What makes for good sex? Is it more than just friction?
In Laura Sessions Stepp’s recently published, controversial book, “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both”, she calls the bluff of those who have been dubbed, the “hook-up generation”, taking them to task over their very sixties assertion that sex can be easily divorced from love and commitment without significant consequences. Apparently, among young females anyway, there is little fulfillment in the life of no-strings-attached sex and one night stands, even while these same girls tout the independence, control and self-direction this lifestyle affords.
The New York Times article, “A Disconnect on Hooking Up” describes the reaction of Ms. Sessions Stepp’s critics, who characterize her book as “an odd throwback — not only retro in its point of view, but also out of sync with the current climate of high-achieving girls who are usually applauded for focusing on their careers and their female friends, rather than on finding Mr. Right.”
What Sessions Stepp purports regarding the sexual choices of today’s high school and college students, Jillian Straus says of the dating choices of “Generation X” (in this case, everyone between the ages of 25 and 39), in her 2006 book “Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We’re Still Single”. Ms. Straus points to several social factors driving twenty and thirty- somethings to postpone marriage, even sacrificing love for the sake of career and personal discovery, with the expectation that there will be “time for all that, later”. Rather than clarity and success in love, what time proffered to most everyone interviewed by Straus was a growing commitment phobia and cynicism regarding love. Serial monogamy—which is unavoidable where there is a simultaneous desire for companionship and resistance to commitment—seemed to encourage a belief that relationships don’t last. What’s more, it fostered among participants the impression of having unlimited partner options, which in turn led to frequent relationship dissatisfaction.
Ms. Sessions Stepp writes that “hooking up” (sex among young people who have only just met or are not in a romantic relationship), is the new dating. But, according to Ms. Straus, the last generation of daters didn’t fare too well, either. Even though Ms. Straus does not point directly to Gen Xers’ sexual practice as an inhibitor of love, stability and well-being, she does allow that each new dating alliance includes sex, even if the relationship lasts only a very short time.
Neither author stresses lack of physical enjoyment as a result of serial sexual partnering; rather they tackle the emotional and psychological effects. So the question naturally arises, is there more to good sex than its physicality? Is there more to it than the mechanics of “friction”? Is there more even than the compatibility of partners, “chemistry”, or mutual romantic feelings? Can sex be separated from commitment or does unfettered sex leave us impoverished in spirit, even while we express satisfaction with our free lifestyle? What are the components of good sex?