It’s 2016, and the love story of our time has moved away from Love Story and more towards Trainwreck. One night stands turn into a two-hour love stories, and what’s so bad about that? When it comes to Amy Schumer’s spot-on portrayal of love in the age of Tinder in Trainwreck, I think everyone related for a different reason, but one thing that stood out for me was her honest portray of the role of casual sex and the understanding that casual sex does not equal failure. Sure, all women are told that if you wanna keep him don’t sleep with him, at least not on the first date, but forgetting for a moment if that’s even the case, at a time when casual sex is more accessible than ever, why does it still get a bad rap? If you’re being safe, and enjoying yourself, what’s the harm in getting down with whoever, whenever?
Last week I talked to a woman who has spent years talking to young women about sex, and she revealed something to me that I found really interesting. She told me that many young single women do have casual sex, but the reality is this can never be something ‘planned.’ For most young women there is something very wrong about going out with the intention of meeting someone and having sex with them. If it happens, it happens, but it definitely wasn’t intentional.
The mini-series “The History of Sex,” which looks at how women have been educated about sex starting in the 1950’s, discusses how until somewhat recently women have been taught that sex is something only to be had once you’re married. Sex outside of marriage, was effectively thought of as a sin, and one woman even mentioned that her mother told her “Once you’re married you’ll have to start having sex, you won’t enjoy it, but it’s something you’ll have to do for your husband.” Woah! No wonder women still feel shameful about casual sex, and often even sex in general. We’ve been told for decades that sex is not a good thing, not something to be enjoyed, so in turn even at a time when causal sex is happening it’s not something being discussed openly because there is still very much a stigma attached to it.
The terrifying side effect of women not being able to fully embrace their sexuality is the increasing rates of STDs and HIV and a still very high rate of unplanned pregnancy. When women don’t feel good about being sexual, they are less likely to protect themselves. Sure, tons of single women are on the pill (many will say they’re on it to reduce PMS and manage their periods, it’s rare to get a “because I want to be able to have sex and not get pregnant”), but when it comes to condoms only 21% of single sexually active women are using them regularly. Because of that, women everywhere from all walks of life and at all stages in the game are putting their health at risk.
So what now? How do we get women to understand that they have nothing to be ashamed of? How can we help them recognize that carrying a condom is SMART not slutty? Rihanna, single for years now, belts out sex ballads to tens of thousands of fans every single night. If she can stand up for women everywhere and say YES I’m sexual, YES I have sex, and YES I enjoy it, what are we waiting for?
Illustration by the incredible Carol Rossetti