According to Kate Bollick, the Mosuo people of southwest China never get married. One night stands are perfectly acceptable, brothers assume paternal responsibility for their sisters’ children and everyone is totally okay with this.
In All the Single Ladies, Bollick explains,
Sexual relations are kept separate from family. At night, a Mosuo woman invites her lover to visit her babahuago (flower room); the assignation is called sese (walking). If she’d prefer he not sleep over, he’ll retire to an outer building (never home to his sisters). She can take another lover that night, or a different one the next, or sleep every single night with the same man for the rest of her life—there are no expectations or rules. As Cai Hua, a Chinese anthropologist, explains, these relationships, which are known as açia, are founded on each individual’s autonomy, and last only as long as each person is in the other’s company. Every goodbye is taken to be the end of the açia relationship, even if it resumes the following night. “There is no concept of açia that applies to the future,” Hua says.
Before I continue with today’s post, would somebody please give me a research grant to go to there? Because frankly I’m not convinced. I’d like to conduct a few interviews of my own (and no, by that I don’t mean I want to go sleep with a bunch of Mosuo men; I’d want to talk to the women because there’s got to be more to it than that.)
Is it really possible to go through life having one night stands (or series of “one night stands” with the same person) without getting emotionally attached?
I wouldn’t know. You see, I’ve never actually had a one night stand. I came pretty close when I was in Scotland several years ago (there’s something about being on vacation when you’re already living abroad that makes reality and its more unfortunate consequences seem even further away that usual) but the moment my sweet-talking Scotsman pulled a condom from his nightstand, I realized that we were quickly approaching the point of no return and I got a grip.
Or wimpled out.
Interpret it as you will (judging by his physique and his general agility on the dance floor, I’m pretty sure the sex would have been f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s) but the point is we didn’t go through with it, and that was the closest I’ve ever come to sex of the “sese” variety.
During my last few months in London, I shared a flat with a trio of British undergraduates. They were a good deal of fun but they were always (or so it seemed to me as I sat at the kitchen table wishing they would shut up so I could finish writing my dissertation) either drunk or hung over. For weeks on end, they ricocheted from one extreme to the other with frighteningly little recovery time in between. One night I came downstairs to find a note tacked to the fridge:
To the gorgeous blond in the blue dress: call xxx for a night of no string sex. Xx
It had been given to one of my flat mates the night before and she was, judging by its position on the refrigerator door, quite proud of her little proposition.
(Admittedly, if I’d receiving a similar communiqué, I’m sure I would have displayed it in a position of prominence as well. Of course, being that I’m currently renting from my parents, the refrigerator door probably wouldn’t be the best place. My mother’s rather fussy about what she allows onto the refrigerator and even if I my parents were the type to display photographs cards and childhood drawings from their now-adult children, I doubt they want a proposal for “no strings sex” rubbing elbows with my old report cards.)
At any rate, I was amused, and appalled, and not altogether surprised to learn, upon my return to London several months later, that the flat mate in question was pregnant and dropping out of school.
(To her credit, she’s since launched a little side business as a “party organizer” for Ann Summers, which is essentially the British version of… actually we don’t have an American equivalent, but she seems to be doing perfectly well for herself and her son and frankly, I’m not surprised by this either. She always was the most financially savvy of the flat mates.)
So my question is this: for those of you who have had one night stands (or who haven’t, for reasons of personal, moral or religious convictions) would modern society be better off if we were to simply borrow a page from the Musuo and get ourselves some “flower rooms?”