Casual sex: liberation for the nation, or an indicator of the decline of romance?
Sex is bloody fantastic. On this most of us can agree.
I am a 19-year-old girl who can now have all of sex I want because I am lucky enough to have be born into a generation with a touch more liberation than the last few hundred. Despite the inevitable slut shaming from the bigot in the corner, I feel safe saying that I can go and shag as many people as I want, and most people I know will not judge me for it. Sex is no longer just saved for the married ones; the general public embrace it as something lighter than it has been seen as for centuries, a slightly frivolous bit of fun. With ‘radical’ feminism finally becoming more ingrained into everyday society, women around the world are now allowed to be just as sexual as men (shock and awe, I know). We’re no longer expected to put a ring on it, lay back and think of Queen and country. In other words; we don’t need no (one) man to make us happy.
We can now cover a dong with a latex sheet, and use hormones to actively control when our eggs are released, vive the sexual revolution and thank you the 60s. Yes, there obviously are other methods out there, and yes not all protection against pregnancy is 100% effective when having heterosexual sex, but with a lower risk of having a child as an adolescent, or contracting any diseases, why not sow those wild, wild oats? You don’t need to get to know your partner in fear that you may get pregnant and that your baby may have his eyes, or his hair. You don’t even need to remember his name.
Casual sex plays such a big part in our ideas of liberation and equality that it’s symbolic. But does it all come up roses? In many a romantic film or novel *cough* The Notebook *cough* sex is often portrayed as being this intensely passionate thing, the focus is on the emotion; it’s the ultimate act of intimacy. It’s how we’re raised to see it; only really special people get to see your really special bits. From a young age I pictured my first time to take place on a gorgeous bed adorned with rose petals and a handsome man who I was ridiculously in love with: not some sweaty guy after a night out in his dingy flat whose name escapes me. It wasn’t exactly an isolated incident either. One minute you’re making eye contact with someone across the bar and the next you’re messy necking on the dance floor. Two Drake songs later and you have found yourself in someone else’s bed. It really can be just that easy.
Maybe casual sex has simply become just that, casual, and sometimes I get tired of it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do love sex. But I can’t help but feel after each encounter that something is lacking. It is still an experience and an experience that is still viewed as incredibly intimate by a lot of people, whether they are in committed relationships or simply cruising Tinder. As great as it is to go to bed with every Dick, Bob or Melanie and not have some obscure double standard held against you, but what of romance?
You can’t go anywhere nowadays without having sex thrown in your face – heck we can’t even watch Bake Off without feeling slightly flustered over one too many soggy bottom references. Casual sex is so normalized now that objections to it, even just on a personal level, seem strange. If you’re just not into one night stands, or sowing your wild oats, you become the odd one out. There seems a contradiction between liberation and casual sex and this overhanging need for romance and intimacy. Teenage girls feel both pressured to lose their virginity but also that they should do so in a way which society tells them is the right way, generally involving Ryan Gosling. Liberation is about choice, and being able to decide which path to take, which people to bang and when to do it. It may be that now we don’t need to form a romantic connection, we are free to do who and what we want, but we can’t forget the emotional aspects of sex; the intimacy and passion which is also important.
The prominence of casual sex is exciting, but it has also made sex lose it’s sparkle; one night stands rarely carry any romance, even when you do remember their names. But maybe romance has not been forever lost in this sea of tequila shots and tinder, it has simply been made more precious and valuable when you do find it, buried amongst the casual.
Follow Charlotte on twitter: @swankychar
Illustration: Sara Stefanini