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March 4, 2013 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Sex is Great (or so I’m told)

The other week I was watching a period drama. For the avoidance of confusion, I am referring to a television show set historically, rather than a live swimming pool scene later to end up in Girlfriend magazine’s ‘How Embarrassment’ pages. It made me realise that I would definitely be better off romantically if I had lived ages ago. Admittedly, I have suspected this for a while – a friend once told me that I had a nose “straight out of Pride and Prejudice.” I will leave you to mull that one over. Upon reflection, it is the simplicity of historical arrangements for which I long. 

Historically (in the West – chill out, I have to narrow it, I only have a page) ‘success in love’ has meant long-term monogamy marked by relatively early marriage. I must acknowledge the reality that women were essentially property in these arrangements, which flies in the face of every Beyonce GIF I’ve ever seen, but doesn’t the simplicity appeal?  To a bemused twenty-year old female with a character nose, my exposure thus far has led me to see ‘success’ as some kind of exclusive relationship with someone that doesn’t consider me a complete tool and isn’t after the $500 I will most likely receive upon my parents’ demise. Marriage doesn’t really enter into it. Assigning to a relationship the term ‘success’ is not ideal, as it leaves the switch pointed toward ‘failure’ while I accidentally-on-purpose touch people’s upper arms in the kitchen at parties.  Relax – I’m not about to argue that ‘success in love’ is all-encompassing. I assure you that I enjoy singledom. Do not misunderstand me.

In 2013, the pressure to marry for traditional ‘success’ has long since waned. Now, we’re largely unrestricted as the makers of our own romantic maps (or some other, better, metaphor).  While “it’s your choice” as a standpoint is fantastic, we are overtly encouraged to either nonchalantly couple up, copulate and brunch the next day or get our rocks off through casual encounters. Either way, now that dowry-incentivised commitment is no longer fashionable, we should be having sex, and rully rully enjoying it. The implications of this for me are that by doing nothing, I am doing something wrong. Somewhat ludicrously, I still would rather only engage in that stuff with someone I’m fairly serious about.

In writing this, I keep having a knee-jerk reaction of wanting to articulate that you having casual sex is fine, I just don’t want to. Some of the pressure I feel like I’m under surely arises from incredibly valuable sex-positive discussion (read: don’t bother with hate letters, of course the presence of this discussion is better than its absence, my position is the same as yours, I just orgasm less). That said, I can’t be the only one who finds all this talk at times ostracising. Simplicity! Please! Elizabeth Bennet never had to cancel her rice pudding when Charlotte Lucas started talking about Collins.

Despite the fact that I would be relegated to being a chattel, the simplicity of yore would throw me a bone as someone that is neither asexual (despite believing as much for longer than I would care to admit), nor has regular sex. The advice on offer is staggeringly paradoxical. The example of virginity sees this advice at its most conflicting. “Get it over with.” “Don’t throw it away.” “It’s awesome.” “It’s not a big deal.” “If you start young, you get good.” “Don’t lose it to someone that is also a virgin.” “Find someone you really like.” “It’s still fine, even if you aren’t interested in them.” “Go for it – fuck them.” “Just realise that it’s a bit shit and move on.” “My first time was bad – that happened.” “Mine was good – this happened.” The credit for this informal sex education goes to my conventionally ‘functional’ friends and (frighteningly) parents and (even more frighteningly) younger brother who lost his virginity before me, to a beautiful girl who I felt deserved a condolence card. I have filtered their advice down to “anything really goes”, but it freaks me out regardless, so I stayed in last Saturday and watched the period drama that led to this largely incoherent diatribe.

The simplicity I’ve been glorifying here is not going to happen for me. I will continue to expose myself to all of these viewpoints, because they’re interesting. It’s not really a big deal. I am not opposed to sex. I don’t see people’s ventures that are different to my own as being better or worse. Despite this ‘chill’ attitude, I did not write ‘YOLO’ on my census form (irrelevant, but worth stating.) It’s not that bizarre of me to only want to sleep with people who I like more than just incidentally. Maybe it is just my ‘Pride and Prejudice’ nose that makes me feel as though I’d have done alright back then.

This obvious confusion has a lighter side. An inevitable Girls reference saw my first-year self experiencing something akin to Shoshanna, with a guy and a ‘bold’ declaration and a clear slide into disinterest. I subsequently—wait for it — couldn’t decide whether the disinterest was due to my hymen or the Bridget Jones underwear that I was wearing. That is something you can write me a letter about.


Indi Howse


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