Q: I’m a 33-year-old woman. Though I don’t want a boyfriend right now, I have a strong sex drive and don’t want to go without sex. I’ve tried the hookup apps, but besides finding sleeping with strangers sexually unsatisfying, I’m always a little surprised at how emotionally empty I end up feeling. (It’s not like I want any of these guys to be a boyfriend.)—Hungry
A: It’s possible for a woman to have an orgasm from hookup sex—just as it’s possible to spot a white rhino grazing on a roadway median in suburban Detroit.
The reality is, hookups tend to work best if you are a man or a trailer. Research by sociologist Elizabeth A. Armstrong and her colleagues finds that for women, hookup sex is particularly problematic in the orgasm-dispensing department. In first-time hookups, women they surveyed reported orgasms only 11 percent of the time—compared with 67 percent of the time from sex in a relationship. However, the more times a woman had slept with her current hookup partner, the more likely she was to finish with screams of ecstasy—and not the ones that stand in for, “You ’bout done yet?”
As for why you feel crappy after your latest Captain Hookup shinnies down the drainpipe, I’ve written before about how female emotions seem to have evolved to act as an alarm system against deficient male “investment.” They push women to crave emotional connection after sex—even when they went into it wanting nothing more than a little sexercise with some himbo. There’s support for this notion. An analysis of findings from 24 brain imaging studies led psychiatrist Timm Poeppl and his colleagues to conclude that “sexual stimulation seems to activate key regions for emotional attachment and pair bonding more consistently in women than in men.”
So, it isn’t exactly bizarre that you, as a woman, find hooking up with a stranger about as emotionally and sexually satisfying as a fist bump. This doesn’t mean that you have to rush a boyfriend into your life to have sex. You can eliminate some of the problems of hookup sex by finding a regular sex-quaintance—ideally, a guy friend who’s sweet and attractive but who falls steeply short of the qualifications you have for a romantic partner.
This is somebody you can gradually show around your body and train in the magic trick it takes for you to have an orgasm—as opposed to some single-serving Romeo who approaches your body like a burglar in a pitch-black china shop. And, finally, having at least friendly affection for somebody you sleep with should mean that sex leaves you feeling, if not loved, well, less like a rental car somebody just dropped off.
Q: I’m a 30-year-old gay guy. I was laid off, and I’m freelancing crazy hours to try to pay my rent and bills. My best friend’s birthday was this past weekend, and I did what I could timewise (and put a modest gift on my credit card), but he’s totally bent out of shape because he feels like I neglected him. He equates the attention you pay to his birthday with how much you care, which is so ridiculous.—Feeling Bad
A: What kind of friend are you that you couldn’t, say, sell a kidney on the black market and buy the guy a proper gift? Yes, it seems that you prioritized frivolities such as paying rent and keeping the lights on. Of course, putting your financial survival first doesn’t mean that you’re a bad friend. The, uh, brat of honor probably just sees it that way because of what psychologists call “attribution bias.” This describes how we tend to be charitable in explaining our own errors and failings—excusing them as situational (the result of something that’s happened to us)—while attributing others’ to the sort of people they are (compassionless, birthday-hating monsters).
Have a sit-down with your friend and explain that you care deeply about him. Emphasize that it was a lack of time and funding, not a lack of feeling, that kept you from, say, renting a bouncy house on his special day. Recognize that there’s probably some woundy place in him that makes him this way, basically expecting his birthday to be treated like some major national holiday. OK, maybe the guy’s first name is Martin. Chances are, the two that follow aren’t “Luther” and “King.”