How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘premarital sex’

Being Single Can Be Boring

If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong.
—Robert Louis Stevenson

When we think of the life of the modern unmarried woman, we see her as having many more options for excitement than would have been her lot in earlier generations. She doesn’t have to live at home if she doesn’t want to. She’s most likely free to go to college or to get a job, and there’s a wide range of courses that she can take or occupations she can choose. From the outside, it can seem quite interesting, and so it is for many women. It’s also true, however, that even relative emancipation doesn’t prevent quiet desperation and doesn’t cure ennui.

There are many things that she can theoretically do, but in actuality, the daily round may be quite repetitive. Going to college sounds like fun until you remember that even with a college degree, very few women who work are international CEOs or fashion buyers just off to Paris to see the spring collections. Most of them, in fact, are confined to cubicles or small offices working as midlevel managers, executive assistants, or accountants committed to routine and repetitive tasks day after day. Computers may be fascinating, but writing software code or conducting systems analysis offers limited intellectual creativity or emotional appeal.

English: A bored person

A bored person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you cannot change the circumstances of your life or are not yet willing to try to do so, then one aspect of your life, which is open to change, is your love life. You can consider a new lover. If as a history major you must spend all of Tuesday morning listening to someone recount the development of the Civil War between the States, then you can at least spend Tuesday afternoon in bed with an aspiring physicist who promises not to breathe a word about reconstructionism or carpetbaggers.

Being an unmarried woman with a career of some sort, or at least a job, may make it less likely that you’ll be bored than if you’re a housewife; but it’s no guarantee that you won’t. You may still have to work forty hours a week at a boring job that provides few emotional rewards. With the right lover, you can at least look forward to an exciting Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Single Women May Now Seek Lovers and Not Husbands

The difference between an old maid spinster and a bachelor career woman has a lot to do with sleeping on a single cot or in a big double bed.
—Jayson VanVerten

Love is important to most women. With increasing sexual freedom, the importance of love has come to mean granting importance to erotic relationships as well as to affectionate ones. Not all women want a lover. Single celibates do not: Grandma would have called them good girls. Traditional wives do not: Grandma would have called them honest women. Lesbians do not, at least not the male kind: Grandma probably did not include them in her lexicon at all.

Apart from these three alternatives, there remain those who are no better than they ought to be. Grandma would have considered them fallen: she would have called them tramps. When you think of a man who is a tramp, you think of an unwashed hobo, taking handouts, sleeping on park benches, and living hand-to-mouth on the open road. When you think of a woman who is a tramp, you think of one bold enough to have a man in her life without the honorable permission of being either married or at least engaged. A “real tramp” has more than one.

Two Lovers (film)

Two Lovers (Wikipedia)

It is this residual category of women, not a small minority by any means, who are eligible to consider taking a lover or even lovers. They may be tramps from one perspective, but from another, they are emancipated. They are the vanguard of the third wave of the feminist movement, and their ranks are drawn from both unmarried women and married ones.

Unmarried women make up a large part of our population. They include not only those who have never been married but also increasing numbers of those who have been widowed or divorced, sometimes more than once. Some of these women basically believe in marriage but do not want to get married yet. If an unmarried woman in this category were a man, we would say she was sowing her wild oats. All she is doing is having fun. Later, she expects to settle down to one man; and when she makes that decision, she will start husband shopping. Usually, but not always, the basis for her reformation is the desire to have a child and the recognition of the societal benefits of family life versus the single motherhood alternative.

Women of today who expect to remain single for the rest of their lives consist of basically two groups: those who have rejected marriage per se and those who simply predict that marriage, desirable or not, is unlikely. In the recent past, women who never married were assumed to be either the unchosen who could not get a man or those dedicated to a career who chose to work instead of getting married. Such women became the familiar stereotypes of the old-maid teacher and librarian. Since women now do not experience the same career-or-marriage conflict, modern women who reject marriage are likely to do so on ideological grounds. They would concur with Gloria Steinem’s widely quoted maxim: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle!”

Women who have resigned themselves to not getting married include those who have some unsolvable problem which makes them less marriageable than others. Being six feet six inches tall or having six children or being seriously disabled can be genuine handicaps in the marriage market. Other women, who are by ordinary standards attractive to men, may understand that their chances of finding a husband, at least the kind of husband they would want, are slim. This certainly applies to many young and not-so-young widows as well as to the overachievers who are over-educated and over-affluent compared with the men they are likely to meet. There are simply not enough eligible men available to go around for the women at the top. Statistics showing population distribution by age, sex, and marital status bear out that this is more than a perception. As columnist Maureen Dowd, of the New York Times, aptly notes, “Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.”

