Swipe right on monogamy
December 23, 2015 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Swipe right on monogamy

The extinction of “dating” as the baby boomers knew it speaks to how rapidly old social patterns are being overturned as technology — that old bogeyman — facilitates new forms of introduction and relationship building. A less restrictive sexual culture has let couples try out swinging and poly lifestyles, means of staying tied to one another without forfeiting sexual variety. The challenge of 2016 and beyond is to make an honest stab at intimacy in whatever form it might come, to treat each other more gently and to prioritize what makes us feel complete rather than what makes us sound cool. from Charlotte Shane (previous, previouslier)
posted by triggerfinger (70 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite


 
Oh, straight people. Y'all are just adorable.
posted by Automocar at 7:55 AM on December 23, 2015 [26 favorites]


Isn't this just called... getting older? It'll happen to you too, snake people!
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:00 AM on December 23, 2015 [31 favorites]


It was deeply uncool for anyone, but most especially for women, to be actively looking for a relationship instead of a series of rowdy nights.

I haven't finished this, but this one sentence stood out to me -- because I definitely experienced this kind of pressure, even though I was never looking for either.

The problem with our sexual culture isn't that women are having too much or too little sex, and it isn't that it's better to be what we aren't -- whether that's monogamous or polygamous. The problem is that an ideal woman doesn't desire anything more than what makes her the perfect sexual object.

And in some social circles/subcultures, that comes out as condemning women who don't want to have a lot of casual sex, or who want committed relationships, for being uncool, frigid, conservative killjoys. Sex positivity becomes an expectation that you will give men the sex they want from you.

Of course in other arenas women are hit with the opposite, slut-shaming reaction.

Isn't this just called... getting older? It'll happen to you too, snake people!

I wonder how much of the pressure to behave in certain ways is relieved when you age out of being prime playgirl age. Of course wants and desires change, but expectations do too. An older, sexually promiscuous woman is treated by our society as fodder for comedy, not fapping.

(also that illustration is deeply awful on several levels)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:04 AM on December 23, 2015 [45 favorites]




This [anti-monogamy] attitude reigned as I blazed through my twenties. It was deeply uncool for anyone, but most especially for women, to be actively looking for a relationship instead of a series of rowdy nights.

Who are these people, that exist in social circles where long-term relationships are so deeply taboo that they feel justified making statements like this? I'm not college-aged any more, and all my dating years preceded Tinder, but I technically fit into the "millenial" category, and 95% of the people I know followed the "traditional" relationship paradigms throughout their 20's. I sometimes wonder if folks are reading Dan Savage and assuming he speaks for everyone.
posted by Mayor West at 8:08 AM on December 23, 2015 [41 favorites]


I think a lot of blame for this can be laid on President Chester A Arthur.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:08 AM on December 23, 2015 [28 favorites]


I always knew this day would come.
(No pun intended, I swear!)
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:08 AM on December 23, 2015


Oh, straight people. Y'all are just adorable.

I think I know what you mean. But now you must elaborate!
posted by zeek321 at 8:09 AM on December 23, 2015


Oh, straight people. Y'all are just adorable.

Really? Because I know a ton of twenty-something queers going through this shit right now.

Honestly, if anything, the social pressure to be hookup-oriented and low-commitment and chill is way stronger in queer communities, where nonmonogamy ends up being sort of a shibboleth. It's really difficult to be young and queer and interested in committed monogamous relationships, and a few people I'm really close to are struggling super hard with that. This article seems like a really good statement of what that's like.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:09 AM on December 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


Oh, straight people. Y'all are just adorable.

I dunno, my friends who are struggling the most with the whole intimacy/poly/open situation are actually queer people of various genders. I know it's easy to assume that, for example, gay men have this whole thing resolved and happily manage serious relationships while also having lots of casual sex, but that is incompletely reflected in my friend group.

There's a sexism issue, and there's also a "not being a jerk regardless" issue, and then there's simply time and emotional availability, and there's the "decreasing return on doing things that aren't fun" issue - like, when I was younger, I would do non-fun things because they proved I was desirable or normal, or because I felt like one just had to do those things, or because I didn't understand just how deeply non-fun they were, or because I didn't understand that sexual and romantic stuff should actually be fun, or because I felt that I didn't deserve to have good relationships.

Now, would I be happy to date several people who were all awesome? Of course. But the number of awesome people who are attracted and attractive to me, and unattached, and emotionally available, and socially congenial, and in the metro area...well, I assume there are more than I've met but I still feel happy when I've found one, and I don't want to deal with a bunch of unsuitable people just for the sake of variety.
posted by Frowner at 8:16 AM on December 23, 2015 [23 favorites]


Honestly, if anything, the social pressure to be hookup-oriented and low-commitment and chill is way stronger in queer communities, where nonmonogamy ends up being sort of a shibboleth. It's really difficult to be young and queer and interested in committed monogamous relationships, and a few people I'm really close to are struggling super hard with that. This article seems like a really good statement of what that's like.

I wasn't saying anything about queer people. It's about how straight people think they invented casual sex and hook-up apps, and the associated problems with that. I just have a very low tolerance for navel-gazing straight people when queer people, for the most part, have been dealing with these issues for years, especially when casual hook-ups were basically all that queer people were allowed to have or could be expected to have.

