Ask Gigi: Can You Have Sex Without Feelings?
Welcome to Ask Gigi, an advice column where certified sex coach and writer, Gigi Engle, answers your most intimate questions. Nothing is off-limits! From threesomes to anal, unrequited love to cheating: we want to hear it all.
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I’ve been hanging out with this guy and he’s trying to have sex. We’ve only kissed and he’s touched my boobs a little. The thing is, I tend to get emotional when I have sex. I want him to like me, but I don’t want to have sex and then have him lose interest.
Can you make someone like you by having sex with them? Can you have sex without forming feelings? I’m confused because everywhere I turn I’m told that casual sex is the cool thing to do. Yet, I find myself not wanting to do it. Is that normal? Why do people even have sex?
Thank you for your letter. I’d love to talk about sex, feelings, and the overlap therein. Because I think that’s where you’ll find your trouble culminates.
People have sex for so many different reasons, often multi-layered reasons. I'd say the main reasons are for an intimate connection with a partner and to feel sexual pleasure.
The "intimate connection" is very subjective and will vary from person to person and relationship to relationship. "Intimate connection" may mean "just in that moment" or "to stave off loneliness" or "just because I was horny" in a casual sex encounter. Sometimes that intimate connection is meant to be fleeting and for one night, sometimes you have sex with someone because you're hoping it will last, sometimes you just want to feel close to someone and scratch that itch.
In a relationship, you might have sex because you're "in the mood," but you might also want to feel close to your partner. Sex is a really good way to reestablish bonds and intimacy in a relationship. It makes you feel closer to your partner and subconsciously reassures them that the pair bond is safe.
We have sex because it feels good. Bottom line.
That's really the simplest answer. When we have orgasms and sexual pleasure, our brains are flooded with feel good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine. Dopamine is our body's "reward chemical" and oxytocin is the brains "love hormone" or bonding chemical.
Discussing boundaries and intentions is deeply important in casual sex encounters because sex can complicate things. You need to keep a clear head so you don't run the risk of getting caught up in your emotions and trying to make something "more" happen with someone who doesn't want the same thing.
It's the pesky oxytocin that makes you feel super lovey with a person you've slept with, even if it was just a casual thing. Oxytocin makes us want to bond with someone. In casual encounters, the oxytocin usually wears off and you move on, but sometimes you remember that "good" feeling and unintentionally confuse it for real "feelings."
What are some ways to discuss intentions with someone before having sex? (i.e. is this a one time thing? what type of relationships are you looking for?)
I think we need to let go of the idea that we need to be so "cool and casual" all the time. Being cool gets you in trouble. Trying to be chill and not talk about feelings just sends you down a winding downward spiral into Feelings Town.
It's kind of a Catch-22 in that way. If you want to be clear about what you're doing, just be honest about it.
Ask the person what they're looking for, ask if they want to stay over (or tell them they can/can't depending on what YOU want and need), ask about using protection, ask if they see this is as a one night stand. These are important questions. These questions set up boundaries from the get-go. It's not just so YOU don't catch feelings, it's so BOTH people don't catch feelings. You need to protect yourself and your partner (and visa versa). It may seem awkward to talk about this stuff when you're trying to get some action, but not talking about it winds up making things way more awkward. It's a lot more awkward to be sitting at your desk at work the next day, hoping for a text than it is to clearly know it was a casual thing so you shouldn't expect one.
Being honest makes thing clear so that your irrational mind won't overtake your rational mind (which tends to happen with us messy humans). If the person you're sleeping with is being weird and cagy and won't even entertain this conversation about boundaries, that's probably be a big red flag right there. That person is being intentionally sketchy and that isn't a good sign that this person has integrity. Talking about stuff removes the confusion. And emotions are straight up confusing. We should stop pretending we don't have emotions so we don't wind up drowning in them.
If intentions are clearly communicated, and everyone is consenting, why is it OK to have sex with someone without wanting a relationship/"liking" them/having romantic feelings for them?
It's OK to have sex with someone without wanting a relationship or liking them because sex feels good.
As long as everyone knows what you're doing (and not doing), sex is a thing we can all have and enjoy. Casual sex isn't for everyone, but if you're someone who likes it, you go and do your thing.
We have this notion in society that if you have sex, it must come with feelings. This is especially true when it comes to women. Women are taught that sex without feelings makes them slutty and bad. So, we try to attach all of this love energy to something that isn't always based in love. The need for sexual gratification is as natural as the need to eat. It's all of this puritanical, sex-negative nonsense we have in our culture that says: Sex needs to be emotional or you're bad and a whore!
That is, frankly, bullshit. It's a tool used by the Patriarchy to scare us into submission, to cater to the male ego, and to not sexually liberate ourselves. The real truth is that sex can be beautiful, sexy, weird, with emotions, or without emotions. It's all based on you as a person, your partner, and what kind of relationship you want or don't want. If we stop confusing sex and orgasms with love, we'll all be better off.
We often conflate attraction and arousal to feelings of affection. This is culturally instilled in us.
Attraction and liking someone are two completely different things. You can be physically attracted to someone and absolutely fucking hate their personality. Our bodies respond to physical, visual, and emotional stimuli. Sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don't. So, the first thing to really bring home is that you can be aroused by someone and not like them. We have to make this distinction because of the "Patriarchy" telling us (women, mostly) that we can't have sex without emotions.
Your body can totally become physically aroused without wanting a relationship with the person doing the arousing. If you're with someone who is super annoying, but they are an amazing kisser and know how to touch your clitoris, you may want to sleep with them. Your body will respond to that touch.
That being said, there will be some people who need emotions to have sex (demisexual people and some more emotions-based people) and that is also totally fine. You have to get in touch with yourself and figure out what you're comfortable and not comfortable with. We have to stop putting pressure on people to either be totally OK with casual sex or totally not OK with it. Every single person is different and what works for you is valid and reasonable. You have to be true to yourself in all cases so you don't want up hurt or in an emotional bind.
I hope this advice helps. Remember, everyone is different and there is no right way to feel or not feel. You have to listen to your heart and do what’s best for you. And guess what? You’re probably going to screw up or start liking someone (or not liking them) them you shouldn’t. It happens to everyone. We’re not perfect. Far from it. Just keep your chin up and remind yourself that the person for you is out there. You just have to be your very best self and work on you until that fucker decides to show up.
Part of this Ask Gigi originally appeared as an interview for Elite Daily
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