By the time New York-based comedian Billy Procida was 24, he’d noticed a pattern: The women he hooked up with never wanted to get serious. A die-hard romantic, he didn’t understand what he was doing to disqualify himself from being relationship material. Who better to ask, he figured, than his past flings themselves?
That was the genesis of The Manwhore Podcast: A Sex-Positive Quest for Love. Each week, Procida interviews a different woman from his past about love, sex and where things went wrong between them. After reconnecting with them over Facebook, LinkedIn or email, he tapes himself and his exes candidly, often awkwardly catching up and gaining closure.
In the process, his views on relationships have changed, he says. While he once evaluated each date as a prospective long-term partner, he’s now open to a variety of arrangements. And while he used to blame himself if something didn’t work out, he’s grown comfortable with the simple fact that not everyone’s a match. I spoke with Procida about what he has learned through recording over 100 podcast episodes in the past two years. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
I found it funny that the women you wanted to date just wanted hookups, since people always talk about men driving hookup culture.
For me, it was the opposite, because, at least today, that is a myth. Both genders like to get it on, and both genders like to settle down. It’s almost as if people are individuals, you know? It’s crazy. There were a lot of times I had intense feelings for someone, and it was always the woman who told me, “I just want to keep it casual.”
What did these women say when you asked why they didn’t want more with you?
There wasn’t a thing any of the women told me. It wasn’t like, “You have a weird laugh,” or “I don’t like the way you dress.” It wasn’t anything specific.
What I’ve learned is to stop trying to get a girlfriend. So, if I meet someone and we’re just going to be hooking up, cool. If I meet someone and they want to try dating, that’s great. We can do that.
Do you think you can be open to casual relationships and look for a serious one at the same time?
Yes, of course. Since I relaxed, I was a lot happier. Because here’s the thing: I love sex, and I also love love — and I don’t think those things should be mutually exclusive. It would be inappropriate for me to try to make a relationship out of someone I felt casual feelings for, just like it would be inappropriate to just have a casual relationship when I had intense feelings.
I was so obsessed with trying to get a girlfriend, I would apply it to anyone. That wasn’t a responsible way of feeling. I was feeling with abandon — recklessly feeling. You should feel responsibly.
Now, I can communicate with someone. If I don’t think we’re on the same page, I can say: “Hey, what are we doing? Are we just hooking up? Here’s what I’m feeling off of you. Am I on the mark, off the mark? Let’s talk about it. Let’s clarify it.”
I’ve become better at communicating than I was two years ago. And part of that is that I’ve become less focused on the goal of a relationship and more just in the moment and experiencing what I experience.
Do you see it as a positive that our generation’s relationships are less defined than previous ones’? Some people see hookup culture as a bad thing.
And some people see it as a good, liberating, freeing thing. I just think it’s good that now people know there are options.
People didn’t know that alternative relationship models were an option a while ago. Polyamory wasn’t a mainstream thing; ethical non-monogamy wasn’t a mainstream thing at one point. Being a woman who just [had sex] and didn’t have to get called a slut is still a thing, but was a bigger thing than it is now.
It’s fine if you just want to be in a monogamous relationship and you’re looking to get married and you don’t want anything else outside of something vanilla or “normal.” But I think people should make an informed decision. I think a relationship should be whatever two or three or 12 people want that relationship to be.
But because so many generations have been raised to think, “This is how you do it, and anything else is not right,” everyone thought, “this is just what I’m supposed to do by default.” So I think it’s good that people choose monogamy not by default but as an act of choice amongst options.
What do you mean by “feeling recklessly”?
You hook up with someone new. You’ve got all the chemicals going. Your brain thinks you like them. You might not actually like them that much.
I’d get that and kind of run with it, so I definitely thought I was in love more times than I was actually in love. You get that high, and if you don’t control it a little bit, you get reckless, which caused me to get hurt a lot more than I needed to. It caused me to think I was in a dating situation that I wasn’t.
So since then, if I’m feeling some feels, I’ll be like: “Hey, Billy, do you really feel those things, or are you just high as a kite right now?” And a lot of times, I’ve got to be like: “Calm down, relax, and let’s check in in a month. I know the sex is good, but take your time.”
I don’t let feelings get too reckless and go all over the place. Good sex will do that to you. I don’t do other drugs, so that can be kind of a high. I feel responsibly now.
That sounds hard to do. How do you exert so much self-control over your feelings?
When I’ve got that new-relationship energy and I’m buzzing and I think I have all these feelings for someone — when really I have a lot of chemicals for someone— the first thing I want to do is unload all of those feels on said lovely person. Not a good move. So something I’ve learned is to enjoy the emotional high I may be on, but to shut my face until I’ve debriefed my own emotions. That’s part of feeling responsibly.