So I found the above meme last week on Facebook. I have shared it with a few dozen friends. Almost unanimously we laugh and identify strongly. At a recent dinner with a few close friends, the joke was, “Eight people? Yeah, I have had weekends like that.”
In my world, this statistic seems almost unbelievable. Its like my stoner friends don’t believe that people can make it to the age of thirty without having smoked pot a few times. Normal is all relative. (My relatives, however, are not normal.)
This meme, however, prompted me to address hook-up culture. Hook-up culture has developed in the last decade or two. We have moved as a culture from people who may have had a one-night stand or two to a society that has a large number of people who meet for sex and nothing more. Its not that this is brand new. Gay men in the 1970s and hippies in the 1960s are renowned for their sexual escapades. What is new is that hooking up has moved out of subcultures and is now pretty common with every group of single people.
When I went back out on the dating scene in 2011 the world had changed. The last time I dated was 1998. Texting was not really a thing then. Online dating was done from desktop computers. There was no “swipe right, swipe left.” As technology changed, so did dating.
The advent of Grindr, and its spin-offs Tindr, Blendr, Scruff, et al. have captured that change in dating culture. If you are unfamiliar with these apps, here are the basics. They are predominately used on smart phones. They are free dating apps. You upload a few photos, create a basic profile, answer a few questions and are in the dating pool in under ten minutes. The apps use your phone’s GPS software to locate you and your closest possible matches. You then choose to look at the people you are interested in (generally interest is based on their profile photo). Most of these apps have built in messaging software so you do not have to provide a match your real phone number. Many times, people arrange to meet with the intention of having sex and not necessarily ever seeing the person again.
I have no problem with sex for sex sake. I have no problem with people having lots of partners. What I dislike about hook-up culture is that it devalues people and devalues sex. I believe there are ways to still have lots of sex with lots of people but change the interaction from simply transactional to one that is actually a caring and positive experience for both parties.
I have been told I embody the “woo” aspect of BDSM. I experience my D/s relationships and BDSM play as transformative. It is core to who I am and I really do believe that people can grow as humans and partners if they embrace some core aspects of BDSM. I don’t have transactional sex.
So, what do I mean by “transactional sex?” T-sex, as I will abbreviate it, is sex for sex sake. It is the sex you have with someone that is devoid of emotion or value. Is it sex with someone you have no connection with and you have sex because you are killing time, want to get off, or just plain bored. There is little value in this sex. Most people who have transactional sex would probably not engage in it if there were better Netflix suggestions or if they could fall asleep. People walk away from these encounters without having needs fulfilled.
When people engage in t-sex, they are not seeing the other person as a person of value. The other party is simply there as a stunt-dick or stunt-pussy. They are a glorified vibrator or fleshlight. There is no value to them as a person, there is no recognition that they have needs and emotions, there is no discussion about what they are really seeking through sex.
I take issue with this type of sex because everyone has value. Everyone has emotions and needs. Everyone is seeking something. T-sex fails to recognize this and fails to meet any core needs.
I know you can have a sexual encounter with a person one time, and one time only, and still make it a valuable experience and not transactional. For me, kink culture has made clear that there are a few things anyone can do if they want a one-night stand that still creates values for the parties involved.
Most people have sex because they are seeking some type of connection or validation. I know a ton of people (especially men) who have sex with multiple partners because they feel this gives them value. As a corollary, the more attractive the partner, the more value they associate with the sex. Transactional sex will give them some brief feeling of value, but they continue their quest because ultimately they are unfulfilled by these transactions.
Most of us feel isolated, alone, and devalued. I am hard pressed to find people who’s base emotion is that they are incredibly valuable, loved, and supported all the time. We seek out sex as a way to make these feelings go away, at least for a short period of time. Transactional sex does not address these needs. Instead, people often leave t-sex encounters feeling the same or worse than before they engaged in them.