If there is a surplus of women in the given category and if a number of them therefore cannot marry, what then? Women who do not feel any significant sexual urges or women who are comforted by a deep religious faith and so prefer to devote themselves to God may be content to live celibate lives. Other women who do not meet these two criteria want to experience, if not marriage, then at least something of the potential to be found in man-woman erotic relationships.

A young woman friend of mine, tanned and glowing and just back from a Mediterranean jaunt with her man of the moment, exclaimed, “I think I’ve found the secret. Being a wife is a drag, but being a ‘bride’ is terrific. I think I’ll skip committing matrimony and just commit honeymoons. They’re probably the best part anyway.”

Sexual Fulfillment: The Erotic Affair

What is it in men that women do require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
What is it women do in men require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
—William Blake, The William Blake Notebook

How is one best advised to proceed in the quest for sexual fulfillment? Although both men and women may ultimately end up preoccupied with the dynamics of sex and love, it seems possible that given differences in socialization and differences in physiology, they reach their quest by different routes. One maxim frequently cited states that among men, sexual desire begets love whereas among women, love begets sexual desire. In the nineteenth century, the French novelist Rémy de Gourmont put it somewhat more precisely: “Man begins by loving love and ends by loving a woman. Woman begins by loving a man and ends by loving love.”

Although many things have changed since then, our cultural traditions are strong enough that this pattern still holds true for many women. For some women, there may be a spontaneous urge of sexual desire, parallel to that which men experience, which is not appeased by masturbation or by conjugal sex. For many others, however, the inclination toward an erotic affair is not so much a generalized randiness as a wish for a man who would inspire randiness. It is not that they are full of desire, but rather that they want to find a man who would make them feel desire. The libido is there, but it needs to be aroused. They suspect, often correctly, that with a different man or a different kind of man or a man who made love differently, they would be much more turned on. Such inclinations may be difficult to reconcile with how nice, ladylike women are supposed to feel; but it is clear that it is how many of them do feel, whether or not they admit it  to anyone else.

It starts with her beauty in my eyes, it moves...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Casual sexual encounters may provide a certain excitement or may gratify a desire to seduce or to make a conquest. However, the thrill or newness is often counterbalanced by a certain awkwardness and self-consciousness not unlike what people experience in their first encounters. As one woman put it: “The first time with a new man is always a bit like the first time ever.” If everything seems right, the best you can usually hope for is the exultant conviction: “This could be the start of something big!” The second time may be better, the third time better still.

The most exceptional erotic experiences are often the result of a long-term evolving relationship in which increased awareness of each other’s body and responses improves rapport and empathy and moves the encounter to a higher and higher pitch. There is time for experimentation and time to incorporate what the experimentation teaches you about what works best for you both. It is in a developed relationship that one can best hope for that special magic where an erotic experience approaches a transcendental one. In this instance, practice may not make perfect, but it does make for better and better and better. And yet . . . there is also the Coolidge effect.

Girls Will be Girls: Sampling the Wild Rhubarb

Variety is not only the very spice of life, it is also the very spice of sex: the relish and the zest of all erotic life.

—Simon Van Velikoff, sexologist

Everyone knows that boys will be boys and that when boys are busy being boys, the one thing they do is sow their wild oats. To “sow wild oats” refers to sowing bad grain, that is to say, wild grain rather than the good, cultivated kind. The phrase encompasses a variety of youthful excesses which, under the circumstances, meet with greater permissiveness and indulgence than those same boys could hope for later in life.

Tomcat: Dangerous Desires

Tomcat: Dangerous Desires (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since it is also indisputably true that girls will be girls, we need an equivalent term for their experimentations conducted in a spirit of frivolity and exuberance. Shall we describe such behavior as merely “sampling the wild rhubarb”? (Rhubarb, incidentally, really does grow wild. It has a familiar color and a straight turgid stalk, and although some parts of it are known to be poisonous, other parts are purported to have medicinal properties.)

Sampling wild rhubarb is quite unrelated to long-term goals, such as falling in love and getting married and having children. It is simply fun and merriment for its own sake.