However, as I've gotten older (I'm 35), I've gone from being really committed to an ur ideal of monogamy to basically shrugging about it. Monogamy is really, really hard and I think it's necessary to a) acknowledge that and b) talk about it openly with your partner, if that is the kind of commitment you want. Because you can have a committed open relationship--"commitment" does not mean monogamy, and in fact, I feel like a lot of young queer people, having been raised in an environment where same-sex marriage is a possibility, are modeling a lot of their relationships on straight norms.
posted by Automocar at 8:17 AM on December 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


gay men have this whole thing resolved and happily manage serious relationships while also having lots of casual sex, but that is incompletely reflected in my friend group.

Not mine, but most serious relationship pull drives are economic in nature, just cheaper for two people to live together, not to mention the tax benefits of marriage.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Who are these people, that exist in social circles where long-term relationships are so deeply taboo that they feel justified making statements like this?

It's not true of all of my social circles, but I'll offer myself: I'm a white middle class woman from a college town in the Midwest, in her early thirties. I would introduce myself properly by giving you my name, but it's the internet.

Think of the common trope of the woman "withholding" sex until she gets what she wants; of making men perform a series of culturally demanded, but useless and frivolous rituals in order to unlock her vag. Think of the little girl in the big city who is holding out for her true love. These women aren't chill. They're conservative and mainstream, holdouts of traditional femininity.

(Which is, of course, devalued while being simultaneously expected.)

Seriously, nothing that she says about this expectation is surprising to me. Not every social circle will be affected by it strongly, and men will experience it differently than women, so if you didn't experience it, it doesn't mean it's not real.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:26 AM on December 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I wasn't saying anything about queer people. It's about how straight people think they invented casual sex and hook-up apps, and the associated problems with that. I just have a very low tolerance for navel-gazing straight people when queer people, for the most part, have been dealing with these issues for years, especially when casual hook-ups were basically all that queer people were allowed to have or could be expected to have.

Fair. Sorry to have jumped to conclusions. For me, it was frustrating to read this article — which really clearly spoke to my condition as a thirty-something queer woman despite the author being a twenty-something straight woman — and then come in here and see what looked like a whole bunch of quickie scornful "lol straights"/"lol snake people" / "lol moral panic" one-liners.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:29 AM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Fair. Sorry to have jumped to conclusions. For me, it was frustrating to read this article — which really clearly spoke to my condition as a thirty-something queer woman despite the author being a twenty-something straight woman — and then come in here and see what looked like a whole bunch of quickie scornful "lol straights"/"lol snake people" / "lol moral panic" one-liners.

No worries! I mean, I was basically celibate for a couple of years until very recently (mostly due to an on-again/off-again relationship that really fucked with my head) so I get the weirdness surrounding hookups/casual sex/relationships/monogamy/blah.
posted by Automocar at 8:32 AM on December 23, 2015


Who are these people, that exist in social circles where long-term relationships are so deeply taboo that they feel justified making statements like this?

In my dating experience, it is really uncool to be looking for a relationship. Being in one isn't a problem exactly. If it happens, no shame to you, but to actively want one is to be asking for too much. It makes me really sad.
posted by chatongriffes at 8:34 AM on December 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


My comment wasn't meant to be snarky so much as acknowledge that this is a thing and maybe not as new of a thing as the author presumes. There may have not been apps in Ye Olden Dayes, but in certain circles this was definitely an issue. At least for straight-identified women, the tension between sexual liberation and actual liberation has been an issue for decades and it has long struck me (I'm GenX so we're talking about 20+ years here) that the sexual liberation I was supposed to be embracing was really just a way of letting dudes off the hook for any emotional labor. The first time I was publicly shamed for being "cold" and withholding towards a dude who didn't want to date me but did want to touch any part of my body on demand? I was 15 years old. It was 1991.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:36 AM on December 23, 2015 [24 favorites]


This is timely for me. People keep encouraging me to date casually while my wife and I are separated, and I definitely feel the longing for physical intimacy and companionship, and yeah, just sex, but I can't quite bring myself to want to make a serious effort at playing the hook-up game, despite the loneliness of my situation. Luckily, I'm not without friends who can and do provide a reasonable amount of emotional support and even physical affection, but it's hard to get past years of conditioning that make me feel guilty for straight up wanting to find casual sex partners, and the truth seems to be I'm sort of what they call demisexual or whatever. I'm tired of being lonely, but randomly hooking up for me only increases my sense of loneliness/desperation, and lack of meaning. I mean, physical contact/affection are healthy and good things, but getting into a mindset of just wanting to get some action or whatever isn't coming naturally for me anymore. Kind of funny because as a younger man, I always thought of myself as not being suited to monogamy (though in practice, I usually was).
posted by saulgoodman at 8:43 AM on December 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


In the 80's, in New Jersey, people were slutty before they settled down.
It was fun, until it wasn't.
Wanting a relationship was uncool .(except if you were gay- that was a matter of survival)
Being slutty subjected you to lots of people judging you (but secretly wanting to be you)


When you are 20- the whole world is open to you and you have no idea what you want. By 26 or so you are so jaded nothing is shiny anymore and better the devil you do than the devil you don't.

My point is that the more things change the more they stay the same.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 8:44 AM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


In my dating experience, it is really uncool to be looking for a relationship. Being in one isn't a problem exactly. If it happens, no shame to you, but to actively want one is to be asking for too much. It makes me really sad.

It's because people want the freedom to date, and let a relationship naturally develop if it looks good. A date without the added pressure of "boyfriend/girlfriend interview."

