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:
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.