I just returned from a three-week tour of Central America. While there, I joined members of my group tour in going out to dinner in Rio Dulce, a bay city in Guatemala. At dinner, I had the pleasure of getting to know a young Australian woman,19 years old, on the trip who seemed to have sex, dating and marriage all figured out. She was tall and naturally beautiful, with long brown hair that extended down her back. Despite her young age, she decided that marriage was bullshit and unnecessary (she thought of marriage as a relic from old history), that men actually like opinionated and strong women, and that it was okay to sleep around while you are figuring out life. She was loud, masculine and opinionated; a middle school boy’s fantasy tomboy come to life.
We were both fresh out of failed long-term relationships. She broke up with her boyfriend so she could be free to travel, and I broke up with my long-term boyfriend because he refused to get married. As I sat at the table trying to explain my newfound desires to get married and have children, she shook her head, saying “Life is for living! Don’t be so rigid!”As she spoke, some of the men at the table nodded in agreement. They wanted to enjoy their youth too by hooking up, experimenting and traveling. Nearly everyone at the table (besides the one couple in our group) said that they wanted to settle down and get married in their late thirties or early forties. When they were ready, of course.
I was the odd woman out at the table trying to share some of the knowledge about dating and relationships I learned over the past few years. Knowledge about the declining fertility and beauty of women and about the emotional baggage of useless hookups. But the young Australian did not want to hear it. Eventually, I gave up after I realized that the differences between us―at 26 years old, I was at an age where I am beginning to see the physical consequences of casual sex and careless living.
I have felt the sadness of causal empty sex with hookups and the resulting loneliness. I have friends who are already single parents, unmarried friends who are stuck in rental leases with ex-partners they despise and relatives on the verge of divorce (I myself am actually the product of careless hookup sex―my father was married to another woman when I was born and I am just three months older than one of my brothers). Worst of all, I have female friends over the age of 35 who may have missed their opportunity to get married because they spent their entire youth (when they were at their sexual peak) working overtime at the office to get ahead. These women are the most regretful people I have ever met.
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But to the young Australian, life was for the taking. She is beautiful and her career is on the way up. If she is getting everything she wants now and a constant stream of compliments from men, why should she need to think that someday men will stop finding her attractive? Or that the men at the table will have the opportunity to pick up family life and marriage any time they want (usually with younger women), but that she will not have those options if she waits too long? I dropped the topic because I realized that I was wasting my time.
I also realized with shocking horror that I was talking in real-time to my past self. The Australian girl was me! When I was 19, I would not have listened to my blabbing about fertility and marriage either. Why, I had a career to pursue! There were other women at the table from Western countries (the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands) who shared the young Australian’s sentiments―that marriage was oppressive and restricting, that having a family was not everything and that a woman’s independence and career should come first. I felt sickened at that moment with feminism’s ability to to defy not just logic but also geographical barriers. That flawed ideology has spread across the world, infecting young women by tricking them into believing that they can have everything―the loyal, attractive husband, the high-flying career, loving and stable children―all without having to lose anything in return, like fertility, independence or femininity. Lies! All of it lies!
If I could go back to my younger self, I would share all of the facts that paint a different picture about female independence, love and marriage:
Fertility is More Relevant Than Your Bullshit Career
- After 25, female fertility slowly drops off. After 30, the decline in fertility begins to hasten. By 35, difficulty in conceiving children is commonplace and accounts for the boom in fertility clinics. By 40 you are playing Russian roulette.
- One in five men who remarry wed a woman at least 10 years their junior, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data. By contrast, only one in 20 men on their first marriage pair up with someone that young.
- While 80 percent of men in their first marriages have spouses within five years of their age, that share drops to 57 percent by the second marriage.
- Men across the age spectrum have a sexual preference for women in their mid-20s. This remains true for men of all ages—men in their early-20s or younger are attracted to women older than themselves and older men are attracted to younger women.
Hookup Sex is Terrible
- In one study, among participants who were asked to characterize the morning after a hookup, 82 percent of men and 57 percent of women were generally glad they had done it. Forty-three percent of women regretted it! [Thanks to Hooking Up Smart for finding the statistics]
- In a sample of 507 undergraduate students, more women than men hoped that a relationship would develop following a hookup. Only 4.4 percent of men and 8.2 percent of women (6.45 percent of participants) expected a traditional romantic relationship as an outcome, while 29 percent of men and 42.9 percent of women (36.57 percent of participants) ideally wanted such an outcome (Garcia & Reiber, 2008).
