Ladies! Step away from the dudes!* Yes, do it. Step away RIGHT NOW, unless you have some form of Very Serious Commitment, preferably signed and documented in a highly official manner in the sight of several armed witnesses. For we have heard some alarming news re: dudes, and sleeping with dudes specifically, if you are into that sort of thing.
The news is (are you ready? Brace yourselves! Light a cigarette, have a drink, sit down, for we are about to BLOW YOUR MIND in some potentially very upsetting ways) that sometimes, if you sleep with dudes, you might want them to Fall In Love with you! And sometimes – this is where it gets absolutely terrifying – they might not Fall In Love!
I know, right? UNPRECEDENTED! SHOCKING! Who do we blame for this? Well, if you are An Old Person, you might well wish to blame The Hook-Up Culture (otherwise known as “sex”) that all the kids are into today. And some have! Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I, however, have some alternate theories. Pay attention, and you will see them laid forth in this exciting chat!
ILLUSTRATION: The Kids Today! With their “acronyms” and their “ambiguous relationships” and their “sexual intercourse!” I don’t understand a bit of it! Why, in MY day…
AMANDA: Well hello!
SADY: Hello Amanda. Before we go any further, I should let you know that I am not too “committed” to this chat. This chat will not buy you dinner! This chat will not visit your many relatives in Phoenix, Arizona! This chat is a “no strings attached” form of chatting.
AMANDA: Is this why I overheard you silently weeping throughout your college years?
SADY: And AT THIS VERY MOMENT, yes. Actually, I feel like the least qualified person in the world to discuss Hookup Culture! Since I have always been a visitor to it from my own home town of Serial Monogamyville.
AMANDA: And as such I assume that you have never had any boy problems!
SADY: Well, it’s interesting. Did you know that if someone calls himself your boyfriend, and you are in a relationship in which there is substantially more emotional vulnerability in play, this person is LEGALLY AND MORALLY OBLIGATED never to hurt your feelings? Like, ever! To be fair, though, I think that the Simmons piece – and I have always really liked Rachel Simmons’ work, so maybe I am partial – did have SOME interesting points in play. As did the amazing Harding response!
AMANDA: And Amanda Marcotte’s, too.
SADY: Oh, yeah. That did lay open some of the structural issues, in terms of what needs men and women are even allowed to HAVE, much less express. So what I think Simmons is saying is that if we have a “dating culture” where the obligation is to act like things are casual even if one or more parties would not like them to be, and if this is particularly based on the idea that the males are skittish creatures who will basically shit themselves and die if you are too affectionate or make it clear that you consider them boyfriends or whatever, well: peoples’ needs don’t always get served in this culture.
AMANDA: True, and I think one of the problems with most of the critiques about the “hook-up culture” is that they look longingly back on the “good old days,” instead of admitting that perhaps there is a third option beyond accepting the “hook-up culture” as-is or going back to the 50s. Or the 1850s. People talk about it like it’s “freedom to have sex!” or “abstinence,” and forget that there are a lot of ways to have sex and to talk about having sex
SADY: Right! Because, basically, sometimes people really DO want to just have some sex and not get too involved. And in a monogamy-and-courting-centric dating culture, THOSE peoples’ needs (particularly if they be lady people) are shamed and hard to fulfill. So, yeah: I think Simmons is interesting, but (maybe inevitably) not really taking the WHOLE ENTIRE picture into account. What about shy dudes who see sex as this really intimate thing and get crushes afterward? What about them? They are missing from this analysis! They might also not be served by The Hook-Up Culture!
AMANDA: I’ve been constantly disappointed by the reluctance of researchers in the field of Hook-Up Studies to talk to boys about this stuff. I mean, I knew many guys in college who wanted girlfriends badly, and who were dissatisfied with casual sex
SADY: Yeah. I mean: I have to tell you, that is one reason I am at the very least more charitable to the Simmons piece than I am to the many anti-hook-up screeds which I have delighted in tearing to pieces. Because a lot of them go so far as to MAKE UP BRAIN CHEMISTRY REASONS why a person who is a lady can never have casual sex, ever, without crying all over the binder on which she is compelled to write the dude’s name 9,000 times.
AMANDA: Along with rough sketches of wedding dresses.
