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Aug 30 2011

Puritan Pundits Should Chill Out — Here Are 5 Reasons I’m Happy I’ve Had Lots of Casual Sex

Casual-sex-movie-poster 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.

Legs crossed 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!

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Sensemaker

    “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.”
    Hm, this trope pretty much amounts to “all women are whores the only difference is that the ones we normally call whores prefer to be paid in money. The others know this is a faux pas and demand payment in attention, services and goods”.
    Needless to say this is tremendously disrespectful to women. Furthermore assuming that men would accept this is (because they are always desperate for sex and have no sense of dignity or self-control and no other option than to buy sex from women paying in whatever currency the women prefer) is pretty disrespectful to men.
    Being a puritan as a personal life-choice is perfectly acceptable, and so is recommending it to others. However, some puritans -those who consciously or not subscribe to this trope- have no respect for women, no respect for men and no respect for sex.
    Sensemaker

  2. 2
    Benjamin Machanik

    Ag, well most of the stereotypes about women having are ridiculously heteronormative in there view anyway. it’s like they haven’t progressed from the eras when men were expected to marry virgins but that brothels were still needed because the men needed to fulfill ‘their animal desires.’ The naysayers you mentioned aren’t even thinking about the bisexual and homosexual communities when they make there statements.

  3. 3
    Improbable Joe

    Here’s the thing… I think most of us assume that other people do things for more or less the same reason we do things. I mean, there ARE damaged people who act out and do things for bad reasons, but on the other hand that’s also probably most of us at some point in our lives.
    Anyhoo… yeah, so I don’t think it takes any particular insight to take the basic idea that men and women are more the same than they are different, and assume that women do things for the same reasons men do things. Maybe not in equal proportion, but it isn’t like there’s a whole separate set of motivations. That’s just weird to assume otherwise, but I grew up in a cave and was raised by wolves so what do I know?
    Except that maybe there’s one motivation that women have for sex that doesn’t apply to (straight)men: rebellion. And I mean that it in the positive sense, in that it is liberating to do what you want in a world where idiot puritan pundits, and everyone else, are telling you that you are wrong to want what you want, and to do what makes you happy.

  4. 4
    Paul

    “Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex.”

    Of the various objections raised, this one at least sounds like a valid concern to me. The decision to conceive a child, and with whom, really ought to be made in a non-impaired state. This applies to married as well as single people, BTW.

  5. 5
    Traumerin

    And if you choose not to have sex, or to only have sex within a committed relationship (I’m not taking after 3 dates, or 6, or even 9), it’s no picnic either. Despite all the rhetoric you cite, Greta, people are quite baffled by the other end of the spectrum as well – especially if one isn’t a conservative Christian or other religious type.
    I think the bottom line here is criticizing women, especially young women, and perpetuating the virgin/whore dichotomy, except these days it’s almost more difficult to find a middle ground. Don’t be a frigid prude, but don’t be a slut either. Be willing and sexy, but don’t like sex too much and don’t give it up too easily. Etc etc. It’s the same old no win situation.

  6. 6
    Graham Martin-Royle

    Checking out the comments on AlterNet it would appear that some people don’t find sex to be fun. I think they’re doing it wrong.

  7. 7
    AnneS

    I should know better than to go near the comments, but I kind of enjoyed the GIANT LIST OF HORRIBLE DISEASES that you will get from casual sex. Because safer sex doesn’t exist, obviously.
    (Sure, statistically people with more partners may be exposed to more bugs, but this is why we have condoms.)

  8. 8
    llewelly

    Bill O’Reilly: “Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex.”

    Surely I am not the first to suggest that Bill O’Reilly is just jealous because he’s never had sex that blasted him out of his mind?

  9. 9
    Stabbity

    Yay, I’m really not a freak! I was single for about seven years, and your reasons for having casual sex are hearteningly similar to my reasons for having casual sex.
    For years after breaking up with my ex, I simply had no interest whatsoever in getting into another relationship. I couldn’t possibly be celibate for long, and faking interest in a relationship to get sex would just be cruel to everyone involved, no matter what the stupid stereotypes say about men being happy to be used for sex by women.
    Casual sex was the only ethical way for me to get my needs for pleasure, physical contact and just a little intimacy but not too much met. And it was fun.
    On a somewhat related note, thank you, *thank you*, THANK YOU for saying that it’s okay, and even healthy to be single for longer than the socially approved ‘break’ between relationships. Even though I know being single was the best thing for me (and the poor bastards I would’ve made miserable if I had tried to have any relationships instead of staying single), I’ve had a lot of trouble tuning out the cultural assumption that people who stay single for any length of time must be unloveable.

  10. 10
    hoverfrog

    I think that they are simply trying to put too much importance on sex. Sex is fun, it’s great with other people. It’s fantastic and funny and silly and passionate and it makes your pulse race. There is nothing wrong with it. Why some people, largely conservative Christians, treat it like it is something wrong says more about them than about sex itself.

  11. 11
    CG

    Reading this post made me remember all my favorite things about being single. (Well, I still miss eating ice cream on the couch in my underwear, but whatever.) I always found casual sex to be incredibly life-affirming and fun (much like less casual sex!), and was shocked when I encountered people who thought otherwise. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one. :)

  12. 12
    greg macdougall

    Hi, interesting thoughts
    Also interesting I don’t think I saw the word ‘patriarchy’ anywhere mentioned
    Of course, if you’re talking about female-female casual sex, the patriarchal influence will be a bit different
    I thought you might be interested in this take on things, from Jonathan Zap. It’s good to be conscious of what we’re not conscious of :) It starts off:
    “A young woman I know sent me a dream with themes that resonate with the dreams of other young women I have interpreted, and now I wish I had written down more of them, because so many of their dreams were powerful and illuminating of the state of the feminine after six thousand years of patriarchal history. In this essay I will discuss what I have learned from these dreams and from other cultural observations. I will conclude with analysis of two dreams, including the one from this young woman.
    The most consistent theme these dreams expose is the toxicity of promiscuous patriarchal sexuality. …”
    More: http://www.zaporacle.com/born-under-a-blood-red-moon-metamorphosis-of-the-feminine-in-the-dreams-of-young-women/

  13. 13
    Occidental Yogi

    I mosied on over to Susan Walsh’s Hooking Up Smart website and from the comments her blog about your garnered, it appears there is a huge disconnect between what you consider casual or promiscuous sex and what many of the comments consider the same.
    A few of the commenters do not even consider that you are having real sex at all because the sex you are having is with other women, not men, therefore you being promiscuous or having casual sex is out of the question. Whatever you are doing, to them it does not qualify as authentic, genuine sex.
    Yes, its a heteronormative view, but what stands out to me most is the disconnect on both sides.
    You assumed Susan’s hetero readers would count your sexual encounters with other women in the “casual” category, where it seems they don’t count it in any category at all.
    When a heterosexual man is looking for a life partner among women, lesbians are the last women on his mind. In fact, they are not even on the radar.
    The concern over casual sex or promiscuity amongst heterosexuals has nothing to do with perceived casual sex or promiscuity amongst lesbians.
    Lesbian women afterall, according to statistics, have the LOWEST rates of STIs of all sexual active people.
    Your world and their world are at opposite ends of a spectrum. What concerns them does not have to concern you, and vice versa.

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