Submitted story by Sleep Pile reader.

I’m a bit of a pro when it comes to online dating; I’ve swiped, met with and ‘ghosted’ like the best of them. I’m not proud of it, it’s an easy and flawed interaction. And as normal as it’s become, in its game-like affinity, I’m aware that I treat people I’ve never met as if they were cardboard cut-outs as opposed to living humans.

Last week I was chatting to a total babe about having casual sex (a win in my books) and he treated the conversation like he was purchasing a used car. Without charm or fancy, he asked exactly what I was like in bed and pushed that I needed to be kinky before confirming a sleep over.

I was neither here nor there about the whole thing and his banter began to feel more uncomfortable than my biennial pap smear. But I told him what I thought he wanted to hear while, I don’t know, probably actually playing hide-and-seek with my cat IRL.

Was my consent worth $500?

It was only when Mr Total Babe asked me to prepare for “hard anal” that night, that I was actually shook; right down to my slippers. I wasn’t surprised by any means that he spoke to me in an overtly sexual manner, this is after all what I’ve come to expect of most men, but more so by what he said after I declined.

He offered me $500 for the pleasure and upped the ante by telling me that he wanted to “fuck my pretty face properly” as well.

(I assume he had fucked a face or two in his time and hadn’t quite gotten it right… At least he thought I was pretty?)

What you don’t know about me (unless you also identify as female, then you know all too well) is that I have a subconscious need to please men as they are the gatekeeper to my value. This has gotten me into a few pickles before and I’m only now wising up to this.

Was my consent worth $500?

I considered taking the money and putting myself in what could have been a very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous position (at least for me). More money meant I could do more things I liked and finally own that artwork I wanted. But as a woman of my own values I decided I was poor, but not that poor* and declined again. I then continued the conversation as if we would meet up without the aforementioned sex act being brought up a second time.

I came to understand the weird feeling I had inside, over the coming days, as disgust that my body could be price-valued by this stranger (and possible catfish) and shame in myself that I was still going to meet up with him.

A few days and 100 embarrassing conversations with friends later, I told Mr Total Babe our love affair was over, due to the money offer. I thought that would be that, but he turned around and offered me $1000 to sweeten the deal, because “who doesn’t like making a weekly salary in a day?”

Oh boy that changed things. I was poor after all. I had considered sugar daddies previously. He did have a cute dog… I didn’t reply.

It finished with Mr TB calling me boring and rude.

I went to bed that night feeling bad about myself. Throughout the micro, cyber-interaction, which I assumed would be mutually beneficial (be it love, sex or banter), I was submissive and compliant, was treated as if my body and personal boundaries could be bought and haggled, and I learned my consent wasn’t something that really mattered.

Swiping. Meeting. Ghosting. We are all doing it, but what makes me different from Mr Total Babe? I think it’s the way I perceived this ‘cardboard cut-out’ in my mind. Even when he’s just an image on a screen I still like to think we are in a symbiotic interaction. But to Mr Total Babe, my involvement/compliance wasn’t important; it was just a contractual obligation.

*Props to anyone in the sex industry and/or who would’ve taken the money – it just wasn’t for me.