For my book The 30-Day Love Detox, I interviewed some of the brightest minds in the country who focus on sexuality, mating strategies, and attachment. Even I had to take a deep breath and let go of some of my cherished arguments for sexual equality when I saw how solid the research ran contrary to my beliefs. Sigh. These are the sexual myths that will keep you single if you continue to believe them.
1. The Sexual Myth of The Hook Up Culture
As I mentioned earlier, the hook-up culture is more urban legend than reality. A recent National Survey of Family Growth study with over thirteen-thousand participants showed that fully one quarter of college students are virgins.
Yet, most people assume that college campuses are a hotbed of non-committed sex. And they believe this uncommitted sex happens earlier than it does. In fact, young adults who do not attend college have more sexual partners.
But, since the perceptions exist, many women feel subtly pressured to have sex before they are ready. One study showed that the vast majority of college students talked about hook-ups yet reported very few actual sexual scores. But the talk was the damaging part for women. It has the effect of “normalizing” the practice and creating more approval for hook-ups. That new false norm causes many women to engage in risky sexual behavior.4
The truth is there are two, distinct dating markets. One sells bulk sex at a low price, perhaps the price of one drink, and the other sells a select variety to a narrow market. Women who want a healthy relationship “charge” a high price for sex: attention, love, care, commitment, and social status. In today’s times, social status may not mean marriage if you don’t need it, but it can certainly mean that he changes his Facebook status to indicate he’s in a relationship with you.
2. The Myth that Sexual Chemistry Helps Relationships
Many women believe that jumping into bed in the early stages of a relationship is a way to test sexual compatibility, a way to audition a man, if you will. Someone – probably a man – created the myth that “sexual chemistry” is necessary before couples can move to a committed relationship. If this theory were true then people who do not test out sexual chemistry before commitment should have shorter, more unhappy, relationships. But psychology professor Dean Busby and his colleagues at Brigham Young University were unable to make this connection is a study of more than 2,000 couples. People with good sexual chemistry early on did not stay together longer. He explained his results to me this way. “The mechanics of good sex are not particularly difficult or beyond the reach of most couples, but the emotions, the vulnerability, the meaning of sex and whether it brings couples closer together are much more complicated to figure out.” (Dean Busby, personal communication, 2012).
“Sexual chemistry isn’t made by some effortless match, as if the couple won a lottery,” says University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus and author of Pre-Marital Sex in America. “I think sexual chemistry is the title we give to the erotic novelty often found in early sexual relationships: if they’re “hot,” then chemistry must exist. But all relationships settle down into more sustainable patterns of romance, and THAT is when sexual chemistry is fashioned.”
3. The Myth That People Have Sexual “Needs”
Sex researchers have long known that women have different kinds of sexual “needs” than men. Women’s sexuality tends to be responsive, meaning that we respond to sexual opportunity, rather than seek it out to fulfill some kind of necessary quota.
When women meet someone they are attracted to, their sexual responses turn on. When they break up from a sexual relationship, they aren’t as likely as men to replace that relationship with daily masturbation or pornography. When single women feel “horny” it is often an extension of their emotional need for companionship. Some researchers have found that women often desire to be desired.
That’s a whole lot different than a biological desire for sex, any sex, with almost anyone. Men are more like that. This model of female sexuality is supported by the fact that drug companies can’t come up with a drug that enhances female libido. Women’s sexuality is a complicated mix of psychology, social conditioning and biology. Men’s sexuality is closer to basic plumbing.
But in this high-supply sexual economy where women have adopted everything male, I often hear women say, “But what about my sexual needs? I have to put my needs aside?”
I believe the bodies of those women could be responding to our highly sexualized culture, including provocative advertising, half-naked men on Facebook and sexual invitations at every turn, making women believe that sex is urgent. Rather than having a sexual response to a single suitor whom they are attracted to, women could be having a sexual response to our crazy sexualized environment. Or, they could simply be parroting men. Worse, they could be giving in to the power wielded by the shrinking supply of good men, and bowing to their requests out of fear.
