No Such Thing As Casual Sex?
Last week, I had to beat up a little on my traditional conservative bothers. Today, I’m going to have to beat up a little on my left-wing friends. Good times.
Reader BB had this to say:
While I read pretty much everything you write, the one issue that seems central, and I believe you actually stated this somewhere, to your “system” is that a man must get used to, indeed embrace, the idea of casual sex… that is, sex just for the sake of sex.
Emotionally I have a big issue w this.
Finally someone articulated my view somewhat in today’s NY Times:
The basic idea is that there is no such thing as “casual” touch (let alone casual sex). And that consent from a woman involves way more than her just saying yes… it requires the man to assess whether this particular interaction would be good for her, especially if she shows signs of reluctance or discomfort.
I’m curious if you really totally reject this view.
Before I address his assertion, I should first address a few points and quotes from the article he linked to. First, it cites a study done back in the 1940’s, one I’m already quite familiar with (since it was one of my mentors, Brian Tracy, who made me aware of it about 25 years ago). Babies in an orphanage were barely touched, and they actually stopped the experiment because so many of the babies actually died. Babies, and therefore humans, clearly need to be touched.
It then goes on to say that sexual abuse is very bad and fucks you up for life. Uh, duh.
It summarizes thusly:
Over the course of each year, people have many kinds of interactions and experience many kinds of mistreatment. But there is something unique about positive or negative touch. Emotional touch alters the heart and soul in ways that are mostly unconscious. It can take a lifetime of analysis to get even a glimpse of understanding.
For this reason, cultures all around the world have treated emotional touching as something apart. The Greeks labeled the drive to touch with the word “eros,” and they meant something vaster and deeper than just sexual pleasure. “Animals have sex and human beings have eros, and no accurate science is possible without making this distinction,” Allan Bloom observed.
Touch is indeed very powerful. I agree completely. The science is very clear on this.
But then it keeps going, and starts going off the rails, discarding hard science for false Societal Programming.
The Abrahamic religions also treat sex as something sacred and beautiful when enveloped in loving and covenantal protections, and as something disordered and potentially peace-destroying when not.
Uh oh. Here we go.
Over the past 100 years or so, advanced thinkers across the West have worked to take the shame out of sex, surely a good thing. But they’ve also disenchanted it. As Elizabeth Bruenig wrote in The Washington Post this week, “One of the principal outcomes of the sexual revolution was to establish that sex is just like any other social interaction — nothing taboo or sacred about it.” Sex is seen as a shallow physical and social thing, not a heart and soul altering thing.
Okay, then here’s the question: If sex is not a purely physical thing, then what, specifically, is it?
If your contention is that sex is something more than physical (or casually social, or whatever), then you need to define exactly what it is. The article never does this. It’s the same with other people who make this point, that sex or physical touch is this “heart or soul altering thing” and “not just physical.” They’re not clear about their argument at all.
I’ve had this discussion many times with people like this. It always, and I mean always, goes something like this:
Person: Sex is NOT just a physical act! It’s so much more than that!
Me: What is it then?
Person: It’s a deeply spiritual act; it’s about connection and emotions and feelings and humanity (or whatever). We’re too casual about it these days! It’s not healthy!
Me: Do you want to go back to the right-wing Christian 1950’s and before then? Where sex was treated as an essentially religious act, and you weren’t allowed to have any sex, with anyone, at any time, except with the person you legally married?
Person: OMG! No, no no! That was terrible! We can’t go back to that! That was oppressive and inhuman and against women and blah blah blah!
Me: Okay, so… you don’t want the 1950’s and you don’t want today where adults can have sex whenever they choose and do so. What specifically do you want then? What’s your answer?
Person: Well, I don’t know, I just don’t like the fact that…
And then they go right back to saying how bad it is we’re having too much sex. Or something. In other words, they know what they emotionally don’t like, but they can’t tell you want they want, or a better system. Which, of course, is bullshit.
As I’ve said to people who attack nonmonogamous relationships, if you don’t like my system, you need to tell me your system. If you can’t articulate a specific alternate system that you’re for, then with all due respect, you need to fuck off. Pointing at something and saying “I don’t like this” is not enough. You need to do what I have done, and instead say, “I don’t like this for reasons X and Y. Instead, here is my detailed, step-by-step solution that is less bad.”
That’s the problem with people who have this view that sex is spiritual or emotional or whatever. They can tell you what they don’t like, but they have no idea what they would like to see instead. This is because they’re not thinking rationally, just emotionally.
The author of the article essentially wraps it up by stating that men need to read women’s minds.
Two writers I greatly admire criticized the woman in the Ansari episode for not exercising more agency. If she was uncomfortable, she could have put on her clothes and hopped in a taxi.
But that’s not how agency works. It’s not a card you pull out of your pocket and lay on the table. Agency is learned, not bred. And one of the things that undermines agency most powerfully is past sexual harm.
The abuse of intimacy erodes all the building blocks of agency: self-worth, resiliency and self-efficacy (the belief that you can control a situation). It is precisely someone who lives within a culture of supposedly zipless encounters who is most likely to be unable to take action when she feels uncomfortable. It’s the partner’s responsibility to be sensitive to this possibility.
