After a Washington Post article came out showing a decline in how much sex the kids are having, there’s been mad pontification on just why the drought is happening. Could be porn, video games, fear, Instagram, mean girls, #MeToo. Everyone on Twitter has a take. I don’t have some great understanding as to why the kids aren’t screwing, in fact I don’t understand it at all, but what I do have is a defense of sex, and reasons why millennials should really try having it.
There are loads of good things about sex, and they far outweigh the bad ones. Getting off is great, but it’s not even the best part. Intimacy with another person, a person who you care about, who cares about you, ideally a person who you love, and who loves you, a person who is kind to you, who you are kind too, can make you feel like you really matter to someone who matters to you, and there’s no better feeling in the world.
This is not what big tech and their apps would have you believe. Instead our culture tells us that casual sex with as many people as possible is better, is the ideal. Apps capitalize on that. Culture tells us that sex with multiple partners is the way to go, and is the best course of action for satisfaction. It isn’t. This may scratch an itch, but if you’re looking for good, steady sex, and you ought to be, screwing strangers isn’t the answer. Our big, beautiful, damaging 20th Century sexual revolution can catch some of the heat for this pervasive view.
While the sexual revolution liberated women from reproductive responsibility as a consequence of sex, it also liberated men from the responsibility of caring for their sexual partners, because they were transient. This, in turn, liberated women from caring back. And now men and women are scared to death of each other.
For women to have more career options and personal pursuits, reproductive freedom was essential. But what we fail to realize is that within a good strong relationship where both people take responsibility for each other, each others’ aspirations, ambitions, satisfactions, and reproductive realities, liberation is even more possible. How much more can we do when someone has our back? How much greater achievement is possible when two people toil in place of one?
We have this idea that there is a time and place in life for relationships, maybe after college, or after we get our careers sorted out. This is not the case. There is no right time for love and commitment except all the time. Relationships enhance life, and do not detract from it. There’s a trend for people to believe that they can have relationships that don’t count, relationships that are simply expedient for a given period of life. Like if you like a guy in high school, and date for a while, and then figure he’s not the one and move away or move on, or in college, or in grad school while you’re waiting for something or someone else, or while you’re living at your parents’ house and looking for a job, and can’t really get the privacy needed to screw, it’s easy to assume that because you’re not ready for love and all it’s accoutrements, it’s best to leave love on life’s cutting room floor.
Try this idea on, just for a second, that he or she is the one. You’ve laughed together, broke bread, met their sister out at the bar that night and she seemed cool, you’ve woken up next to each other, and seeing them in the morning wasn’t so bad. You’ve cared enough to be around them, to touch their bodies, to share serious breath. You’ve looked forward to seeing them, your heart pings when you get their text, a little smile plays on your lips when you think their name, they distract you from life for a second, draw you out of yourself, you want them to be happy and they inspire happiness within you, they give you the feeling of specialness that, let’s face it, does not exist in other aspects of life.
What does love look like if not that? Why must we think love acts on our schedule? The same can be said for making babies. New life, new love, doesn’t care where it finds us, it only cares that it found us, and that’s what we should care about too. If life and love find us, let’s be open to it, wrap our our useless arms around it and take it in, embrace it for the meaning it contains and can impart to our otherwise meaningless lives.
And that’s where we find our problem. We exist within a culture that does not value either life or love. The things culture values keep changing, but they mostly result in loneliness, isolation, and fear. Why not team up? Here’s how to do it. Stop being afraid of rejection, of me too, of parents’ basements, or lack of funds. Ladies, stop being afraid that you’ll be violated either bodily or in integrity. Take the risk. Maybe it won’t work out, but maybe it will.
Gentlemen, if you find a woman attractive, and I don’t mean a random glance on the subway or cafe, but a woman who is already in your life, like someone at school, or who you work with, or your best friend’s cousin who seems to hang around all the time, then talk to her. Listen to her. Ask her about herself. Not as reconnaissance, but because you are interested in her and she is interesting. Listen, and when you’re done listening, listen again. She will, in turn, ask you about yourself and you will be able to tell her and it will feel great, because she will be listening. She will shine her empathetic eyes on you and really see you. Do this for a while, for as long as it takes, and then ask her out so you can do it some more. And if you are of a different orientation, then please feel free to do all of the above with the people and pronouns you prefer.
Be open to each other. While certainly sex can be the beginning of a relationship, I’ve no doubt that happens, messages about instant sex are not what we’re missing in culture. We’re missing the love and caring part, the valuing vulnerability part, the part where love and attraction grows as opposed to being discarded and ignored and moved on from and sought from new and divergent strangers.
If you’re lucky enough to find someone who looks at you and can see right into your heart, for God’s sake, be kind, caring, and loving enough that they’re willing to look at you like that for your whole life.
This isn’t a promise. This isn’t to say that when you find someone you want to partner with, or even someone who will partner with you, the relationship will turn out all paradise and pixie sticks. All this caring and listening stuff needs to not only continue, but deepen. Neglecting your partner, whether for other people or work or just because you’re getting it regularly, is not a good answer. It could all go sideways in a second, because these loving, committed, sexy relationships are not anything any of us are entitled to. Instead we have to earn them, through dedication to our partners, through listening to them and their needs, and for them to listen to us. This applies equally to men and women.
We need to care deeply about a person who cares as deeply for us. If we stop listening, stop caring, stop being the person your partner fell in love with, there may be no recourse but to let them go, and every time, this is a tragedy. That these tragedies happen every day does not make them less tragic. That hole in your heart will hurt. But that pain does not negate the love you had.
It is in the strongest relationships that the most sexual satisfaction is also found. When partners love, care, and trust each other, the kind of vulnerability necessary for truly liberated sex is possible. It is in this context that sex is empowering and truly life affirming. In committed sexual relationships, where both partners feel loved and cared for, where kindness is prioritized, consent is freely given. Consent is asked for with glances and touches, given with acquiescence and charm, with a return of those looks and embraces. Sex can be part of the breath of these relationships. It doesn’t stop or begin in bed, but is part of every aspect of caring for your partner and their needs. When preparing meals, caring for children, sharing details of lived experience, the camaraderie developed with caresses and kisses remains a potent force for intimacy across all areas of life.
It’s way easier to stay home and masturbate than to go out and fall in love. It’s less emotionally taxing, it’s expedient, and you can get on with the other things on your to-do list. It’s easier to watch porn and retreat into your own personal reality, with no responsibility to anyone else, no connection, and no drive to find it. But it’s not better. Sex, love, and life are worth leaving your parents’ basement for. They are worth overcoming fear for. Risk your heartbreak and go find real life in another.