Editor’s Note: Thirst Trap is a weekly column on dating and relationships in college.
Somewhere between giving your Bumble hookup a hug goodbye (which is almost as awkward as the sex itself) and eating mint chip ice cream straight out of the carton under your covers (which could honestly use a wash), there occurs an existential crisis.
I like to be in the shower for this, hopefully with whitening strips in to create a false sense of productivity as I wallow, but that’s just me.
You had sex. Better yet, you had sex with someone who you didn’t know existed until a couple of hours ago. Better still, you had sex with someone who might as well have never existed in just a few short hours more. Did I mention you had sex with a stranger from the internet?
And now you feel odd.
College campus hookup culture promotes sexual interactions void of intimacy and emotion, as casual sex is more accessible than ever before when you enter college.
“Students are living on their own for the first time and discovering who they are,” lecturer Nicole McNichols, who teaches PSYCH 210, the diversity of human sexuality, said. “Part of this discovery process includes discovering their own sexual identity and preferences.”
Casual sex is a great way to make those kinds of discoveries. There’s no need to get bogged down by the niceties of dinner dates and romantic strolls in the park in order to experiment with your genitalia. In college, the goal is often simply meaningless, (sometimes) mutual pleasure. However, that goal can come with a host of side effects ranging from STDs to emptiness.
When you invite someone over to Netflix and chill, you are signing an unspoken social contract that you will not catch feelings, and a lot of the time, this really won’t be an issue. The head was subpar and you have completely different tastes in music. You’re not exactly a match made in heaven. But sometimes, feelings can rear their ugly head and make things difficult.
“Things tend to go awry when there is miscommunication, especially when it involves the question of whether the hook up is meant to lead to a relationship,” McNichols said.
Feelings find a way to muck everything up. The sex could have been awesome, or more likely, better results could have been achieved by yourself, but sex, even casual sex, is more than just masturbating with the aid of another person’s body. There’s an element of human connection.
“If two people are both enjoying the hook up for what it is and nothing more, this usually leads to positive experiences,” McNichols said.
Like in all things sex and dating, communication is key. If you want no strings attached — say so. If you want all the strings — say so. Then you avoid the issue of getting your strings all knotted up and your feelings getting hurt.
But if you are feeling a little down after sex, examine those feelings. It might have nothing to do with a desire to pursue a relationship.
If you are someone who feels these post-hookup blues, that is not to say you are in love with your booty call and you should show up at their house with a dozen roses to confess your adoration. The stigmatization of sex, especially for women, could be a stronger suspect than unexpected feelings for someone who happened to be horny and available at the same time as you. Not exactly fate.
“Although there is no reason to believe that women crave sex any less than men from a biological perspective, society tends to be much more accepting of male versus female sexuality,” McNichols said. “We also tend to reward women for wanting relationships and to be more accepting of them if the sex they have is within the context of a committed relationship.”
Society has collectively decided that women should never enjoy anything which of course, is a huge bummer.
Women are supposed to want relationships with all the trimmings — candlelit picnics, Hallmark movie quality first kisses, and happily-ever-afters that rival Disney Princess movies. Casual sex might make you feel crumby because society has a hard time reconciling autonomous female sexuality. That is the issue, not you.
So if you ever find yourself halfway through a carton of mint chip ice cream in the bed that still smells like a stranger, wipe your tears, trade your snack for something more protein-packed, and pull out the Febreez — we have some unlearning to do.
Reach writer Hannah Krieg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Hannah_krieg
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