Before you start bracing yourself for a finger-wagging lecture from some uptight, buzzkill prude, relax, because when it comes to me, nothing could be further from the truth. Over the course of half a lifetime living in Los Angeles, I hooked up more times than I can count, talked to hundreds of people in the game, and watched as the Internet transformed the act of hooking up from something you had to at least work at a little into a commodity like pizza you could order up on your phone. We’re living in great times, right?
Yeah. It’s been said that humanity handles abundance with far less grace than it does scarcity, and boy, has that ever turned out to be true when it comes to sex. How so, you ask? Let me count the ways.
1. Sex is not like tennis.
After my first-ever hookup went very wrong, a new, more-experienced friend sat my wrecked ass down, said, “Look, you gotta think about hooking up like tennis, ok? Two of you come together, shake hands, play a match. If you’re evenly matched, it’ll be great; if you’re under-matched, you’ll be bored; and if you’re over-matched, you’ll get your ass kicked. But however it turns out, it’s just a game — when it’s over, the two of you wipe off, shake hands and walk away. No harm, no foul.”
While I myself would toughen up considerably after that first disaster, I’d spend the next ten years watching this friend go into weeks-long, drunken, obsessive, tearful, emotional seizures at the hands of one superior opponent after another.
Just a game, my ass.
2. Hooking up can turn you hard and callous.
Lemme give you a basic truth: when you hook up with a stranger, you’re short-circuiting the normal course of human interaction. More to the point, you’re baring an intimate part of yourself to someone you’ve just met, don’t give a fuck about, and who doesn’t give a fuck about you. Pulling this off successfully (or even unsuccessfully) requires the throwing up of a lot of mental/emotional barriers of the sort that should never be associated with sexual intimacy. Do this often enough, and the shields will stay up and never come down.
3. Habitual hooking up reduces sex to the level of the mundane.
It has been said by people who study such things that we come into this world wired in such a way as to make the act of getting naked with a new partner for the first time the single most endorphin-producing event a human can experience (without drugs, anyway). Hell, even the potential for such an encounter should be enough to set our blood pumping, flood our tissues with pleasure-inducing chemicals, cause our erogenous zones to go into overdrive, and urge us on to feats of daring we’d never have previously imagined possible.
History and literature abound with examples of this phenomenon at work: Helen and Paris, Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Heloise and Abelard and countless others come readily to mind—men and women who moved mountains and paid tremendous prices just to get satisfyingly laid.
So lemme ask you: how many of you out there would move mountains to get to your last (or even your next) hookup? Chances are, you wouldn’t even cross the goddam street, and this should tell you something really important about what you’re doing to your sex life.
Put another way, if you find yourself idly debating whether to go out and hook up or stay in and re-grout your tile, you’re having too much wrong sex with too many wrong people.
4. Most of your hookups will probably be with people with whom you wouldn’t be caught dead in real life.
Think about how much trouble you have simply finding someone truly interesting and compatible to talk to at a cocktail party full of strangers. Needle in a haystack, right? Now, multiply that haystack by about a thousand when the clothes come off.
Let’s face it — unless you’re beautiful, rich, famous, audacious, highly charismatic and/or massively endowed (and chances are you’re none of those things), when you hook up, you’re probably gonna have to compromise in ways you wouldn’t even consider in other areas of your life. Trust me, “I guess he’ll do” is not a reasonable standard for choosing a sex partner, because I can almost guarantee that, once you’re both awkwardly thrashing around naked, any sexy thoughts with which you might have come into the deal will quickly be replaced with thoughts like, “Will this ever be over?”
5. Most of the hookup sex you have will probably be mediocre at best.
In no area of life are quantity and quality more mutually exclusive than in the arena of sex. We’re complicated creatures, so for truly good sex to happen for most people, all sorts of stars have to align: physical attraction, mindset, trust, mutual respect, sexual compatibility, comfort level, and some sort of connection. And that’s just for starters.
To the degree that you match up with a partner on these multiple levels, the sex will be good; to the degree that you don’t, it probably won’t. Finding more than one or two of these qualities in a random stranger at any given time is hard enough. Pulling it off on a regular basis? Fuhgeddaboudit.
6. Your kinks probably won’t match up.
You crave dominant; ten minutes in, he asks to be diapered. You like smooth; he’s got a back like an angora sweater. You love foreplay and connection; he wants to do you from behind and be done with it. You like it sweet and simple; he pulls out his treasure chest of sex toys. You fight each other for bottom, end up limply bumping pussies. I could go on, and on, and on.
Look, you can talk about these things during preliminary negotiations all you want, but all at least one of you will really be doing is trying to sell the other. You won’t actually know for sure if you’re a sexual match until the rubber meets the road. And by then, it’s usually too late.