We would agree that "if this date goes well, sex is expected afterward" would be a pretty gross statement to explicitly make, even if it's implicit for many people. So why shouldn't it follow that "if this date goes well, a relationship is expected afterward" might be a turn-off for people to hear explicitly?
posted by explosion at 8:50 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think what's different is that more women are being allowed to talk openly, not just about how great being sexually free it but also about how not great it is, which I think is later to be made ok for women to talk about. The same people who opened up the convo on women's liberation tended to side with PRO-SEX and a lot of the 60's free love cults (and early I've been reading about weird sexual abuser sounding types driving some of the pre-hippy movements) had weird charismatic and predatory males thriving in positions of power helping women become "more free" on the terms these guys happened to want.

It's an old issue but our ability to talk openly about it I think is more new and I hope it well help more and more women genuinely feel free to pursue relationships that truly make their hearts happy, whatever that means for them- and also to see the power imbalance that simply exist that might need to be broken down or adknowledged before we can act like women are really making empowered decisions vs decisions that make the most of shitty options none of which really work that great for them.
posted by xarnop at 8:54 AM on December 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Depending on one's perspective I dodged all the bullets by the age of 40, or failed to be a good enough person to hold onto a partner for more than three years at a time. At this age, after the experiences I've had, I can't find the motivation to date or hook up. It seems like an immense amount of effort that could be going into more interesting projects.

Hook up culture was the inevitable endgame of romance. Once it's not about family honor, and not restricted by the demand that only men can earn a living, the other things pushing toward monogamy are too weak vs naked lust. If it's about the heart, about desire, commitment is playing with a serious handicap.
posted by idiopath at 9:08 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like this vocal discomfort that hook-up culture exists falls pretty squarely in the same category as people complaining about how hard white, Christian dudes have it in contemporary America.

I spend a (shall we say) considerable amount of time on OKCupid, and from the trenches it appears that the vast majority of profiles belong to single people looking for other single people with whom to have monogamous relationships. If I look at my Friends list on Facebook (made up of about 150 ages 20-40, I'd estimate that around 90% of them are either in or looking for monogamous (or monogamous-presenting, anyway) relationships.

Monogamy is the dominant cultural paradigm, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. If you aren't looking for hook-ups, good news, you've got most of the fucking world to choose from!
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:11 AM on December 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I will say that acting like sex and babies are no longer going hand in hand- the reality is that women are winding up being single moms as a result of these sexual attitudes and dating culture requirements of putting out without any expectations BEFORE a commitment can develop. While there is a lot of talk about how unmarried mothers have less education, there is also the reality that we don't make it easy for mothers to get education and essentially demand they give up spending bonding time that might be considered valuable to both work AND do school if they are low income. Many moms who do value spending time bonding with their kids don't want this.

I don't think people should be required to marry before sex but honestly maybe have the conversation about who will raise the kids, who will pay what? I mean it's a reality you should think through before having sex with someone, will you be ok with giving this person a chance to be a parent? Do you know them well enough to even make the decision? It's a question both men and women should ask because I personally have found that for myself and many other broke low income moms, we didn't actually want to be single moms, it wasn't some great empowering thing that happens like it does for choice single moms who planned it that way (which is totally fine but for plenty of us it doesn't feel like a choice so much as the choice we want of having a loving partner to parent with simply not on the table).

Like it should be ok for women to want guy who is willing to parent her children and is open about that before having sex. I know that's considered weird and shocking by today's standards and it shouldn't be REQUIRED of women to have this standard but it really should be an understandable want to feel safe to have sex. I haven't had sex with anyone new since having my son many years ago and that's because I can't get over the hump that I don't want to have sex with someone who isn't going to help me rear kids if a condom breaks and/or I just can't deal with having an abortion (which is actually very common even among pro-choicers, it's ok for women to not be ok with getting an abortion and I don't this is something often talked about when being as pro-non-committal sex as many are) and I don't know how to get to know any guys well enough to know if they would be interested in this or we would be compatible without the expectation of sex coming up first.
posted by xarnop at 9:14 AM on December 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Monogamy may be what people hope for, but the expectation of sex first before any kind of commitment is now I think a cultural norm even for people who find it harmful to their interests or needs.
posted by xarnop at 9:15 AM on December 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


i don't think women discussing how expectations around sex affect them resembles white christian dudes complaining about being persecuted.
posted by nadawi at 9:24 AM on December 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


You can have exactly those kinds of conversations and still end up in trouble later. My wife and I talked extensively, waited to have children, definitely planned each pregnancy (which didn't come easily), but now we're still dealing with uncertainty and changing expectations. Some of that's due to real relationship issues that had been aggravated by external stresses, but some of it's just due to newer social pressures, evolving personal attitudes and expectations, and all sorts of complex factors. We were poster kids for planned parenthood, but now, even after all we went through to plan and start a family, it's turning or not to have been enough.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:25 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Monogamy may be what people hope for, but the expectation of sex first before any kind of commitment is now I think a cultural norm even for people who find it harmful to their interests or needs

Asexuality and its variants aside, this just makes sense to me. At least for varying degrees of commitment and sex.

I mean, saying "we're only going to smooch/fuck/whatever each other and no one else" should probably come after you've determined that you actually like smooching/fucking/whatevering each other, right?

Is there any other thing that people make exclusive (implicit or explicit) contracts with one another for, before testing the waters first?
posted by explosion at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's no relationship paradigm that isn't alienating to someone. The "sex-first" expectation, for instance, is significantly problematic for people who are asexual or who have little to no interest in sex.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 9:27 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have found it makes the most sense to people who are not going to have to get the abortion, place a wanted child for adoption, or parent as a single mom when you really don't want to.

I don't want to be trapped in any of these things. I don't think you need to get married before sex but if I can't get to know if this is the kind of person who will at least love me, at least WANT to have a relationship and who would do good by any children they might create I simply can't find myself wanting to risk being forced to face a child, as I have to literally do, and tell them they are a byproduct of adult dating preferences and their lack of a father is because I didn't do my best to secure them one.

