward, but if they’re a nice person they deserve the truth (and if we always avoided every awkward situation we’d never grow as people and some of us would never leave the house).

    • Well you completely changed my mind about ghosting.

      And I’ve done this too ! When I was 14 in the school orchestra this percussionist started getting interested in me. He was at least 6 years older (So 20 at the time). I was an awkward girl and loved the attention of the popular guy who always seemed super cool. Until he started actually being forward and I suddenly realised how creepy it was.

      Reader, i ghosted him.

      I ghosted him so hard but he still called for the next two years. Sometimes he would call at 4 in the morning. Years later after I’d left my home town I would break into sweats and have anxiety over going downtown when I was visiting my parents because I might run into him in a bar.

      So yeah ghosting was all I had. There was no way 14 year old me could have found the courage to say “dude leave me alone this is creepy and inappropriate”. I don’t believe a dude who was still trying to call me two years later would have listened anyway.

  6. My problem with ghosting, as CB alludes to, is that it allows for the justification of misleading and dishonesty.

    I would much rather be told, at the end of the date, that the other person didn’t see this going anywhere then being told they had a great time and can’t wait to see me again….and then never hearing from then again. It leaves me with a sense of feeling like I did something wrong, but can’t be sure what.

    I get there are situations where people can’t take the hint that there’s no future, even after a direct “I’m not interested”, which would justify blocking/ignoring/no longer responding to the other person. However, ghosting as a general practice as a passive means to disregard a lackluster date is really unfair to the other person involved.

  7. If you’ve only been out once or twice, I think it’s totally fine to just not text the person if you aren’t interested in seeing them again – often times the feeling is mutual. But if they do contact you I think it’s rude not to answer – just say something like, “it was nice meeting you, but I just didn’t feel a connection.” If they can’t except that and keep bothering you, go ahead and ignore them, but I think that unless doing so would put you at risk it’s nice to at least text someone back once.

    • Oh yeah! To me it only counts as ghosting if you don’t reply! If I go out with someone and we don’t hit it off and never message each other again, that’s great!

      I only think of it as ghosting if there had been agreement on a future date or continued conversation that then one person stops replying.

  8. I don’t see the big deal with not texting someone after a lackluster date. After 1 date or hookup? It’s fine, even if you did say something like “Let’s do this again” to be polite at the end. Now, if they text YOU, the polite thing to say is “I’m busy” until they stop. People here are saying they want honesty, and I think most people in theory, want honesty, but I think “I’m busy” twice gives the same message to anyone who can pick up on social cues without the sting of saying you didn’t like someone.

    “Want to hang out again Friday ;)”
    “No, I don’t want to go out with you again. Don’t message me anymore.”

    Can you imagine getting that from someone you went on a date with??? I can’t. I would say that is only appropriate meanness if they have texted you three times and you have begged off 3 times. At that point, they aren’t getting the message and it’s time to be blunt.

    • Oh, huh! I’ve definitely sent “No, I don’t want to go out with you again.” I didn’t even think I was being mean! I thought I was being helpfully direct :/

      Also, it took me YEARS to realize that people said “I’m busy” and didn’t mean it. In retrospect, I definitely lost friends who were trying to spend time with when when I was super busy and I guess I should have said “I really do want to spend time with you, but my schedule is terrible right now” or “I’m actually generally not available on Wednesdays”?

      Like, I take people at their word, I feel like not doing that would just make me crazy? If someone says “I’m busy” then I’m going to keep inviting them to things as long as I live near them. I guess I might stop after a year?

      On the other hand, I am on the autism spectrum, so I’m probably not included in “people who can pick-up on social cues.”

      • I mean, in high school a girl asked me if I wanted to see [MOVIE] with her and I just said no, because I wasn’t interested in seeing that movie. A friend was like “she was trying to ask you out” and I had to run and find her to apologize and accept.

        So, yeah. That’s me.

