We’ve all been there. Whether it’s after a heartbreak or just one of those nights where inhibitions fly out of the window. Suddenly, love in the form of a committed relationship–and all its complexity–isn’t worth it, or even needed. And, eyes closed, swaying in the middle of the night to the beat of our own desires, we are okay with no strings, no attachments, no “love.”

I think I’m better off not knowing
When you leave my bed, where you be goin’
It’s obvious I ain’t your only
But I ain’t ready to be lonely
So this is not an ultimatum
Knew the rules to your games before I played ’em
You ain’t even gotta mean it
But I still need to hear it
Just tell me a lie, fool me babe…
-“Lie to Me” by Keri Hilson (feat. Timbaland)

I don’t  think there’s anything wrong with those nights. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have them myself–way more than I’d care to admit.  Honestly, I think we should all be more willing to give ourselves the freedom to fully explore what it is we do and don’t want, pushing against  the confines of a society that says there’s only one way to love, romantically.

But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. It becomes problematic when we begin to glamorize being detached, willing perpetrators leaving victims in our wake. All in the name of being able to chuck the deuces after sex(ual intimacy). Not because that’s all we’re really looking for. There are moments when that is all a person is looking for–and that’s okay, too–but because we’re often afraid to risk finding what we’re so content on running away from.

Although the urge is natural, our recent obsession with what I’d call embodying a “no love” sex(ual intimacy) culture isn’t.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but in those moments where I’m licking my lips and narrowing my bedroom eyes, with the goal of conquering through the way I only know how, there’s so much more simmering beneath the surface. I feel invincible, wanted, needed, and worthy.

And although I’m hell bent on never revealing a capacity to love or be more than the manifestation of the other person’s fantasy, that is when I feel most able, equipped, and open to give my all, physically and emotionally. To make the earth shake and quake beneath our feet, so that our legacy can be forever remembered. That’s the goal, right?

Red light
You know I can’t make this thing that official
Believe we had a great night
But I ain’t the type to tell you that I miss you, shit
You don’t like that I make this easy, leaving
After sexing on the floor
Baby I know you need me, like I need you
But I’m not the one you wanna love…
-“No Love” by August Alsina (feat. Nicki Minaj)

Although the urge is natural, our recent obsession with what I’d call embodying a “no love” sex(ual intimacy) culture isn’t. Just as our ideas of masculinity, monogamy, wedding for love, sexual roles, and even gender expression have been socially constructed, conditioned, and reinforced, so has this. And through the most powerful vehicle of all: music.

Think about it, what’s an essential part of “setting the mood?” Music. And what is more accessible in more ways than we can even imagine, whether it is in the palm of our hand, the swipe of a screen, etc. Music. And to take this a step further, what do a lot of us rely on to change/set the mood, relieve stress, invoke nostalgia, boost confidence, and just cope with the many things that life throws at us? Yeah, you already got it: music.

So what happens when such a–dare I say intimate–connection is blasting in the sexiest way possible a message of “no love?” We glamorize it. And although punching someone in the face on the street or asking someone to get on their knees and suck your d*ck for everyone to hear isn’t exactly kosher or socially acceptable, everything seems suddenly more okay with a powerful beat, a sexy voice, and our wildest imagination.

I’m fucked up, I’m black and blue
I’m built for it, all the abuse
I got secrets, that nobody, nobody knows
[…] My freakness is on the loose
And running, all over you
Please take me to places, that nobody, nobody knows
You got me hooked up on the feeling
You got me hanging from the ceiling
Got me up so high I’m barely breathing…
I need a gangsta
To love me better
Than all the others do
To always forgive me
Ride or die with me
That’s just what gangsters do…
– “Gangsta” by Kehlani

Whether we want to admit it or not, in us exists polar opposites,  a symphony of harmonious contradictions. It is our obligation to hold space for this reality, if we’re serious about better understanding who we are, what we want, and more importantly, what we need. But in order to do so, it is just as important for us to be critical about these fragments of ourselves. Not through a lens of judgement–there’s enough of that in society–but from a place of acceptance, compassion.

We must be brave enough to see when we’re yearning to break free from the cages we–and society–created for us, and when we are becoming and welcoming the very thing we say we don’t want. We must seek clarity, understanding when it really is just the pursuit of physical, temporary release, and when we’re actually using sex(ual intimacy) as a tool of manipulation because we’re afraid to admit we need to be needed, crave intimacy, are really looking for love, and just want someone willing to see, feel, and hear us.

Yes, we live in a “no love” sex(ual intimacy) culture that glamorizes gangstas, lies, and selling hearts… But it shouldn’t surpass an even greater truth: we still crave for connection.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from the many interviews I’ve conducted, and my own archaeology of self, is we also have to question this obsession for martyrdom in the name of love. It’s one thing to accept the inevitability of disappointment and pain that comes with love and relationships. But it’s another thing to willingly lie across the train tracks or burn ourselves at the stake because we feel that’s all we’re capable and worthy of.

Yes, we live in a “no love” sex(ual intimacy) culture that glamorizes gangstas, lies, and selling hearts. And we’d be lying to ourselves if we said none of it was real. There is undeniable truth behind all of it. But it shouldn’t surpass an even greater truth: despite the pain, lies, and the all-encompassing flame that feeds off of sex(ual intimacy), we still crave for connection.  The type of unconditional connection where the other person not only whispers, “Can I stay?” but also asks, “Can I accept the love you want to give, and love you back in return?”

It’s a heart for sale
who’s buying?
I don’t care who’s crying
It’s trust for sale
who’s buying?
I don’t care who’s lying.
– “Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart” by Nicki Minaj (feat. Meek Mill)