Sex minus Emotion; Emotion minus Sex

hookupsThe Modern Love College Essay Contest of 2008, sponsored by the New York Times, found students grappling with hookup culture: sex without emotion. Three years later students struggled with the opposite issue: intense emotional relationships that were devoid of sex because they were online.

The strategies seem to be complete opposites. Yet they hold similarities. 

Either way, the game plan may be enacted for protection.

We can avoid relationship worries, ups and downs, and general turmoil if it’s just sex, right?

Or, we can avoid turbulence and hurt if the person we’re connecting with lives hundreds of miles away, with no chance of real relationship.

Both contain connection, with limits. Hookups briefly and intimately bring us together, and then we say goodbye.

Soulmate in a box

Or, we have virtual relationships, pouring our hearts out to 900-mile-away strangers — which frees us up to be open and vulnerable – and hurls us into the most obsessive relationship of our lives, observes Daniel Jones at the Times. Emotions run so deep, it’s been called, “Soul Mate in a Box” (Smiab).

And then we close our laptops and get on with our lives. Or at least our homework.

And, neither approach works real well for a lot of us. Sex without emotion or emotion without sex. Either way, we can’t get no satisfaction.

Of course, there are costs to everything – which is why so many try out alternatives to body + emotion intimacies. Which leaves us with questions like: What’s the priority right now, at this time in my life? Is it worth it? How can I get the greatest satisfaction? What works best for who I am?

Answers may have to come via trial and error.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Is Male or Female Sexuality Better?
Wanting “X” from Sex, but Doing “Y”
Women Want Casual Sex? Yes and No

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 3, 2014, in psychology, relationships, sex, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. For me, it seems if you are getting your share of what you need from another person and they are getting their share of what they need- then there is no other need. It gets down to are your needs being met.

  2. I’ve read that the amount of hook up culture, that is, the number of college students that frequently have one night stands with no intention of interacting with that person again, is quiet low. When I was in college, just a few years ago, almost no one participated in hook up culture. Now, many did have serious boyfriends who they would sleep with. Sometimes they slept with someone before they became a couple, but it was already accepted that it was more than a one night stand.

    I can only think of one friend involved with one man. This was not a one night stand as much as a friends with benefits sort of thing. She struggled to keep emotions out of the sex, but eventually failed. I believed they stopped seeing each other all together once she decided it was too much work to avoid emotional attachment.

    On the flip side, I know people who established relationships online who are now married. A friend of mine started dating a man from Britain when she was in college. She now lives over there with him and is recently married. I guess it can work out if you try hard enough.

  3. Gabriela Regalado

    I believe that sex without emotion is difficult. When i was dating i had no problem having sex and no emotion behind it. Personally it worked out great for me but they guys almost always seemed to catch feelings. I think in most cases someone eventially always gets emotionally attached. One night stands could easily turn into a relationship as well. Now a days its opposite sometimes one just wants to satisfy their personal sexual needs then consider a relationship later.

  4. I very real quandary. I have learned that I am horrible at sex without emotion and even if I weren’t I personally think it’s a waste of time – for me, at least. As for emotions without sex- as in cyber- that is its own kind of dissatisfaction.

    I’m w/ you in that both dynamics are great strategies at avoiding intimacy and everything that can arise from that. And yes- I think if the person is clear on what they are doing and what it’s for- and they can be honest with themselves- then more power to them and enjoy.

    Ultimately though I think that all of us want to connect- even if just a little or superficially and even if a person might not know how. It’s human nature.

  5. this online thing you’re talking about makes me think of the show Catfish, where men and women communicate online and one ends up falling in love. Only to find out the person they thought they were talking to or liked was another person or not real and just a hoax. Something like that happened last year around this time when news came out about top college football player Mant Te’o, getting ready to be drafted and him being catfished. He was talking about his gf, which many thought was someone in person, but it was somone he communicated online and thought was real and great only to find out it was prank set on him and the embarassment and media attention that came from it. Though I do think he was pretty stupid, as him talking so much about his gf wouldn’t have created so much media attention when he never saw her. If he didn’t talk so much about it knowing he’s never met her, there wouldn’t have been the embarassment as the media wou;dn’t have known.

  6. As someone who has had ….. ahem, a few, hook ups yeah I’d say there can be a certain emptiness to it. Often it’s fun at the time followed with a vague feeling of regret later.
    I don’t think I need to be madly in love with a person to enjoy sex, but yeah, it’s nice to at least like each other!
    That said, sex is a normal part of life and if people genuinely enjoy hooking up then that’s cool. I don’t think there should be any shame or stigma around sex whether you enjoy it with 1 other person, 20 people or no one at all.

  7. To me, I think sex without emotions cannot really count as a relation; it can just barely count as a hookup. A lot of people have one night stand with another person and woke up the next morning don’t even know the names of one another. And then they will say goodbye and never meet again after that sex. Conversely, for the ones with emotions but without sex, it can definitely be count as a relationship to me. As the two people do not only know the name of one another, they also share their thoughts, ups and downs. It is some spiritual love to me; even though they could not touch and have any kind of intimacy, they support one another emotionally. I got a friend whose boyfriend is in London and they have been keeping their relationship through Skype for over four years. I think even though it is hard, it is still possible for a couple to keep their bond through the Internet.

