Sexual activity should not confer status
Saturday night, hundreds of scantily-clad men and women will file into the Wiess commons with one thing on their minds. Perhaps, even more importantly, the next day’s stories of who “got it in” will dominate conversation.
What’s the deal with this, really? While, for centuries, premarital sex was seen as an offense worthy of social ostracization, it’s now become a status symbol, particularly for men. Remarkably, it’s often not even satisfaction from the act itself that’s so significant, but rather the ability to brag and converse about it. “I got laid last night” is a comment expressed proudly, with similar implications to “I won an award” or “I am wealthy.”
So where does this leave the girls (and/or objects of desire generally)? For those who are single, this point of view arguably awards them with immense power. The knowledge that one’s decision whether to have sex has so many implications on a potential partner’s status and self-worth is an amazing ego boost. In essence, the object of desire gets the upper hand in all interaction once affection has been indicated or declared.
What’s maybe a bit upsetting to consider, however, is what happens to the objects of desire once their affections have been captured, particularly if they have a lower sex drive than their partners. The dynamic becomes skewed. Denying sex is no longer an exercise in asserting power, at least in a healthy relationship; it’s just rendering harm upon the partner’s social identity. This is, of course, not to say that sex must always be withheld if one party isn’t quite as hyped up about it — it’s just interesting that such a denial may end up creating guilt, because it means they cannot fulfill a critical psychological (not just physical) need for their partner.
In other words, the connection between sex and power harms a relationship as a whole. It makes sex so important that one party may have a maddening desire to have it as frequently as possible to maintain self-esteem and bragging rights, while the other party may feel that they must choose between engaging in sex when they don’t want it, or heavily disappointing their partner. The situation hurts everyone involved: The partner is under pressure to push their girlfriend/boyfriend into having sex, and the girlfriend/boyfriend must endure an obligation to have sex when they don’t feel like it, is sore or uncomfortable, etc.
Further, I do not think this is just a result of one party having a greater sex drive than the other. This may be the case in a relationship, but wanting sex just because it feels good doesn’t seem to create as pressing a demand as wanting sex because it says who you are as a person. The dynamic might be attributable to mismatched libidos, but it is greatly exaggerated by the strange inferences we draw from each other’s sex lives.
In short, we need to cut this out. Stop praising people just for having sex and criticizing those who don’t. It doesn’t make any sense (any animal can have sex, it’s not that hard), it demeans the objects of desire and, once relationships are formed, it puts a terrible amount of pressure on one partner to fulfill the other through an intimate act they may not want to engage in. No one is “owed” sex, and no one should ask for it unless their partner is 100 percent game. This goes beyond asking for consent — consent is the baseline. To be a courteous partner, not only should your significant other agree to have sex with you, but they should also not feel pressured to do so. Further, objects of desire should be extremely wary of relationships in which sex is a “high-priority” need. Sex is wonderful, but it should be the background noise to any fulfilling relationship, not the chorus.
So, this NOD, have all the same fun with a little less of the chit-chat afterwards. If you “get laid,” cool. If you don’t, well, you got to hang out in a cool space and dance in your underwear for a couple of hours. Either way, everything’s going to be all right.
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