Thursday, May 19, 2005

Cosmo Takes a Stand—for One Night

A new survey by British Cosmopolitan finds that the overwhelming majority of women who have had one or more one-night stands regret it.

This is not surprising. What is surprising at first glance is that Cosmo would report such information, since so many of its articles are focused on nonmarital sex.

I think what's going on here is that Cosmo's editors realize that women are dissatisfied with one-night encounters—so they use that knowledge to market the magazine to women who dream of such encounters' being transformed into "real" relationships. After all, they paired the cover tagline for the sex survey with one for a story on "10 Sexual Sins Thou Shalt Commit Tonight." The message is, if you're good enough in bed, he just might stay.

The truth about the destructive and numbing psychological effects of unmarried sex, particularly on women, is one of our society's most closely guarded secrets, kept out of the popular culture in much the same way that the deep emotional damage caused by abortion is hidden. It's not just the mainstream media that avoids the topic either; as World magazine's blog recently noted, fornication runs much deeper among churchgoers than homosexuality—yet pastors rarely preach against it.

The fact that over 40 percent of women age 15-44 have cohabited suggests that the problem's invisibility is due to its very immensity—fornication is woven seamlessly into the fabric of our culture. Television, films, and the rest of the media combine to encourage women to self-medicate their loneliness with sex. Society pretends to frown upon one-night stands—out of concern over AIDS if nothing else—but sex within an unmarried relationship is considered acceptable because of the atmosphere of mutual "respect."

The truth is that no woman can truly be respected by a man who is perfectly willing to make full use of her body and perfectly unwilling to give her a full commitment. That's not respect. It's a transaction: "You give me sex and I will 'respect' you until we get bored of one another." Behind that "ideal" lies a deep cynicism. Whores have a point when they say that the difference between them and other women having nonmarital sex is that they get paid.

I'm not saying this to judge women, but to suggest that any hope of future love is worth forgoing present "respect." It's a subject on which I feel qualified to write with authority—as I've written before, I've had more "respect" than you've had hot dinners. When love finally came, I knew that it was far more than just deserts.