I feel sorry for the young women of today. In the name of Liberation, they threw away the strongest advantage women have ever held over men.
In my day, women said, essentially, "If you want my body, I want a ring." And that was that. No arguments, no counter-arguments. And men were forced to grow up, to take on responsibilites---the job, the car, the house, the children. Because they had aching balls. There were lots of cold showers and push-ups, and an occasional foray under the boardwalk with "Charlotte the Harlot" (whom they never married), but their needs carried them to the altar and maturity.
History reinforces this pattern. Women have always used sex to civilize men, and to the betterment of the human condition, I suspect. Do you think those oafs who came galloping home from the Crusades, stinking in their armor, really wanted to take baths and write poetry? But they had to. (Even the Greeks understood this---read the play "Lysistrata.")
"Oh, but . . ." I hear you protesting, " . . . it was a terrible patriarchy in your day!" Really? Do you think we couldn't get our way when we had to? (Forget "Mad Men". It's today's take on those years. We didn't at all feel "oppressed"!) Yes, if there were two pieces of cake on the plate and one of them was burnt, I gave him the other one. Big deal! But he called for a date and picked me up. And when he parked the car he ran around to open the door for me, then ran ahead to open the movie or restaurant door. He was constantly "courting", hoping to gain one more kiss, one more chance to "cop a feel" (in the parlance of the day). His needs made him respectful, courteous, gentlemanly. If he wanted to keep dating me, he had to make me feel valued as a PERSON, not a "body".
And how easy it was for us to say "No." A young man with raging hormones will say anything to get what he wants. (At that stage of his life, he's usually thinking with his head, and it's not the one between his shoulder blades!) "You say you love me!" or "I thought you said you were mature!" or even "Maybe you don't want to date me anymore." And how is a young woman to counter those arguments when she doesn't want to lose the guy? She's out there all alone trying to find an answer that will satisfy him, especially if she's not ready to hop into the sack.
All WE had to say was, "I'm not that kind of girl." And we had all of society behind us, backing us up. And that same social code kept men in line as well. They were EXPECTED to control their sexual urges. I remember a story my ex-husband once told me. He was in college at the time. Working for the summer at a curtain factory, driving their truck. He was dating a young woman who worked at the factory. She had a strict curfew. Midnight. After one heavy-petting evening together, he brought her home after the witching hour. Her father was on the porch, shotgun in hand! He stopped dating her, but he never ignored a curfew again!
See the difference in today's standards? Women today, especially on college campuses, are constantly admonished to say No, but they complain that men aren't being told to stop asking! Well, why the hell should they? There are no consequences! No shotgun-toting fathers, no forced marriages if they get the girl pregnant. Not even the stigma of guilt.
Then came The Pill, which ushered in the sexual revolution and Feminism. And while the militants were marching for equality in the workplace (a good thing), they somehow began to think that men and women were the same in EVERY way. Well, they're not.
I remember, as a young mother, when I gave birth to my daughter---after three boys---how astonished my husband and I were by the differences. Where my baby sons would try to pull off the hats we'd just placed on their heads, our daughter would turn her head and preen as though she were wearing a crown. My husband would often say, "How does she KNOW she's a girl?"
The early Feminists were convinced that women, like men, could leave their heads on the night-table every time they climbed into bed with the opposite sex. That sex was merely about physical release. They learned (and ignored for a long time) that, sooner or later, the big C, commitment, reared its head (no pun intended!). While their men continued to enjoy the mere physical coupling, women began to feel uneasy about the arrangement. Poor dears. They would have been better off continuing to say "No" and buying a vibrator!
Among other things, I write Historical Romances. In my books, the first sex scene always comes after the couple have begun to form an emotional attachment, even if they haven't yet acknowledged their love for one another. When I finally write the sex scene, I can show, in a hundred subtle ways, that the act has far more meaning for them than mere physical release.
