Most women want sex. Not just love, sex. But the same desire that our culture celebrates in men can leave women feeling anxious, insecure, emotionally attached, or even ashamed. And it’s enough of that. In her new book, Hookup Without Heartbreak, Lia Holmgren teaches women how to let go of those negative feelings and reclaim their sexual freedom. The book teaches how to deal with hookups who ghost you, multiple partners, unclear communication, lousy sex, exploring your fantasies while managing your expectations, and even how to know who is worth hooking up with in the first place.
From the history and science behind hooking up, to the dos and don’ts of casual sex, Hookup Without Heartbreak, covers everything you need to know before you slip into that little black dress for your next date.
Hey Listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Lia Holmgren, author of Hookup Without Heartbreak: How To Feel Empowered After Casual Sex. Lia, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Lia Holmgren: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here and talk to you.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, would you kick it off for us by just giving us a brief rundown of your background, your professional background?
Lia Holmgren: Yes. I’ve been an intimacy and relationship coach for over a decade and I like to guide my clients through modern challenges in relationships. What it means is that I’m a little bit outside-of-the-box thinking coach, and clients can talk to me about pretty much anything. Things that they would be scared to talk about with their friends, of course, family members, and most therapists. I like to empower my clients to feel safe and celebrate their authenticity around sexuality, no matter what it could be, no matter what it could be.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, why was now the time to share the stories in this book? You’ve written other books in the past. What has happened, what have you seen? Did you have an “aha moment” or something inspiring that you really want to spread the message about hooking up without heartbreak?
Lia Holmgren: I was trying to write this book for a long time. I was very busy with other things— of course, life happens but when COVID started, I had the time to do it and I was thinking, what’s going to happen after a year or a year and a half in lockdowns and stress and fear around meeting other people? I was just thinking, this is the perfect time because people will be starved for sex and hooking up and seeing others, and they will need more guidance around sexuality and hookups.
The Realm of Casual Sex
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you said, “Okay, I’m going to write the book on this subject” a lot of authors will have the idea of the book in their head and as they start writing, sometimes the book starts to pivot, sometimes they come to some major breakthroughs and learnings. Did you come to any breakthroughs or do you have any learnings along your writing journey to this book?
Lia Holmgren: There are so many. I guess that in theory, everything works. But in reality, we really need to practice what we are reading and learning. It’s a lot about your own discipline, how you’re going to approach things in life. No matter what I give people as advice, even for myself, oftentimes, it’s really hard to follow my own advice. I guess that’s what I learned through writing the book, you know?
Drew Appelbaum: Now, in your mind, as you’re writing the book, who are you writing this book for? Is this strictly for women? Is this for men as well? Young people, old people, what’s the mix there?
Lia Holmgren: I think that mostly for women, but I have two chapters in the book that are for men as well because I really think that men need to understand the difference between male and female in the realm of sexuality and especially casual sex. So that’s my big motivation, to bring a little bit of light into when men say women are so emotional after they have casual sex. It’s not really true but there are other things that are much more important and need to [be] understood around sexuality and how the female brain works.
Drew Appelbaum: Just for reference, how is this book different from your past books?
Lia Holmgren: My past books were more on communication around outside-the-box sexuality, so that was more like a manual around that. This book is more for, I think, pretty much every woman, you know? Every woman that is struggling with dating and with casual sex, with shame, with fear, with letting go, having a heartbreak. This book is approaching a much wider spectrum of audiences.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s dig into the book itself. Can you talk about the difference between men and women where— what women really deal with in the realm of casual sex that sometimes doesn’t happen to men?
Lia Holmgren: Well, definitely the double standards. That was my big focus in the book. And then, of course, things like hormones and neurobiology, education and upbringing, how we were raised as women. For us, having sex— casual sex— was dirty, it was inappropriate. Women oftentimes shame other women for having casual sex in which as opposed for men, it’s quite the triumph to have casual sex and as many lovers as possible.
When you look at religion or upbringing, education, families, women have pretty bad cards there to start with. That’s what I focus on in the book as well; why women feel a certain way and why women have so much shame and fear around casual sex.