It doesn't always work out but I want to be able to tell my kids I at least tried my best.
posted by xarnop at 9:31 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's no relationship paradigm that isn't alienating to someone. The "sex-first" expectation, for instance, is significantly problematic for people who are asexual or who have little to no interest in sex.

Okay, sure, but then why look to date non-asexuals? It's not that asexuals want to get to know someone before they have sex, it's that they don't want to have sex, period.

Sexual incompatibility is a real thing.
posted by Automocar at 9:36 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I also have to live with a culture putting this dating expectation on me and then treating me like dirt for needing welfare or wanting to stay home like plenty of my married mom friends. Like morally I am a different kind of person if I am unemployed or working part time and relying on family to be there with my kids more whereas other stay at home moms are morally great.

When I am EXPECTED to have sex out of marriage and my community asked this of me as part of cultural norms. There is just nothing sexy about being asked to take all this risks on behalf of myself and potential children. And I think part of reproductive choice also means women can't relinquish their right to choose before even getting pregnant and promise to get an abortion because you don't know how any given pregnancy will be.

I think both sides see this growing body of single moms outside marriage as empowered and choice driven simply because abortion exists (AS IT SHOULD and more accessible than it is at present) but without keeping in mind that not all women want to have abortions or feel comfortable with it and feeling forced into an abortion is not actually a great empowering experience for many women. I guess what I mean is this all sounds great sexual compatibility is a thing but I think a lot of people are paying the price of people making these choices without even trying to get to know each other first and show they are kind and trustworthy and able to handle the possibility of kids. You don't have to know you could be married forever to have sex, but you might want to at least be hopeful you like the person well and it could go that way, and have shown them you'd be good to any children than happen.

If this is going to be the cultural norm then we owe it to women that they will be financially and socially supported by he community if we don't want social norms to ask this of the fathers.
posted by xarnop at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's an old issue but our ability to talk openly about it I think is more new and I hope it well help more and more women genuinely feel free to pursue relationships that truly make their hearts happy, whatever that means for them- and also to see the power imbalance that simply exist that might need to be broken down or adknowledged before we can act like women are really making empowered decisions vs decisions that make the most of shitty options none of which really work that great for them.

Yes to this and this is why this article really resonated with me.

When arranging my “casual encounters,” I hoped for low level warmth and good naturedness to accompany fun sex, but this modest combination was exceedingly rare...We’d been told that men were insatiable, that they’d be thrilled by our appetites and eagerness and carefully cultivated hotness, yet we kept bumping up against potheads and sluggards who seemed severally sexually under-motivated in spite of having signed up for a site designed to get them laid.

If a woman initiated a repeat physical encounter, she was regarded as desperate to date. If she stood up for herself after being treated rudely, she was “crazy.” Whenever a woman was something other than merely sexually pliable and passive, her presence suddenly became onerous.


I get that there are a lot of problems that men face too and the article, I think, lays those out pretty well. But I'm a Gen-Xer who grew up in an era of Sassy, Bust, Bitch and Riot Grrls and learned that it's okay for women to want sex and take pleasure in sex and I was always pretty down with that. What I didn't expect, and was very confused by, was the behavior of so many men. It's almost been like a black or white experience for me - either it was the full on courting/good behavior/relationship kinds of treatment; or if I made it clear I wasn't really interested in a committed relationship at the moment, but was okay with a FWB-type situation, it's like a switch flips and suddenly I'm straight up treated like a sex robot or something. Like I had a guy message me once basically saying ME HORNY. ME WANT FUCK. and though that's a slight exaggeration on my part, it is very, very close to what he actually said. All the casual pleasantries, the hi-how-are-you's are all but dropped as if by consenting to casual sex, I am consenting to being treated worse than they would treat a stranger on the street.

Alana Massey's article on bad sex from a few weeks back (linked in this article) was kind of revelatory for me, because it really put into works kind of a niggling feeling I had had in the back of my head but never really realized or was able to put words to. I grew up learning that it was okay for women to want sex and ask for it and there's a cultural narrative that women can always find sex if they want it - it's easy. Except it's not. Not if you want someone who is also okay with a hookup but also treats you decently and gives equal time and consideration to your pleasure as he does to his. In my experience, that has been rare, and it was really confusing to me for a long time. And just to be clear, I am not - and would never - penalize men for not knowing what I like or being unsure of what to do. I know everyone is different and I'm a big advocate of both partners having open communication and showing each other what feels good for them. When men admit they're not sure what to do or what I like and follow my guidance, it makes things even better, imo.

I am talking about men who don't even try. The guys who do the 15 minute jackhammer, don't check in to see if I'm having fun (I'm not) and then hightail it out of there. Or, the ones who realize afterwards that it wasn't that satisfying for me and then SUPER RELUCTANTLY - like, almost with a HUGE SIGH - are like, okay, what can I do for you. This has happened. With grown-ass men in their 30s and 40s.

I also had this come up in my newsfeed recently and so much of what the author says about her experience also resonates with me. I have no problem with monogamy, and I like to let things develop as they will. But I would love for there to be an in-between between "looking for a serious relationship" and "only want sex" and I think that's hard for a lot of women to find. I think there is a lot of confusion about this in our culture, and I'm glad that there is a growing awareness around it.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:45 AM on December 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


In my dating experience, it is really uncool to be looking for a relationship. Being in one isn't a problem exactly. If it happens, no shame to you, but to actively want one is to be asking for too much. It makes me really sad.

