Love & Sex
OPINION: ''It's not fair,'' my ex-boyfriend would lament whenever we argued. ''You women have all the power.'' He was older than me and of European heritage, and I used to find this belief of his endearing - perhaps because it was so far from what a lot of women actually believe as to be almost laughable.
Today, so many women I know don't feel they have a power over men. If anything, it is the other way. And most, thankfully, don't want or expect to have such power, preferring equality, not just in pay, boardrooms and parliament, but in personal relationships and the bedroom.
But, with divorce rates so high, infidelity rife, and the so-called man shortage (myth or not, there does appear to be a dearth of eligible men), relationship stability is feeling rocky.
So, my ex's idea that men are putty to women's sensuality, beholden to the feminine mystique, might be something I see as quaint and nostalgic. But to young women today, it's plain archaic or pure fantasy.
Speak to sexually active teenage girls today, as I have been lately while researching a book, and it is evident that many feel the only means they have to beguile men is through sex. And even then, they feel a need to be overt with their flirt.
All those too-tight, too-short and too-low dresses aren't, as I once thought, what girls wear to be appear fashionable to their female peers. They wear them, I'm informed, to look sexy to men.
''I don't really care what my friends wear out,'' one young lady told me, ''unless it makes them look hotter than I do.''
''You have to be hot to attract a guy,'' another 16-year-old girl asserted. ''If you don't look sexy, then they won't think you are interested in them.''
And once you attract said guy? ''You need to have sex with them. If you don't, they'll just go with someone who will.''
One just-turned-17-year-old, who will remain anonymous so her mother doesn't kill her and then me, confessed that she has had sex with seven guys ''so far''. One she considered a boyfriend, because they went out for three months. The others? All ''hook-ups''.
A hook-up, it seems, doesn't normally entail even eye contact, that blush-inducing chemistry when spotting someone attractive across a crowded room. Instead, I'm assured, a hook-up can start on a dating app such as Tinder and often entails posting a sexy selfie and then volleying some flirty texts back and forth, often soon followed by a photo of a would-be date's erect penis.
This last part I found hard to believe, naively assuming that young men today were as awkward and embarrassed about their bodies as they were in my day. That was until several of the girls I spoke to pulled out their smart phones to show me said photos, with one girl exclaiming upon seeing an erect member on her friend's screen, ''I think I got sent that too!''
From there, I learn, the hook-up - a face-to-face meeting - occurs, which usually entails sex. ''Usually just oral,'' one young girl reassured me, seeing no irony in the ''just.'' ''Everyone does it!''" she added with eye-roll upon witnessing my obvious horror.
''Why would you meet up with them if you're not going to have sex?'' another says, in a tone that implies I am way down the spectrum of coolness. ''That's just teasing.''
''But, don't you worry that this is all too much, too soon? That you'll wind up jaded or regret your choices?'' I splutter, unable to contain myself. Rightfully, I receive an earful in response.
''And you call yourself a feminist!'' one young friend admonished. ''Now girls are acting like men always have, there's supposed to be a shame around it. How hypocritical!''
It is true I find this issue a conundrum, one that tests my own moral boundaries and ethics. As a feminist, I agree I should be supporting young women to live their lives the way they wish; reinforcing the idea that it is their bodies and their choices.
But, perhaps because I have also have been talking to a lot of young men lately who are either participating in or witnessing hook-up culture, I must confess I am left in despair.
From what I'm hearing, young men are happy to participate in casual sex and claim they are still friends with lots of girls they have ''been'' with. However, ask if they would consider any of them as girlfriend material and a vast majority respond with a vehement ''no way''.
''I would never go out with a girl who's been with my mates,'' one 17-year-old told me. His friend, 19, agrees. ''No guys go out with girls who screw around.''
Now, before I get inundated with protests and/or abuse on Twitter, let me say that, yes, I understand this is not all kids today and, yes, I am painting my snapshot of the situation with broad brush strokes.
But I will not apologise for saying I find it beyond sad that sexuality has been reduced to the sexual act itself. That the trust, tenderness and affection that I was offered in my sexual first encounters is not always afforded to girls today by porn-educated young men (most of the girls I spoke to admitted they are yet to have an orgasm from a sexual encounter). That there is not always a sense of appreciation that comes with such intimacy.
While I think it is commendable that young women feel in charge of their bodies and lives, I do wonder whether it comes at the cost of what is at our feminine core, whether through nature or nurture, and that is a desire to feel secure and respected in our romantic relationships.
Of all the young girls I've spoken to recently, I'd say 90 per cent told me they want to get married and have kids one day. All implied they are aware that men are less likely to commit than in generations past, yet all still wanted to be an exception to this rule.
Few believe their actions now will reduce their chances of this happening, and I sincerely hope it is the case. More than that, I hope they don't end up feeling powerless when it comes to love.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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