When I was eight years old, my brother told me that he was dating three girls at once. I had no idea what this meant. But damn, I wanted to be him. I wanted to date 60 girls at once. And if I couldn’t do that, I at least wanted to beat his high score in California Games on our Commodore 64.
I imagine that my brother’s early 90s version of dating is a lot like our generation’s version of hooking up. Not many friends that I run into are “going with” anyone, and even less are “going steady.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s taking five classes, working a job and trying to land an internship. A lot of us just don’t have the time for relationships we probably wish we had.
So, many are just hooking up. It’s not a bad deal – hot, spontaneous sex with that cutie I just met, no strings attached? Sign me up. But with the back and forth comes the ups and downs.
Lust is like that friend that shows up to your place with two 40s of Olde English and Madden ’08 on a Wednesday night. When it happens, reason, morals and obligation go straight out the window. The key to hook-up happiness is doing everything in your power to limit the social and emotional complications that come with casual relationships.
By all means, borrow notes, flirt and score a study date with that hottie in political science. But if you sleep with her and the spark dies, be prepared for a 14-week walk of shame. Feel the situation out until the end of the semester, or plan on hitting it before the deadline passes to withdraw without a grade. The same applies for sex with friends and co-workers, but there won’t be an adviser there to help you through the agonizing process.
If you’re banging someone on a regular basis, chances are that one of you is going to get emotionally attached. Unless you found the Holy Grail of hook-ups; it’s natural for one person to be more attracted than the other. Either you’re getting clingy because it took 10 dates to get her or she’s sticking around because you’re “so much more mature” then the freshmen on her floor. If you truly don’t want a relationship, play by Nada Surf’s rules and “tell [her] about your one-month limit.”
If you’re down and dirty, my advice for casual sex is simple. Get a mouthful, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.
When Superbad makes you question your attitude toward one-night stands, the time has come for a sexual vision quest. It’s a comedy about horny teenage boys, for Christ’s sake. It shouldn’t give me the guilts. But when Seth and Evan realize that losing the v-card doesn’t warrant disrespecting women or drinking so much you forget the experience, it got me thinking. Is meaningless sex worth the repercussions?
If you take the nihilistic approach led by James Park, the answer is a big, horny “Hell yes.” These naysayers believe that romantic love is a Western, WASP-y wet dream formulated 800 years ago to legitimize religion, marriage and the nuclear family. If this is the case, why not have sex outside of relationships? Everything else is a figment of our hopelessly romantic, Mario-and-Princess Peach imaginations.
Recent scientific studies aren’t much kinder to the anti-hook-up troupe. Boiling it all down to chemicals (dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin), neuroscientists and psychologists such as Helen Fisher believe that love is your brain on drugs for a maximum of 30 months. Then you enter the “companionate” stage, which translates to becoming your boring parents. The very thought of such a passionless existence makes me want to make a booty call ASAP.
If only it was that easy. After my four-year relationship deteriorated last spring, I was a hedonist with a one-track mind. I naively thought that sex could be as noncommittal as the Romans, nihilists and scientists said it was. Oh, and that I could be friends with my hook-ups, sans the awkwardness.
But then life gets in the way of sex.
Your casual encounter cooks you eggs the morning after and it’s weird. And you work with him eight hours later. A friend of a friend catches a feeling after one night of drunken sex and won’t stop calling. Or, despite all of your attempts to be an emotional black hole, you get a crush.
In the post-sexual-revolution, third-wave-feminist world, it’s hard to understand why sex is still so complicated. With alpha female career paths and Golden Girl friendships, many women don’t have the emotional need or open schedule for dating.
But for some annoying, evolutionary reason, sex and emotions are intertwined like legs in an orgy. Someone always gets shady, uncouth or attached – and most of the time, it’s stems from a communication breakdown early on. Ladies and gents, is it possible to avoid all the negative consequences by being honest?
It seems simple enough. Looking for more than a flaky lay? Say so. If you only want animalistic, meaningless sex, speak up. Unfortunately, it’s even hard to keep track of our own intentions. Emotions aren’t static like a Hollywood comedy script, and they often change overnight.
With the pros and cons laid out, I’m still not sure if noncommittal sex is worth the post-hook-up complications. If only I had gone on that sexual vision quest, I could ask my spirit animal for love life advice.
Brian Kirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Otterbein can be reached at email@example.com.