Today we have a post on the realities of the “hookup culture” with an intro from Stephanie Florence, 40:20 Vision’s contributing / Millennial editor.
The recent New York Times article about female students at the University of Pennsylvania rekindled the discussion on how college women handle relationships and sex. Many media outlets are talking about it. Medium and Refinery29 observe that the topic is not exactly groundbreaking. Others criticize its methodology and the Style section’s tendency to gloss over issues. But what are the Millennials thinking themselves?
I’ve been working with Christina as the 20-something contributing editor here at 40:20 Vision providing my perspective and working with her on guest posts.
A few years ago Christina covered this topic for the Huffington Post, questioning whether all 20-something women are prepared for emotionless sex and making the case that to truly be “equal” it should be a choice, not a cultural norm.
We thought it was relevant to revisit given the article. Are all women enjoying this freedom or are some feeling they have no other choice? Or is the topic a non-issue?
As twenty-something women we are constantly aspiring to become our best selves – challenged to ‘lean in’ or ‘have it all’ – while realizing what it truly feels like to own our identity.
I don’t think most twenty-somethings today consider it a choice between promiscuous or prude. We are just looking to find what is right “for us.” Which sometimes can be difficult. I know that I don’t want to have sex for the sake of having sex, and I do want a relationship *at some point*…but I can barely fit in a full work day, a workout and a call with my mom. I have no idea where I’d find time for a significant other.
So while I did not experience college life as the girls that studied at Penn I can relate to the tension between a full-on relationship and fully exploring my options. I look at it similarly to what Christina concludes, what’s most important is the conviction in your decisions. And feeling confident that they are the right ones for you.
Here is the post–excerpted and edited for length. What’s Your Take?
Can All 20-Something Women Have Emotionless Sex?
Women today are enjoying no-strings attached sex. For some women like Karen Owen, the Duke University woman whose analysis of her sex life went viral, it is simply a case of a woman having sex with no regrets and exploring her sexual needs.
But are all 20-year-old women so able to separate sex from emotion? Not the Karen Owens of the world, but women who think that they can have no-strings sex but have no idea what they are getting into. It’s confusing, according to this 28 year old woman:
“If a guy tells you he doesn’t want a relationship but then gives you attention, it’s easy to think attention equals some sort of emotional attachment. The minute you think, ‘Oh, maybe I could fall in love with him,’ you will lose your pride. You have to be willing to walk out the door.”
It’s a zero-sum game. Every time you have sex, you’re back to square one. That can be hard to navigate…especially if you do aspire to a relationship like many 20-something women (according to an Oxygen/TRU study of women primarily in their 20s, 50 percent say marriage is a priority).
As one 20-something related, “It’s a small percentage of girls who can say, ‘Yeah. I don’t really want anything either.’ A lot of my friends are just pretending.
Most 40-something women have learned that pretending only holds you back from finding what you want.
“You can’t lie to yourself and think it will turn into something. Don’t expect him to change.”- 40-something
As you get older, you experience different kinds of relationships and can tell if you’re looking for a connection or truly just want sex. It’s a choice, and it’s liberating, but you have to be prepared for what it means. It doesn’t mean anything. That’s not to say that a one-night stand never turned into love, but you can’t go into it hoping for love.
When it feels like it’s just something everyone is doing rather than a choice it’s not so liberating. One 20-something guy related, “I know if I’m hanging out with a girl and she wants more, I can say no and she’ll hang out with me anyway.” Another 20-something woman told me that dating was almost non-existent.
“You either are practically married or it is hookup nation. She was afraid she never would have a date.” – 20-something, NYC
While she’s dabbled with casual sex she wants a relationship. Sadly, she doesn’t feel that she has much control over it.
Many 40-somethings had casual sex and didn’t regret it. The only regrets were about doing it for the wrong reasons. If you’re doing it for someone else or to trying to be someone else, it’s not empowering or enjoyable.
My biggest takeaway from this is to be grateful that you have the choice, but don’t feel that you have to do it. That’s just as wrong as women in the past being cast as “bad” for “doing it.” If you choose to do it, explore and get to know what you want, but respect your body and yourself. If you can do that, have fun, and above all, be careful. If not, hold out for what you want and hold onto yourself!