Dating in the 21st Century , as a heterosexual woman, is often an overcomplicated endeavour. Amidst the age of the cursed “situationship” (a romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered to be formal or established, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary), women are increasingly questioning themselves; in both their eyes and those of men.
Women, throughout history, have presented themselves (and one another) with an abundance of unofficial dating guidelines. Perhaps one of the most infamous of such, as discussed at length in the TV series Sex and the City, is the “don’t sleep with him on the first date” rule. The series’ distinct characters championed and challenged this theory. Steadfast advocate of such rule was the old-fashioned, hopeless romantic Charlotte York, who firmly maintained that you must not sleep with a guy you’re somewhat seriously interested in for “at least five dates”. However, one night-stand aficionado Samantha Jones strongly rebutted this theory: “Who cares? Just fuck”. Such polarising narratives demonstrate the degree to which society and its various structures directly influence real-life women in their choice to (or not to) have sex.
Such polarising narratives demonstrate the degree to which society and its various structures directly influence real-life women in their choice to (or not to) have sex.
Whether or not you sleep with someone on a first date is frankly your choice and, advisably, not up for lengthy discussion with others. But the broader discourse sparked by Charlotte and Samantha’s conflicting approaches to sex is significant. In the series, Charlotte feared that an immediate expression of her sexuality, i.e., having sex on a first date, could fatally alter the outcome of a potential serious relationship. But what if Charlotte did end up wanting to have sex on a first date? By sticking to this “rule”, Charlotte may decide not to have sex for the sake of a potential relationship (i.e., the guy) rather than herself. Do Charlotte’s self-interests come last? Do women apply rigid sex and dating “rules” to themselves to disregard their personal sexual preferences?
Do women apply rigid sex and dating “rules” to themselves to disregard their personal sexual preferences?
Now more than ever, as 21st century women, we should consider the reasons for which we are choosing to have sex, or to remain abstinent. I believe that one should have sex purely based on their personal preferences. Nevertheless, it can be much more difficult to decipher our personal preferences than one might assume. Are we really doing it (literally) because we want to? The rise of casual dating and sex can blur the lines between sexual liberation and control. Casual sex, i.e., less partner-based sexual relations, can be great and sometimes just what the doctor ordered (well… not quite, but you know what I mean). Nonetheless, there is increasing sociological and scientific evidence to suggest that heterosexual women benefit less, emotionally and physically, from casual sex, compared to the benefits experienced by heterosexual men from the likes of a “situationship”. But why is this? It is argued that women enjoy sex, i.e., are more likely to orgasm, once an emotional connection with a sexual partner has formed. And so, women often crave the emotional intimacy offered in a monogamous relationship. Whereas men arguably prefer sexual physicality in contrast to the emotional aspects of sex. Thus, heterosexual men are apparently more inclined to enjoy multiple sexual partners, i.e., engage in casual sex, in comparison with heterosexual women.
Despite such evidence, and the common narrative, sexual and emotional preferences are ultimately personal and dependent on the specific individual. Some heterosexual women may ultimately prefer casual encounters rather than sex within a serious relationship. In addition to this, there are certainly men who prefer to participate in committed relationships instead of casual sex. But if there is truth in this research, such that women are better suited to sex within serious relationships, why are 21st century heterosexual women engaging in so much casual sex?
The liberation of women has taken shape in several forms since its inception and today, women continue to fight for their equal place within society. One could argue that 21st century women engage in casual sex as a means of sexual liberation. By having more sex, women often believe that they are in better control of choosing their sexual activities and partners. Nevertheless, women may feel emotionally and physically unfulfilled by having “meaningless” sex. Previous generations of women were subject to sex within the confines of arranged and/or generally subservient relationships. Consequently, does the “situationship” offer 21st century women a modern outlet for exploring their sexual preferences? Or are women, by engaging in situationships, simply mirroring male behaviours to achieve sexual equality within the patriarchy?
Or are women, by engaging in situationships, simply mirroring male behaviours to achieve sexual equality within the patriarchy?
Modern understandings of feminist theory encourage women to take back control of female sexuality via sexual liberation. Nonetheless, women ultimately may not necessarily be liberating themselves by engaging in unknowingly unwanted casual sex. It could be said that women are appeasing to the idea of the “situationship” to appear less “emotional” or “highly-strung” towards men. Women have unfortunately been socially conditioned to often fear that men will lose interest if they seem “overly interested”, and so, the situationship presents men with perfectly minimal emotional and physical commitments. Are women simply ignoring their emotional needs to better cater to the wants and needs of men through a situationship? If this is the case, one could argue that the age of the situationship could be causing women, in a broader context, to unknowingly feed into patriarchal sentiments and digress from feminist ideals. Are situationships making us bad feminists? Perhaps not, but it’s certainly food for thought.
21st century women are presented with many different considerations when deciding whether or not to have sex (casual or not). Ultimately, all that matters is that we, as women, are making this decision for and by ourselves.