Hookup culture has totally inundated our lives, from the prevalence of dating apps hiding behind the guise of potential love to an array of rom-coms depicting the ease with which modern people comfortably get in bed with strangers — the triumph of an empty fuck over cheesy romance. People mistakenly think they need to forgo emotion in favor of sex. And because sex is such a taboo topic, most of us are confused about how to navigate the hazy path sex comes with. Monogamy, hookups, abstinence… whatever it may be, is there one path that is most fulfilling for human connection?
Truthfully, I never intended to find an answer to this question myself, but after a breakup, I resolved to get over it as quickly as possible. So I gave the old adage “the best way to get over someone is to get under somebody else” a try. I abandoned all my emotions and channeled my deeply buried Barney Stinson playboy persona, making sure to get all the empty sex that I could. Someone to warm my insides, and I’m not talking about my heart. No feelings, no butterflies, just pure sexual transaction.
I had never done this before, believing sex was something that took place between two people who knew details about each other beyond just what got them off, so what ensued wasn’t exactly “legendary.” I found it was incredibly easy to strip down in front of a stranger, but it was unsettling looking at their face. I made a point to close my eyes or stare off at the wall. Never at the face. Devoid of any reasonable logic, somehow that was too intimate for me. Looking directly at someone during sex is powerfully intimate, yet it felt powerfully uncomfortable with a stranger.
At first, it was easy to get in bed with strangers, avoid eye contact and discard them. Fresh out of a relationship, I found any flirtatious or emotional advances repugnant. After a whopping five minutes of sex with one guy, he turned to me and announced, “I can tell this isn’t a one-night thing. We have a connection.”
It was like a heteronormative gender reversal where I was the dude and he was the chick, getting that post-coital oxytocin hit. I ordered an Uber and fled, repelled by his emotional projection.
On one guy’s couch, I lay there as he grinded himself on my body like some sort of overzealous and frighteningly horny Chihuahua, his breath reeking of toothpaste. I was aghast at his idea of foreplay, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings as it got worse, so I changed my facial expression and enthusiastically asked if he had a condom. He didn’t, and I swear in that moment, I believed there was a God and He had just saved me from this. As he insisted on running to the store for condoms, I reassured him: “It’s OK! It’s not like we had bad sex, we just didn’t have sex!”
Turned off by his cluelessly unskilled makeout, I ignored his texts afterward and never saw him again.
You think I would have gotten the hint by now, that this detached sexual prowess act wasn’t working for me. I found myself asking one guy I slept with a few times what his last name was. Such a small, irrelevant detail about a person that I didn’t need to know for the sake of hooking up — we weren’t friends, just bodies using each other. Yet I found myself longing for this unimportant information. Another guy asked in a nonsexual setting if I swallow, and I found myself wishing to be asked something about myself that didn’t involve my bedside preferences, (which, no, definitely doesn’t include that). I kept the charade going even though I wasn’t exactly having the time of my life and even when I did have satisfying sex that made up for the lackluster experiences, something was missing.
It was intimacy, and I had forgotten what it felt like. I recall one of my friends saying of her own sexual escapade: “I was having sex with him, and I didn’t understand why this random stranger’s dick was inside me!”
Obviously, it was her choice, but the question is imbued with more haunting questions, such as why sex with strangers can leave us feeling so conflicted.
Eventually, my own conflictions got the best of me, and I asked what I was doing with myself, too — why I was sleeping with men I would never care to get to know. I craved something more. Not necessarily a relationship, just the familiarity of one person. A person whose last name I knew, along with the many other trivial yet meaningful details that make you love someone.
So the next time I got a text from my fuck buddy, I told him I was no longer interested in casual hookups.
I realized I was coping unhealthily, discarding both my emotions and people in the attempt to forget another person who hadn’t been good for me anyway. I’m pulling out of this game now because for me, sex isn’t meant to be a transaction, a fulfillment of some college stereotype, or a means of getting over someone. Because all those reasons mean there will be an absence of intimacy that I can only truly experience with someone I love or have feelings for.
I’ll give credit to the cliché saying “getting under someone else does help get over someone else,” but it definitely isn’t the best way. And to answer my own question on what’s most fulfilling — it doesn’t matter what I do, as long as it’s something real.
With that said, the next time I have sex, it won’t be for the wrong reasons. And it’ll finally be hot.
Katie Lakina is an assistant night editor. Contact her at [email protected] .