What’s love got to do with it?

What’s love got to do with it?
Does the Big L have to be a part of your big night?

Tina Turner never answered the question: What exactly does love have to do with it? And yes, by “it,” I mean sex.

It’s that time in our lives when we all must experiment. Does sex require us to be in love with our partner? It depends who you ask. The Catholic Church? The Pope just shot you a dirty look, so I guess that’s a yes. That boy you met at a party last weekend? Definitely not.

So there’s a difference of opinion, obviously, but I believe there is one fail-safe rule to apply in college sexual encounters: There should at least be strong affections. Love’s a silly thing. I’ve heard it described as the greatest of all emotions. And as the worst. And as a random firing of synapses in the brain that is intended to keep us, as a species, alive. It’s worthless to try to define love and apply it.

Affection, though, is a definite yes. You may scoff, “Of course, silly!” Recall that a few drinks is not a prerequisite to affection and, hence, is not a pre-prerequisite to jumping in the sack. Similarly, the phrase “He was really hot” should not cut it. We’re not dreaming over pictures of Johnny Depp anymore, kids; we’re talking about the big one. Hopefully, we’re also talking about the Big O. And no, I don’t mean Oprah.

In my own limited experience, and that of my friends, no random encounters have ever yielded prolonged happiness. Not just sex itself, but all the preliminaries. In college, sex and its precursors are too often linked to alcohol, impulsivity, or both. I don’t want to sound like your mother, but it’s true. And though I think that ultimately men do feel differently about the need for true affection and regard for a partner, I do think they are lying when they say that random fooling around does not yield more.

We are social creatures. Everyone — yes, even the horniest among us — is hoping for a connection beyond the sex. But if it’s just your body parts that are connecting, you’ll feel numbed in the long run, rather than exhilarated. I like to believe that we the people actually believe in joy that passes between two people who have something in common, more than just mutual release of bodily fluids (or not, for the unfortunate). Call me crazy.

As for the old adage, “Who needs a heart, when a heart can be broken?” I believe whole-heartedly (pun intended) that we can experience greater pain on the so-called morning after if we feel nothing for the person we have shared our moment with. And guys, you aren’t fooling me; sometimes it really is a moment.

And as for the L-word? Well, you’ll get very different stories from folks if you try to discover what love is. It’s a function of the songs we’ve written about it. It’s one of the most-discussed topics in popular music from any era. If we comprehended its meanings we would no longer sing about it. There are somewhat fewer songs about sex. No, the Bloodhound Gang doesn’t count.

Like I said, I don’t mean to be your mama. Girls and guys alike have championed the cause of casual sex. I am not about to tell you that sex without love is like cookies without milk. In fact, sometimes mixing sex and love can cause unexpected issues. It’s harder to tell the one you love that you’re not satisfied in the bedroom. Conversely, I don’t know if it’s easier to tell a relative stranger that they got to rub you the right way. Some may say that random sex is a great time. Those people also have jock itch. Seriously, though, keep in mind that they don’t call it “The Walk of Shame” because it’s a great time.

If you want someone beside you in bed, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, you want to walk out with no regrets. This means no sex with people you don’t know from John Smith. Second, if there is some mutual appreciation between two people, you’re less likely to get into a situation where it’s uncomfortable. Too many of my friends have been jacked up by having sex or something like it with someone who just didn’t care if they lived or died after that. Third, this advice applies to guys: Men are not immune to emotions, no matter what game they talk. The rejection of a lover when you realize it was a one-night fling can be just as painful on either side of the Adam and Eve equation.

Love may have nothing to do with it, but feeling should have something to do with it. Without the feeling, you may as well have stayed home and killed a kitten.