I’d only been stateside for a New York minute when I found myself chatting to a group of friendly strangers in Boxers, a gay sports bar (sort of). There’s footie on the TV, but Christina Aguilera whaling out the speakers. Anyway, those damn Happy Hours got me chewing stranger’s ears off like a piece of bacon fat. And it wasn’t long before the cocktalk ensued. This week’s topic of discussion was how we can get stuck in the lowest denominator of intimacy that we engage in, and how this might be detrimental to our love life in the long-term.

When we lower the ceiling on the level of intimacies that we engage in, and even sexually experiment outside of our norm boundaries, are we in-turn setting our own trap? Once we’ve partook in casual sex in a bathhouse, group sex from Grindr, or entered the throbbing fetish scene, are we then hesitant to look for anything more than that?

As humans, we crave attention, intimacy and love, and so it wouldn’t be out of character for us to attempt to take the easy route to at least two of those things. Shortcuts to satisfaction and success (read: laziness) are also part of our natural inclination. (Or at least until we try it a few times, and then realise that it doesn’t work). It’s why we take steroids, have invented dating apps, and use live streaming. We’re impatient. We want results, and we want them fast. That includes sex. And now we live in a society which makes that possible. So in our rush to satisfy our sexual appetite, are we becoming lackadaisical in searching for real connections?

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They say that “practice makes perfect”, so if we only ever engage in anonymous and quick sex, while we may become an expert at it, we’re not putting in the practice it takes to love; effectively, we’re exercising our dicks, but not our hearts. And so when love comes along, in all its Tsunamic glory, how will we deal with it? I mean, can we ever really be fully equipped for love? Probably not. But when we’re stuck in a rut of finger-snap orgasms and drug-fueled fondling, how could we even expect to be?

“Because what works for you on the cheap, doesn’t prepare you for the real thing.” AJ* tells me. Highlighting that although they have a complicated and intertwined relationship, sex and love, are not the same thing. In today’s world, not even close.

So why engage in that lowest denominator to begin with? Well, if you’ve ever felt an orgasm, then surely there’s your answer. But aside from its ease, perhaps our lowest denominator of intimacy is just a way for us to mask our own self-imposed limits on commitment. Funnily enough, many of us have already subconsciously decided we don’t prioritize love, because, deep down, we know better than to look for it at an orgy or in the sauna. But, and here’s the crux, it’s also in our nature to experiment. In every sense of the word, but especially sexually.

‘How do you know, unless you try?’, right? And we should certainly not be restricted in our sexual experimentation with the threat that it may obscure finding love, but whether we’re accessing sex more easily, or delving further into the sleazier side of sex that many of us subconsciously crave, are we then doomed to settle for nothing less? It’s like having sex every day for a year, to then go back to wanking. It ain’t gonna cut the mustard!

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Similarly, will men in open relationships be disheartened coming hope to one dick after scoffing seven at the gangbang earlier? Will men that have sat on traffic cones even notice when you use your dick? And once we’ve swapped vanilla for (50 Shades of) Gray, will we ever want to leave the Red Room?

Not only that, but do we then begin to change our own relationship with sex? ‘Sex Addicts Anonymous’ exists for a reason after all, and the more we have it, often the more we want it. Sexual experimentation is healthy, but is keeping it just to an experiment, the key? It’s always fun and sexy to live out your fantasies, but at some point we have to come back to the real world. At least, if our goal is a more traditional relationship where emotional and psychological connections are just as important as sexual.

After our conversation, AJ and I sucked face. Sponsored by vodka, obviously. Before he left in a taxi with another guy. Perhaps one night stands with easy strangers were just his lowest denominator.

Words by Anthony Gilét