The first step to moving beyond t-sex is to recognize that your partner(s) are coming into the engagement with a desire for some sort of connection. This may not be a love connection or a connection they wish to continue for more than the time they are with you, but they are seeking something that validates they are a person of worth. To move beyond t-sex, you need to see some worth in your partner(s).
It used to really bother me that I could have sex with a guy for the first time and in the middle of the encounter, he would start saying things like, “I want you to me my girl,” “You are amazing and I want this forever,” and “I love you.” (Yes, I have had a lot of men say “I love you” the first time we have sex.) We can finish the date, leave on good grounds, and I don’t hear from them again. Then I realized that many of these men are so starved for a close connection that saying these things feels normal and right for them in the moment. They are trying to create closeness.
During a one-time encounter, or a first time encounter with someone you are not looking to make a long-term love interest, there are ways to create a feeling of value and care. Here are a few:
Give GENUINE compliments
Everyone wants to think they are amazing in bed. Everyone wants to think they are beautiful. Not everyone is. Everyone does have some value. In any encounter, you will be able to give your partner a genuine compliment. “You make me feel amazing,” or “You have a beautiful package,” or “You smell fantastic.” People know when you are making stuff up. People can spot bullshit. Your compliment has to be genuine and deeply felt. It will be different with every partner. But stating what you honestly feel about them, even if it is, “Damn girl! You know how to take a dick!” will leave your partner with a greater sense of value.
Take time (even a few extra minutes or text messages) to get to know your partner’s needs
Most people are not going to come out and say, “I am hoping to hook up tonight because I am lonely and binge watching Archer on Netflix is making me feel suicidal.” They are also probably not going to say, “I have not had sex is three months and am feeling shitty about myself.” People will tell you some things that will improve the experience.
I ask questions like, “What do you like to be called during sex?” “What is your favorite part about sex?” “Are there any specific things you really like to do during sex?” and “What has been your recurring fantasy lately?” You can find out a lot about the motivations of a person through these conversations. It also works as foreplay. If a guy says, “I really love blow jobs,” and you reply, “Mmmmm… I love it when I feel a guy get hard in my mouth,” you are well on your way to a fun evening. By the person’s responses, you can also get a sense of how shy they are, how confident they are, how vested they are in their gender and sexual orientation, how lonely they are. All of this knowledge improves an encounter. It also shows them you are actually a little interested in them as a person and not just a sex stunt double for the evening.
In taking a few extra minutes to know your partner(s) you can also increase safety. I always let them know condoms are not negotiable. I have them, they must use them. If that is an issue, this isn’t going to happen.
If this is a first time encounter, I usually tell them my male roommate is home. Even when my roommate has been out on a date or is traveling, I tell the person he is in the house. I obviously trust this person enough to bring them into my home, but I like them thinking a loud shout will bring some other dude running into the room. Its extra assurance.
Since I am in the kink community, I never get restrained on a first encounter. I also don’t do blindfolds, gags, or other types of risky play. I put this out up front so there is no expectations to disappoint when the person shows up. People who have seen my profile on Fetlife know that I do a broad range of play. I want my partner to know up front if they try and choke me on a first date, they will get a knee to the groin and thrown out on their ass. My safety is paramount.
Taking a little bit of time up front can help spot red flags as well. People who get possessive before you have slept with them, those who ask nothing about you, those who spend most of the exchange boasting about themselves, are not safe potential hook-ups. If someone shows a red flag up front, I have no issue making up some excuse to call the whole thing off.
You can have sex with a lot of people. You can have a lot of one-time encounters. I have no issue with this. I do think we need to move away from hook-up culture to one that values people. It doesn’t take much effort to let someone know you see them as a person. It doesn’t take much to make the encounter better for both of you. It doesn’t take much to make both of you feel better about life at the end of an encounter then when you started. It does mean you have to be more conscientious and not just in this for yourself for the moment. Next time you go to hook up, take a second to think about the other person as a person. Think about yourself as a person. Act accordingly. Then go have some hot sex.