I've studied sexuality in the context of psychology, sociology, and the law-- ok, the law part may not be all that relevant. But what I've studied has led me to believe that men and women as groups are more similar than different when it comes to sex, and that there is a ton of in group variety. Overall, it seems like having an emotional connection makes sex more enjoyable for people. There are a lot of reasons that might be the case-- an emotional connection might lead to greater trust, and thus both more communication and more ability to "let go". The emotional feelings themselves might enhance the sex, and the sex might be predefined as something with a good outcome. Plus, an emotional connection is often linked to a partner that someone has experience with-- as such, there's a good change the partner has a desire to make the other party enjoy the sex, more so than someone who is just out for him or herself on a one night stand.
That said, do I think an emotional connection is required for people to have an enjoyable sexual experience? No, not at all. Sex has obvious physically pleasurable points. And, while I talk about sex more with women than men, most of the people I know enjoy sex a lot even when they don't care about their partners at all. In addition, sex for fun and fun alone doesn't seem to harm their later relationships in any way-- if anything, it means they go into relationships with more knowledge about what they do and do not like, and more confidence in bed. It's a lot harder for people to find someone they can bond with emotionally than someone they have fun with in bed.
I don't really view sex AS sex as something special in and of itself-- but I do see the importance that sex has in many ways, and that it can be a positive or negative thing. It can have no physical results or get you pregnant or get you stds, it can be an expression of your desire, or it can be someone ripping all autonomy away from you, it can be shameful, or it can be empowering, it can have no emotional effect, or it can rip you up emotionally. A lot of how we respond to it is based in both maturity and the situations it occurs in. I think for a lot of people, negotiation who to have sex with, and how to have that sex, is an important part of coming to age.
So what do I think? Have the sex you want, however you want. As long as you aren't hurting anyone else, your sex life is just as valid as anyone else's. I don't care if you think sex belongs only in marriage, or if you think sex should happen between strangers who find each other attractive. Just don't violate anyone else's rights, coerce people into having sex, or take advantage of people who can't give meaningful consent. As long as you've got that part down-- everything else seems pretty equal.