My friends are unhappy. My friends have casual sex. Therefore, casual sex makes women miserable. Science!! supports my opinions. Feminists convinced women they should have sex “like men.” Studies have shown women aren’t designed to have sex “like men.” Women are designed for relationships. Men are designed for sex. Women must withhold sex to get relationships. Women who put out too easily will never get the man. Therefore, feminists have condemned women to a miserable life of whoredom. The end.
I know I shouldn’t rise to the bait with opinion pieces like Maura Kelly’s recent “Comment is Free” column at The Guardian, titled somewhat obtusely “Deferred gratification makes sexual politics sense.” Her rhetoric is (I suspect) intentionally inflammatory, and the stereotypes she draws on about gender, sex and sexuality have no grounds in the actual data (despite her claims to the contrary). I know I should just let it slide on by as the junk science and bigoted commentary it is.
But the thing is, articles like Ms. Kelly’s just make me feel SO STABBY! And sad. And diminished, somehow, as a human being, for the limited, cynical view of human nature they perpetuates.
For example, in Kelly’s piece one can find the following unexamined and unsupported-by-the-evidence beliefs:
- The idea, based on personal anecdotes about the author’s friends, that all women regret casual sex. All of them. No matter the context or person(s) involved. Casual sex per se is antithetical to womanhood.
- The idea that casual sex and long-term relationships are mutually exclusive categories. You’re either a slut or a wife. You hooked up with someone and ended up dating them and then got married (and are still together five years, ten years later)? Not possible. You experimented with monogamy but discovered polyamory was for you? Your experience is clearly invalid.
- The idea that casual sex = women “acting like men.” Because apparently all men are into casual sex and only casual sex.
- The idea that “casual” sex (which she doesn’t define) is by definition unfulfilling, loveless sex,
- Sex which (have we mentioned?) makes women unhappy and regretful. I guess men just have thicker skins or something.
- The idea that OMG!FEMINISM is responsible for leading women to believe they should “act like men” and have all this unfulfilling sex in the name of liberation. Fie on you, false prophets!
- The (shite, baseless, discredited-by-the-research) idea that women and men are innately different in what they desire in relationships and what they desire sexually, when in fact most research points toward men and women having more intra-group diversity than inter-group diversity (translation: women as a group vary widely from one another, and men do as well … far more so than the two groups differ from one another as groups).
- Stemming from this idea of innate difference, the assumption that “women” and “men” constitute binary, oppositional sex and gender categories, erasing queer and trans* spectrum folks entirely from the narrative of human sexuality and human relationships. (Maybe my response to evo-psych bullshit from now on should just be a sign reading: “I have a girlfriend. Your argument is invalid.”)
- The idea that OMG!FEMINISM is responsible for the unhappiness of “women these days” (all of it! every single bit!) who apparently answered the clarion call of the zipless fuck and are now regretting the loss of their market value. Because the only thing women have to offer men to catch and keep them is TEH SEX and the withholding of TEH SEX.
This final argument is, in the end, what really grinds my gears: the fact that underlying all of this bullshit is a truly impoverished, neoconservative, free-market libertarianism view of human relationships in which women’s value is reduced to their bodies and men are reduced to their libidos, and men are the market and women are the product.
Talk about a way to approach relationships that’s got “doomed from the start” written all over it. Like: fucking hell woman! If that’s all you want from your relationships? Some sort of exchange of goods and services rather than an actual caring and friendship, sexual pleasure and reciprocity? Empathy and learning and … I don’t know, joy? Then … I guess?
…go to it?
But … really? That is what you want to pressure your peers into seeking? That is how you want to encourage them to understand the world? That is the best you think life has to offer them?
To me that is the opposite of feminism, the opposite of love, and the opposite of the most positive, fulfilling forms of sexual expression we have available to us. It’s a complete and utter waste of the myriad and glorious interpersonal resources we have available through which to share our sexual selves with our partners, in whatever style we and our lovers enthusiastically, consensually, choose.
Including (gasp!) casual sex, which some people (omg!) actually find fulfilling as one aspect of their sexual lives.
Thanks to Hanna for the link; she knew it would piss me off and that I’d find some words to explain why. This post appeared in a slightly shorter, less polished form last week on my Tumblr blog, the feminist librarian reads.