One of the most difficult pitfalls of giving sex advice is dictating your own preferences and experiences to others. At one point or another, every educator doles their own biases when it comes to sex. I often struggle with making sure I don’t twist research data or cherry pick evidence to support my perspective.
A quick synopsis: Friedman writes about finding empowerment through casual sex and argues that women should support each other. Walsh, a business woman turned untrained, self appointed sex educator and staunch opponent of casual sex, writes rebuttal asserting that casual sex has awful emotional ramifications for women because of oxytocin and that these “sluts” are ruining “regular” women’s chances to have monogamous relationships.
I kind of agree with Walsh’s stance about hookup culture, but for very different reasons. Hookup culture is bad not because people have sex outside of monogamous relationships, but because people treat their sexual partners with disrespect. You can have sex with someone, respect them, adore them and not be in a committed relationship.
Everything else in that piece is gender reductionist girl-on-girl hate backed by pseudoscience.
Let’s start with the oxytocin claims, deconstruct the sexist dating claims, and make an argument for destroying the madonna-whore complex.
Oxytocin is one of hundreds of known neurotransmitters and possibly more remain undiscovered by science. These chemicals are how our bodies function and how all our little cells communicate with each other. They interact with one another, act as catalysts and create a very complex messaging system.
In pop science, people refer to this as the bonding chemical. Why? Because of research on prairie voles, little monogamous rodents. Vasopressin and oxytocin are essential in their monogamous mating.
But, as a website about oxytocin states, “the role of these hormones in the human brain is not yet well understood.” Walsh argues that because testosterone can suppress oxytocin that women fall in love after sex more than men. Thus, hooking up will mess up your head young lady.
But she’s wrong. For one, testosterone is in everyone’s body. Estrodiols (feminizing hormones) are synthesized from testosterone. And the chemistry of love involves more than just oxytocin. Our bodies are not so simple as “x neurotransmitter invariably leads to y behavior.” We only have a handful of studies done on a small amount of the population that merely suggest that oxytocin is one of several neurotransmitters that may be somehow involved in lust and love.
Furthermore, when it comes to oxytocin and sex, the key term here is ORGASM. I agree that you can get addicted to good sex with someone. My friends and I call it being “dicknotized”. Don’t worry, it only lasts for a little bit. You can get over it.
Horny Men and Emotional Women
I am weary of gender reductionist dating explanations. We all experience emotions. We all have sex drives. The only difference is how we are taught to interpret these. When you chastise women for their sexual desire while castigating men over their emotions, what happens? Females suppress their desires and males suppress their emotions. There is no biological impetus, only social.
And this is what Friedman was hinting at in her piece. Eschewing the relational and stepping into the casual as a possible means to empower yourself. This doesn’t mean that everyone should go fuck every stranger they see. It means that many women can find breaking out of the mold to be personally liberating.
I think men could benefit from recognizing their emotions and dealing with feelings of love in a more responsible way. I’ve always had an even gender mix of friends that like to confide in me about their sex lives. Men tend to be the worst dealing with their own hurt emotions because they don’t have outlets. Who is more likely to kill their partner over a breakup? Males ascribing to traditional gender roles.
The Madonna and The Whore
Q: “How do you define a slut?”
A: “Anyone having more sex than you.”
Females can be awful to each other. We are faster to call each other sluts, make fun of each other’s clothes, and make nasty comments about appearance and behaviors.
We are our own worst enemies.
Do you ever hear conversations critiquing men’s sexual choices? No. Nobody exclaims, “I can’t believe Bob has a girlfriend! What a dork! He should just go hook up with some sluts!”
Yet we love criticizing women’s choices. The worst I hear is women shrieking about females having casual sex ruining their chances to get into a relationship. (I’ve written about this before). If you are really an interesting, worthwhile and overall attractive person, you’ll probably get into a relationship if you want. Did you ever stop and think you are a reason you have no dates? Maybe your tendency to blame other people for your problems is unattractive?
Or maybe a relationship just isn’t for you. This is fine. You can have sex and not become involved in a committed relationship. You’re not a slut if you do that or a prude if you don’t.
I propose this: support your sisters. If one friend wants to wait until marriage, another doesn’t care about sex and a third gets a rise out of cruising on Craigslist, support them all. Help each other think through personal actions and try to be happy.
At the end of the day, dating in the modern world is difficult for everyone. We have the freedom to have sex without pregnancy or STIs and the rules of dating have changed drastically. Everyone is a little confused.
In the process of growing as a person, finding yourself, and connecting with the world, you will be disappointed, depressed and heartbroken at one time or another. Buck up, dust yourself off and move on. You will likely suffer as many broken hearts as you break. All genders become romantically obsessed with hookups. Get over it.
We should all support choice. This is what feminism is about. CHOICE. The choice to hookup, the choice to get married, the choice to live a life of solitude. Friedman was getting at this in her piece when she said:
“Sluthood isn’t just a choice we should let women make because women should be free to make even “bad” choices. It’s a choice we should all have access to because it has the potential to be liberating.”
See? Choice. Don’t base your sexual decisions on what the Friedmans and Walshs of the world do. Decide for yourself. Listen to your gut.
And stop slut shaming and playing the victim with misinterpreted scientific data. It drives me crazy.