in: Dating & Relationships

Healthy Hookups: Are They Even Possible?

Sarah Lou

Get laid. Hook Up. Get busy. Get it on. Whatever you’d like to call it, we want to know if it can be done in a no-strings-attached and mindful way.


We believe that it is fundamentally a radical political act to deprivatize sex. So much oppression in our culture is based on shame about sex: the oppression of women, of cultural minorities, oppression in the name of the (presumably asexual) family, oppression of sexual minorities. We are all oppressed. We have all been taught, one way or another, that our desires, our bodies, our sexualities, are shameful.’  The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities, by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt

I think that the reason people are so polarized about the issue of promiscuity is we have some deep cultural programming—and this has wired us to feel shame and guilt about sex.  

I have to bring up the example of our closest genetic relatives, the Bonobos. This community of primates has very similar sexual expression trends to their human cousins, with an important distinction: they aren’t shameful or discrete, nor do they display guilt. The Bonobos use discriminate sexual contact across the gender barrier to settle disputes, create cohesion and for pleasure. And also to make babies.  

That said, since Bonobos are 98.7 percent identical to the human genome, there should be no problem with casual hookups or promiscuity if it is our human nature to do so. That is not to say, however, that we should connect sexually at random, anywhere, with just anyone.

This is a big point to be made for mindful promiscuity—it’s not about having a lay with anyone with a pulse. ‘No Strings Attached’ does not need to equate to random, thoughtless or indiscriminate sex.  

So how do we do it, and do it well?

Think like a Bonobo:

Is this occasion going to promote social cohesion, connect and bond you two and fulfill needs for intimacy and inclusion? Or will this pair bonding create awkwardness, division and ultimately make either of you feel depleted? Be mindful of your intentions, and notice if you are then more or less attracted to each other. 

Act like an Old Friend:

Treating someone like a cheap one-night-stand will feel dirty to everyone involved, and will reflect poorly on your integrity later. The world is always smaller than you thought at first. Treat your promiscuous partner like a dear person that you will hug and rejoice in seeing, should you run into one another again.  

Believe in your Deity-ness:

Remember that you hold a lot of power in your sexual energy, and it is like sharing your most intimate treasure with someone. Hold your power mindfully, use it only for good, and don’t waste it. We all stand to benefit from more amazing encounters when this magical element is not forgotten, and is wielded by both parties respectfully.

Communicate like an Adult:  

The feeling of betrayal is a trigger for almost everyone. Telling someone you wanted sex with no-strings-attached after the fact will feel like a betrayal for someone with differing expectations. If you are clear about your intentions before the interaction happens—that you are interested in something amazing and real, but just for tonight—then you should communicate that up front. If you want to date more than one person, or are looking for something casual but consistent, these desires should also be communicated. If you don’t communicate your expectations, the two of you are almost guaranteed to have different ones. 

This experimentation with your intimacy boundaries, and with true and potent honesty is sure to dig up a few landmines. Be patient with yourself and your partner, and practice compassionate communication when diffusing triggers. These encounters hold powerful energy that can catapult each of you into deeper self-awareness and self-love. Let that be the intention.

Mindfulness is a great tool that can feel heavy and unwieldy at first, but with time you will become smooth and proficient. Your interactions—sexual or otherwise—can bring people up, and in a world where many feel guilt and shame for being sexual beings, it could be just the shift a person needed to overcome their cultural and historical barriers.  

[image: via Andrew W on flickr]

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About the Author:

Sarah Lou Sarah Lou

Sarah was born in a small midwest town where being homogenous was cool. She didn’t feel like she fit in much, ever, until she struck out on her own and started defining life in her terms. Then the feeling wasn’t really that of fitting in, but more like it was okay not to. Ever since she has been sampling life like a buffet, living in new places, traveling, learning new trades and skills and loving many people. She’s been a photographer, a farmer, a non-profit organizer, a yogi, a masseuse, a pot grower, a trail builder, a river guide, a mountaineer, a skier, a SUPer, a dog trainer… Sarah has been trying to realize the nature of her own heart for her whole life, and only when she decided it was no longer up to her peers, or her parents, or even her partners—it was up to her—only then did she find it. Sounds easy, but it’s actually not for most. We have some serious baggage growing up in American culture with our public school system, parenting, religious, and government paradigms based on authority over one another. It’s hard to get permission. She started really living when she decided she didn’t need it.

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