Sex? Relationships? Liberation?


Oy. It’s almost the stupidest day of the year, and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about gender relations, sex and the transformation of our society occurring through my generation and beyond with regard to the whole package.  Seems like an opportune time to blog about it, though I’m not sure how well organized these thoughts will be.

I should specify that I am only writing from my smallish leftist-hipster worldview and that might not count much outside of itself. I think there are some interesting statistics that point to a more generalized experience for educated women and we’ll get to those near the end of this post – but I’m trying to reconcile my experience with some of these “facts” and my shifting political and economic position in the world.  

As has become apparent to many in my life, I work a lot these days and I travel a lot as a result which means I often miss out on weekends and free evenings that lots of people seem to have. During one period last spring I worked 30 days in a row between my job and union – no days off, no weekends free – and at least half that time spent in hotel rooms in 3 different cities. Result? I have a well-supported life economically but I lack the energetic capacity to commit myself to another person at the moment. Or perhaps I should rephrase that – I lack the capacity to commit myself to anyone who won’t completely adapt to my schedule and lifestyle and be there when I want them – which I know is unreasonable and so I don’t even try.

Instead, I’ve been doing the causal internet dating scene – fun for a few nights or a few weeks – without any promise beyond a little instant intimacy. This format certainly has its downsides, but it’s working for me at the moment and has been good for breaking me out of my usual social scene. (Love my friends, but we don’t have many available men in our scene as has been hashed out in some of East Van’s finer establishments over the years). One of the fallout effects of this has been that I find myself talking about sex and dating a lot more these days, and with a lot of different kinds of people – which has lead me to observe a few things:

  • Men and women generally expect the worst of each other when it comes to sex, dating and partnering.  If you can get either gender to talk about what they really think of the other, it turns out that both sides are disillusioned, depressed and generally wary of the opposite sex.
  • Unlike the experience of past generations where a mating partnership was looked to as salvation from our families of origin, or a place to start our futures – there are a lot of people who see commitment as a necessary trap only for the purposes of having children (something many people biologically desire). Thus many commitments are temporary inconveniences with a purpose.
  • There is a lot more cynicism about the concept of “love” out there. There’s a lot of wounded people walking around wishing they could find their other and denying it to themselves. I think men are more fearful of it than women – but I have nothing to back that up except personal intuition.
  • Although women are evidently thinking about sex a lot more (see this week’s Georgia Straight for proof), and are increasingly on their own and not having children – we are still not able to fully embrace our sexual selves. While it’s easy to get sex as a woman, there are still lots of *real* dangers associated with it for us (violence, disease, pregnancy) and additionally we are still socially condemned for it.
  • There’s a lot of kinky people out there. And the Internet is undoubtedly encouraging this phenomena through the ability to share experiences and learn about new things. Queer culture has also helped us straight people out an awful lot in this regard (yay for womyn’s ware and other female-empowering sex shops, magazines and sites).  
  • And despite the generalizations above, there is no uniformity of experience in our generation vis a vis marriage, having kids, finding love, having sex, etc. because all the traditional rules are being broken.

Now, I’m not going to argue for tradition or a return to straight marriages or an end to kink, but I am going to argue that this is perhaps as confusing a time for both genders as any other transitional period in the history of relations between the sexes.

Because on top of all of the above – women are entering universities and high-powered workplaces in record numbers. Female university graduates have outnumbered men for the past decade or so, recent stats in the US show that more women are living outside of traditional partnerships than in them for the first time in history, and over 40% of female university graduates in Britain born in 1970 will enter their forties childless. That’s my generation of women – increasingly educated, economically self-reliant, and in control of their reproductive systems. Raised under the feminist banner of the 70s and 80s, women are still not exactly sure what we want – but even moreso, the men in our lives don’t quite know how to relate to it either.

On the one hand, we have biological drive to reproduce (which some feel stronger than others), but we live in a world which is increasingly environmentally unstable. Internet pornography and casual sex sites make random release easier to obtain than ever, but we substitute these encounters for real intimacy. Women are often making as much or more than men which gives them more freedom, but neither gender seems to act as though this is the case.*

I think, at root, the biggest problem I encounter is that people from both genders are afraid to be honest with themselves about what they really want.  And because we can’t be honest with ourselves, we can’t be honest with anyone else either. I mean this in the most superficial sense (what’s your kink?) and in the deeper as well (what kind of partnering is really right for me?) – and while we’re programmed to live in  one world (the one our parents grew up in), we’re living in a totally different one. We think our honesty has to reflect familial expectation, even though our economic and social and sexual realities are fundamentally altered.

It’s confusing. Yes. But sometimes I see a glimmer of greater liberation in people and it makes me hope that we can refashion our idea of what relationships should and can be. Monogamy for some, sure. But polyandry for others? Raise our children in a village or be single mothers by choice?  Be honest when our partnering is economic and based on friendship rather romance? Ditch the notion that it has to be true love to be profound or spiritual? And godammit – can we all get over ourselves just a little bit and have some fun too?

Despite all my crappy experiences with men (and women for that matter), despite my failed marriage and the exes who were dishonest, a history of sexual and physical violence and all the other things that make me up – I am working these days to just what is and stop projecting the past into every present moment. I think it’s true that the worse our expectations of others, the worse they end up behaving – and that’s not liberating at all. The more gender equity we have in our society, the greater chance we can enter into liberated relationships – and now more than ever I think we are moving in that direction. At least I hope so.

* yes, women on average earn less statistically – but have more earning power overall these days.  

One Comment on “Sex? Relationships? Liberation?

  1. Awesome post.. you are nailing the issues for me. so much resonance for me
    especially the truth and honesty part, it all starts at home.
    Add love to that mix, if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect to
    “know” how to love anyone else? If we can just stop being afraid of ourselves, our potential – for loving relations. Fear is an overriding factor in so much of society…
    but i am not afraid – I feel fear yes, but not afraid of that. Embrace it really, love it ( ohh kinky! ) really. It’s our lives, we make our reality in so many ways.
    Ohhh stay strong sista! Luvin’ you…

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