Can casual sex be as satisfying as sex between two people who are head-over-heels in love? You bet!
We live in an age where sex is increasingly liberated. Women who were once sexually inhibited initiate sex. The concept of "friends with benefits" is so popular that it even spawned a feature film, and the Twitter hashtag #NSA (i.e. no strings attached) is a common term associated with a healthy sexual mentality and lifestyle. The question remains: Is it possible to achieve the high associated with falling in love — and the same kind of intense, sexual experience associated with loving couples — when there are no strings, or loving feelings, attached?
After long conversations with my Sex Talk web series co-host, Jenoa Harlow, I felt inspired to write about this phenomenon of how to have "falling in love sex" without falling in love, a concept she coined. She and I know it's possible; we know it exists ... but too many people are grappling in that in-between space of wanting significant, substantial, meaningful intimate interludes without all the time, money and commitment it takes to have a relationship. And in this day and age, shouldn't we be able to? Having sex is easy, but too often we're left with a feeling of guilt,apathy or dissatisfaction. So, how can we simply enjoy the experience without the residual emotions? For starters, try these five steps:
1. Chemistry and attraction. Jenoa reminds us that there must be some element of attraction and chemistry n the first place for "falling in love sex" to work. There has to be a genuine, gut attraction.
2. Focus. Be in the moment. This is meditation and mindfulness 101 stuff, but I am going to reiterate it again. "Falling in love sex" is about being so present and in the moment that everything else fades away. As Jenoa says, there is no past and there is no future when you are having "falling in love sex." Jenoa recommends going to a therapist, working out, eating healthy, doing whatever it takes to get comfortable in your own skin so that you can be present, in the moment and totally focused on your partner.
Jenoa also suggests focusing on an aspect of your partner that you find particularly attractive. Obviously there is something arousing about this individual, or several things. What are they? In the throes of "falling in love sex," this is where much of your focus and attention will be.
3. Leave your expectations at the door. I know this is easier said than done. But ask yourself before getting intimate with said individual, "What are my expectations from this? Do I expect him/her to call me? Will I become attached? Will I never want to hear from them again? Will I feel bad or guilty?"
All of these questions entail an expectation of this isolated event. I suggest checking in with yourself — a lot. Recognize the residual feelings after the interlude, pay attention to them, write them down if need be (I'm a big fan of journaling) and remind yourself that this person is someone you care about in the broader context, someone you will treat with respect but maybe you are not attached to them. In fact, you barely know them, they don't owe you nor do you owe them. You came together to make each other feel good.
Long-term couples can benefit from this too. Sex doesn't have to be about maintaining your connection or keeping the passion alive at all. It can simply be about making each other feel good, in the moment.
4. Make your intentions clear. If you're single, have a conversation with them beforehand about where you are, what you want and what you hope to get out of it. Check in with each other to make sure you are both on the same page. Make your expectations, or lack there-of, known. It's also okay to let them know that you "don't know" what you want but to let them know you won't hold them to any expectations even if you find your feelings changing. Feelings do change, and that is okay too. Honesty is still the best policy.
5. Forgive yourself. Many of us feel so bad after having one-night stands or less than pleasurable sexual experiences. We develop feelings afterward, or we feel guilty that we had sex outside of a relationship because of the way we are conditioned. We may feel bad because we feel nothing after the hook up. Or we feel bad we weren't present for our partner.
As long as you are honest from the start with your partner and don't set any false expectations or lead anyone on, then you have no reason to feel guilty. Sex is a normal and natural expression, and sometimes it does ebb and flow as do your feelings and emotions. It's okay for you to enjoy it fully in the moment, to not have any residual feelings afterwards except for bliss and perhaps the desire to do it again, to be honest about all this with yourself and your partner and to have no intention or inclination of falling in love.
Moushumi Ghose is a Los Angeles based sex therapist.