How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
Sex-positivity — the feminist movement that’s pushing to destigmatize sex — should be great for women. The counterculture’s roots began in the 1960s, with sex positivity being about the power of undenied and unrepressed sex. In the early 1980s, the focus took a feminist turn against anti-pornography feminists.
Now more mainstream, the conversations revolve around empowering women to have as much sex as they want, without shame. Many of us grew up on TV shows, movies, and books that use promiscuity and independence synonymously. Women like Samantha Jones from “Sex and the City” have been coded as empowering because of the high number of casual sexual encounters they have.
With movements to reclaim the words slut and ho and the numerous dating apps that enable us to have casual encounters with ease, it would seem casual sex is everywhere.
There’s just one little problem: The casual sex straight women are having is bad
Last year, DJ Khaled proudly announced that he didn’t go down on women. He was roundly mocked on social media, but he is far from the only man with a sexual double standard. For example, men are open on social media about their requirements for a “wifey” versus a casual sex partner.
I’d finally decided to swear off casual sex after a string of terrible encounters. As a straight woman who’s been single for most of her 20s, I had exactly zero orgasms — and all with men who would only judge me for it later. And when I tweeted about the phenomenon, I received an overwhelming amount of replies and DMs, all from other women through with casual sex.
When I tell other women I’m taking a break from non-relationship sex, they tell me they understand completely. They aren’t swearing off casual sex because they want serious relationships or because they can’t handle casual arrangements — which is the prevailing cultural stereotype about women. No, these women are saying they don’t enjoy casual sex on a basic level.
There’s no emotional investment in casual sex. Still, emotional investment isn’t a prerequisite to good sex. So, what is it that makes casual sex so bad for straight women?
The most common denominator in the bad-sex stories I hear from women is men who are doing the bare minimum for female pleasure.
I think back to all the casual encounters I’ve had since college, in which I gave men blowjobs while they seemed completely uninvested in getting me off. (I can count on one hand the number of times I was offered oral sex in return: one.)
One woman tells me, “A few men have told me that cunnilingus is something they would give only to a longtime girlfriend — which confounds me since they had absolutely no qualms about oral sex for themselves.” She’s not the only one to have this experience. Astonishing as it sounds, there are quite a few straight men who view going down on a woman as a “girlfriend privilege.”
As one woman tells me via Twitter, the idea of girlfriend privilege is “a license to be less of themselves in bed. Less invested, less giving.”
Men have a problem prioritizing female pleasure
Take your average porn video easily accessible online. It probably doesn’t feature a woman having an orgasm — and even when it does, the orgasm is depicted as the woman screaming or thrashing around in a performative and unrealistic fashion.
The link between casual sex and porn sex was brought up by many of the women I interviewed.
“I remember one dude got weirdly rough while we were in the act without checking in… and he kept trying to do this weird, legs-up, porn sex pose that hurt,” says one woman in a private message.
Another tells me that men mirror things they “clearly got from porn — like growling, awkward choking, and spanking,” without the sexual finesse of an actual adult entertainment star. She describes the tempo of the sex as being “forceful and aggressive”, while the man ignored her obvious pain.
There seems to be a kind of disrespect of women’s autonomy during casual sexual encounters, which doesn’t make the experience any better.
When I think about my own one-night stands, I realize I can relate: It seems to me that many men copy what they’ve learned from porn with no comprehension of the fact that women aren’t a monolith.
This is a symptom of the larger cultural disease that treats women as if we’re all the same. The fashion industry seems to struggle conceiving different sizes for the female body. Hollywood, more than 70 to 80 percent of the time, only conceives of one race of women. Mainstream porn seems to suggest women have only one type of sex.
Women are unique in our tastes, including our sexual tastes. Our bodies and pleasure points are individual and different. Treating us as a one-size-fits all pornographic fantasy isn’t going to work.
According to the frustrated women in my inbox, there’s no point in casual sex until we figure out a way to teach men how do it with consideration
Every single woman I talk to says some variant of the same thing: Men prioritize their pleasure by treating women like dolls or props to get off from.
“99 percent of men you have casual sex with are just using you as a human fleshlight. You don’t get the full spectrum of the sexual experience… [there’s] a lack of sensuality. They don’t caress your body, touch your hair… which is part of what makes sex fun for women,” says one woman, who says she has been so disillusioned she’s all but given up on casual sex with cis men.
And since I’ve written off casual sex, I can’t agree more.
I have so much more time to myself. I’m much less willing to be disappointed by strange men. I feel that my body and my desires matter in a real way, since I only have sex with partners who I know are committed to my pleasure.
My orgasm rate has skyrocketed — and so has my self-esteem.
It’s not that we don’t want more sex, but who wants bad sex with selfish partners? We’ve heard society’s version of sex positivity and we’re choosing to keep our legs closed. Investing in casual sex with straight men means investing in their orgasms more than anything: We’re now choosing to invest in ours.
Priya-Alika Elias is a lawyer and writer who lives in Delhi, India. She tweets about feminism, dating, and pop culture @priya_ebooks.