    • I’m not sure I’d find ghosting after a first date a big deal if I were to start dating again, but the repeated “I’m busy” lie would bug me. I wouldn’t assume that it was a lie straight off the bat, so when it became clear that they were repeatedly busy and not making an effort to see me, I’d feel like that person had no respect for my time or feelings at all, by tying me up like that with no real answer, and I’d not be inclined to be friendly with them in the future. Maybe that’s less of a problem in a society where people go on lots of dates in short time with very little investment—that’s a foreign concept for me.

      Not that I think “No, I don’t want to go out with you again. Don’t message me anymore.” is a great line either, but I don’t understand why it has to be either. How about something like “Thank you for XYZ with me” if your date was a dud or “I had a nice time XYZ with you” if it was good, followed by “but I didn’t feel like we had the chemistry/connection/sparks/whatever I’m looking for, so I’m going to decline.” I don’t have American-style dating experience, but it seems to me one can be honest and direct without making the other person feel like you’re one step from requesting a restraining order.

  9. as a literal ghost, this information on ghosting pleases me mightily. as a gemini though, who in a past season of my life was a serial ghoster, i know this will not work for me if i want people to think geminis do anything but change our minds too quickly and break hearts.

    also i’m really loving Eva’s work

  10. SO:

    I am a ghoster.

    The initial habit was borne from a complete and total inability to tell men no. I once spent 5 hours on a date with a dude I was having absolutely no fun with; the entire time, I took such pains to ensure that he thought I was having fun, so that he would not be let down, that the poor guy must’ve thought it was the best date ever. At the end, he wanted to kiss me, and I let him, so that things wouldn’t get awkward. The next day I went home for Christmas break; over the break, he called me, 1, 2, 3, 4 times. I never answered. Nine months later he e-mailed me a poem he’d written about that one date we went on. I never answered that either.

    And it wasn’t just innocuous things like first dates that I couldn’t say no to. I stayed with guys who didn’t treat me well. I didn’t tell them what I wanted or needed. I had no voice. I thought that my voice was the price I paid for being desired. I thought that the caring moments I carved out of those relationships were better than nothing. But sometimes, when things hit a tipping point – if things got unbearable – I got out. And the only way I could do that was to ghost. So I ghosted, and I will never feel guilty for that.

    But that set up a pattern for me, I think.

    I have a voice now. Most of the time, I don’t pretend. Most of the time, I speak up for what I want, what I need. But honestly? It will always be an effort. And sometimes it’s an effort I don’t have the energy for – particularly with very new people.

    I don’t ghost on relationships, not now. But if we’ve been on a few dates and I’m not feeling it? I’m sorry. I never got good at saying no. I was taught to say yes, always, to be accommodating, to be helpful. I wish that I could text you and say, I’m sorry, I don’t think it’s going to work out. But I can’t. I mean, I’ll try. I’ll keep trying. But yeah, what you might get from me is radio silence. I hope you can read between the lines: I didn’t mean to hurt you, you seem like a sweet person, and I hope to see you around.

  11. I think ghosting is usually not acceptable. Regardless of the situation, people should always be treated with kindness and respect. If someone has a hard time expressing themselves, just go with the usual “I like you, but only as friends”.

  12. If the Internet is treated as a ‘pornography vending machine’ but we basically need the Internet for most of adult life (so much work/socialising/fun/commerce is done online these days) that will make it really hard when kids turn 18. Unless of course they make an Internet without the naughty bits but I don’t trust people these days in distinguishing that (porn, adult chat etc) from just lgbt stuff which is fine/healthy for teens to access.

    I’d rather parents set up their own online filter (hopefully blocking actual porn not inoffensive stuff) and adults were just left to their own devices (pun not intended). If you’re 18+ and looking at porn, you do you. Don’t like it? Well unless it’s one of those awful virus pop-up sites, just click off it and find something (pornographic or not) you DO like or just get off the Internet for a bit…

    Ie the way things worked before Internet became known as ‘porn vending machine’.

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