  8. I know it seems stupid why someone would do an online relationship, but sometimes you need to experiment and see what kind of person you are into. I am not saying it is the right thing to do, but sometimes feel insecure or possibly obligated to doing such things. It doesn’t really do you much good, considering that you always feel pressure and distance, and it will lead to conflict and un needed drama. Sometimes you are wanting to feel “happy” or “satisfied” so much that your willing to make these choices. the thing is, we have to think about the choices before we make them, because every action has some sort of consequence to it.

  9. I’ve only ever had sex with one person, which I can say proudly, so I can’t say emotion didn’t play a pivotal role in why I give her this part of me exclusively. I am a guy though, so I know all too well the sexual urges that come without feeling an emotional connection. For me the emotional connection intensifies the physical experience for me, as if I’m sharing something with her I can’t with anyone else, it makes it special. Just curious, is there a topic on break up sex? I don’t understand it too much.

  10. There’s a saying that having sex is meaningless if there’s no love involved in it. Sex or “making love” is an act of two people who are in love with each other. If there isn’t a relationship behind two people who have sex, do not expect any feelings after having sex.

    One of my friends have been in an online relationship and admits that it missed quite a few aspects that she was looking forward to have when she got into a relationship. The fact that that person couldn’t be physically there for her was not fulfilling her needs for the relationship. This could include sex, but it was mostly other physical abilities such as hugging, kissing, etc. Overall, she thought it was a “half a relationship”.

    Overall, Sex+Emotion go hand in hand and without another, it won’t work. Trial and error! This can change person to person based on their priorities in a relationship and if the other person has the same priority.

  11. In country like INDIA, you will find less relationship with casual attitude. People meet,fall in love, marriage and sex. Yeah there would be few who would just realise that sex is all what they needed for the time and not more but stats for that would be low. I believe all depends on understanding of two people, what they want out of relationship is fulfilled than i feel any way is good. !

  12. I think now a days people like to do this because they think they wont get hurt in the end. I have had friends in the past who have been heart broken by men and women and would tell me the main reason they do it is because they don’t to be in a relationship where they will get heart broken again. But a lot of the time one of them catches feeling for the other person where the other doesn’t and they still end up getting heart broken. I have also had friends that used to do this in the past and they tell me the main reason they do it is just because they want sex but with no feelings attached and don’t want to commit to one person. I feel like people instead of hiding behind a computer screen or having sex with a person that they don’t really want a relationship will just end up hurting themselves in the end anyway. People should just jump in and try to be with someone they really want to be with and have sex with and not just go out looking for people who are willing to have sex with no commitment. And not have relationship online because that is not a real relationship.

  13. Sex without emotion or emotion without sex. Either way, we can’t get no satisfaction because women for one wants both and the men just want one. I feek as if women were more like men things may go more smoother because men have no emotions, maybe a few but most don’t care as much as women. For women sex is more of an emotional thing. We start to like that person more even without the sex. For men showing their emotions means they’re a sucker or even so a bitch. Therefore guys prefer sex without all of the emotions.

  14. Amanda Tarango

    I think people get attached to people they meet on the internet because they can be whoever they want to be. Also they can tell them about all their problems and the other person does not know the other side of the story so they will always support them. It is like starting from scratch and building with someone new. Also, I don’t think you can have good sex without emotion. Like in the movie Don John they state to have great sex you have to loose yourself in to somebody and they have to loose themselves into you. I do not think hooking up is bad, if you want to have a one night stand go ahead, I just do not believe it will be good sex. It may be sex but it wont be what it is suppose to be and that is making love.

  15. I think more people will pick emotion without sex, in the long run. Like, I don’t believe that people will keep satisfying their sexual desires to the death, but they can love somebody for long. And as for virtual relationship, I think it is as empty as what hookups do. Well, virtual relationship might be better because it does not objectify partner at least. My point anyway is that loving someone with emotion w/o sex might be often worth than having sex w/o emotions.

  16. I was in my twenties at a time before Myspace or Face Book. Back in my day, having “Sex without Emotion” meant a one night stand or hook up. I have been happily married since social websites have been introduced; so I really have no personal experience on this issue. With one exception, I have witnessed my son’s experience. My son met his 1st girlfriend on Myspace, the emotion without sex idea. They talked online for 4 month before they actually met face to face. After that they dated for 2 years. She lived about 2 hours away so they took turns visiting each other on weekends. I think it helped him understand women better by not just jumping into a sexual relationship with someone. Even though it didn’t last, I believe it made him a better man today. He had been dating his current girlfriend for 5 months before engaging in sex. I think he has a better understanding that you should get to know someone before getting that intimate with them. He has been with his current girlfriend for over 2 ½ years now and they are planning on moving in together. I think their emotional relationship has made this possible, because sex is just sex. Sex doesn’t stay great forever! It’s nothing without any emotional connection!

  17. I just do not get it! why would you have sex without emotion or emotions without sex? Probably it is because we are forgetting that not everything is about us! We must remember that we are social in nature which means that we need connections and emotions in our daily life, but for sure we do not need the negative emotions. In my personal opinion, if we can learn that a relationship is about two people instead of just me, our personal experiences would be way better. Life is to short to make it more complicated than it is and it is quite beautiful and we should not run away from responsibilities because at the end the reward is always great!

  18. Personally I dont believe you can fall in love without a physical AND emotional connection. Being attracted to someones physical features is often more intense than being drawn to a persona. Checking each other out wont help when you need to vent, to take someone to your favorite bands show, to cry about your stress to, and trying to make your best friend (who you are in no way physically attracted to) your lover will almost never feel less awkward and “right”, you need a balance of both.

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