Just because casual sex has not only been legitimized in recent years, but veritably been made the social standard, doesn’t mean that it’s always super healthy. The ubiquity of porn, media examples, and above all, the swiping model of dating apps have all contributed to a society where hookup culture can be the default — “If having sex was once taboo, not having it is today,” says Washington Post columnist Christine Emba in her book Rethinking Sex: A Provocation. This pressure to hook up can lead to having — and even seeking out — sex when you don’t really, genuinely want it.
Yet that isn’t to say that casual sex is itself a problem — approached properly, if anything, it can be and is empowering, liberating, and most importantly, pleasurable. The key is knowing that you’re in it because you want to be (pun not intended), and you’re aware of and prepared against potential consequences, like catching something (be it feelings or STDs). So long as that’s true, you should go forth and get laid.
I have three different theories about this: The first is that the friends I’ve actually talked to about this see less tangible stuff, a “divine aura” surrounding a potential suitor, etc. But, hey, guess what? I don’t personally like that theory for two reasons. The first is that even if I do find such a thing useful, there is no way of actually knowing whether this work is actually real or not.
The second is that I don’t buy the friend’s ideas of the potential positive aspects of casual sex. Most of the time — not all, because there are a few exceptions, like, say, on a college campus — I think that dating is a terrible idea because, most of the time, it’s not going to go anywhere. It’s going to end in tears and heartache.
Yet if I’m being honest, a lot of my objections come from the idea of casual sex simply being a substitute for talking to a real person. A lot of the time, on casual dates that I’ve had in the past, I feel as though I’m being used for someone else’s enjoyment, as though I’m the person being taken advantage of. However, even in the world of casual encounters that I have had, I feel a bit like I’m tricking people into having sex with me, and I have this fear that somehow, over time, I might lose myself in it.
Strap in, because this one’s a bit heavy — and a little personal.
“Sex is like a piece of coal in your pocket. You keep it nice and warm and it makes you hot. It takes off your clothes and puts on your skin, but before you know it, it’s cold and dark and you need it again,” says writer and activist Jamia Wilson. The video above is from Wilson’s 2016 documentary film She’s Coming: The Red Pill and the Men Who Want It. “She’s coming is a year long live dating show about what guys are doing right and what men need to do to keep relationships healthy. Men have become distracted from their love lives, or worse: used.” And it is that distraction, Wilson believes, which has lead to over sexualized culture — and the casual hookup. “The casual hookup is all about production and efficiency, but it only produces misery. If someone has more power than you, it’s not exactly love,” she says. “Men are so busy chasing the mystery of intimacy that they forget to notice the bodies on the other side.”
But some would disagree. And this may be because of one of the biggest misconceptions about sex — that it has something to do with the “tribe”.
“Sex is good because men and women should be having sex, not because it feels good or makes one person (or both) feel better,” says Rob Andringa, a psychologist and sex researcher. “The problem is the socialization we have created around sex: a physical need we feel must be filled. Until we stop socializing sex, we will always have a problem with this non-need.” He explains that a need is a situation in which our subconscious desires prompt us to seek out sex. But, he says, a need in society isn’t very different from a want. For instance, you need food, but this doesn’t mean you must always eat.
Asking out multiple people
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If you’ve recently become single, don’t be afraid to dive right into talking to people and crossing new off-limits. “It’s like if you’re