The word “casual” never really entered my relationship vocabulary until college. I was the relationship girl. No matter how things started- in class, at a party, over social media- commitment was always my end game. In my mind I thought I’m too emotional for casual hooking up, I fall too fast. And this is true. In past relationships, I’ve always tended to fall quick and hard and without a safety net. It didn’t take me long to figure out that college might require an adjustment.
Why I Tried It
Without going into too much detail, the first relationship (if you could even call it that) I had in college ended in a heap of emotion because we failed to define what it was. I was ready to jump headfirst into a relationship and he led me to believe that it might be possible in the beginning. He quickly changed his mind and our relationship slowly regressed throughout the year going from dating, to casual, to friends with benefits, to flirty friends to basically not talking at all.
After thoughtful consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that it all could’ve been avoided if our relationship had been established as casual in the beginning. This is where a label can be helpful, it can give someone a idea of how attached they should allow themselves to become. Then, when the relationship ends, the only thing that feels lost is a casual hooking up buddy if that’s what it was, not a potential future or partner.
The Catch and Release
I figured after putting all this thought into the concept, I should probably try it out, if not only to see if my hopelessly romantic self could even do it. So, since it’s summer and all, I used Tinder as a hookup tool in my casual ventures. I’ve been on Tinder for awhile but I’d never actually met up with anyone. Mostly because some guys are creepy and I’m a chicken. But the best part about it being summer and being at home, is the familiar Tinder faces.
So bada boom bada bang, I matched with a hot guy from high school who I probably hadn’t talked to since middle school and he messaged me. We chatted for a little while, going through the pleasantries until eventually he gave me a very specific time frame (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.) that his parents wouldn’t be home and that we could hang out at his house. So I said what the hell, got in my car, and drove to his house.
I won’t get into the specifics, but the experience was definitely interesting. It didn’t take long to get to what we both knew we were there for and, as a piece of advice, Tom Misch isn’t great sexy time music for people who don’t also go to an art school. The awkwardness level was probably at about a 4/10 throughout and the sex was about a 5/10 if I’m being honest. He definitely knew what he was doing, but the problem with casual hookups is that it’s impersonal.
He did what generally works for most girls I guess, but it wasn’t necessarily what worked for me and he didn’t take direction very well. I’m a pretty vocal person in general, and sex isn’t an exception, but my attempted communication didn’t seem to help much. It actually made it more awkward. I left feeling a little raw but also liberated. I’d done it, I’d had a casual hook up with a guy who I probably wouldn’t talk to again and I felt nothing for him! We were completely incompatible and I saw it going nowhere, it was the fricking best. I’d never had sex like that with no attachment and it was such a high. I felt in control and powerful and like a bad b*tch. For the first time, I kind of got why people did it.
After thinking about the good and the bad of my first experience, I decided to try out a different theory for the rest of the month. I wondered if casual hooking up was more successful if it was with someone who knew you well (an acquaintance or previous romantic partner) and if hooking up with the same person more than once made a difference. Was it harder to stay unattached? Was the sex better? Was it just as exhilarating and liberating as a one night stand?
These were all questions I strived to answer by hooking up with an ex. This ex was my first love, but someone I hadn’t been with in years. We’d always been on pretty friendly terms, having been so young during the relationship and very close. He was home for the summer and lonely and so was I. It seemed pretty perfect, we were comfortable with each other and knew each other’s bodies well. Or so I thought.
We hooked up a total of five times before I decided I had to stop. It wasn’t that the sex was bad, it was definitely better. He tried harder to be accommodating. He had consideration I know he learned from being in a long-term relationship. But it was never enough. No matter how hard he tried or how much direction I gave him, nothing really worked.
The chemistry and emotion just wasn’t there anymore and I realized that was the problem, not any methods or anything physical. I couldn’t emotionally put myself in the moment and so it was very hard to enjoy myself. I always left our hookups feeling tired and empty. In the end, it just reminded me of what sex could be like, what it used to be like with him a long time ago, and what it was like with the last guy I was in a committed relationship with. It was missing something essential. Meaning.
What I Learned
First, I want to say that my experience with casual hooking up isn’t definitive. There may be people out there who’ve had the best sex of their lives with casual hooking up. Some people may think it’s the best way to be involved romantically in such a turbulent and changing time in our lives. And I totally understand that.
But through my own experience and what I’ve learned about myself is that sex without emotion isn’t always worth it. It may serve as a fix to take the edge off or a fun, impulsive decision that’s exciting, but ultimately sex with someone you care about and who cares about you is often more enjoyable. But you have to find out what’s right for you. So go out, experiment, be safe and reflect on your experience. And if the sex you’re having isn’t satisfying you in someway, it’s okay to say no and take a break and it’s okay to make a change.