The phenomenon of women who have sex for its own sake seems to baffle many people. It’s widely believed that women have sex for love, commitment, poor self-control, to manipulate men, to please men, to make babies, to sooth their low self-esteem, and just about any reason at all other than their own pleasure. (While men, of course, are rutting horndogs who just want to stick it in the nearest wet hole available.) Sex, according to this trope, is by its nature a commodity that women possess and men are trying to obtain… and the phenomenon of women who are “giving it away,” who are defying these assumptions and treating sex as a pleasurable interaction between equals, is making the punditocracy piss all over itself.
Mark Regnerus, Slate: “If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.”
Rachel Simmons, relationship advice columnist for Teen Vogue: “These letters worry me. They signify a growing trend in girls’ sexual lives where they are giving themselves to guys on guys’ terms. They hook up first and ask later.”
Bill O’Reilly: “Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex.”
Susan Walsh, Hooking Up Smart: “They cannot see that as she [self-proclaimed proud- and- happy slut Jaclyn Friedman] proclaims her detachment from sex, she gets emotionally wounded every single time. They take heart from her proclamation that sluthood is a healing thing. Ms. Friedman is a hot mess. Craiglist Casual Encounters was not a miracle, it was a disaster that broke her heart again. I hope she does find Love, the whole enchilada.”
Laura Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both… oh, just look at the title.
Then there’s the piece that got me staying up until four in the morning writing about this in the first place: Christian author Don Miller, who recently asked his female readers (and his male ones, in a separate post) if they’ve ever had casual sex… and if so, why. Miller doesn’t ask this in a neutral way, a way that expresses a genuine desire for an honest answer. He’s asking in a way that makes it obvious what he thinks the answer will be — whatever the reason is, it must be bad, bad, bad. In fact, he’s asking in a way that totally slants the answers he’s likely to get. He’s asking “why some girls give up sex easily” (as if sex for women is always a surrender), and “do you use sex for some kind of social power or to make yourself feel good?”
It’s like a push-poll — a political poll designed to elicit a particular response, so you can shape people’s opinions and make your position seem more popular than it really is.
And this push-poll tendency is shared by many of those who ask, “Why on earth would women want casual hook-ups?”. They’re not asking the question, “Why do some women have casual sex?” They’re asking the question, “Why on earth would some women have casual sex, when it’s so clearly a bad idea that will do them and other women harm and is obviously not in their best interest?” And they’re doing this despite research showing that casual sex isn’t, in fact, psychologically harmful for young adults. They’re basing their questions on the common assumption that women’s natural state is to keep their legs closed unless they’ve got their hands on marriage or commitment… and that women who don’t are some sort of baffling phenomenon that needs to be explained.
So I thought I’d try to explain it.
I’ve had a lot of experience with casual sex. It’s been a while, and I’m not particularly interested in it anymore. But for many years, pretty much all the sex I had fell somewhere on the “casual” spectrum. Personal ad hookups; occasional sex with friends; sex clubs and sex parties; ongoing sexual friendships… that’s what my sex life looked like for a long time.
And needless to say — but I’m going to say it anyway — a lot of this casual sex was a good idea. A wonderful idea, in fact. A lot of it was done for excellent, healthy reasons. And the effect it’s had on my sex life and my love life has been overwhelmingly positive.
You want to know why I had it? Here’s why.
Thus begins my latest piece on AlterNet, Puritan Pundits Should Chill Out — Here Are 5 Reasons I’m Happy I’ve Had Lots of Casual Sex. To find out the reasons I had casual sex for so many years — and the reasons I feel overwhelmingly positive about it now — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!