Very much this. It's not about people wanting something to develop organically, in my experience (although that's the rationalization). It's the fact that actively wanting anything from anyone is seen as shameful, needy, and pathetic.

It's shameful to seek a job if you don't have a job. It's shameful to seek money if you don't have it already. It's shameful to seek a relationship if you don't have a relationship. It's just predestination but applied to the secular world.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:47 AM on December 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


Mod note: xarnop, you've made your point a few times now, please just let it be at this point. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:47 AM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Swinger/player/polyamorist discovers monogamy" as redemption narrative.
posted by acb at 10:04 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if I could get someone to pay me money to say "oh gee I've been doing this free love thing all my life but never realized monogamy was an option". There has to be money in that.
posted by idiopath at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aside from my points already made, I'm finding that there's a weird trend here where women seem to be relieved and enjoy this topic being out in the open and to think it's relevant to their lives and identified men seem to be finding this article irrelevant.

Interesting. Might be exactly part of the problem women are finding when they date that men don't take their preferences or concerns or difficulties seriously or worth knowing about.
posted by xarnop at 10:22 AM on December 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


It appears that we've gotten this far in the thread without anyone using the word "monogamish," which seems to be a relationship model that's left out of the original article altogether.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:25 AM on December 23, 2015


To be fair, this state of affairs is far from a utopia for [men]. They’re pressured to chase sex even more than women are, regardless of their actual desire level, and with sex education nonexistent or in shambles, they’re given little to no practical information about how they might get a woman off. The presumption that men always want it means there’s no public discussion about how men can also be sexually pressured or coerced, or about how many men might deeply want a relationship instead of a hook up.

This part was surprisingly the saddest to me, and I am a straight woman who is similarly tired of guys who don't care and don't put any effort into dating or even casual sex.

I mean, I understand that men are "easier" when it comes to satisfaction, but the idea that every man is going to like having tons of casual (vanilla) sex in which they will get off through PIV sex and then be done with it is . . . sad to me. Like, is that enough for guys? I imagine it can be, on the same level that a quick hook-up is satisfying for gals, but as the article states, don't we deserve more? Don't we all deserve more?
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:27 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, sure, but then why look to date non-asexuals? It's not that asexuals want to get to know someone before they have sex, it's that they don't want to have sex, period.

Asexuality is the far end of a libido spectrum. There are all sorts of attitudes regarding sex and sexual desire that are more nuanced than total disinterest.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 10:32 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Young person experiences some life, gains some perspective, and some maturity. Film at 11.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:52 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


An entire article dedicated to the phenomenon of people getting older and finding a desire for greater relationship stability and deep emotional commitment? I'm pretty sure Celine Dion's "All By Myself" covered this territory in 1996.

There was an earlier idea that abandoning monogamy and endorsing casual sex as a social norm would help us undermine the patriarchy and oppressive bourgeois social order and help get us closer to The Revolution™. But mostly it turned out to be about people who wanted to have sex and not have to worry about anything being attached to it, and that environment attracted men (and women) who weren't capable of deeper intimacy or were predators. Yes, you can say, "men need to be educated and enculturated to stop the exploitation of women," but there still exists an enabling environment for anyone who is already selfish, lazy, or a predator.

But part of the evolving social norm is "you are supposed to have some bad sexual experiences and betrayals so that you will learn to stop having such high expectations about sex while figuring out what makes you happy." It's no wonder people get tired of that.
posted by deanc at 10:53 AM on December 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Okay, sure, but then why look to date non-asexuals? It's not that asexuals want to get to know someone before they have sex, it's that they don't want to have sex, period.

It's not that asexuals don't or don't want to have sex (that varies by individual), it's that we don't experience sexual attraction. There are other types of attraction that might result in aces and non-aces dating.
posted by zenzicube at 10:55 AM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not that asexuals don't or don't want to have sex (that varies by individual), it's that we don't experience sexual attraction.

Isn't that a distinction without a difference, though?

At any rate, people can do whatever they want and form whatever relationships they want, of course. But in the normal course of "I Am Looking for Someone to Be in a Romantic Relationship" with, the vast majority of people are going to expect that that relationship includes sex.
posted by Automocar at 11:02 AM on December 23, 2015


if the only thing you want to add to this conversation is feigned disinterest, maybe there's something else on this site or on the vast internet that will hold your attention more.
posted by nadawi at 11:36 AM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


People can ask for what they want and other people can agree to do it or not. This is the lesson we need to be teaching young people. You have the power to ask for what you want and the power to refuse what you don't. The prevalence of AskMe and Reddit Relationships questions asking if it is unreasonable to want X from a partner or to not want to do Y that a partner wants to do is staggering.

We need to empower folks and teach them they can both ask for what they want and refuse to do what they do not want to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:40 AM on December 23, 2015


People can ask for what they want and other people can agree to do it or not. This is the lesson we need to be teaching young people. You have the power to ask for what you want and the power to refuse what you don't.

One premise behind the idea that acceptance and encouragement of casual sex is preferable is that it is simply more natural for people to pursue sex for its own sake, disconnected from any relationship. But what you are arguing is that to make a culture of casual sex work, we need to change the culture and expectations around it, and even that it requires a lot of maturity to ask for what you want and refuse to do what you don't, and that this needs to be inculcated as a prevailing norm.

But then we are back where we started from-- requiring that sex be bound by a set of moral norms and requiring participants to have a strong level of maturity. So we are just choosing which moral norms we are going to demand that the culture adopt. And why should they be yours?

And then there is the fact that these things require a high level of shared trust. How do you assure trust outside of a close personal relationship or at the very least a strongly shared culture?

