Taking Love to Heart: Turn On and Drop Out of Hookup Culture

Apparently the culture of casual sex hookups and "friends with benefits" relationships now rampant on college campuses and elsewhere in American life isn't living up to expectations. In her book The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, researcher Donna Freitas reveals that although she expected to find that the vast majority of college students revel in the casual sex ethos, "instead I encountered a large percentage who feel confined by it or ambivalent about it." Even more surprising, Freitas discovered, "Such hypersexuality can be just as oppressive as a mandate for abstinence." She adds that hookup sex "has a lot less to do with excitement or attraction than with checking a box on a list of tasks, like homework or laundry."

I'm not surprised that college students, or older generations for that matter, find such emotionally-uninvolved sex oppressive. Young people are often disappointed with early sexual experience that may be painful or even abusive and that will negatively affect their entire life. For one thing, we haven't provided any meaningful education on sexuality, emotions, or intimacy. We cram young heads with academics without giving them the skills for life. Freedom is the profound yet paradoxical privilege of our age. We can have sex with whomever we like, with almost as little judgment as there ever has been. Yet most of us know from experience that a genuine encounter with someone we care for deeply can be infinitely more exciting and pleasurable in its intensity than any casual sex. Such intensity spirals from a fullness of feeling called intimacy that originates at the heart, and sexual energy is most potent when it expresses sincere affection and pure love.

Casual sex is a myth created to sell condoms, cologne and everything else. Even leaving aside the emotional mayhem that can arise from casual sexual encounters, promiscuous sampling turns sex into a shallow performance for the sake of spontaneity, fleeting and foolish at best. While we've been conditioned to search for sexual excitement outside of ourselves, the quest more often than not ends up costing us that energy rather than giving it. In fact, no searching is required for sexual arousal. Like nature, sex is not sensational, just miraculous.

The problem begs the question: How do we make sex fun again?

The first and finest possibility to be excited by someone else starts with yourself, in your breathing, moving organism, the blood and air coursing through your veins. Part of the problem is that most people don't know how to be intimate with themselves, so they can't begin to be intimate with another. Hooking up can seem like a convenient way to sidestep the whole issue.

Over the years as a practitioner and teacher of yoga, I've discovered a simple way to increase intimacy with yourself that makes it easier to be intimate with others -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We all have male and female polarities within us, and through a practice of breathing and movement that I've distilled from the ancient yoga, you can learn how to connect and unify those polarities. Receiving -- the feminine polarity -- is the soul of sex, and it is the principle behind inhalation. Just so, the masculine element of strength is present in our exhalation and should be in perfect balance with the receptivity of the inhalation. Yet in so many people that balance has been lost. The masculine polarity often overshadows receptivity, but sex does not continue long if the two people aren't receiving one another in full. The essence of receptivity allows us to be vulnerable, open, quiet, soft, and most importantly, to receive the opportunity to give back, to fuel the spiral of desire, passion, and love that makes sex so much fun.

Breath practice creates a strength sensation called bandha that allows us to direct our vital energies to where they can be of the most use to the most people. We cultivate strength only with the intention to give it to others. This is the circularity of desire that takes place during sex -- the male and female polarities merge and strengthen one another as a byproduct of exhalation and inhalation, or what I call strength that is receptive, the male female union and the form of all life. (I've created a few demo videos to give you the basics of the breathing practice I'm talking about, derived from my book.)

Receive your inhale, taking in the beautiful air and light around you. Strengthen and lengthen your exhale, releasing what you don't need in order to receive what you do and releasing what is old to receive what is new. Keep practicing actually and naturally, daily but not obsessively! Make it a ritual with yourself. Combine it with your other rituals, weaving awareness into every moment of your day, and soon enough you'll be feeling the pulse of sexual, creative energy constantly running through you and all life.

Falling in love is as easy as falling asleep. It just happens naturally when the conditions are right. Trying too hard to sleep prevents sleep! Just like sleep, love comes naturally. It is the natural state. To be intimate with your life as yourself, sensitive to your own body and breath allows intimacy with another to arise easefully. It is given by life itself. Celibacy for a while without motive or agenda -- not because it's somehow superior to sexuality -- can be entirely liberating. When we are already in partnership within ourselves we are finely equipped to manifest it with another. We learn to use our energy efficiently and make a real choice based on our love and desire when a partner comes along. This person will arrive exactly when you're prepared, when you're open to fully receive and participate (as opposed to pursuing sex as another commodity to be acquired or an activity to be checked off the list). The choice will become obvious as soon as this person steps into your life -- as obvious as exhaling after inhaling.

A few generations ago, the sexual revolution freed us from a lot of unhelpful restrictions, but the pendulum has swung way too far. These days, sexual anarchy means making your own rules and sticking to them if you are to survive the emotional battleground. The sun is setting on casual sex. Believe in real love for how it makes you feel. It's here, now.