Sunday, February 17, 2008

Take the ‘sex’ out of it and there’s nothing

I might as well title this one "Many words strung together in a way that will one day — if they ever read this — turn my children a deep shade of red."

This one's all about s-e-x.

I'll wait if you want to turn the page to some place nice, with cute pictures of kids or cuddly puppies. Might I suggest Page 2? There's always good news there.

Any stragglers? Last chance. OK. Moving on.

As I was driving to work recently the local public radio station was airing an interview with Laura Sessions Stepp, a journalist with The Washington Post and author of "Unhooked," a new book characterizing a "new trend" of casual sex and its impact – mostly negative – on women.

Apparently, the new sex trend is called "HOOKING UP," and is a term defined as any type of sexual encounter – from kissing to intercourse – between uncommitted partners.

Young people move in posses and engage in trysts with whomever strikes their fancy. And then they move along to someone else. No strings attached. Dating is passé.

I listened with interest to the author's musings about how dating has gone by the wayside. How some sex acts are so casual as to be considered no more intimate than a handshake. And while she acknowledged that not everything about causal sex spelled doom for the women engaging in the practice, there wasn’t a lot to redeem it as a long-term solution to our country’s seemingly collective inability to live in co-habitation harmony.

It seemed relatively straightforward stuff. Parents are going to be horrified that their daughters are willy-nilly engaging in the unthinkable with someone unspeakable and caring nothing of the consequences. We can all collectively wring our hands and bemoan the sliding of society further into the cesspool.

But I was kind of surprised to learn she was getting some flack for coming to the conclusion — ultimately — that casual sex is damaging to women.

Some critics are castigating the author for trying to reintroduce sexual shame into the feminine perspective, and returning young women to the old "Who'd want to buy the cow ..." life and love philosophy.

An argument to be made for "hooking up," claims that it allows women to be in greater control of their sexual encounters without the pitfalls of having to extract themselves from damaging or abusive relationships. If there are no relationships there are just two ships passing in the night.

But as all this is rattling around in my sleep-deprived head is a flash of momentary understanding: Take the S-E-X out of the equation and there is nothing.
Maybe this is why our social-political landscape seems in such turmoil. We NEVER have to connect our minds with anyone else's — ever.

Eventually we will never have to even SPEAK to another human being.

Currently we don't have to talk to them peripherally as we get our groceries or complain about errors on our bills. Soon, it would seem, we won't have to deal with these pesky people in our personal lives either. We don't have to make concessions and we don't learn how to compromise. In fact compromise has become a dirty word.

Maybe that's too harsh. It's not as if unfettered carnal pleasures are the ONLY things going on the mind of today's young women. There are all sorts of strong women looking to do some greater good.

They are also looking for true love; a phenomenon that turns every parent — even the most conservative — into the proverbial, somewhat maligned "feminist."

In the interview Sessions Stepp spoke about a commencement speech by a high school principal, where she told the young women in the graduating class to focus on their educations, focus on their careers and then (and only then) focus on finding "Mr. Right."

The author said she found the statement one of the "saddest," because she feels it's only natural for people to want love and companionship. To deny such is denying a huge part of the human experience.

It is here I think I most agree. Keeping our children from getting hurt only prevents our children from learning how to recover.

When you have children – daughters especially – I think you have to come to terms with not only human sexuality's moral code but also its physical eventuality as certain as death and taxes.

Sex is, after all, how we get more little people populating the planet, and the activity continues before and beyond its biological purpose.

Yet the idea that women should be on equal terms with men by way of promiscuity seems just as ridiculous to me as advocating abstinence at all costs.

I suppose there's not much to worry about, though. Because if the abstinence-only philosophy doesn't really work past the age of 20, my guess is the play-the-field philosophy gets old, too. Once the barn door opens, that horse is running in the direction of out, right?

Oh, what do I know? After all, 60 is supposed to the new 40 ... and 40 is the new 25 ... There’s no rush right?

1 comment:

Fairly Odd Mother said...

When I was in my 20's, I was definitely more interested in hooking up then settling down. It wasn't that I didn't want to fall in love (someday), it was that I wasn't going to be completely 'alone' until I found it.

I was just reading Oh The Joys' post about "Friends with Benefits", and I have to say that I agree with her husband that in these 'casual' encounters, there is always one person who wants something more than just sex.

For me, it was all a phase. I'm now happily settled down with three kids and a great husband. And I feel like more of a feminist now, even though I look less like one than before.