SADY: And plans as to what you will name your first baby. So at least Simmons is not gender-essentializing TOO much in that regard. But dudes and their vulnerabilities – and the problems with the idea that dudes want sex, nothing but sex, all the time, and that sex is therefore a good which women must trade in exchange for a dude agreeing to Totally Be Your Boyfriend OMG – always kind of get left out of these conversations, which is interesting to me.
AMANDA: Yeah, I mean, they tend to just support stereotypes. The women who are interviewed are all miserable about it, and the men are all just basking in the blow jobs. The End. There are no women who are getting what they want, and if we actually interviewed those women—I don’t know—maybe we would come to a better model of sex?
SADY: Right! Exactly! I mean, I feel like a lot of OH NO THE KIDS ARE HOOKING UP is, like, just this weird hysteria over what are pretty common dating experiences.
AMANDA: Yeah, I mean, mistakes must be made. There’s no use of us Elderly Folk attempting to make kids get it right on the first person they fuck.
SADY: Yeah, exactly. And, I mean: when you first meet someone, or even for a few months after meeting someone, you might be unsure as to what they want, and there’s the potential that you might not know them that well (in fact, a certainty that you don’t) and they therefore might turn out to be a jerk in various exciting ways. Like 97% of Jane Austen novels are about that! Except that nowadays, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy would have been banging ever since that first party they attended together, so you might end up having sex with someone while getting to know them. OH NO!
AMANDA: Oh, no. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate narratives about female sexual dissatisfaction. There are definitely a lot of structural ways that the dating culture values men’s pleasure and devalues women’s pleasure, and so if women aren’t satisfied, I understand that! The problem is when you try to just stuff all women into another structure — well, maybe girls would be happier if they didn’t give it up so fast — that also devalues them
SADY: Exactly. Like, that’s the thing, and where I have to depart from “hook-up culture” critiques. If you, lady, will be sad if the guy you have sex with does not want to be Your Boyfriend, well… don’t have sex with that guy? Like, conversations about consent and boundaries and why it is OK to have the needs you have without apologizing are a lot better, in my experience, than telling people to have sex or not have sex in these specific ways.
AMANDA: Right. The problem isn’t with this “new trend” in sex, but that our sexual culture dutifully follows trends at all. I know this is not “cool” of me to say! But perhaps kids would be better off if we didn’t crumple under the weight of hysteria over kids having sex and just emphasized that they should be having sex the way they want.
SADY: Exactly! And emphasized that you might want different things at different times, and with different people… like, it’s not like I have never BENEFITED from The Hook-Up Culture. Sometimes you are just like, “okay, this dude and I are never going to run skipping through a field of daisies, but he is cute, though.” And other times, you are like, “well, I don’t necessarily want to be putting myself out there for someone unless I think that person and I have the potential to get along real well.” And sometimes you are me! And you just don’t care! Because you have one million other things to do!
AMANDA: Yeah. A recent study came out that said that abstinence-only education could be effective in delaying sex among young teens. And the headlines were like, “Abstinence-only education works!” I mean … I guess it works if you think that the point of sex education is for people to just call the whole thing off because it’s too hard? But really we should be focusing on what happens when kids DO decide to have sex—what that sex is like.
SADY: Yeah. And, I mean, that’s where sex leaves the level of the biological and the health-related and the ideological and enters the realm of the personal. And, like… I don’t think, no matter what “dating culture” we have, we are ever going to avoid the fact that girls are going to crush out on unavailable or unattainable dudes. Or dudes on the unattainable or unavailable ladies! I mean, we have basically explained the careers of Taylor Swift AND Megan Fox right here! But getting girls to the level where actual SEX is something they know they have options regarding and the right to say “no” or “yes” to depending on what is up at the moment… that probably should be the goal, yeah?
AMANDA: Right. Not just “sex” or “not sex,” when you’ve heard that “sex” consist of “giving a guy who refuses to be your boyfriend a million blow jobs that are never reciprocated”
SADY: Haha, yeah. Let’s just get to the point of “blow jobs should always be reciprocated.” MAN, I have NO IDEA why I am not working in the public schools right now! “Ladies, blow jobs are fun… TO RECEIVE, THAT IS!!!!!” And that is the story of how Sady Doyle got sued by thirty sets of parents at the same time, the end.
*Also, if you are the lady known as Sady Doyle, you might want to step away from the “He’s Just Not That Into You” jokes. It is NOT MY FAULT, all right? I can come up with like 15,0000 separate fake titles for a sequel to that book! This, however, will be my final one. I SWEAR.