It strikes me more that this is like hopping on a bunch of slippery stones to cross a stream. Sure it's fun, but you'll likely slip and fall a few times, getting yourself soaked and injured.Now one person might say, "don't cross streams like that," and another person then says, "wait a sec... We can turn *everyone* info master rock hoppers!"

Then there's the MeFi favorite, The Dunning-Kreuger Effect. People who feel most confident about navigating these norms safely are probably the least competent at it.
posted by deanc at 12:01 PM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: I got a vasectomy because those were exactly the terms I wanted to have with my intimate relationships - questions of what I want plus what the other person wants and maybe we can both find a way to make this work.

The inequality of pregnancy risk throws a wrench into what could potentially be an equal footing.

Of course there are still subtler, and more difficult questions of what happens when someone who has been told her whole life she is there to make others happy tries to figure out a mutually beneficial agreement with someone whose been told his whole life that that women are there to cater to his pleasure.
posted by idiopath at 12:04 PM on December 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


deanc: I read Ironmouth's statement a bit wider than that - "monogamy" is one of those things a person can want, and could ask for in a relationship. I don't think having monogamy is some kind of magic ingredient that removes the need for two people to mutually figure out what they want. It doesn't impose or remove the inherent sexism of the culture surrounding our decisions, it doesn't validate or invalidate our own individual needs and our ability to articulate and negotiate them.
posted by idiopath at 12:07 PM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


That sounds nice, however the open market often winds up hurting certain people at certain disadvantages and being aware of this especially in something as personal as sex and dating (like that women might innately be at a disadvantage negotiating their wants due to power indifferences and cultured expectations) will probably need to be more in depth than just "everyone ask for what they want and it will all work out fairly".

We might need to ask people with more power in a situation to understand what those powers are and be more aware and considerate of what the other person may be experiencing. Men's needs have dominated history and cultural expectation by default of having more power in governmental and cultural institutions and association with military arts and practices.

Of course poor people can ask for more equal distribution of wealth and those with more can say no, but we can also discuss openly that this really sucks for some of us. There's the reality that men are more likely by a huge percent to kill a partner and to retaliate on hearing no that make women's reactions of softening their resistance or simply going along with men's request sometimes a genuinely safer choice. Then there's the risks of assault, rape, reproductive coercion, refusal to use condoms, waiting until a partner is asleep to force unprotected sex on them and a huge manner of things that at least from the research we have now it appears men tend to commit a great deal more often than women, and the consequences for these actions again of pregnancy or STD's when forced, coerced or pressured into unprotected sex fall more heavily on the woman and her body.

The article didn't state monogamy was the solution if you read it all the way through- that it might be one solution that should be way more ok for people to want but bringing empathy, awareness of power imbalances, sexism, toxic gender norms, and harmful behavior that falls just lower than "abuse" but can really hurt people, and a more personal relationship to sexual relations seems more what she was advocating for.
posted by xarnop at 12:12 PM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


It’s really hard to read this article as much more than "generation discovers sex and then grows up" with a big serving of "yeah, but the internets". Not that there aren’t real issues here, very real and tough issues for men and women. Things that are a big part of life and always have been.

But new? The only difference I see is with the online factor people have your contact information and know where to find you (and may own a picture of your genitals if you thought that was a good idea), as opposed to when I was younger it was most likely chance you weren’t even going to exchange phone numbers.

It was in many ways much more clear what your intentions were then. You didn’t keep pursuing the same person for casual sex if you didn’t have deeper intentions. Because that does seem kinda jerky, where here it seems like everyone agreed "that’s totally not jerky and no one is being taken advantage of" and then "OK maybe it is". Before men and women would hook up for casual sex, but you weren’t expected to be on call to repeat that performance.
posted by bongo_x at 12:18 PM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Any real issues raised by this article aside, I'm having a really hard time getting past the trivialization of my family and my friends' families as a way to 'avoid sacrificing sexual variety'.
posted by joycehealy at 1:21 PM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Someone upthread mentioned the disrespect inherent in the romantic negotiations. There is no in between anymore- either you are fuckbait, or a proper girlfriend/human being. I have gone celibate because at 47, I'm too old for this shit. And you know, women traditionally Talked About It- just not with the whole world as an audience on the interwebs. I wish discussing it would have some impact on the way people treat each other, but it boils down to if he's a good guy, he will be a good guy. If he's not, or perceives you as disposable, he will fuck and run and try to get away with anything he can.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 1:41 PM on December 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


It was in many ways much more clear what your intentions were then. You didn’t keep pursuing the same person for casual sex if you didn’t have deeper intentions. Because that does seem kinda jerky, where here it seems like everyone agreed "that’s totally not jerky and no one is being taken advantage of" and then "OK maybe it is". Before men and women would hook up for casual sex, but you weren’t expected to be on call to repeat that performance.

But what's the problem with having NSA sex with someone more than once, if you both want to? There is a way to have fun, hot, and respectful NSA sex many, many times. If it turns into something "serious" that both people are on board for, great, and if not, that's great too, as long as both parties are upfront and respectful. I don't think there's anything jerky abut NSA sex as a concept.
posted by Automocar at 2:33 PM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


There was an earlier idea that abandoning monogamy and endorsing casual sex as a social norm would help us undermine the patriarchy and oppressive bourgeois social order and help get us closer to The Revolution™.

I remember that- it was what, fifty years ago? The 1960s? And then in the 1980s all of a sudden it was all about relationships? Does anyone remember that Bloom County cartoon with the swinger plaintively asking "Doesn't anybody want to share my personal space?") No wait, it was 90 years ago, right? With the Flappers and jazz? And then the 30s chill came along.