Drew Appelbaum: It seems like, that was a lot of pressure from the outside but I love your perspective in the book on the pressure from the inside that we create ourselves. And that sometimes we even put those expectations on others. Can you talk about those internal pressures and expectations?
Lia Holmgren: Well, for sure. We take on the external pressures and we think that they are right and we take them as our norm and then we create the internal pressure for ourselves. First, we will need to change the way we look at things, and appreciate ourselves for who we are, and understand that we deserve pleasure. Once we change from inside, we won’t have any pressures from the outside. And then, of course, the internal pressures that we can’t really control. As I said already, hormones like oxytocin that we get after sex— this is something we have to just be realistic and know that this is what’s going to happen to me, it’s normal. I’m not really in love. I just feel like I’m in love and I have to be patient and just give it a couple of weeks, it will be over. That’s really difficult for many women.
Drew Appelbaum: Besides what you just mentioned, here’s the million-dollar question: How do you suggest that men or women really feel empowered after casual sex?
Lia Holmgren: For me, the most important is to enjoy what we are doing in the moment. And once we do it, we have to appreciate it for the experience and not have an expectation for this experience to repeat or have more of it, you know? It’s more like just letting go. I had a beautiful experience, I’m not going to go back to it. I’m not going to be ashamed, I’m not going to have all these thoughts and fantasize about the future and the past. Then, of course, feeling like a victim oftentimes.
Or saying, “I shouldn’t have done that because now I feel dirty.” That’s the million-dollar thing that women have to master to feel like they had a fun experience and it’s over and we move on. We don’t feel dirty, we don’t feel ashamed. We just live our life basically.
Clarity In Communication
Drew Appelbaum: How did you become the professional in the space here? Did you find the knowledge in the book by— is it something that you dealt with personally and you got over it? Or was this something where you’ve heard this from a lot of outside sources and clients?
Lia Holmgren: I was definitely practicing for many years to have the knowledge and I’m not perfect either, you know? That’s why I wrote the book because even until I was in my mid-30s, I still would get hurt. Although having all this knowledge, I would have heartbreaks right and left and oftentimes, with men who did not deserve it. I should not have felt like that and I was trying to come up with this formula, “Okay, what I’m going to do to not feel like this? Why [am I] always think[ing] about this man so much?”
Once I started researching about it, and it was long research I’ve done. There’s so many research papers that I’ve read for this book and there’s so many references that readers can actually go back to and research more if they’re interested. Definitely, there were a lot of my own experiences that I went through and then also, working as a coach. I had so many women, they reached out to me and tried to ask for help. They were heartbroken, they had trouble with communication. They were literally asking me, “What do you think this message means? What does he mean with this message? What should I answer?”
So, the book has a huge part on how to answer messages. When a guy says he’s busy, what does it really mean? I interviewed 50 plus men about this and when men said they are busy, they are actually not but it’s an excuse most of the time. Yeah, it’s a mixture of my experiences and hundreds of other female experiences, interviews with women and men that helped.
Drew Appelbaum: I think what’s interesting that you talk about is that you worked for years as a dominatrix and you actually learned a lot about men during these years and what their deep down wants and desires are. Can you speak a little bit about that, what those discoveries about men’s thoughts were?
Lia Holmgren: Well, the men that are going to dominatrixes are a little bit different. First of all, there is no sex involved in domination, at least professional domination. Men that come to a dominatrix— I actually loved that work because after being heartbroken many times in the past the men that came to see me as a dom treated me really nicely.
They were not— there was no such thing as in casual hookup, you sleep with someone and the guy never reaches out or you feel bad about it, you know? This really made me feel like a goddess. They would treat me nice, they would give me presents. That was completely different.
This book has not much to do with domination but what it taught me is that I love myself. And if he doesn’t reach out to me, then it’s okay. I don’t need him to do that. I don’t need him to make me feel better. I feel great without that person. That definitely taught me how to love myself, which I can then apply in this book, the knowledge I could apply in the book for other women.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, in the first section of the book, you have a lot of tips from how to play and think in the moment on a date and to even how you communicate after a date— which I might say, many of them are very true. Can you talk about a few of your favorite tips that you discussed?