- Twelve percent of women say that it is sometimes easier to have sex with a guy they don’t know than to make conversation (Glenn, Norval and Marquardt, Elizabeth, 2001).
- In a study of 832 college students, 26 percent of women and 50 percent of men reported feeling positive after a hookup, and 49 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported a negative reaction.
- In a qualitative study that asked 187 participants to report their feelings after a typical hookup, 35 percent reported feeling regretful or disappointed, 27 percent good or happy, 20 percent satisfied, 11 percent confused, 9 percent proud, 7 percent excited or nervous, 5 percent uncomfortable, and 2 percent desirable or wanted (Paul & Hayes, 2002).
- In a large Web-based study of 1,468 undergraduate students, participants reported a variety of consequences: 27.1 percent felt embarrassed, 24.7 percent reported emotional difficulties, 20.8 percent experienced loss of respect, and 10 percent reported difficulties with a steady partner (Lewis et al., 2011).
- In another recent study conducted on a sample of 200 undergraduate students in Canada, 78 percent of women and 72 percent of men who had uncommitted sex (including vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex) reported a history of experiencing regret following such an encounter (Fisher et al., 2012).
- In a study of 270 sexually active college-age students, 72 percent regretted at least one instance of previous sexual activity (Oswalt, Cameron, & Koob, 2005).
- In a report of 152 female undergraduate students, 74 percent had either a few or some regrets from uncommitted sex: 61 percent had a few regrets, 23 percent had no regrets, 13 percent had some regrets and 3 percent had many regrets (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008).
- In a study of 140 (109 female, 31 male) first-semester undergraduates, women, but not men, who had engaged in intercourse during a hookup showed higher rates of mental distress (Fielder & Carey, 2010).
He Does Not Like You Just Because He Has Sex with You
- He is going to ejaculate, whether he likes you or not: Men reached orgasm more often than women. In first-time hookups, 31 percent of men and 10 percent of women reached orgasm; in last relationship sexual activity, 85 percent of men and 68 percent of women reached orgasm.
- Armstrong, England and Fogarty (2009) addressed sexual satisfaction in a large study of online survey responses from 12,295 undergraduates from 17 different colleges. Participants were asked about oral sex rates and orgasm in their most recent hookup and most recent relationship sexual event. In this study, men reported receiving oral sex both in hookups and in relationships much more than women.
- In first-time hookups that involved oral sex, 55 percent included only men receiving oral sex, 19 percent only women receiving oral sex, and 27 percent both mutually receiving; in last relationship sexual activity, 32 percent included only men receiving oral sex, 16 percent included only women receiving oral sex, and 52 percent included both mutually receiving.
Independent Women are Lonely Women
- People with higher numbers of past sexual partners were more likely to form hookups, and to report lower relationship quality. Through the acquisition of partners they begin to favor short-term relationships and find the long-term ones less rewarding. (Paik)
- A third of unmarried women have not had sex in the past year, compared with less about a quarter of the men. About 20 percent of single women have sex two or more times per week.
Your Career is Not Everything
- According to Pew, a strong majority of working moms (62%) would rather work part time; a job situation enjoyed by just 26% of working mothers. Over a decade ago, just 48% of working mothers said a part-time job would be ideal.
- Fully 79% of working fathers prefer to work full time, while just 21% say part-time employment would be ideal
Divorce is a Mistake
- You can get the divorce if you want to, but there are consequences. Fully 64 percent of divorced or widowed men have remarried, compared with 52 percent of previously married women. (Pew)
In closing, here’s great advice from blogger Susan Walsh that I learned the hard way:
“When a man shows interest he won’t know right away whether you go into the short-term box or the long-term box. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, being very selective about sex is one way of ensuring you’re perceived as potential [long-term relationship] material. Signaling your willingness to have sex immediately with a man you just met says that you are not particularly selective, so there is nothing special about this man. You’re also signaling that there is nothing very special about sex. It’s the fastest route to “one and done.”