Fu: Hookup culture helped me find myself. I wish it didn’t have to be that way.


Illustration by Katrina Pham

This is “Rice Purity,” a column covering all things gaysian America, sex and scandal.

Yiming Fu, Assistant Opinion Editor

This is an ode to sucking dick … Among other things, of course. 

I had known I was gay for a while — in the fifth grade I once searched “how to watch porn without the girl.” Perhaps we all knew. 

I came out to a few friends and to my younger sister in my junior year of high school, and I started seeing my first guy when I was 18. We smoked weed and messed around. It meant absolutely nothing, thus it was absolutely perfect. 

I always thought college would be my big gay-palooza. For some reason, I thought my Cinderella moment would come as soon as I escaped my parents’ home and set foot in Evanston. I would march through that arch, and suddenly, tendrils of queer magic would embrace me. I thought I would be showered by iridescent dust as my hoodie and skinny jeans miraculously unfurled into the ballgowns I’d dreamt of. I would finally find my fairy godmother, I would finally get my pumpkin carriage. Dear God, I wanted a pumpkin carriage. 

That didn’t happen. 

The pandemic knocked the wind out of my gay plans. COVID-19 shut everything down during my freshman year of college and leaving my dorm felt like risking my life. There were no bars to go out to, no people to meet, no fabulous, wild queer things to do. I mainly just sat.

Things changed by my sophomore year, and COVID-19 restrictions loosened. People could actually … hang out. As my friends started in-person classes on campus, I was hundreds of miles away in the nation’s capital, covering Congress for 10 weeks at Northwestern’s Medill on the Hill program. I was alone. In a big city. And I went feral.

In Washington, D.C., Grindr became my crutch. I felt wholly lost and inadequate in the halls of Capitol Hill with hordes of journalists much older and less melanated than me. Impostor syndrome torpedoed any sense of confidence I had left. 

But, in bathhouses, parks, stairwells and random apartments, I could be anyone other than the floundering 19-year-old I was. When I was f–king, I felt good. I felt powerful. Men would shower me with compliments. What more did I need?

I had always felt being gay was a curse. I felt like my queerness ruined my ability to make friends with the other boys in class, like my queerness ruined my parents’ ability to be proud of me, a secret blemish on a Chinese family’s American dream.

But the men in D.C. loved me. And in a way, they were the first people who embraced me for everything I was. They knew I was gay, they knew I was Asian and they wanted me more because of it. It was a novel feeling. At the time, I wasn’t even capable of feeling that way about myself.

However, men come and go. And after about a year of leaning into every whorish impulse and doing just about anything under the sun, I realized it was time for me to sit down and face the music. Because while I loved myself when I was someone else’s f–ktoy, I hated myself the rest of the time. 

Now in my junior year, I’m finally building a life that nourishes me. I’m eternally grateful for my friends who eat dinners with me, dance with me, sing bad karaoke with me and love me for every little bit of who I am. I’m grateful for my therapist, too, who candidly points out my constant self-sabotage. 

I will always love casual sex. It’s helped me become fearsome, confident and feel good in my own skin. It’s helped me communicate what I like, and it’s helped me walk away from things I don’t. I haven’t sworn off casual sex, and I don’t plan to. But I know now it can’t be the only thing that makes me feel good. 

I’m most proud of how I have finally begun investing in myself. I dedicate my energy to building lifelong memories with my friends, taking spontaneous trips and eating good food. I slowly erode the negative self-talk I once used to protect myself but now no longer serves me. I remind myself every single day of how beautiful I am inside and out and give myself the compliments I relied on anonymous men for. 

I know now I deserve all the love in the world. And I might just be the perfect person to give myself that.