7. You’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons.
When hooking up becomes a habitual thing, it’s rarely about sex anymore. Once the pattern is established, you’re in it more for the hunt, or for the validation, or the distraction, or the compulsion, or any number of other dumbass, self-defeating reasons that should in no way ever be allowed to taint one of the few peak experiences that is your natural birthright as a human being.
8. You and your partner will rarely be on the same page.
Back to the tennis match: in almost every hookup, one of you is gonna be more into it than the other. If it’s you, unless you’re emotionally bulletproof (in which case, you shouldn’t even be reading this), you’ll sense his relative indifference, start wondering what you’re doing wrong, and the sex will become colored by anxiety. If it’s him, then the harder he tries, the more you’ll mentally move away, and the sex will become colored by tedium.
This, folks, is how baggage gets added to your psychic cart, one little piece at a time.
9. Hooking up fucks with your sex drive, and not in a good way.
If I had a nickel for every burned-out, over-stimulated 25-year-old who’s crossed my path and required a cock ring to get hard and a blowtorch to get off, believe me, I’d be writing this wrapped in the arms of the hottest hooker in the priciest bordello in Rio.
10. You’ll probably become a novelty junkie.
Nick Lowe, that notorious, hell-raising, womanizing rocker, probably summed up this point better than anybody: “One’s Too Many and a Hundred Ain’t Enough.”
11. As time goes on, you’ll require ever more stimulation to move the needle.
It’s inevitable, really: as the baggage piles up, and your mental associations with sex gradually morph from those of pure, uncomplicated pleasure to all the various kinds of pain outlined above, your threshold for self-gratification will correspondingly rise. Maybe you’ll turn to drugs to close that gap, or fetishes, or riskier sex. And those things will work for a while, until they don’t anymore. Then you’ll have to travel even further down that bad road in order to maintain the buzz.
As I once said to a young guy who asked me to do something to him no one of his age should even know about, much less actually do: “Jeez, kid, what are you saving for when you’re 30?”
And that’s my question for you: What are you saving for when you’re 30? Or 40? Or 50?
12. If you’re a woman, you probably can’t handle it.
Yeah yeah, I know: traditional behavioral differences between men and women are nothing more than artificial, gender-normative constructs of an oppressive patriarchy hell-bent on keeping women in their place, right?
Wrong — this is utter crap, at least as far as sex is concerned.
Over the course of my years in the trenches, I’ve met maybe a tiny handful of women who could seemingly shrug off the after-effects of a steady diet of hooking up like a man can, and I’m not even completely sure about all of them.
But for some idiotic reason I can’t begin to fathom, women seem to have collectively decided that achieving equality to men translates into equivalence in behavior to men, and that this new feminine coarseness they’ve fashioned for themselves like a cheap, ill-fitting suit is now somehow a hallmark of their liberation.
Yeah, this argument holds up about as long as it takes to google “rape culture” and be inundated with images of some deluded coed walking around campus with a mattress strapped to her back in reaction to a hookup gone bad.
Bottom line: you might want to think twice, my female friends, before writing a check with your bodies that your psyches can’t cash.
So there you have it — all my years of cumulative hookup wisdom in a nutshell. I hope I’ve enlightened, and, more importantly, I hope I’ve offended. Because if you’re offended by anything I’ve written here, that means I’ve hit a nerve, and maybe it’ll make you think—maybe for the first time ever — about what you’re really doing when you hook up, and why.
Is this advice for everyone? Of course not. If, for instance, you’re a member of that tiny minority of the young, hot and relatively baggage-free, and confine your hookups to others of your kind, a lot of the foregoing probably won’t apply (or at least, not right away).
Or if you’re one of those rare Tucker Max types with an unconflicted sense of entitlement and high self-esteem who (a) sees every hot piece of ass who comes their way as their natural right; (b) in the absence of (a), would happily fuck a tree stump if that’s all that’s available; and/or (c) knows they’re good in bed because they always get off, you’re immune to these (and most other) laws of human nature — until the day you’re not, anyway.
As for those who don’t fall into those rarified little groups, am I saying you should never hook up? No. What I’m saying is, you should do it in such a way that you walk away afterwards thinking, “Damn, that was great” instead of “Why did I do that?” Sex should always leave a pleasant aftertaste, not the bitter dregs of defeat.
So how do you pull this off? Simple: you hold out until it’s right (hey, I said it was simple, not easy). If you can manage to do this, you won’t have sex with lots of different people, but the sex you do have will at least stand a chance of being good. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to settle just to get laid, you’ll have buttloads of sex with tons of different people, and much of that sex will be bad.
Am I full of shit on this subject? (Maybe.) Or have I missed anything? (Oh, probably.) Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts.