If there's one sentiment that sums up the current dating culture, it's the words of Quentin Crisp, "Men get laid, but women get screwed."
Take a step back. What you're about to read has nothing to do with morality, religion or judgment -- as far as I'm concerned, those things have no place in a discussion about women's sexuality. Rather, what you're about to read is a challenge to current dating norms. It's also a challenge to women -- especially young women -- to make choices that reflect their best interests, personal values and lifestyle goals instead of just doing what everyone else seems to be doing.
While uncommitted sex and cohabitation lead to fulfilling lives for some women, others find these practices aren't living up to their lofty promises of making them feel sexually empowered, loved, valued or in control of their lives. Instead, many women find these practices are leading to disrespectful or indifferent partners, feelings of being used for sex, and months or years of spinning their wheels in dead-end relationships.
Women often enter into casual sex and cohabitation assuming these things are their only options. Yet these practices have only become the default dating norms over the past few decades. And guess what? They're a failed social experiment. As women show less respect for their bodies and expect less from men, they are increasingly been treated with contempt and apathy by men.
Let's start with uncommitted sex. While it serves its purpose for women who want to enjoy the pleasures of sex on a recreational basis, casual sex is not in a marriage-minded woman's best interests. Frankly, it comes with more drawbacks than benefits, and I'm not just talking about STIs.
Contraception is not foolproof (providing it's even used) and many babies are born to biological parents who have made absolutely no meaningful commitment to each other. Being a single mom is a hard job and there's no point increasing your odds of taking it on.
Having casual sex also showcases your values. Like it or not, your sexual behaviour -- just like your non-sexual behaviour -- says something about you and how you approach sexual intimacy. A man might wonder, "If she'll do this with me, how many other men has she done it with? Is she trustworthy? Does she have good judgment? Does she respect herself?" A quality man, the type who is desirable husband material and who has options, may care about The Number.
He might not care while he's dating for fun, but when it's time to choose a wife and a mother for his children, he'll do the math. This doesn't make him insecure or shallow. It makes him selective. Why? Because a person -- whether a woman or a man -- who isn't discriminating in terms of her or his sexual behaviour may be seen as a poor, even risky choice for a lifelong spouse.
Some women who have uncommitted sex, particularly in the early stages of a relationship, do so with the private hope that it will increase a man's feelings for her. Unfortunately, her behaviour is likely to backfire as she attracts the type of man who is only looking to have no-strings sex as soon as he can, for as long as he can. This guy is likely to treat her with a bare minimum of respect and affection.
Hoping things will change, a woman might stay in this pseudo-relationship for months or years, enduring mixed messages, disrespectful behaviour, broken promises and so on. The longer she lives like this, the greater the toll on her dignity and well-being. If she does have the strength to leave, she is likely to cart away some heavy emotional baggage.
The prognosis isn't any better if a woman is having casual sex with a "super-nice guy." Even if he treats her well (especially if he treats her well) she risks falling in love with him before he has committed to her. While many men can enjoy casual sex without becoming emotionally attached, women often fall very deeply in love with a sexual partner. Again, if a woman has the strength to leave this one-way love affair, she is likely to do so with a heavy broken heart in tow.
Many couples who engage in casual sex go on to live together. While this is a fulfilling lifestyle choice for some people, men and women often have different expectations. A woman may think it's a definite step toward marriage, while a man may see it as a way to indefinitely "test drive" the relationship.
The problem is, if a man hasn't made a commitment to a woman before he lives with her, he isn't in the "must make this work" headspace. It's likely that his girlfriend's idiosyncrasies are going to reduce his desire to propose, which often leaves her spinning her wheels in frustration and hurt, always hoping the relationship will move forward and always being disappointed. Even if he does finally propose, studies have shown that the rates of divorce are higher among couples who live together before marriage.
Plus, you've heard the saying, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" If you're going to freak out about that metaphor, let's try a prettier one: "Why buy the perfume when you can get a sample for free?" Better yet, let's say it plainly. Why marry a woman when she will have sex with you, split the rent and basically "play wife," all without requiring any actual commitment from you?
In many cohabiting situations, walking away from a relationship is as easy as walking away from a month's rent. Research shows that the rates of relationship dissolution and family breakdown are higher among cohabiting couples than married couples. Those aren't the type of things that tend to make women happy.
All of this leads me to ask: If research shows that uncommitted sex and cohabitation don't lead to relationship or family stability, and if women are increasingly being treated with contempt and apathy by men, why are we still acting like these dating norms are in a woman's best interests?
In my opinion, practicing sexual modesty while dating -- which includes keeping your own place -- is a far wiser approach to dating for marriage-minded women. It can help prevent you from feeling used, ramping up your number of sexual partners, being strung along or misled, and having your heart broken.
Sexual modesty while dating can also distinguish you as a woman of sexual self-restraint and judgment in a dating world that is full of promiscuity and desperation, so that a high-quality man sees you as wife material from Day One, rather than just another booty call, "you'll-do-for-now" girlfriend or roommate with benefits.
This isn't to say that a woman who is practicing sexual modesty can't enjoy a great deal of physical intimacy with her boyfriend. She can. Yet by withholding the most intimate part of herself, a woman allows the emotional intimacy in the relationship to deepen so that sex and love both have meaning. It's a fail-safe approach. If the relationship lasts, nothing is lost; however, if she gets dumped or ends the relationship, she will be left with fewer sexual regrets and less emotional hurt. To me, this is just a smart way to live.
Challenging dating norms is a tough thing to do. People take the discussion personally and their reactions reflect their own relationship successes, failures and agendas; however, if you're a woman who is unhappy in her personal life, it might be worth your time to critique the dating norms of casual sex and cohabitation in a rational, not just reactionary, way.
Debra Macleod is a leading marriage and dating expert. Check out her new dating guide, The Modest Minx: A -Date-For-Marriage Method For Women Who Know that Good Men Marry Class, Not Ass and visit the website at ModestMinx.com.
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