I’m not going to comment on that since I already did so here. My point is to show the progression this person makes. He starts out with logic, facts, and science (good), then proceeds to false Societal Programming (bad), then ends up completely insane (very bad). This is the typical progression people follow when they discuss sex. Worse, this applies both to the SJW feminist left and the traditional conservatives. They usually start out great, defining actual, real-world problems using science and facts, but, the more they keep talking (or the more they are challenged by people like me), the more crazy and irrational they become.
Be aware of this. It’s a very, very common pattern with sexual discourse in our society.
Now I will address BB’s original statements:
The basic idea is that there is no such thing as “casual” touch (let alone casual sex).
This is obviously false. Touch is important and powerful, but that doesn’t mean 100% of all touching isn’t casual. That’s black-and-white thinking.
When you meet a new man in a business environment for the first time, and you give him a good, strong handshake and look him in the eye, do you want to have sex with him? Do you want to make an emotional connection with him? Do you want him as a regular presence in your life?
Of course not. Just because you’re shaking his hand doesn’t mean shit. Hell, you could even hate the guy. Yet, shaking hands is physical action and a powerful form of touch.
So yes, touch can indeed have zero meaning.
There are also degrees of meaning. If I see an uncle I haven’t seen in 10 years and I hug him, that means one thing. When Pink Firefly comes home from work and I hug her, that means something completely different, so different, in fact, that it’s not even comparable. Let me say that again because it’s important: it’s not even comparable. The two events of hugging my uncle and hugging my OLTR wife are completely different in literally every way, even though they both involve an identical form of touching called a physical embrace.
Let’s move this to sex. If I have sex with Pink Firefly, then a week later I have sex with one of my long-term FB’s, then two weeks after that have sex with a brand new FB for the very first time, all three of these events involve sex, but the sex in these three events are so different to me emotionally, spiritually, and yes, sometimes even physically, that you can’t even compare them.
I’m serious. You can’t. When I have sex with Pink Firefly, I often (not always, but often) experience it on a heightened, spiritual level. It’s so important to me that it’s beyond wonderful, beyond emotional. There are biological, physical differences as well. I actually get hard faster and stronger with Pink Firefly than I do with my FB‘s. This started happening about a year and a half ago. It was very surprising.
When I have sex with one of my more distant FB’s, it’s often like going to the bathroom. It’s purely physical, wham-bam, towel off, go back to work, and I literally don’t give it another thought, ever. I hate to be crude, but that’s my point… anyone saying “all sex is the same” or “there is no such thing as casual sex” is stating something that is literally and provably false.
I’m not saying that casual sex has zero power. It can. I actually agree with the more right-wing manosphere guys who say that a woman who has had one night stands (or similar) with over 200 men (or whatever) may indeed manifest problems later in life because of it. Not always, and not with all women, but I agree that happens because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve also seen women (and some men) seek out sex as a refuge from major life problems, or as a sick form of validation, rather than as a thoroughly enjoyable physical experience. But none of this changes a word I’m saying. Just because sex can be abused doesn’t mean all sex is the same, or that there is no such thing as casual sex and meaningful, connected sex. Clearly there is, and I’m one of the best men to describe the difference, since I regularly engage in both types. (And they’re both wonderful; they just serve two different needs.)
And that consent from a woman involves way more than her just saying yes
I disagree completely and utterly. If she says yes, and she’s not drunk, and she’s a legal adult, and she’s not mentally retarded, she’s given consent. Otherwise, you are literally saying that she is a child, or retarded.
The argument of, “well yeah, she’s a functional adult and gave consent, but she was sexually abused eight years ago and hasn’t overcome it yet, so it’s really not consent,” is just so much bullshit. Again, she’s an adult, or she’s not. Pick one, and stick with it.
Trying to organize social sexual behavior around “women are adults sometimes but not others” is never going to work.
…it requires the man to assess whether this particular interaction would be good for her, especially if she shows signs of reluctance or discomfort.
I agree, but as most women-experienced men know, just because a woman shows a little reluctance or discomfort does not mean she doesn’t want to have sex with you. Proof: I have had sex with women who showed reluctance or discomfort the first time they had sex with me, and these women went on to have very happy, long-term sexual (and in some cases, romantic) relationships with me that lasted many years. One of the biggest examples was my last serious relationship before Pink Firefly, HBM. HBM was very scared at the prospect of having sex with me the first time, but we did it, and when it was over, she was very happy with me, and went on to have the longest consistent nonmonogamous relationship of my life to date: 5.5 years. As a matter of fact, the second time we had sex, she orgasmed for the first time in her life (and proceeded to orgasm with me hundreds of times after that).
How can anyone say that reluctance or discomfort on the part of a woman during first time sexual activity always means the man shouldn’t attempt sex? Millions of women would disagree.
Yes, sometimes you shouldn’t have sex if you encounter reluctance. That’s why, as I described in detail here, I use the rule of two or three. Try to sexually escalate, gently, two or three times. If after the third time, she’s still refusing sex, great. Quickly, but politely wrap up the date, get the hell out of there, and go spend some time with a woman who wants to have sex with you. It’s not that complicated. I’ve slept with scores of women and have had hundreds of dates, and I’ve literally never had a problem with any of this.
The concept of “all sex/touch is the same” and “there is no such thing as casual touch/sex” is an extreme form of black-and-white thinking, often embraced by both far right-wing men and far left-wing women (which says something about the right and the left).
The world is a little more nuanced than that.
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