Small correction: In only one book, "Stranger In My Arms" by Louisa Rawlings (my other pen name) the heroine and hero had passionate sex on their first meeting. But the book takes place as the hero, an officer in Napoleon's army, is about to go off to the Russian Campaign. And the anxiety, the sense of time flying by too fast ("Hurry, hurry. This is the last!", to quote Stephen Vincent Benet from his magnificent poem "John Brown's Body") lends urgency to their coupling.
I wrote that book ages ago. Now I find that many of the current books, edited by young women nurtured on Feminism, are content with the hero jumping the woman's bones ASAP. And the women are thrilled, even if it takes the guy half the book to remember to satisfy her! That merely being a sex object should be a woman's goal. I don't buy it. When I was a teen, dancing with a guy, and I felt what we called "a pencil in his pocket", I felt insulted, diminished as a person.
I also remember when I was engaged to my future husband for a year before our marriage. I would visit him on weekends (we lived in separate states). Because we had advanced to very heavy petting, he would chafe all evening during supper with his folks, only waiting for them to go to bed so we could have some action. He would be distant, non-communicative, impatient. I often felt a vague uneasiness on those nights---that our relationship had become one of being less about ME, and more about my body. Not that I didn't enjoy our "sessions". I certainly did! But not so much that I was willing, as he seemed to be, to blot out the rest of our relationship.
And yet women today seem content with that. One of the saddest stories I can tell was about the 13-year-old friend of one of my granddaughters. She was so convinced that sex equaled love that she gave head to any boy who asked her. I tried to take her under my wing, inquiring why she did it. "Because he says he loves me," she replied. "Does he take you a movie? Ask you out for a Coke? Or does he only call you when he wants sex?" I tried to persuade her to value herself more, but, because he used the word "love", she wasn't convinced.
And don't get me started on the "hook-up" culture. What the hell do women get out of it? The illusion of love? (Someone once said, "Women give sex to get love; men give love to get sex." That's mighty thin gruel for a relationship!) I'm struck by the fact that so many young women have to get blotto on too much liquor to hop into bed with a stranger. Why? Don't they insist that they crave the physical pleasure of sex? Yet they numb their brains to blot out the experience. A secret moral guilt? A fear, deep within their psyches, that they are being used by men? A nagging thought that hookers get paid for sex, hook-ups don't? In the overall scheme of things, women get the short end of the stick, and I suspect they know it, deep down.
In this era of the Empowered (I hate that word!) Woman,what do females have now? A good deal less than we had, it seems to me. Harassment suits to put a man in his place, where before we learned to reject, ignore and turn aside all but the most rapacious men (who have ALWAYS been a danger!), and the disapproval of society reinforced our rejections. Sex without conditions, leading often only to more sex, rather than a deep, satisfying relationship. Living together instead of marriage---there IS a difference. In a relationship, both of the partners think in terms of ME, whether it's where to live, what job to take, what friends to have. In a marriage, you think of WE---what impact your decisions will have on you as a couple. There's more compromise, but more unity as well.
If we've gained anything by these new sexual standards, why do young women cry plaintively, "Where are the MEN?" Where indeed? Why should they grow up? It's so easy for them to be irresponsible, to take what women willingly give, and to shrug off responsibilities. THEY are the truly "empowered" ones, entitled, through women's aquiescence to what they want, when they want it!
If women no longer hold men to higher moral standards---honor, fidelity, committment, sexual restraint---and too often see them either as little boys or horny bastards, why are we surprised that "decent" men have become few and far between?
P.S. Have been reminded by my daughter that SHE came up with the title for this latest blog. Sorry I neglected to mention that, Julia. But thanks!
UPDATE: There seems to be a new study (from the National Marriage Project) that indicates that people who marry before a large crowd have more successful marriages that those who stand up before a small group of guests. Not sure if I accept that premise, but it reminded me of an argument I often gave when people told me living together was just as good as marriage. Not so, I would say. It goes back to the ME/WE argument I gave above. When you live together, you stay only until you decide NOT to live together. When you marry, you stand up before all those people and PLEDGE to "love, honor and obey", theoretically for life. Like telling your New Year's resolution to lots of friends, you feel the obligation to try harder.