Nov. 9, 2012
Tracy Clark-Flory writes for Salon:
When my recent date showed up at my door, minimalist bouquet in hand, I imagine I looked like Id seen a ghost of courtship past. He took me out to a restaurant with actual reservations, not to a taqueria or dive bar. He planned it nearly a week, not minutes, in advance. He picked me up in a cab rather than having me meet him there and, on his way over, he called instead of texting to give me a heads up.
Dont be fooled by the articles title, Who needs casual sex! (BEWARE: some crudity!) Ms. Clark-Flory is quick, in post-modern feminist fashion, to insist that hooking up and courting are two equally valid love-life options. Her point is that being romanced, for a change, is niceshe phrases her reaction to her dates cutting off the evening before hes tempted past his resolve as a revelation.
Im relieved Ms. Clark-Flory has finally enjoyed a taste of what romantic relationship ought to look like, but I find what she writes about her past experiences simultaneously disheartening and unsurprising.
As I wrote four years ago in my essay In defense of casual sex, hookups can be a legitimate way of getting to know other people, as well as ourselves. And even when they arent, who cares: Women are just as entitled to meaningless flings as men. But, yes, as Ive gotten older, casual sex has lost some of the luster of freedom. It isnt that Ive forsaken the delights of no-strings flings, but rather that Ive tired of hookup cultures dictatorial reign over modern courtship. It doesnt feel so free when it doesnt feel like an intentional choice. [emphasis added]
Clark-Flory states that hooking up often seems less about a pursuit of pleasure than an avoidance of actual intimacy. Here, I think she misses the mark. I believe that many young women hooking up are hoping that somehow men looking only for sex will somehow accidentally fall in love with them. This is how love works for the bright, quirky heroines of the romantic comedies weve been fed since our early teens. This is not how love generally works. Many young women are actually desperately seeking intimacy and love; they just dont know where to look for it, who can give it to them, or what to give (or not to give) to obtain it.
Ms. Clark-Flory closes by writing that shes conflicted: I dont believe that ones sexuality can be broken like fine china, but I do think its special…I would never advocate a return to traditional gender roles, but courtship, actual effort, is refreshing no matter the sex of the courter. I disagree completely. I believe ones ability to relate to another sexually in a healthy, whole manner can really be broken. I dont think men even want to be courted. And I dont know if true courtshipnot merely effort, but romantic interaction driven by genuine mutual interest, with no expectation of sexual intimacyis even possible for those who eventually plan to consummate their relationship before any formal commitments or vows are made. Clark-Flory may, out of desire to appear impartial, chalk her taste for courtship up to age or the sense that sex has become an imperative. Id argue that courtship just serves men and women better.