I saw a definition of love recently from Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century philosopher and theologian, that resonated with me. He defined love as "willing the good of the other." He built on Aristotle's view on love as goodwill toward another for the benefit of that person and not oneself.
And I thought, "How could that be applied to hook up culture? How can we bring love to a one-night stand?"
On the rare occasion, I'll have multiple "encounters" with a young man, but my dating life tends to be a series of one-night stands. However, I've always approached each encounter intentionally and consciously, even if it was for a few hours and I may have forgotten a name (oops). And there have been some encounters that just didn't feel right with the age dynamic, and I have graciously walked, even if it was "legal" and would have been consensual. Because that's not always enough.
In her opinion piece in the Washington Post titled "Consent is not Enough. We need a new sexual ethic", columnist Christine Emba writes, "Willing the good means caring enough about another person to consider how your actions (and their consequences) might affect them — and then choosing not to act if the outcome would be negative. It’s mutual concern — thinking about someone other than yourself and then working so their experience is as good as you hope yours to be. It’s taking responsibility for navigating interactions that might seem ambiguous, rather than using that ambiguity to excuse self-serving 'misunderstandings.'" She posits that consent simply isn't enough.
Bringing this loving approach to a one-night stand means navigating a number of factors that men with stilted emotional intelligence simply lack. (And if your sex education is porn, you're definitely not learning these things.)
Dynamics such as age, gender, power and money need to be considered. What are the intoxication levels--yours and theirs? Is your partner's yes an enthusiastic yes or are they just going along with things to be nice? Are you fetishizing the person or can you see the humanity beyond age or ethnicity? Are you objectifying your partner, making them a bucket list item or something to be tossed tomorrow like yesterday's garbage, someone to "run through"?
Are you both aligned on what this activity is--a one-night stand, a situationship, leading to something serious, committed? Are you focused on their pleasure and actively communicating about that (vs. a selfish, one-sided taking from another person)? Are you emulating what you think sex is because you learned it from porn (male pleasure-centered with violent and often degrading acts that are normalized in porn but DEFINITELY need discussion)?
I enjoy conversation prior to any sexual activity to ascertain the vibe and feel out many of the factors above. And, I genuinely enjoy getting to know human beings without sex as an end goal. If I were to suggest anything to my male partners, it would be to see the personhood and respect the humanity in their sexual partners (you would never learn this from porn). I would also encourage tenderness and aftercare (maybe some cuddling or watching a movie or a playful debrief of the romp). Consider the factors above and cultivate your emotional intelligence to navigate subtle factors beyond mere consent.
It's not commitment or marriage, and if you've communicated, it's not leading someone on. It's just simply being conscious and present, practicing namaste with a one-night stand: the love/divinity in me recognizes the love/divinity in you. It brings a one-night stand to a whole new, respectful and satisfying level where both parties win.
By Patsy Mennuti, Hella Cougar