Lia Holmgren: Yeah, so as I said, I focus on security a lot and safety. I want women to be safe going on dates and I focus on, for example, not getting really drunk when you go on a casual sex date because you might agree to do something that you’re not feeling so great about the next day. But then, there is a lot on communication and self-love. And I think that, as I already said, when men answer a certain way I go really into depth about what it could mean and how to answer.
I also feel like the books in the past that I’ve read on dating are all basically saying that women are not supposed to take the first steps, that women should not take charge, they should just wait until the guy reaches out, until he does this and that. I disagree. Especially today, women are more emancipated. We have a Me-Too era that makes a lot of men not want to reach out and women also want to take power into their hands. They want to be the ones to lead more than before, than ever before I would say.
So yes, [what] I focus on in the book [is that] it doesn’t matter. You can reach out to someone if you want to see him. Be clear about it. It’s about the clarity in communication as well. There are many tips on that too. If you want to see him, say so. Say, “Hey, it was great. I had a great time with you, how about we see each other next Friday?”
Then if he doesn’t reply to it then you know what to do. Or if replies and his reply is like yes or no, you can’t really make a sense out of it then I am giving them tips on how to actually clarify this communication. Because oftentimes men are also shy. People are not really reading what is in the message; they’re reading between the lines, they are creating stories based on old stories they had and experiences and then this huge mess happens.
I am just trying to bring clarity into communication around casual sex and relationships in general. I mean, these tips can be used pretty much in any, every aspect of a relationship. If it’s long-term if it’s casual or committed.
Casual Encounters: The Pro’s and Con’s
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah, I could definitely confirm from the other side. It is really nice sometimes to receive those messages and not always be the one to take that first step. But I would also like to point out that yes, you’re for casual sex, the name of the book is about hookups, but you do move onto the second section of the book, which is actually about the pros and cons of casual sex. I would love to dig into a few of those pros and cons, so let’s just start off with the cons.
What can be the negative parts of casual sex or casual encounter? Especially if it is something that you want if it is something that your body feels that you want. What could go wrong?
Lia Holmgren: It was very interesting for me to work on this book and especially this part because when I was doing my research there are so many research papers. They were saying how bad casual sex is especially for women, but there was not much research done on how good it could be. I will start with the bad ones but then I am excited for the good ones too.
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah, let’s definitely go with the good ones out there. I want to get the bad ones out of the way.
Lia Holmgren: Yeah, I think that honestly, the worst part is when a woman feels like a victim after she’s had casual sex. For example, when the guy doesn’t reply or something doesn’t happen that she expected, a lot of women feel like victims. They feel like, “Oh, I didn’t want it but I got tricked into having sex with him,” you know? That is like a default for many women and it can create a lot of depression and stress, maybe also denial later on towards casual sex.
Then, of course, it’s the shame. The shame is the worst. You feel like a slut, you feel dirty— although I think sluts are fun. I have nothing against it but a lot of women think it’s negative. I think sluts are positive, you know? Then of course pregnancy, STIs— and that’s like the standard that can also happen. A lot of alcohol, no protection… and then we have this social stigma again and regrets, “I shouldn’t have done it. What are people going to think about me? What if he’s going to talk about it?” These are the negatives.
And also awkwardness. You might feel really awkward if you had sex with your colleague, for example, or if it is someone you have to meet on a regular basis.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, let’s go to the pros.
Lia Holmgren: The pros; I think that casual sex is exciting because it’s new, so the novelty makes it really exciting. It can get you out of a stereotype of daily life. It is an amazing self-esteem boost. I think that having the attention, having someone giving you compliments, trying to get you— you know, like the man hunting a woman— is kind of a good self-esteem boost for many women. Then also going deeper into casual sex, if we are clear about what we want and we just want fun because of the sake of sex, we are not having expectations.
Having sex without expectations is actually fun because you can go really wild. A lot of people are ashamed to tell their partner about their fantasies and kinks for example, because they think, “Oh wow, what if I want to date her or him. They’re going to think I’m weird, so I am going to rather tame it down.” But when you really know you’re having casual sex, you can go wild. You can say, “Hey, restrain me or do this to me. I love that. I want to wear latex.”
