Being an Abortion Reporter Has Made Me Deeply Unhorny

Men on dating apps who claim to be "apolitical" or "looking for positive vibes only" certainly don't help.

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Being an Abortion Reporter Has Made Me Deeply Unhorny
Graphic:Vicky Leta (Getty Images)

Something has been happening recently where I open a dating app, land on what seems like a promising profile (cute face, non-douchey job), and then see the kiss of death: The man says he’s seeking “positive vibes only.” Any attraction I may have felt instantly leaves my body. I am furious about, well, everything, so no, my vibes are not good, Jason.

Read the rest of Jezebel’s Horny Week 2023 stories here. Illustration:Jezebel

I similarly lose any shred of lust when I see men list themselves as “apolitical”—and not because they’re, say, a leftist who eschews electoral politics for local activism. Frankly, even seeing the “moderate” tag on a man’s profile is a turnoff for me at this point. Swipe left, close app, continue my life as someone who knows too much to be content.

Trying to meet people on dating apps is a chore. I’m straight, and my algorithm is overrun with tiresome New York City men listing the number of countries they’ve visited and saying their dream dinner guest is Elon Musk. But the apps are also the most accessible way to, in a perfect world, appreciate and flirt with handsome men and feel a flutter at the prospect of good sex. Unfortunately, the world we’re in sucks, and my job is to excavate one particularly shitty corner of it. “Horny” is a state of being I rarely reach these days.

I spend my work days writing about people being denied abortions or doctors reporting people to the cops because they suspect they ordered abortion pills, and the absolutely shameless federal judiciary that greenlit the gerrymandering and dark money that got us here. To be fair, I chose this beat, but some days I think I’ll never have sex again. It’s not that I’m not attracted to men—I just don’t want to have sex with anyone who doesn’t also think this country is extremely fucked up. And I’m too tired to hunt for the needle in the dating app haystack.

That haystack is also littered with well-meaning but oblivious men. I list on my profile that I’m a writer and, in April 2022, a guy named Dan asked me to tell him about my writing. I said, “Oh god it’s bleak,” before explaining that I write about abortion and politics. His response was, “I love that. Why’s it bleak?” WHY, DAN? “Because the Supreme Court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade in less than 90 days, and in Texas it’s already meaningless,” I wrote back. But Susan, this was before the leaked draft, how did you know Roe would get overturned? Because the curse of being an abortion reporter is that I’ve known since May 2021 when the court first took the case. That knowledge was only buttressed by the court letting the Texas bounty hunter law take effect and the horrifying oral arguments months before the leak. I tried to chat up Dan another day, but it felt like he was just going through the motions, and I couldn’t forget that he seemed to be totally clueless about one of the biggest stories in the country.

Since Roe fell, I’ve only matched with a handful of guys who get it and can also happily distract me on dates with conversations about other things. None of those ended up working out in the long run. Now, I usually don’t even bother opening the apps unless I’ve consumed a substance or two to make the task bearable—yes, I view it as a task—neither of which is a great sign.

I’m not personally worried that I’ll hit it off with someone, get pregnant, then be forced to stay pregnant—though ha ha ha, there could be a national abortion ban (yes, seriously) as soon as January 2025. But I am literally writing about one of the consequences of sex almost daily, and it makes me feel deeply unsexy. I know the underlying goal of anti-abortion lawmakers is to punish people for having non-procreative sex, but fuck them, we don’t live in a Catholic country in the 18th century. People should be able to have sex for pleasure and have easy access to birth control. (Guess what: That’s in conservatives’ crosshairs, too. I’m so fun at parties!)

I have to assume other people feel similarly and that does make me (momentarily) feel less guilty for thinking about how my life currently lacks horniness.

I feel a little silly for even talking about this, because I cannot imagine the new sexual realities for people living in states with abortion bans or the experiences of actual abortion workers and advocates across the country. It certainly didn’t help that I was trying to write this essay the day that a Trump-appointed judge was set to rule in a case that could ban the main abortion pill nationwide. I had been worrying about and reporting on that lawsuit, and putting off interrogating my personal life, which is a bit too on the nose. (That ruling could now come as soon as February 24, a fact I feel obligated to note in this story about how I’m not having sex.)

If I’m being honest, I’ve become so consumed with the news since Trump came down the escalator in 2015 that I’m an alien my former self would barely recognize. The end of Roe only amplified these feelings, and now I’ve spent much of my 30s in a harried state. Ironically, I’m doing the most important work of my career, but it’s come at a not-insignificant personal cost. I have to assume other people feel similarly and that does make me (momentarily) feel less guilty for thinking about how my life currently lacks horniness. If I let myself believe it, it makes me feel less nuts, too.

I am writing this before spring has arrived, which is Horny Season in New York. The sun will be out, my mood will be brighter, and I am naive enough to hope that interacting with real people will be better for me than evaluating men based on the dumb shit they put on their dating profiles. Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

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