Perhaps due to the wealth of information available on the subject, my generation struggles with the concept of casual sex. Maybe we’re overthinking it.
Contrary to the “special snowflake” status my dad has so lovingly bestowed upon me and my ideological cohort, he would be hard-pressed to find me taking something personally. In fact, after offending one too many loved ones, I find it courteous to warn people in any kind of relationship with me that I am an “out of sight, out of mind,” emotionally detached, “no news is good news” type of person. I have scared boys – not that I have many suitors – away because I’ve made them feel like the more emotional party involved.
The less personally I take things, the more stable I know I am. The less mood stability I have, the more emotionally obsessive I am. I’m not stoic and certainly not “chill,” but my INTP, Capricorn ass (sense the tongue-in-cheekiness of this please) can check in and check out almost at will – almost – by putting things in perspective. Also, like I said, people are typically “out of sight, out of mind” with me. I still care about people, but I see no point in emotional involvement for the sake of emotional involvement. I don’t like the concept of strictly transactional relationships, but why make something more than it is?
So to contradict everything I just said, I found myself taking personally a few posts I’ve read (not calling out anyone specific here) about the inherent emptiness that fuels and results from the Millennial approach to romantic relationships described in various loaded phrases: hookup culture, situationships, “hanging out,” “Netflix and chill,” “talking,” FWBs, fuck buddies, etc.
The argument against these things is largely anecdotal; someone was rejected by a person he or she was casually fucking even when the terms were made explicit from the get-go, and now that jadedness is the catalyst for painting all friends-with-benefits-type situations as unfulfilling and unnatural. Anyone who claims to emerge from these “relationships” unscathed is lying, hiding a deep, unhealed emotional wound that makes him or her feel unworthy of real love and is only exacerbated by the behavior resulting from it. And, you guessed it, this supposed rule-of-thumb is typically only applied to women because men are, you know, hard-wired to hit it and quit it. Women are hard-wired to want a long-term, exclusive relationship with every man with whom they’ve ever engaged in remotely intimate behavior. Gag.
I am so over this song and dance. From daddy issues to “attention whore” to insecurity to lack of self-respect to defense mechanisms against repeating past hurt to whatever else, people turn themselves inside out trying to weasel their way out of accepting that maybe women just … oh, I don’t know … like to have sex. What a concept. What a taboo. What a gasp-worthy revelation. I am so shocked and appalled by women’s humanity. Yuck.
The “emptiness” from casual relationships could be traced to forced emotional attachment. If we look for monogamy because we should, we set ourselves up for unfulfilling encounters by trying to fit the mold through contrived attachment.
Not that casual sex isn’t without its complications, but there is something to be said for knowing what the conditions are when you start “hanging out” with someone, adhering to them, and ending the relationship when one or more parties start to disagree on them. There are still emotions. There can still be hurt, but it isn’t a given. It is situation-specific and happens on an individual basis. I’m not saying I haven’t been there, but the problem was on my end. I accepted hooking up when I was really hoping for an actual relationship. It’s important to know what I’m getting into and to be honest with myself. I did have to learn this the hard way thanks to my naivety, and I still sometimes “catch feels.” At that point, it’s up to me how to proceed, but it’s unfair to the other person to put expectations on them that 1) they weren’t aware of or 2) they wouldn’t agree to.
Obviously, this doesn’t give the other person the right to deliberately hurt me or violate my boundaries, but the onus is on each individual to adhere to the terms. If I’m finding it difficult to do so, then I either have to give up the ghost or keep it to myself, knowing I can’t blame the other person for my emotional masochism. Sure, self-inflicting emotional wounds can be a sign of a deeper issue, but casual sex in and of itself is not.
I – personally – resent slut-shaming and, even more, the need to find emotional fragility in the women being slut-shamed as an explanation for their behavior. What I don’t take personally are scenarios in which men have left my unspoken and not-agreed-upon expectations unmet.
As I’ve said before, there are many problematic, contradictory cultural influences that shape how men and women approach casual sex, which often can hurt women. But on an individual level, a woman doesn’t need to have a couple of emotional screws loose to enjoy casual sex.
Sex can be as insignificant or as significant as people make it. As long as all parties are on the same page, there’s little room for miscommunication and hurt feelings.
Perpetuating the narrative that emotional detachment is something of which only men are capable leads to internalization, which can write a self-fulfilling prophecy. Socialization is a powerful tool to control behavior or to mold responses to behaviors that deviate from this socialization in such a way that doubles down on it. Take the idea that women innately desire a monogamous relationship over all else – and despite all evidence to the contrary, the so-called “emptiness” resulting from casual relationships could be traced back to a feeling of abnormality or forced emotional attachment. If we constantly look for monogamy because we feel like we should, then we set ourselves up for unfulfilling, empty sexual encounters by trying to fit the mold through contrived attachment.
But I don’t want to do what these slut-shaming-disguised-as-concern posts do by painting with a broad brush. Casual sex isn’t for everyone. That’s fine. I couldn’t care less, but I can attest to most – if not all – of the emotional harm casual sex causes as being due to the mental gymnastics people perform to convince us that we – women – are not wired to be agents of our own sexuality.
This isn’t prescriptive, and it isn’t endorsing any particular approach to sexuality. That would be contradictory, but why can’t women display the same array of attitudes toward sex as men and have them seen as acceptable? I even find myself obsessing over what “number” is the number at which a woman develops, you know, a reputation – at what “number” do women lose the right to be treated as a human and earn the right to be treated as a human fleshlight? – and any number of quandaries that cause distress where there otherwise wouldn’t be any. It is impossible to completely divorce oneself from other people’s judgments or from cultural influences. Maybe I will settle down, maybe I won’t. Meanwhile, I don’t need people’s condescension disguised as sympathy regarding “not having found the right guy yet.” I refuse to try to create emotional attachment to make people comfortable at my expense. I will be ready if and when I’m ready.
Until then …
I, personally, am tired of being told I act “like a dude” or being called a “bro” because of how I treat and talk about sex. Admittedly, I joke about these labels myself, but how about we flip the script? Maybe I’m just acting like a person who happens to have a vagina, which – just a reminder – is a bodily orifice, not an existential void that only penises can fill.
I am in no way opposed to monogamous, committed relationships, but I refuse to cause myself undue stress by trying to twist every sexual encounter into an emotional obligation. I’m not necessarily “chill,” but I’m definitely not a dude. In fact, I’ve met many a dick-wielder who isn’t interested in casual sex, going so far as to explicitly say that’s not their thing.
I’ve had a few instances of “can I sleep myself into a relationship?” The answer is almost always, “hell no.” Like I said, I learned the hard way, but overwhelmingly my emotional state remains unaltered. I don’t feel defective because of it, but I am made to feel that way. Truly, sex can be as insignificant or as significant as people make it. As long as all parties involved are on the same page in terms of these significance levels, there’s little room for miscommunication and hurt feelings.
So, keep on “hanging out.” People who can bother themselves to give a shit about other people’s sex lives aren’t worth worrying about. People who play armchair psychologists because of other people’s sex lives aren’t worth acknowledging. People who slut shame aren’t worth anyone’s time.
Go on, get laid. Or don’t. Really, who cares?