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No such thing as free sex

  • Published at 06:04 pm February 17th, 2019
Female and Male
Just another way of distancing ourselves? BIGSTOCK

What is the true cost?

As millennials we have a lot of things easy -- sex, surprisingly, being one of those things. 

Today’s youth -- at least those belonging to a certain small circle and privileged enough to live in their own bubbles of relative luxury or comforts -- have little to worry about in terms of the basic necessities of life.

In the absence of having to scramble for the basic necessities of life, our generation has found new things to get busy with; an endless pursuit of sexual gratification being one of the most engrossing ones.

Nowadays, that particular pursuit has become too easy, even in a city like Dhaka and a culture such as ours.

Dating apps, social media, house parties, random encounters at select bars, word-of-mouth, and our obsession with the “showbiz mentality” have made sex as easy a commodity to find as is portrayed in popular Holly/Bollywood media.

Worshipping the gods of TV and movies and submitting to the call of the fear of missing out, all too often us millennials end up treating the act of physical intimacy as “secondary” and “inconsequential” compared to other long-term, more time-consuming commitments.

“It’s just sex, what harm is it going to do?,” we say to ourselves, as we try to keep our emotions separate from our carnal cravings. 

We already have our professional and social lives to constantly worry about; a few hours of getting frisky with this new person you met just the other day will only ease the stress -- it’s not that big a deal, right?


At this point, I feel like I must clarify that I am in no way some kind of prude or religious zealot -- in fact, years of rebelling against traditional Bangladeshi norms have only strengthened my take on sexuality and individualism.

But are “casual” sexual relationships really that casual? Do they come without any (non-financial) costs?

Can they be brushed off as just another part of the human experience that we shouldn’t really pay all that much attention to? 

Considering personal experience and years of traversing among the small but all-too-familiar circle of Dhaka millennials, I am tempted to disagree. 

Physical bonding between two people is inevitably related to the psychological aspects of it -- we are not animals caring only to mate during seasons.

Moments shared between two individuals behind closed doors carry far-reaching meanings than we care to think about, for a variety of reasons.

First, the South Asian society, in general, does not put much weight behind casual physical relationships. Generations of filial ties and arranged marriages and taboos regarding premarital sex have ingrained in us a certain mindset that compels us to consider relationships in terms of long-period intervals. 

The instance you have sex with someone, regardless of reciprocity, that person might just subconsciously turn into a suitable candidate for your future life partner, especially when you’ve reached the ripe old age of 20-something. But, of course, such relationships rarely end up in anything other than heartbreak.

Whether this “one-dimensional” school of thought is justified or needs to be revised, is a different argument, but it does exist and is, indeed, quite prevalent.

Second, and far more pertinent, sex is not a matter to be taken light-heartedly.

Of course, in a society that has had such a long, obsessive history with sex (whether we want to admit it or not) -- which has culminated in today’s more sexually-liberated society -- my words might come as ridiculously naive and instantly dismissive.

But, when you have laid yourself bare, when you have stripped yourself of all your inhibitions, when you have agreed to -- no matter how whimsically -- allow a person to see you in your most vulnerable physical state, it cannot, in my belief, remain “casual” or “easy-going” or “laid-back” or “relaxed” anymore.

There are complex, multi-layered feelings at work here that only each individual uniquely experiences.

For each woman and man, every instance of sexual indulgence attaches a particular meaning to their personal history that can either create a very negative or positive influence in the long run.

But, all too often, us millennials expect casual sex to come as naturally as camaraderie. 

More often than not, we forgo all the steps necessary to make a relationship meaningful and satisfactory, and instead jump into something fueled by the need for instant gratification.

We neglect to take the time to have a one-on-one conversation with ourselves that might give the answer to the question: “Is this really what I want?”

Too many times has one “friend” in a “friends with benefits” arrangement start having romantic feelings for the other, only to realize all of those feelings would remain unreciprocated, and it would have been better not to have had anything in the first place.

We forget that these momentary delights might have such long-lasting impacts that, years after, any relationship we try to build on might feel empty and repetitive and might, eventually, burn out.

Maybe, once in a while, we should ask ourselves: Wouldn’t it be better if we took a moment to step back and think about the price we pay for just a fleeting moment of pleasure?

Nothing comes for free, after all. 

Shamsil Kamal is a sub-editor at the Dhaka Tribune.

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