I’m probably late to the party on this, but evidently millennials aren’t having much sex.
Blame it on porn, blame it on hookup culture, blame it on the number of 20-somethings still living it home — maybe it’s all of that or some of that or none of that.
Or maybe it’s something different. Like maybe there are getting so many mixed messages about sex that young people would rather not deal with it at all. Especially women.
I’ve been reading Laura Kipnis’ book Men: Notes From an Ongoing Investigation, and her chapter on the late Andrea Dworkin — an anti-porn activist who believed intercourse is domination — and her book, Intercourse, in which she makes an argument that all sex is bad for women, and my head has spinning ever since.
Kipnis did this to me with her book Against Love: A Polemic, too. If you read nothing else in the new year, you might want to read this book. Then let’s discuss.
While Kipnis has her disagreements with Dworkin, she acknowledges the “alarming extensive” literature of bad sex — the kind that dissuades women from “having sex, or sex of the wrong kind, or with the wrong people” — that has gotten replicated, repackaged and reinforced for decades.
Any of this sound familiar?
- Women can’t have or don’t enjoy casual sex
- Women only have affairs for emotional connection
- Women don’t enjoy, or are hurt by, hookup culture
- Women don’t care as much about sex as men do
- Women lose interest in sex as they age
I could go on and on but those are probably the top five.
So what are we to make of this?
It’s the anatomy, stupid
For Dworkin, it isn’t that women are doing anything wrong, it’s that anatomically we are “unspeakably vulnerable in intercourse because of the nature of the act — entry, penetration, occupation.”
Well, if you put it that way …
But, as Kipnis notes, doing away with intercourse, an act of dominance or not, would “implicate marital sex, too, and marital sex is supposed to be the reward for virtue.”
Because many still hope that the end result of sex while dating will lead to marriage.
Even though women are delaying marriage and living together with their romantic partners for longer periods, a lot of women still want to be married. And in order to attract a man, Kipnis notes:
(W)omen transform themselves into pathetic sex scavengers, wanting sensuality and tenderness but settling instead for ‘being owned and being fucked’ as a substitute for the physical affection and approval we actually crave from men. Women need male approval to be able to survive in our own skins, and solicit it through sex; but obtaining sex means conforming in ‘body type and behavior’ to what men like. Given the vast amount of time, energy, and disposable income many of us invest in achieving and maintaining whatever degree of sexual attractiveness is feasible (sometimes known as ‘fuckability’), again, it’s hard to argue.” tweet
Rough, but, yes, it’s hard to argue with that. Again I ask, what are we to make of it?
I agree that the relentless messages from books, women’s magazines and so-called relationship experts geared toward women trying to stop us from having so much sex, or having the wrong kind of sex or having sex with the wrong people is not only making a lot of women unhappy and anxious, but also leading us to accept a lot of bad sex. We’re getting a raw deal. Not with intercourse per se, but with what’s expected of us (or what we think is expected of us), and because everything’s geared to pleasuring our man (or men) and not ourselves.
Are women having pleasure in sex? Not really, according to studies by sociologist and American Hookup author Lisa Wade. “Women were dissatisfied with the sexual skills of their partners, but they also often deprioritized their own pleasure, ” she writes. “Overall, in first-time hookups, it turns out, women have orgasms less than half as often as men.”
Why do we accept that? Why shouldn’t we expect and insist on the same kind of pleasure we’re giving our male partners. As Nicki Minaj states, “I demand that I climax. I think women should demand that. And why not?
I don’t think sex is bad for women. But bad sex — and bad sex advice — is never good.
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