This week’s Hump Day is in response to Theresa Cooley’s Feb. 17 column in The Badger Herald.

Allow me to tell you a little more about myself. I am a hopeless romantic who believes in the power of love and devotion. I also happen to be a horny slut who has a decent amount of (what has been referred to as) casual sex. These two characteristics are not mutually exclusive.

Last week, Badgers celebrated both Valentine’s Day and National Condom Week. In recognition of NCW, there were condoms everywhere: condom roses, condom heart grams, condom suckers, condom Instagrams and even condoms taped to doors. Some people did not like this. Some people have gone so far as to imply that condom roses signify a cheap version of “love” while a botanical red rose is meant for authentic love.

But did you know that sometimes people who love each other also have sex as a means of physically expressing and sharing the affection they feel for each other? This actually happens quite frequently for me, most typically in the context of a long-term relationship. I’m guessing this is also how most American college students experience sex, given that their median number of partners in a calendar year is one.

Sex does not detract from life and love. On the contrary, sex is entirely about life and love. Sex is about wading through the bullshit and the fakeness of how we politely suture ourselves up to the world. Sex has the power to get us to the crux of our vulnerabilities and passions. It allows us to let go of inhibitions and get sweaty, grunt, make funny noises, tell secrets, contort our faces, get into unflattering body positions and make our most private of parts feel explosions of tingles. Good sex allows people to lose themselves in each other and get a glimpse of raw human emotion and desire. It is intimate, enjoyable, personal and, when done right, has the potential to foster genuine human connection and even heal. Some people of religious orientation (not I, clearly) even report that truly-connected sex can make them feel closer to God.

Many people prefer to reserve this type of sex for a long-term, monogamous relationship. But it’s also possible to experience this level of connection in “casual hook-ups,” provided the people involved are open enough to explore it.

I know this because I’ve had plenty of this type of sex in a “casual,” outside-of-a-relationship arrangement with fabulous, communicative partners. I’ve also had boring, self-gratifying, fleeting sex with silent partners who avoid eye contact. But those tend to be the guys who grind on me and pick me up at bars, only to reveal their bodies are covered in giant Jesus and scripture tattoos.

Making the connection yet? Many young people aren’t open enough to experience these joyful, mutually respectful, meaningful sexual encounters precisely because there are people in this world (ahem, Catholics) who make it their life missions to keep the discourse on sexuality closed, leaving us no language to talk about it. And that’s a damn shame.

Part of the problem is that these people conflate “casual” sex with meaningless sex. Sex can be casual and also hold meaning to the people involved. It’s possible to not love a person yet still want to make them feel good and share an experience with them.

Of course, sex is hardly casual. It can result in babies, infection and disease, not to mention broken hearts. This is why sexual health resources encourage students to take their sex lives seriously by talking about condoms, birth control, testing and communication.

To be clear, no one is encouraging anybody to have sex.  In fact, I would like to actively discourage people who have insurmountable judgmental hang-ups or sex-negative views from engaging in sexual activity with other humans. You’re gonna fucking hurt someone or give them a complex or shame-induced sexual dysfunction.

I certainly have an agenda to encourage folks who are already having sex (or wanting to have sex) to have consensual, pleasurable and safe sex. But University Health Services, Sex Out Loud, Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, the Campus Women’s Center and LGBT Campus Center do not hand out safer sex supplies. We simply leave them on the table so the people who want or need them have access. You don’t want them? Good, don’t take any. As I said, sex is personal, which means I am nowhere near important enough of a person to advise you on whether it’s right or wrong to have casual, loveless, romantic or any sex. Nor am I important enough of a person to advise you on how to handle any unintended pregnancies that may result from sex. Neither is Theresa Cooley. Only you get to make those decisions.

To everyone reading this: The amount of sex you have and the ways you express your sexual desire have nothing to do with your inherent dignity or how worthy a person you are. I find it laughable that the very people with anti- or sex-negative views are the ones so obsessed with sex to get their panties in a bunch over this.

You deserve a respectful relationship that cherishes all parts of you and does not require you to sacrifice parts of yourself, whether that relationship is with a fuck buddy, friend or spouse. Your value is not tied up to your sexuality, whether you have casual sex, sex for love or no sex at all. Your value comes from the good you put into the world—how genuine you are or how often you make yourself helpful to others. It comes from how good of a listener and a friend you are and how many times you choose to tell the truth instead of screwing people over. Your value is tied to how much laughter, wonder and joy you put into the world. And my blowjobs bring joy to the world, goddamn it!