So yeah, this is just one of those "Oh casual sex is great, no it's not" culture shifts that come along in waves. But I honestly have to wonder how much of these "changes in attitudes"are real, and how much is hype. How much have rates of casual sex REALLY changed over the last fifty years?
posted by happyroach at 2:43 PM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


But what's the problem with having NSA sex with someone more than once, if you both want to?

Nothing.

I don't think there's anything jerky abut NSA sex as a concept.

I don’t either. I wasn’t saying you had to put a ring on it.
I may be reading it wrong, but there’s seems to be a feeling from some that "we did it once, so I’ll be back for more" is a bit of pressure made much easier by that person being able to get in touch with you at any time.
posted by bongo_x at 2:59 PM on December 23, 2015


I may be reading it wrong, but there’s seems to be a feeling from some that "we did it once, so I’ll be back for more" is a bit of pressure made much easier by that person being able to get in touch with you at any time.

Oh, maybe. To be fair I don't spend a ton of time thinking about heterosexual sex practices and mores.
posted by Automocar at 3:04 PM on December 23, 2015


Is there any other thing that people make exclusive (implicit or explicit) contracts with one another for, before testing the waters first?

I don't know if this whole contract-for-exclusive-supply-of-sexual-services paradigm is the only rational (or necessarily the best) way of thinking about romantic love or sex or monogamy. It's certainly one way, but it's not mad or irrational to think, instead, of love and sex and commitment as being somewhat differently intertwined with each other. For example, you might be in love with someone and have made so much of a commitment to them already that the "taking them for a test drive" option is no longer on the table; your intention is to make a best-faith effort to figure things out with them, whatever happens, rather than to keep open the option of dumping them and finding an alternative if things aren't perfect. Arranged and semi-arranged marriages in India, for my parents' generation (and to a lesser extent for some of my friends who are now in their late 20s/early 30s), often involve people making a serious commitment before sex - either getting married or, more commonly now, agreeing that they are seriously considering marriage. This isn't a Western cultural norm in 2015, outside some sub-cultures, but I don't think people adopting it are being crazily reckless in their choices. There's no way of entirely taking the risk out of a long-term commitment to another person - parenthood and age and illness are inherently unpredictable and can happen before you know how you or they will handle them - and the question is only which risks you are prepared to take and which risks you want firmly ruled out before you make the commitment.

The important thing is that everyone is honest about what they want, and are prepared to risk, and that our norms shouldn't be such that people feel unable to honestly articulate their desires (whether that's casual sex or committed polyamorous relationships or death-do-us part monogamy or any one of a range of other options). There is something wrong with any cultural norm under we tell some people that what they want is dumb or impossible or slutty or wrong and that they should instead want what some dominant others prefer instead. Even under the market paradigm, that's a rigged market.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:05 PM on December 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


It was deeply uncool for anyone, but most especially for women, to be actively looking for a relationship instead of a series of rowdy nights

So yeah, this is the kind of essay where it's really tempting go after the way the author talks about their specific milieu as if it's the whole world but let's just assume she knows that it's actually about herself, okay?

Like, is that enough for guys?

Well, no, which is why this:
The difference is that, as the examples above indicate, it used to be only men who were afforded the opportunity to reform after exhausting their self-indulgence, but now women have tested the same trajectory.
was one of the better points in the article (though I don't think I would have used the word "reform" or "self-indulgence" because that seems like moralizing about casual sex whereas the real idea is just that you realize at some point that casual sex ain't all that.

It appears that we've gotten this far in the thread without anyone using the word "monogamish," which seems to be a relationship model that's left out of the original article altogether.

++ sorta kinda touched upon in the conclusion, but only as "swinging and poly" whereas what I think you mean and where I think a lot of people my age/in the author's milieu are going is more "I want a primary life partner but it's not a dealbreaker if you fuck somebody else while I'm not here."
posted by atoxyl at 3:18 PM on December 23, 2015


I thought I recognized the author's name, and looking at the pieces linked on her website I see that she is the author of that amazing piece on sex work and consent and that funny piece titled "Liberal Dude Erotica" (“I’m a pretty liberated guy, probably not like the ones you’ve known before. I’m okay with a woman buying me things.”). She's a great writer and it's great to see so many of her pieces linked here.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:01 PM on December 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I would say that dismissals on the order of "ooooh millennials discover boring old truth" are problematic because on the one hand, yes, anyone who's read Updike or watched The Ice Storm knows Xers' parents tired of key parties long before we read The Ethical Slut, but on the other hand women are talking about it in the pop-culture arena rather than quietly on backchannels and that is important and good and we should be careful that our eyerolling is not serving to silence anyone.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:06 PM on December 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


A good point Lyn Never. My take was not that there was something wrong with the overall concept, just tired of things so often framed as "here’s some aspect of human nature that never existed before smart phone apps" Huffington Post style. I know that’s often the way the world appears to younger people (and always has), but the articles that use that approach smell of clickbait to me.

But you’re right, all of that is a pretty minor annoyance in the scheme of the bigger picture.
posted by bongo_x at 8:04 PM on December 23, 2015


I'm so tired of all this relationship bullshit. As a species we appear to be totally miserably incompetent. We get tangled up in so much nonsense.

Maybe we can make a better app. It's like OkCupid but it keeps going after you've hooked up. It helps you keep track of how everyone's feeling. Like project management for your relationship. When you sign up you promise to take communication seriously. The standard setting is that relationships are provisional for six months and if you're rejected you suck it up amiably. You can configure intervals of reality checks. If someone isn't doing the dishes properly you create a numbered issue for it to make sure it gets dealt with.