While sampling the wild rhubarb may, at first, be enticing, it is not likely to do well as a steady diet. Like other kinds of youthful excesses, it is likely to be a self-limiting condition, succumbing to boredom or fatigue if nothing else. As Jessamyn West observes in South of the Angels, “Enough tom-catting sooner or later acts as its own cure. There are more reformed rakes than reformed celibates.”

Sowing wild oats and sampling wild rhubarb in today’s world of HIV/AIDS, combined with the resurgence of sexually transmitted diseases, presents risks that cannot be ignored. Plan to discuss the perils and risks of sexually transmitted disease in future blogs.

Sexual Affairs: The Extramarital Connection

We don’t call it sin today—we call it self expression.
—Baroness Stocks, British politician

At the same time that premarital sex was becoming increasingly tolerated, there was a gradual recognition that nice people—even otherwise normal, moral, and successful people—did have affairs and had them without necessarily suffering dire consequences. In 1948, Alfred Kinsey and his associates published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, followed in 1953 by the equivalent book for the human female. The implications were shocking. If the data were accurate, nearly one-half of married men had had extramarital sex at some time in their lives. Worse, of all wives, about 20 percent did so. That represents one in five. Suburban housewives were shocked and surreptitiously viewed each other with suspicion and each night faithfully checked their husband’s coat pockets.

ACTION Magazine..October 1954..PAGE 11...the K...

ACTION Magazine..October 1954.  (Photo credit: marsmet462)

Albert Ellis and other liberal psychologists of the 1960s began to suggest that under some circumstances, extramarital sex could be beneficial to the individual and even to the marriage. In 1966, John Cuber and Peggy Harroff published Sex and the Significant Americans, which showed that many supposedly successful marriages involved covert liaisons often of long duration. Moreover, even when these affairs were exposed to the light of day, their revelation did not necessarily precipitate a divorce. The flower children of the day were beginning to bloom and to talk openly about such unheard of alternatives as “swinging” (couples having sex with other couples) and “open marriage” (where one or both partners in a marriage permit their partner to have lovers outside the marriage).

The jig was up. Americans began to understand what the French seemed to have known all along. Marriage is one thing, involving a long-term partnership for children and real estate and social status. Sex is something else, and love is something else again.

Sometimes, love and sex and marriage go together; sometimes, only two are found together; and sometimes, they are totally separate. Sometimes, they start out together with love’s young dream and get separated later on. A very few lucky people find sex and love and marriage all at once in one relationship; a few unlucky ones never really find satisfaction in either sex or love or marriage.

Female Sexuality: Vanquishing Virginity

There was a young girl from a mission
Who was seized by a dreadful suspicion,
That “original sin”
Doesn’t matter a pin
In this era of nuclear fission.
—Rev. J. A. Davidson

In the not too distant past, a good girl—the kind fathers and mothers wanted for a daughter—was chaste and pure. If she did not marry, she remained virginal as her status slowly changed from nubile maid to simply old maid. The good girl modeled her virginity on such celebrated celibates as the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. Whatever Good Queen Bess did or did not do with Leicester or her other courtiers, the official story was that she remained unsullied. To suggest otherwise was treasonous; to suggest the defloration of any good girl was libelous.

If the good girl did marry, then she became a good wife, which meant, most of all, a faithful one. She might be unloving and unlovable, an unpleasant companion and an incompetent helpmate; but if she was sexually monogamous, she was, by definition, good.

Cover of "Sex and the Single Girl"

The counterculture revolution of the sixties and the widespread use of the pill changed such definitions for many people. Helen Gurley Brown dared to talk about Sex and the Single Girl. Instead of being pilloried, she became famous and went on to expound the same ideas in the very successful magazine Cosmopolitan. Premarital sexual involvement became an open secret. It was no longer considered of great consequence as long as there was no pregnancy and as long as the girl in question permitted sexual encounters only with one man with whom she was in love and whom she planned or, at least, hoped to marry.

The Clairol company, which manufactures hair coloring, was immensely successful with an advertising campaign focused around a provocative question with a double entendre: “Does she or doesn’t she?” The world has changed,
and the question has become less provocative. Most of the time, we assume that she does or has or might.

Now, a more relevant question is, “Will she or won’t she?” As it is realized that an affair—or even more than one affair—is not necessarily beyond the pale, the open secret of premarital sexuality has become simply open. California psychologist Irene Kassorla affirmed that “nice girls do” and no one has to ask, “Do what?”

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