These women believe the myth that sex is, in fact a human need. Granted, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of human needs puts sex at the base of the pyramid right alongside pooping, but he isn’t referring to sex as a commodity.
He was referring to sexual competition as a motivating factor for people’s behaviors. And I think it’s clear that we have enough sexual competition these days.
Can both genders control their sexuality? Of course we can! Sex is no more a need than a trip to Saks Fifth Avenue. For our human survival we need, air, food, water, shelter and companionship. Ask any priest, nun, military person stationed abroad, prisoner, or elderly widow. Is sex necessary for their survival? Nope. But it’s a nice perk that comes with freedom, prosperity and good health.
I think the important question women need to ask themselves is this: Does more sex make a woman feel liberated or trapped? I vote for trapped. By adopting a male model of sexuality we have imprisoned ourselves in a hook-up culture that trained a generation of men to avoid marriage and parental responsibilities. Is this getting our “needs” met?
4. The Sexual Myth That Sex Leads to Love
While slightly more than half of college women believe that a sexual hook-up can be a stepping-stone to a relationship, the research points to a more ominous outcome. According to the author of Pre-Marital Sex In America, “It’s a race to the bottom. By having sex early in a relationship — or worse, before it even starts — is a guaranteed failure. It’s just a matter of time. Men won’t sacrifice for someone who’s easy. They don’t work that way.”
Or, how about this little jewel of research? Renowned evolutionary psychology professor David Buss at the University of Texas at Austin and Martie G. Haselton at the University of California, Los Angeles found that the more previous sexual partners a man has, the more likely he is to quickly perceive diminished attractiveness in a woman after first intercourse.
Diminished attractiveness. Sex doesn’t lead to love for men. If the guy is a player, sex more often leads to distain for you.
My Facebook page, like yours, is crammed with visually wired men who click on any cute photo that might mean a sexual opportunity, thus the majority of my Facebook “friends” are men. When I posted the Buss & Haselton study on my Facebook page, one guy summed it up perfectly. “Sure…. It’s a test. We see how quick we can get you in bed. The quicker you are, the less wifey material you are.” Sigh. Feminism has yet to reprogram men’s brains in the area of sexuality.
5. The Myth that Promiscuity Can be Turned Off
Plenty of people believe that sex is a behavior that is very malleable, that sexuality can be turned on and off, like a light switch. Many of the women I spoke with told me that they are hooking up as a way to audition mates, but they are quite sure they can be faithful when they decide to be. But research doesn’t support this. More likely is the scenario that these women are training their body to be a future cheater. We can train ourselves for most anything. And the only way to train for monogamy is to either abstain or to be monogamous.
“Many will say, ‘when I get ready to settle down I’m going to take things more slowly,” says Dean Busby, Ph.D., whose work studying thousands of singles and couples has produced relevant and timely data. “Unfortunately, some of our more recent research seems to suggest that the patterns that develop in young adulthood, and their relational consequences, can’t just be turned off or avoided once a person decides it is time to marry. Every relationship we have, however brief and insignificant, influences every other relationship we have, and the patterns that we repeat across relationships become very difficult to change.”
Exiting the High-Supply Sexual Marketplace
I hope by now you’ve gotten the message that you have mating control but you are in a race against your fertility clock and an ever-increasing competition for a narrowing market of good mates. I hope that those fears will out weigh any fears you may have of dealing with the after shock of pulling yourself off the high supply sexual market. Think of it this way. Even in a tomato bumper crop year, when high supply forces the price of tomatoes down to a nickel a head, there will still be a market for an artisan grown, organic, heirloom tomato that sells for a dollar a head. So which are you? A mass market, low “priced” date? Or, a woman who sets the price of intimacy with her? And the price should be love, care, commitment and financial partnership if you plan to become a mother. It’s time to purge low-criteria relationships.
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