Sextion: Is Casual Sex Possible?

My friend Dave has this theory: you can’t have sex without getting attached. Or, more precisely, only old, divorced ladies can have sex without getting attached. But me, the college student, running around filled with hormones, tripping over my own shoelaces, getting hysterical when I get a new text message, getting hysterical when I don’t get a new text message, me, I can’t really have sex without getting attached, so maybe I should stop kidding myself.

As college students and proud members of the Y Generation, we’ve created an interesting social system. These aren’t the ordered days of the 1950s, where you had sex in the back of a Chevy at a drive-in movie with your going-steady boyfriend. Nor are they the wild days of the ’70s, where orgasms floated around in the air anonymously like dandelions and no one knew about HIV.

It’s 2012, and we’ve constructed something in the middle. We’re too busy for commitment, but we’re also too busy to go around looking for a new mate every night of the weekend. We’re focused on bagging that perfect summer internship, working hard in school, and being independent. So we’ve invented booty calling, sexting, and hooking up. This phenomenon so shocks generations before us that academics have written extensively on the topic.

We don’t need to be told what a booty call is. We know it from a mile away. We invented it. But even if we know what we mean by it, how can we be so sure that it’s good for us?

I’ve written about the dangers of booty call jealousy before. Even if you can maturely rationalize that this person is not the right partner for you, even if you don’t particularly like this person or the way he/she smells, it’s still tough to put carnal feelings of envy aside when you see him/her liplocked with someone else on the FishCo Whisko dance floor. Call it hormones. Call it human nature. Call it that thing-that-elk-do-when-they-start-ripping-off-each-other’s-antlers.

But jealousy isn’t the only risk. The worst trap is falling in love with your booty call. A friend of mine spent months in the arms of a late-night friend. It was all fun and sex games. There were never any breakfasts or handholding, but she was fine with that. She was busy! She was seeing other people! But five months in, she sent me an email. I think, actually, I might like him.

I was shocked. I’m talking about the queen of booty calls here. This girl was known to sleep with a guy once and kick him to the curb without thinking twice. But when she found herself feeling unexpectedly romantic about this guy, she had no idea what to do.

Now, I’m not saying that she’s got no hope.  Lots of casual hookups turn into something more committed. In a social scene that tends to ditch dating, it’s only natural that casual trysts are how people cross the threshold from classmates to something more. Why not? Two people have sexual chemistry and realize they also have emotional chemistry. Of course it can – and often does – turn into something more long-term! But I’m writing about the risk for yourself. Not the risk that things won’t work out. But the risk that you will get your feelings hurt without expecting to.

You may be confident you’ll never fall for that person but whoops! A few orgasms or a few months in, you might find yourself totally hooked. Call it the sex hormones that drive you goo-goo-ga-ga. Call it those tender moments alone at night that only you know so intimately. I don’t know. But just be aware. If your goal is to have casual sex and save your energy for other parts of your life, getting attached happens every once in a while.

One solution to all this? Follow Cindy Chupak’s advice. She’s a screenwriter who helped produce Sex and the City. Her advice on finding the perfect booty call? Pick your partner wisely to reduce your chances of falling in love. Chupak calls this the “everything but” booty call.

The perfect booty call is someone who’s great but. You know, he’s great but he’s too young, too crazy, too negative, he’s only in town a week…that “but” is your answer when you start musing: “If the sex is good, and we like being together…why can’t we marry, have kids, and live happily ever after?

I like her tactic but I don’t think it eliminates all risk. In matters of sex and love, we can’t always trust that rationality will prevail. We go into relationships with the same attitude we use for school or work. If we apply ourselves a certain way, we will get a certain outcome. But relationships are messy and sometimes you will hurt. With sex, as always, things are complicated.


  1. lizbeth hardwick

    Stats show very few students are hooking up, the great majority are dating no one or have one relationship. The whole hook up glitz applies to a small percentage of students, the rest reject it as lame. So why publish this dribble?

  2. A student

    Lizbeth, actually studies found that more people are hooking up in college but fewer are having sex. Its not dribble its something that is imbedded in our culture as students in college. Maybe not as prominent here at Brown, but ask around and you are in for a rude awakening.

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