“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
I will never forget when I first heard those words. It was sophomore year of high school and I was sitting at the kitchen table in my best friends house. Her mother had been lecturing us on how we shouldn’t complain about not having boyfriends (or in our case, boys we could claim to have made out with). And while usually these lectures, from her mom and mine ended with “…so just worry about doing your work,” this conversation ended with a suggestion that maybe there was more than just our underclassmen awkwardness that was to blame.
I’ll admit that for a brief time in my life, I tried pretending that the cow question didn’t matter and tried to tap into my inner short haired Melanie Barnett. Remember- those moments with McSteamy? “I’m dancing and emphasizing!”
Well. Let’s just say that in real life, as inThe Game, that experiment in freedom crashed and burned.
Since then, the cow question has framed the way I view all start up relationships. I hate to think of women as cattle, but when it comes to the dynamics of dating, the metaphor appears more and more fitting And while it is easy to dismiss as an old fashioned notion, it’s even harder to disprove.
This week in a piece for Salon, Mark Regnerus writes about “Why young men have the upper hand in bed, even when they’re failing in life.” The article, “Sex Is Cheap,” reflects very much the idea that despite their overwhelming success over men their age, young women lag behind in one area- their sex lives.
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.
Is the declining marriage rate tied to women giving it away? This is the debate that seems to divide the “sexually liberated” from the “prudish ones.” Honestly, it’s a pointless debate, spilt milk if you will, because even if pre-martial sex is not the reason for a decline in marriage, it still says something about being a woman in today’s day and age.
For young men nowadays, sex is indeed cheap. I mean its Dave Chappelle-the-stock-has-plummeted-Loehmanns’-red-sticker-muddy-hell-just-dirt cheap. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that 30 percent of men 18 to 23 were able to get sex from a woman without ever taking her on a date, trying to woo her, nothing. So at best here, we’re talking Netflix night and ordering in General Tso’s for two.
Even worse than the number of women putting out for Chinese food? The amount of men who with a little early magic are getting it in. For 36 percent of young men, sex was already happening with two weeks of the relationship and an additional 13 percent of men were getting it within a month. Now, if we consider that not ever relationship is considered exclusive- the numbers could get even worse.
(While I’m sure I could sit down and attempt to calculate that out- it’d probably just add to the pulsing headache I already have. So I’ll just say this:)
For all the complaining we do about men our age not growing up, maybe more emphasis needs to be places on why women are driving their own sexual capital down. Even if marriage isn’t the goal you seek, earning respect should be. I have never known all I needed to know about a man in month, bump two weeks. What I do know is how quickly as women we can feel like we do and end up proven wrong.
Some will say that women give it away because, if they don’t some other woman will. I have no argument against that. In fact, I think it’s entirely true. I also think though, that if a guy chooses sex with someone else because you won’t give it up by the apparent 30 day deadline, that that was God’s will for him in your life.
No one here is advocating for doubling the Joan Clayton three month rule, but dating has gone from being a process to a precursor- and it’s a problem. One month, two week or the first night, sex isn’t a way to rope him in, it’s a way to sell yourself out. And I know- men are quick to say that sex is not the only factor in why they don’t commit- I can believe it. I also believe that you will never see a man in a healthy committed relationship with a girl he doesn’t respect. There is such a thing as giving it away too soon- and though one can never set a time for it- women shouldn’t be giving it up before that respect has been established.
The truth is that if we’re looking for commitment, getting left behind for sex is a risk more women are just going to have to go ahead and take.