My friend tells me that when she hears the term "NSA sex", she always thinks "National Security Agency sex". So do I--- needless to say. When she wrote me about that, we immediately began to develop the concepts of cryptographic sexting and cryptanalytical sex. She has long legs and this perfect deadpan expression and martini-dry wit--- all reasons why I fell in love with her in her plaid-kilt schoolgirl days, and all reasons why we're still friends and why I trust her to always know my thoughts.
She did ask me to write about the "hook-up culture"--- she'd just read Tom Wolfe's novel about a co-ed whose virtue is imperiled by contemporary undergraduate life. She missed the "hook-up culture", she tells me. True enough, since at eighteen or nineteen she was with me. That put her into a very different kind of novel. Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons" is full of New Victorian moralising; our novel was about delights and depravity. She was never an ingenue, and she didn't allow me to be the villain I was expected to be.
Some years ago I found a book at a local library called "The Hook-Up Handbook". I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Was it supposed to be funny? Sexy? Censorious? I never could quite decide what pose it was trying to strike. I take for granted that parties and clubs are all about trying to find sexual partners. And I take for granted that undergraduates and twentysomethings do go out looking for sex. However not? Youth, being away from home, the full flood of energy, the craving for excitement and new experiences---- all those things are just built in to the undergraduate experience.
The New Victorians and the moralisers seem to forget that sex is a powerful physical thing, and that sex can be an adventure, a pure physical rush. Why is it that it's acceptable to feel edgy or restless or bored on a Friday night and decide to go run five miles or swim laps, but that going out to find an attractive partner and have sex 'til dawn is a Major Social Problem? Sex that's about a release of energy or a way to relieve boredom or stress, sex that's done purely for excitement or to have a new experience challenges the rules that more than a few groups want to impose.
As a gentleman of a certain age, I'm probably not as driven to seek out partners as I was at eighteen, but the drives are still there. Lust doesn't evaporate when one leaves one's twenties. It's harder to seek out new experiences--- I've worked my way through most of the kinds of experience I was hoping for at eighteen. Still, every new partner is a new world, and I'm someone's new experience every time a young companion has an adventure with me. There are still nights when I'm restless or on edge or melancholy and need the rush of physicality.
Aging roués are usually cast as the villain, though often with a hint of the sadly comic about them. These days, too, roué-hood carries a weight of disapproving DSM-IV and gender-studies terms. One has an obligation to one's young companions, the same obligation one had as an undergraduate. Be someone's adventure. Offer someone excitement and as much delight as you can. That's worth remembering. Names aren't always important, phone numbers aren't always exchanged. What matters on hook-up nights, what matters in seductions in hotel suites, is that there is a sense of adventure and a rush of delight. Physical release or a sense of playing out a script or a rather intricate game--- sex can get you there, and it's perfectly acceptable to want to go to just those places.
I've never understood what's now called "slut-shaming", and I've never taken sex to be something deeply "spiritual" or sacralised. I am fine with what's called "hook-up culture", and I'm fine with the idea of sex as something one can do just for the rush, the same way someone might do a 5-K run or hang glide. Just...make it an adventure. Make it a novel or a film. Look for delights and construct games and scenarios that offer up excitement and a sense of the new and thrilling.
There will be nights when you need that rush, or when you just need to desire and feel desired, or when your body just needs release. Accept that. Look inside yourself for how you want those things to be structured. Sex against a wall behind a club with an attractive stranger? Going up to the rooms of someone scandalously older? There's a time for both. And both can be adventures, can be part of the stories you'll keep in your head.