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Sex Without a Safety Net

“All serious daring starts from within.” -Eudora Welty

Sex has become the gateway meeting. Driven by phone apps and new social conventions of myriad hook ups as a way to “get to know someone,” sex- the deepest intimate connection we have to offer to another human being has been turned on its head and is now shared among much of the millennial generation with little more regard than a meeting for a drink. Sometimes, it starts with meeting for a drink- but by and large the idea of reserving the revelation of our sexual selves for the safe confines of an intimate relationship is passé. Being a mother of 4 young adults, I frequently witness the havoc that this new version of sexuality wreaks on the budding erotic souls of our next generation.

While in Germany last week at an international organic trade show, one of the young women, an organizer of the event jokingly shared about her Tinder meetings in Paris. “This is the only way you can meet people” she said. For those who don’t know Tinder, the popular global app in which with only a photo to go on, people search for sex with a stranger. I tried to hide my surprise and dismay as this beautiful, accomplished young woman made light of the meetings that didn’t turn out as expected, but the pain behind her laughter was palpable.

As all of the old rules and rituals about how sexual relationships begin, evolve and sustain themselves fade, many young adults are left to deal with the emotional repercussions of sex gone wrong- frequently. Given the high percentages of failed relationships they witnessed growing up, their distrust of old models of courtship and committed relating is understandable. And yet, our sexuality, the most mysterious and vulnerable aspect of what makes us human, needs a container of trust and intimacy to open itself.

The safety net that makes sex great is woven out of the daily and seemingly small interactions that allow us to truly know each other and build trust. Sharing meals, taking turns in getting what we want, listening to the other figure out their own thoughts all contribute to making that deep dive into the search for orgasmic release safe but still exciting. When we are truly held by someone who has proven they care, we can really let go and see what our erotic urgings are made of. Without this, it’s all for show- and in the end, often resembles some form of violation.

Worse still, repeatedly searching for what we want for our hearts with our genitals makes us untrustworthy to ourselves. This remarkably common form of self-abuse limits our sexuality instead of enhancing it. Mating rituals matter, they are not nothing, arguably, they say everything about how loveable we are. And, as we repeatedly diminish the essence of mating rituals we lose sight of our own true lovability. Except when you are young, you don’t know to call it by this name, which drives you to try again.

We need each other and we need each other sexually. But separating the two, behaving as if the sex alone will do, is harmful and damaging to our vulnerable erotic souls. Having the guts to build a safety net to grow up sexually is daring and bold.