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Sex vs Romance: Love in the Age of Capitalism

Valentine's Day begs the dreaded question: Can we have sex without love?


by Hanna Skye Kahlert

At the intersection between sex, money, and love comes 'Valentine's Day'. So, of course, the overpriced chocolates in fancy boxes glare at you from the Sainsbury’s checkout and you’ll hear at least one tale of a passive-aggressive girlfriend angry that her useless boyfriend didn’t do enough on The Big Day. It’s a great holiday. Can you tell I love Valentine's Day?


Okay, maybe not. Some of us are not particularly comfortable enough with our own emotional vulnerability to, say, ask for special attention from that special someone, or even admit to that special someone that they are special, or, for that matter, get far enough along in life to have someone who could potentially be “special” at all. In a world which prizes fidelity, love, and success in the form of coupling off, and scorns vulnerability, romantic failure, and the open expression of things not being okay, negotiating a deep emotional relationship with another human being is a tricky process that cannot be undergone without unwanted audience participation.  It is almost impossible to accomplish successfully until you’re first self-aware enough to filter out all the bullshit. 


People couple off because they think they should, because they’re afraid of being alone, because they need support, and sometimes just because they actually like each other.

At the end of the day this results in a variety of people all doing the same thing for a terrifying variety of reasons in an infinite variety of ways. If you, like me, are afraid of getting too involved in something before having the chance to realize you aren’t actually that interested and you don’t know how to escape, this whole subject can be a distressingly irresolvable struggle. 


Now, I’ll tell you what is way better than all of that romantic bullshit. Sex! Sex is great. It’s easy. It’s fun. It is, if you’re direct enough, mutually enjoyable. You can have it with people you know, unexpectedly. You can have a lot of it with one person for a long time, and that can be great too. Or you can sidle up to a totally random stranger who strikes your fancy when you’re both too drunk to overthink and be like, hey, let’s go have a fun time seeing parts of each other our closest friends don’t know about, and then not talk to each other ever again. Just because it’s fleeting doesn’t mean it has no meaning. 


Where the worlds of sex and romance collide is where humans have been floundering for centuries.


Can two people of compatible sexual orientations just be friends? Can friends have sex without falling in love?

Can people just have sex with each other without developing any feelings for each other whatsoever? Are there even any actual answers, or is it all situational? 


The answers are probably different for everybody. Some people have no problem using others, be that for sex, homework, or climbing the chain of employment. Some have hearts so big and a sense of reality so small, they can’t kiss someone without feeling flutters. Some take years to realize they’re actually in a relationship, because the idea of it scares them, but who they are has brought them to that point.


The thing is, sex and relationships - all of it - are so closely tied with who we are as people, that things can become very complicated, very fast. Sometimes, for example, we don’t like to be seen with certain people, because that’s telling of a side of ourselves we’re not comfortable with. Self-image is also insanely relevant because of this, in a lot of ways. It’s easy to hurt someone you love when you have poor self-image: they mean so much to you, that your emotional reaction overwhelms your ability to actually see what’s going on in the situation, and rather than treat them like a normal human being with basic decency and respect, you treat them the way you would yourself- not very well. Or, more simply, how you see yourself defines what you look for, how happy you are with what you have, and what you think you deserve. See? Rom Coms teach nothing about the true potential intricacies of human relationships. 


Some of you likely have no idea of what I’m talking about. That’s okay. Not everyone tends to overthink things and can actually just do them. But, if I have any point to make overall, it is this:


Relationships are complicated, and Valentine’s Day is an exercise in capitalist stupidity.

However, caring about others is one of the most beautiful, redeeming, inherent qualities of humanity, and so despite the struggle we carry on trying and doing wonderful things together and for one another. Some of us find it easier to draw boundary lines and set out expectations and have clear definitions of what they want. Personally, I think that if you think you only want one thing, you haven’t even learned enough about yourself to understand what it is you could want. Others find that life is brilliantly complex, and making connections with others isn’t a standardized thing but rather something which can be experienced in a completely new way each time you do it. Whatever the case, there seems to be only one constant. To love someone is to know them, and care about them, and want to see them grow and prosper. To love only what they are to you is to experience only a fraction of it. Be kind, to yourself and to others, and maybe one day you won’t be so cynical about Valentine’s Day.

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