This is the follow-up to Part I of my post.
Let’s address the third and oldest narrative being pushed on us by the dating-trend-du-jour articles and books out there: that men want casual sex, women want serious relationships, and that men are coercing women to get the former out of them.
This is a narrative perpetuated by many sources: popular culture, news media, academics and even the seduction community I was once involved with (more on that later). It’s the opposite of the slutty-woman double standard, and no less harmful.
- The book “Hooking Up” casts female college students as so desperate for relationships in a sea of commitment-averse guys that they’re willing to submit to one-night stands in the hope that it leads to more.
- The New York Times’ recent article on the supposed end of courtship cites only anecdotes where the guy — never the woman — is either too horny, too careless or too broke to pursue a relationship.
- I’ve already written about one writer’s confused attack on men’s supposed Peter Pan complex.
- In the Atlantic’s much-discussed “All the Single Ladies,” our loveless heroine reduces men to “deadbeats or playboys” and claims that in her experience, “In many cases, the more successful a man is (or thinks he is), the less interested he is in commitment.” Even though she leads off the piece by explaining how she walked away from a seemingly great boyfriend.
There are more examples — worse ones, too — but you get my drift. Men want casual sex before love (if they want love at all), and women want love before sex. Right?
If only it were so simple. The onslaught of beer commercials, sitcoms and Maxim-like magazines make us seem as complex as a checkers board when we’re really a lot more like chess. Someone needs to write “The Masculine Mystique” to get the point across, apparently.
Fortunately, there is some emerging data to back this up:
- The University of Michigan’s Terri Conley deals a karate chop to the men-are-dogs theory in a 2011 study. Among her team’s findings: when you seek the median rather than the average number of desired sexual partners over a 30-day period, men and women want the same number: one. Also, while men usually claim more sexual partners than women, that gap disappears when both sexes think they’re taking a polygraph test.
- Sociologist Paula England led a wide survey of college campuses, where it’s supposedly Sodom and Gomorrah these days, and found not only that “hookup culture” is a media-created myth, but also that college men and women both want a mix of hookups and relationships. For instance, where 66 percent of the women said they hoped their most recent hookup would lead to something more, 58 percent of the guys said the same.
- And despite at least one book’s scare tactics on sex-crazed teenage boys, the stats show that fewer teenagers are having sex and getting pregnant than their parents.
Also, not that all young women are in the mold of Karen “F-list” Owen, but there is data to show that women can be as active in enjoying sex and delaying commitment as men are. Academics Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura Hamilton found this to be true.
One young woman on the How About We blog said it well: “The hookup culture isn’t some sphere that we got trapped in because twenty-something guys and technology made it so. We, too, are opting for more freedom, more variety of experience, more sex in our twenties. It’s our hookup culture, too.”
If anything, we need more young guys gaining sexual experience so they can be prepared for relationships sooner. England’s college survey supports the theory that most of the sex is being had by about 20 percent of the students. About 25 percent of college students don’t hook up at all, and another 30 percent will hook up three times or less before they graduate. We can only speculate on how much of that abstinence is voluntary, but I’ll guess that much of it isn’t.
This brings us to my own experience. I have coached well over 100 guys on how to talk to women, and helped many more informally. Most of them had backgrounds similar to mine: they stayed inexperienced with women into their 20s or beyond, which left them frustrated and unprepared for a real relationship.
They, like me, were exposed to the same kind of rock-star playboy hype that was rampant in “The Game” and on the websites of countless PUA gurus. They, like me, wanted a taste of this lifestyle because it seemed infinitely more fun than masturbating to porn. Some never stopped to think whether they were even cut out for a life of sleeping with different women left and right. The hype suggested that this was simply what an “alpha male” did.
I like to think that I was above such exploitation as a coach and I’ve actively distanced myself from it, but as Rob Overman and I once discussed, I’m sure the hype got us some clientele too.
Once they were down the rabbit hole with me, though, I found most of the guys to be much like I once was: they wanted the variety because they’d never had it, but ultimately they wanted more than just casual flings.
It didn’t work out for all of them. But I’m proud to say that many of the guys I kept up with enjoyed both ends of the spectrum, from wild sexual breakthroughs to hard-earned courtships. To point out the complexity of men wanting some mix of sexual variety and commitment might not fit a convenient, Twitter-friendly headline, but it does get us much closer to the truth.