We need help.
posted by mbrock at 3:56 AM on December 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with explosion that "sex first before any kind of commitment" should be a strong cultural norm. There are always going to be minority sexual communities, like asexual people, furies, etc. that deal with their minority status by developing superior or specialized communications skills.

I agree with Ironmouth that, if you want to start a relationship without first having sex, then you should expect to be better than average at communicating your desires. In particular, if you want a traditional first date without sex, then you should asks the other person out on said date, and during said date you should tell them your feelings and restrictions. Ain't rocket science.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:54 AM on December 24, 2015


I don't see the advantage of a cultural norm that "a first date without an expectation of sex is weird and Not Normal and requires special negotiation". It would only be a good norm if the vast majority of people genuinely desired sex to be as disconnected from commitment and even knowing your partner as possible and were made happiest by that arrangement. I don't think there's conclusive data that this is definitely true and there is some anecdotal evidence that "sex ASAP is what's normal" is a model that promotes the desires and comfort levels of some people over that of others.
posted by Aravis76 at 7:56 AM on December 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dude, is it really the iron-clad norm to have sex on the first date now? Everyone I know is doing it wrong, I guess. Even my most getting-around friends don't tend to get much past making out on date one, and not all of them even get that far every time.
posted by Frowner at 11:50 AM on December 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I agree with Ironmouth that, if you want to start a relationship without first having sex, then you should expect to be better than average at communicating your desires."

I have a feeling that this tends to serve what men think the accepted norm should default to and that women (and men) who care more about "feelings" and mushy stuff like values and potential to start a family together than sex at the start of a relationship should default to what sex-centric people want regardless of who is even in the majority in the population.

Not to mention a majority of single parents are already women, and deciding if someone has shared parenting values is going to be a deal breaker before sexual compatibility even comes up for many. Getting to know each other can take time and for people for whom sex is a big deal and their emotions all tend to come out, it can be a needless unpleasant experience to be asked to undressed and prove your worth to someone you barely know to prove you're sexy enough for them when you have no reason on earth to trust them at all.

Trust is earned, to many of us. Respect is earned. For those of us who have had one too many men say they'll use a condom then take it off or refuse later or suddenly after multiple safe sex experiences decide they'll finish up without a condom while you're sleeping, we have very little reason to trust and get comfortable with someone we've met all of two or three times.

Like ok I have to be sexy enough to prove the "chemistry" is there for a man to decide if he wants to bother with m, but what is sexual chemistry while, very, important to me, is not even remotely enough to make a relationship, not to mention it's not even enough for some of us to be comfortable and engaged during sex. All of this means I'm not turned on, I'm not aroused I'm just kind of grossed out by people groping me while barely knowing me not even having asked abut birth control choices who I have no idea if they would even be good at rearing kids and they want me to put a kid at risk of being created to them? They care so little about kids it's not even something they think about at all? We already are so different I don't see how we could date because they seem to have far less empathy or less capacity to engage it.

I don't see why all of dating needs to default to what I imagine is actually a minority of people who want to have sex within the first few dates of meeting someone, or think sexual compatibility is the first and most important thing to figure out before all the other things which opens people up to being even more deeply hurt when it doesn't work out which was something you could have figured out by taking to time to address some fundamental needs and preferences before getting in the sack.

I don't see why anyone who doesn't want to be groped up on the first date had better be a master of fending them off with clear communication (which doesn't even remotely work when you're a woman by the way all to often). For me dating is just an endless stream of people jamming their hands up my clothes and pushing things I don't want on me and I just wish there were other options even for people who WANT sex outside of a monogamous context because there are plenty of us who might like a safe secure friends with benefit situation with someone who is ACTUALLY A FRIEND who might say actually want to hang out if we wind up not being in the mood for sex, or who could take a step back and not be obsessed with getting sex out of every encounter and care about nothing else.
posted by xarnop at 12:48 PM on December 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


Is it really such a minority that find genuine love a critical component of getting really aroused and turned on? Maybe it is a freakishly small number. If so maybe would could at least create better apps to identify each other or something, that would be cool.
posted by xarnop at 1:04 PM on December 24, 2015


I agree with explosion that "sex first before any kind of commitment" should be a strong cultural norm.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to date people who have sex on the first date, before a decision about a continuing relationship happens.

There's a hell of a lot wrong with expecting sex on the first date, and making it the responsibility of the person who doesn't want to have sex to say "no." Communicating about sexual expectations is everyone's responsibility; you're not entitled to make the assumption that someone's sexually available unless they say otherwise. That is gross.

Women already have to disproportionately deal with this entitled BS in heterosexual dating. And I'll point out that you're saying this in a thread where several women have talked about how there is already social pressure for women to have casual sex that they're not necessarily interested in, and that even if they do want casual sex, it can be difficult to find a partner who doesn't approach sex like it's solely for the benefit of himself.

Did you not read those comments, or do you think that the women saying these things need to get over it and either put out or wear some kind of "Hello, my name is Sarah and I'm a prude" nametag on all their first dates?

Because seriously, the fact that you guys (men) are making these comments in this thread is frustrating, because it's such a perfect example of how women's sexual needs are treated as irrelevant -- that whether the expectation of you is to be chaste or to be ready to put out immediately, if you aren't meeting it then there's something wrong with you.

(NB: I don't know your sexuality; everything I've said applies regardless.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:11 AM on December 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


« Older Turn Off, Tune Out, Get Bored.   |   I'm assuming the red nose is going to be a laser. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments