Love & Sex

Female Musicians Never Get Laid

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The bassist from Los Campesinos! gives us the awful truth about the sex lives of touring bands.

This summer, we asked the members of indie-pop collective Los Campesinos! for sex advice. With a new album, Hello Sadness, out this week, bassist Ellen Campesinos! weighs in with a report on the unfulfilling sex lives of female rock musicians.

Neko Case recently claimed via Twitter that "Ladies in bands don't get ANY action," and as a female musician with a frustrated libido, I can sympathize. I've been playing bass in a touring band for five years, and I've had intimate relations on the road four times. (I class intimate relations as third-base-plus, but even if I counted kissing and over-the-clothes fumbling, it would still be a pretty low number.) I'm lucky enough to be in a job where I get to tour the world and meet interesting people, but in my experience, musicians especially females get a lot less then you'd imagine.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm no Marianne Faithfull, and in my old age, I no longer view meaningless sex with the enthusiasm I once did. But I still love flirting, a good kiss, and a dramatic drunken connection, followed by a swift exit. And with the 350-plus gigs we've played, I've had the potential to connect with many attractive men, at least in theory. But in practice, it's not as simple as clicking your fingers and summoning some amorous fan to your backstage tiger-printed love dungeon.

It's not as simple as clicking your fingers and summoning some amorous fan to your backstage tiger-printed love dungeon.

The first problem is who you sleep with. The most obvious candidate is the fan, or, as he's traditionally known, "the groupie." This is a really unappealing prospect. There's something about the power imbalance of that situation that makes me feel sad. I wouldn't want to sleep with someone whose lust is solely driven by the fact I'm in a band they like. In that scenario, I'm up on a pedestal; there's no room for me to impress them. Where's the fun in that? I like the chase. If I don't need to put any effort into seducing someone, there's no tension. They don't like me for my witty quips and knowledge of Sweet Valley High books; they like me for being in a band. (And frankly, when it comes to meaningless sex, I couldn't possibly enjoy myself wondering if they had my band's songs mentally soundtracking our foreplay.)

I did kiss a guy who was a big fan of the band once. He liked comic books, I liked comic books, and when I was drunk it seemed like a good idea to invite him into the van the next day for our trip across the country. It was actually not a good idea. It was incredibly awkward, and the van space is a band space, not an "invite a person you don't know for a four-hour drive" space. You're on tour to work (the fact that it's really fun is a great bonus), not to satisfy your libido and make things awkward for everyone else you share a space with. The next time we played a show in that guy's hometown, I ignored his text-message requests to get on the guest list. I hid in the bus, didn't answer his calls, and told my bandmates to tell him I was ill when he knocked on the door. I felt like a total bitch.

Another option for tour sex is the support band, a seemingly logical alternative to the groupie. And as a straight woman you have a plethora of choices, since, like it or not, there are still more men in touring bands than women. I do get a giddy feeling of excitement when the support act first turns up at sound check. Is the drummer as attractive as his Google images portrayed? Yes, he is. But inevitably he has a pretty girlfriend, whom you will meet when you play a show in their hometown. (And she'll bake you all cookies too.)

Even if he's single, touring is like a weird insular microcosm, and pursuing someone in this situation can become distracting and a source of drama. About four years ago, I developed an infatuation with a guitarist we spent a month touring the U.K. with. I was hypnotized by him, and felt so lucky as I watched him flex his guitar arm every night for a month. I would spend the evenings gazing longingly over Rider whiskey at him. But I was a melodramatic, romantic, and insecure twenty-one-year old, and soon found it impossible to relax in his presence, a feeling I began to resent having in "the workplace." We finally got together at a Travelodge on the last night of tour, persuading the man at the front desk to let us have a hotel room for an hour for ten pounds; instead of feeling like I had satisfied some need, I felt a bit empty and seedy.

Having eliminated fans and support-band members, we're left with the guy hanging out at the bar whose friend has dragged him along to the gig. In a lot of ways, he's the most appealing choice. I want to hear that someone is not fussed about us. The thing is, this hypothetical guy normally throws me some glances, and I shoot some back, but he still won't talk to me. And I don't want to reduce it to status anxiety or a power issue, because obviously it's intimidating to talk to any stranger, let alone someone who was just performing. But why are there always attractive girls who talk to the male band members post-show? They have insights and they like books and they have no problems with light flirtation. Maybe it's because they're better at hiding their inner crazy fangirl, or maybe it's because some men worry they will come across as slightly creepy. (And in truth, some male fans actually are slightly creepy.)

Why are there always attractive girls who talk to the male band members post-show?

Maybe I could grow a pair and actually talk to that bar-hugging guy myself. But he might think I was making a weird face while I played. I end up backstage, dejected, as the guys talk about the interesting lady who recommended a good place to go for a drink if our tour manager says we have time. If I weren't paralyzed by self-doubt and fear of rejection, I could approach that guy. And if he didn't seem crazy or like too big a fan and I had drunk the requisite number of whisky and ginger ales, then yes, we might have had a stolen kiss, and then he might have suggested we take this drunken connection elsewhere, and then…

Actually, then nothing. Stolen Travelodge hours aside, we'd have nowhere to take that party. When you're in a well-oiled, constantly moving musical machine, on a tight budget, there's little time or space for fornication. You share hotel rooms with two other people; your tour bus sleeps twelve. You could attempt sex in a tour-bus bunk, but I once tried to undress a man in that coffin-sized bedroom, and it was just awful. He was a guitar player in a band that'd played at the same venue the night before, and I was a drunk who was seduced by his comment "Your hat is cute." We eventually passed out half-naked after repeatedly hitting our heads on the roof of the bunk and keeping the people around us awake with the sounds of our clumsy exploits. This was not my finest moment. Sometimes not getting any is better than having your bandmates hear you drunkenly giving a guy a lame blowjob that you both pass out halfway through.

Bottom line: attempting to have sex on tour is an awkward and messy experience with little sense of eroticism. It can throw up moral quandaries that only the least neurotic can handle, lead to drunk fumbles down rat-infested alleyways, and end with post-coital shame. So maybe it's best not to pursue it. I think Neko should have Tweeted, "Ladies in bands don't get any action, but that's okay, because you can make some nice friends and meet some really cool people instead, and worst come to worst, you can always have a wunk — a wank in a bunk. Or not. That's disgusting." Probably more than 140 characters, but it's the truth.