I hear this from many people that, they knew that they are having just casual sex and they would explore fantasies like they would never explore with their regular partners or long-term partners.
Drew Appelbaum: I like that you also go into the history of hookups and actually a bit of the science around them. Would you mind dropping a few of those history facts, and then maybe just talk a little bit about how you did the research for this section of the book?
Lia Holmgren: How I did research— so, I literally wanted to know why women feel different after casual sex than men. For example, many women after they’ve had sex— first, they don’t want to, of course, fall in love. They think it is all casual and then they have sex, they have an amazing orgasm— if the sex is good it makes it all much worse— and suddenly the curves on the graph go completely opposite directions.
The man loses interest after he had sex and orgasm and the fantasy was reached, and women get attached. So I was wondering really, just doing research for pretty much everything. Like, is our brain different from men? I was wondering, but it’s not. I was just researching everything, biology, hormones and religion, and evolution in general. The history and the evolution, which I found really interesting, is about the types of reproductive strategies that men and women would prefer.
For women, it is more because women when they get pregnant they have to spend so much energy for the pregnancy, and then the birth, and then of course taking care of the offspring. And men, for them, it’s much less of a mission to make babies basically. The reproductive strategies that exist, it is like the elephant strategy, which women prefer to have one offspring and take care of it and make sure the offspring will survive.
Then the men love the fish strategy, which is basically quantity over quality. Sex with as many as possible, have as many offsprings, do not care about the offspring, “Well, some of them will survive, no?” In our life, this is like from an evolution perspective, a lot of men would choose the fish strategy, but women are driving the bus here and they would like to have the elephant strategy, so we have to keep it a little bit in control. So, that’s like a fun fact that I learned.
Drew Appelbaum: What have you seen in terms of the culture change in the last ten years or so? I feel like— my girlfriend has been watching Sex and the City again, which is very risqué in the 90s and now it kind of seems a little… lame. Are we moving forward and have we entered our golden age of sex and sexuality here?
Lia Holmgren: I don’t think we’re in the golden age quite yet because there is still a lot of judgment towards this, but maybe in certain societies and certain groups of people and certain cities I would say also people are more modern. And also more mainstream is talking about kinks and play parties and stuff that maybe 10 years ago you would not even want to mention in front of anyone. So definitely, there is a movement. There is a moving and shaking in this space for sure.
But I think we have still a long way to go towards the change and acceptance, I would say. But sure, last decade— I mean probably since 2012 since 50 Shades of Grey was the first one, and then, of course, it made kink more acceptable and there are so many movies now on kink and domination and swinger parties. So yeah, we are on the right path. We just need to do our work, people like me and you, and bring awareness and education also.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when a reader gets the book, they love it, they go through it, what are some of the first steps and some of the takeaways that you hope they immediately incorporate into their life?
Lia Holmgren: I just really hope that women will get hurt less and they will go into sex because of sex. They will get more pleasure, they will have less stress afterward, less shame— that’s very important. And I hope that men will have more understanding and will have clearer communication afterward. And women are not the only ones who get hurt, of course. When I did the interviews every other guy told me, “But we get hurt too!”
Yes, I know that, but I really want men to understand why women act a certain way, and maybe with understanding and clear communication, it will be better for both sides. Because I just want to prevent people from being harmed, having then resentment towards casual sex, and… I love seeing people happy and enjoying their life.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Lia, we just touched on the surface of the book here but writing a book that is going to help so many women and men feel better sexually, which leads to just more fulfilling lives is no small feat so congratulations on having your latest book published.
Lia Holmgren: Thank you so much. Thanks.
Drew Appelbaum: It’s been a pleasure and I am excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Hookup Without Heartbreak, and you could find it on Amazon. Lia, besides checking out the book, where else can people connect with you?
Lia Holmgren: I have a website, liahomgren.com— my first and last name, easy. I am available there and people can book coaching sessions with me, send me an email, and the books are on Amazon. This one and also the one on communication around BDSM and sexuality.
Drew Appelbaum: Well, Lia, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today, and wish you nothing but the best of luck with your new book.
Lia Holmgren: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.