My friends have been nitpicking what they are saying around me, a little too much on their guard, behaving as if they will now become themes of this revered Mantalk column. As if I am that kind of person. As if I would change their names and write about them. Me? Well…they are right.
Some weekends back we are at this upmarket club in Westy. We dare one of our mates to ask a table full of lasses for their number. Liquid courage bubbling in his veins, he proceeds and not only gets one number, but two. I pick my jaw from the floor. Two days later, okay, the next day, I find one of the chics—I forget her name—from the club making breakfast in his house. You can wipe away that smirk now, because as you read this, they are probably asking who will go get the eggs from the shop, doing midnight things at 8AM.
“So, you two dating now?” I mused.
“No bro!” as he spat out his coffee, “this is just casual. Nothing serious. Just sex.” At first, I’m a little gutted, if you can be just a little gutted.
Casual sex. Not a particularly meaningful line, not by itself. Casual sex. If you repeat it out loud—you, that is, just say it right here and now before you read forward—it will sound glib. And that’s the thing, I don’t like how it rolls of my tongue. Like thorn melon.
While it goes against conventional wisdom, I’m a staunch foe of the idea that sex is always better with someone you love. Not always.
The problem with casual sex, though, especially for me, is that someone always wants more. Usually the lady. She wants to leave her stuff. She wants to call you. And good lord, she wishes you goodnight. And throws in the clincher, ‘babe.’ Goodnight, babe. Ugh. Oh, it’s not what they advertised in Hollywood.
Cheap sex is the zeitgeist ethos of our culture.
But having sex is as old as, well, sex itself.
I say it’s like a drug, and the aftermath of a drug is shit. There is no grand moral lesson, you decide what meaning you place on things you take.
It reminds me of that time I dabbled with cigarettes for a moment. I had convinced myself that this was just for show, but deep down, I kinda loved it. My indulgence running amok, I had given in to my vice. I can quit anytime I want, I tell myself. Just like that. Drop of a hat.
Smoking is an oxymoron. It’s a vice that unites. Well, for one thing, it is easily shareable. Just like casual sex.
It’s clear where casual hookup’s sex appeal comes from: freedom without responsibility. It’s a smokescreen.
Incidentally, the problem with commitment is that it can also become rote in a way casual sex cannot. Like how it’s fun to stay in a hotel, even if you have no desire to live there, there’s something inherently sexy with picking someone from the streets into your sheets.
Casual sex, like a delicate mousse, is deceptively complex to get right, effortlessly spoiled by too much effort, and—most importantly—best enjoyed when it has no meaning. This is when normally-lackluster taciturn topics like “Where did you grow up?” and “What do you do?” really shine. Things you learned from YouTube videos of ‘Ghosts caught on camera.’
Yet, every flavor of casual sex—uncommitted, unemotional, purely carnal—is a means to an end. The one-night stand, the booty call, sex by appointment. Or the new kid on the block, “rec” (recreational) sex, which exists because, as one friend told me, “every great athlete needs practice.” If you really think about it, it sounds like no-strings-attached relationships are the gold standard of sex.
My armchair analysis is that as men, we like stability. Steadfastness. Control. Casual sex goes against the very grain of this. More than the illicitness of the sexuality, there’s a sexuality to the selfishness. It’s YOLO, it’s living for Wild Moments, because you never know what your last one will be. Sex is a holy laurel.
It’s easier to talk about sex than love. Or it’s easier to admit wanting the former than needing the latter. I wouldn’t say I am evolved enough, say, for an open relationship. There are too many variables, too many moving parts. No control. But I’m also not nave enough to turn away from the illict. That’s the thing with great moments, I fear, is having both. Forbidden honey. The exclusivity and the illicit thing, and the passion and the guilt that bridges those two foreign countries, are what deepens our layers, even if some of those layers end up morphing into the slick crusted scales of a snake.
Because the delicate bubble of casual sex is very easily burst, full of half-truths, varying truths, so we keep everyone at an arm’s length, before one pulls a Michael Jordan and just fades away.
As the economy skyrockets, sex gets cheaper and our sense of self-worth plummets. Rings are nothing more than mere decorations. It’s hard to commit, the lines blurred. Just look at the number of morning Radio shows riding on the wave of illicit pleasure. Back then, intimacy was something to be earned, not given away online.
The Lusting Game
It’s ironic that everyone and their grandmother tweets about ‘Knowing Your Worth’, yet offline we settle for crumbs, no talking, no touching, only consider each other as things we can plunge into.
Because lust, for as long as it lasts it dominates everything else; Yes, there’s the physical, I just want to put it inside her right this second because she’s new and her smell is new and her hair isn’t weave.
Semantics aside, as permissive a society as we live in, we do tend to afford ultimate importance to sex within ‘meaningful’ relationships, with the same person, with the goal being infinite monogamy, a hail Mary. Ironic, really, as you could argue that a wedding ring is often a sign you’re about to have les sex than ever before.
Think of the other words we use when talking about casual sex: it’s just a bit of fun, nothing serious, no strings, hook-ups, sleeping around, free agents, taking what we want from partners and, of course, offering something in return. It sounds so rudderless and chaotic, and places casual sex in direct opposition to a long-term relationship. Is being with the same person no fun at all?
Those strings we like to talk about – sometimes they can run the risk of strangulation.
We live in an Instant Generation (I’m not complaining). If I can order food online, sex should be a non-starter. Men I know natter on about finding a hassle-free female pal who just wants to get together, get it on, and get gone.
What makes us engage in casual sex? Do we enjoy it? Does it benefit us in any way—or, perhaps, might it harm us? And who, exactly, is “us,” anyway?
Dating apps are the free-market economy come to sex. With one swipe, you know whether you’ve been approved, never when you’ve been discarded.
FOR a young man in Nairobi, dating is a numbers game, tabulating the guy-to-girl ratio in clubs, bank balance and Uber fare to and from Kawangware (and its environs). Hookup: a term that has grown as ubiquitous in youth culture as customized ring tones.
Perhaps we could start with a standard thrust: Casual sex is the bowtie of a masquerade party, gravy for guys, like a kid in a candy store.
But good sex and endorphins don’t equate to a healthy relationship—only then do you know what only the string knows: You’re a string. If you don’t get attached, you’ll just end up in a tangle.
Oh, I just remembered her name. Sylvia.