Men Only Want Sex, Women Only Want Relationships, and Other Tired Old Clichés

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Doesn't it seem like everyone's writing about relationship politics these days? Not that that's any different from ever before. Now we've got this: an article arguing that although 20-something men are mainly slobs in dirty sweatpants watching Onion Sports Dome, they still have the upper hand in sexual relationships with women their age, who are statistically more successful and together than they are. Wow, shocker. Men have the upper hand in sex? Or at least, they're perceived to have the upper hand?

According to the rules of "sexual economics," men always want more sex than women. Women just sort of grit their teeth, lie back and try not to check their watch too much, hoping that sex will lead to a committed relationship. Because lest you forget -- that's the only thing we care about. We just want big strong men to take care of us and our babies, which we're constantly thinking about 24/7.

So, now that it's been established that sex is just a soulless transaction between two empty vessels looking to use the other for personal gains, we can see that the the "market 'price' of sex is currently very low." This has to do with porn, that old bogeyman of sexual politics, and the Pill, and the fact that women will no longer be shunned for having premarital sex. All these things make it so women can't control the price of sex? Or something? Why are we talking about the "price" of sex, again?

Yes, sex is clearly cheap for men. Women's "erotic capital," as Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics has dubbed it, can still be traded for attention, a job, perhaps a boyfriend, and certainly all the sex she wants, but it can't assure her love and lifelong commitment. Not in this market. It's no surprise that the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who are married has shrunk by an average of 1 percent each year this past decade.

Not to get hysterical here, but I'm offended by this and you should be too, whether you're a man or a woman. To think that women only have sex to gain things? To think that men only want sex, period, and won't offer love or a lifelong commitment without it, or I guess even with it? That's sexist to both parties, frankly.

And then to bemoan the fact that fewer people are getting married. Personally, the only reason I would care about people not getting married would be the death of Say Yes to the Dress. There's an implicit -- even explicit -- belief in our culture that marriage is the be-all to end-all of a woman's life, and it's about time we start questioning that.

Also, the "news" that men have more power in sexual relationships is not news at all. I'd posit that it has very little to do with the new lower "price" of sex; it has little to do with women having to settle for immature schlubs; it's just the way our society has traditionally functioned (see: lack of male birth control, expectation that women shave everything, degrading/violent pornography). Or it's the way we think our society functions, anyway. I would actually argue that the fact that women are waiting longer to get married points to their becoming more powerful, if not in their relationships with men, then in their lives and careers in general. Because in case you forgot, marriage is not the only thing women care about.

In reality, every relationship is different. These stories make it seem like all men are assholes and all women are dithering little flowers who won't stand up for themselves sexually. Neither of those things is true.

And please -- let's not ever talk about the "price" of sex again.

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]


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