At Tuesday's "Modest Proposals" seminar, Washington Post Laura Sessions Stepp quoted a line from a coed that appears in her exposé on the casual-sex culture, Unhooked. Referring to a potential hookup, the college student said, "It will suck if it's bad, but it will suck even more if it's good."
Hearing Stepp read that line, I remembered how it struck me when I first read it, back when her book came out — how it echoed my own experience. In fact, I wrote something very similar in Chapter 4 of The Thrill of the Chaste — a complete coincidence, as Stepp's book was off to the publisher when mine came out.
The passage in my book reads: "When I was having casual sex, there was one moment I dreaded more than any other. I dreaded it not out of fear that the sex would be bad, but out of fear that it would be good."
If the sex was good, then, even if I knew in my heart that the relationship wouldn’t work, I would still feel as though the act had bonded me with my sex partner in a deeper way than we had been bonded before. It’s in the nature of sex to awaken deep emotions within us — emotions that are distinctly unwelcome when one is trying to keep it light.AND ANOTHER THING: If I were writing The Thrill today, I would add that nonmarital sex does damage men as well. As I wrote on this blog earlier this year:
At such times, the worst moment was when it was all over.
Suddenly, I was jarred back to earth. Then I’d lie back and feel . . .
. . . bereft.
My partner was still there, and if I was really lucky, he’d lie down next to me. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling like the spell had been broken. We could nuzzle or giggle, or we could fall asleep in each other’s arms, but I knew it was playacting — and so did my partner. We weren’t really intimate —it had just been a game. The circus had left town.
"Sex and the City" heroine Carrie Bradshaw once asked, “Can a woman have sex like a man?” The question’s not new. Helen Gurley Brown posed it nearly forty years earlier in Sex and the Single Girl — and answered yes: “Like a man, [a woman] is a sexual creature.”
But unlike a man, a woman’s body has to allow her lover inside — to let him literally get under her skin —and that will always frustrate her quest for quasi-masculine, no-strings sex.
I realize that I don’t have to convince you ladies of this. You’ve already read the blurbs on the back cover of this book—maybe even cheated and skipped to the last page (shame on you). But even if you know in your heart that you’ve been hurt by crossing physical boundaries with a date, it’s important to realize that the pain was not because —as Cosmo would claim — you were doing it wrong. It’s because you were doing it right. It’s the situation — seeking physical excitement with a man for its own sake, outside the love and security of a marital relationship — that was wrong.
Truthfully, however, with regard to the "Sex and the City" question — "Can a woman have sex like a man?" — I am no longer convinced that a man can "have sex like a man," let alone a woman. When I think back upon the men I have known who have had premarital sex, none of them escaped being damaged by it. Perhaps they were not damaged in ways that psychologists measure, such as the tendency to suicide and depression (though a 2003 study did find that — sexually active teenage boys as well as girls had a higher rate of depression than abstinent teens), but I believe they were damaged in other ways, such as being:
- Less able to achieve intimacy in relationships
- Less able to maintain long-term relationships
- More likely to seek out pornography
- Less secure in their faith
- Less mature
- Less able to choose and focus upon long-term life goals