Is Feminism to Blame for Hook-Up Culture? A Debate

Neely Steinberg and Hugo Schwyzer discuss how their personal histories have shaped their individual world views.

I first got in touch with Hugo via Twitter. He was responding to my recent article published on the Good Men Project, in which I chronicled my debate with Amanda Marcotte regarding the word “slut.” Hugo was on Marcotte’s side, but that didn’t stop us from sharing respectful tweets about the article and other topics, such as dating, sex, and the effect of feminism on men and women. We enjoyed our 140-character conversations so much we decided to collaborate on an article.

After throwing around some ideas, I mentioned to Hugo that I was intrigued by our contrasting positions—his steadfast defense of feminism and critiquing of men versus my critiquing of feminism and steadfast defense of men—not because we disagree in the ideological sense, but because of our tendency to stray from defending our own gender.

I wanted to know what has shaped Hugo’s thinking when it comes to dating, sex, relationships and feminism, since these are topics he’s covered extensively. Likewise, I wanted to share with him how I’ve come to certain conclusions about these important subjects as well, because I’ve been thinking, writing, and speaking about them for several years now. We could then present our contrasting viewpoints to Good Men Project readers. Far too often, we’re dismissive of those with whom we disagree, chalking their opinions up to nothing more than sound bites, propaganda shoved down our throats by evil news networks or talking heads. But that’s taking the easy way out. How often do we take the time to see where a person is really coming from and why they may think the way they do? Listening to other people’s stories may not change our own convictions, but it can make us more thinking, feeling human beings, more evolved. It can give us a fuller appreciation for and awareness of others.

Below is Part 1 of our discussion in which we highlight how our experiences have informed our perspectives.


How does your background and experiences inform your worldview about dating, sex, relationships, and feminism, and the advice you give?

Hugo: What a huge question, Neely! Of course, it informs everything in ways seen and unseen. Though I’m leery of saying that we’re all just products of our environment and our experiences, I know my views about pleasure-centered sex education are very much rooted in what I’ve lived through and what I’ve seen.

If there’s one truth I’ve learned (and seen so many others learn), it’s the idea that contrary to folk wisdom, one mistake—or even a series of mistakes—will not ruin your life. In her wonderful Full Frontal Feminism, Jessica Valenti writes that Sometimes doing silly, disempowering, sexually vapid things when you’re young is just part of getting to the good stuff. That doesn’t seem all that profound until you realize that it’s pushing back against the toxic idea that experiences invariably leave life-long scars.

I’ve been married to four women, been “in love” with twice that many, and for a brief but intense period in my 20s and early 30s, I was very promiscuous. I now live very happily in a monogamous marriage. I’m not haunted by what I did, nor did the tremendous variety of experiences I had when I was younger spoil any opportunity for fulfillment with just one partner in an enduring relationship. Without compromising her privacy, I can say that my current (and last) wife’s life prior to our marriage was not dissimilar to my own. The intimacy we have today is at least partly a consequence of our experiences with other people, not in spite of them.

Experience really is the best teacher, even if not every student learns the lesson the first (or 101st) time. Women in particular need reassurance that their worth is not linked to their number of sexual partners. They need to hear that pursuing pleasure for its own sake when they’re young will not make it more difficult to form enduring monogamous relationships (if they want them) when they’re older. These are lessons I’ve learned, lessons I’ve seen the men and women in my life learn and embrace.

I do regret the pain I caused other people. Rightly so. But what my life has taught me is that insight and compassion are rooted in experience; you can’t advise about what you don’t understand. My own ability to be a patient father, a faithful husband, a decent teacher and mentor isn’t in spite of my wild sexual choices when I was younger—it’s in large part because of them, and the lessons I learned. I’m lucky, but not that unusual.

I don’t advocate self-destructive choices, and for different people, both promiscuity and abstinence can be self-destructive. I want to equip young people to discover their own sexuality and to make informed, pleasure-centered, empathy-centered decisions based on what they discover. I want them to know that they have the inner resilience to recover from the “silly” and “vapid” decisions they may make.

Neely: I agree with a lot of what Hugo has to say, but I think we may have different perspectives on the effects of casual, no-strings attached sex. I also happen to think most women aren’t all that interested in having a lot of it for purely sexual reasons, with multiple partners no less. And I’ve come to believe that feminism’s inability, and at times refusal, to acknowledge differences between the sexes has been disingenuous and has gravely backfired on women, leaving them ill-equipped to discover what really feels good and right to them.

The Samantha Jones (of Sex and the City fame) lifestyle was, in my opinion, a false bill of goods, sold to impressionable young women as glamorous, exciting, and liberating, while ignoring any sort of biological mechanisms that induce women to emotionally attach with their mates. I was told, by the 10% of women who are capable of effectively and consistently compartmentalizing their emotions when it comes to no-strings attached sex, that emotions were overrated, anathema even, and could easily be separated from sexual acts with another human being, to unapologetically unleash my inner slut (there’s that word again). It was our right (rite?) as women, our responsibility as sexual creatures, to show the world we can fuck like men do, have instantaneous orgasms, and feel faaaabulous while doing it in our 4-inch Manolo Blahniks. Countless women bought into this lie, only to realize years later that it doesn’t, in fact, feel so great most of the time, and that actually, there’s nothing all that empowering and liberating about spreading your legs with wild abandon.

Instead of embracing the emotional and biological differences between men and women, or at least considering them, sex-positive feminists buried their heads in the sand, unintentionally creating, in the meantime, a veritable sexual playground for men, often times at the expense of women, many of whom just wanted relationships that were both sexually and emotionally satisfying. Women were told they could have their cake and eat it too, but the dessert in many ways has been a better payoff for men.

I spent the latter half of high school, college (if dating was scarce when I was in college, it’s nonexistent today), and many years post-college, mired in the hook-up scene, which was, mind you, always fueled by alcohol. It’s as if I needed the crutch of Vodka to tell me what I was doing was an awesome idea, because without it I’d know better. I wasn’t alone. It was happening all around me. My friends, female acquaintances, countless women I’d met briefly over the years—we were all in the same boat. Post-college, we could pursue our careers and hobbies and passions full-force but were unable to form lasting attachments, to believe that a man wanted us for anything more than a quick hook-up, to understand what real intimacy was about. We tamped down our emotions and hid our dissatisfaction—how else could we have had our witty Sunday brunches at which we joked about our encounters? In reality, I spent countless nights crying over my dating life. I know my friends (smart, beautiful, accomplished women) felt just as dejected and lonely. And all of a sudden we were in our early-30s. Whereas I once blamed men for my dating troubles, I now began to turn a critical eye on myself and an ideology that didn’t seem to be serving me all that well.

I won’t deny those wild days are tinged with a bit of sweet nostalgia, but I also know that pain has a short memory. Overall, these sorts of trysts usually left me feeling empty and the hollowness I felt had nothing to do with the evil patriarchy shaming or guilt-tripping me. It just felt lacking in so many ways. I remember one night in particular when I was 29 quite vividly. After being totally ignored at a party by a guy who I had hooked up with the night before, I cried hysterically while my friend drove me home. When we pulled up to my apartment, I remember feeling devastated and deflated, yelling, “I’m sick of this! I don’t get it, what am I doing wrong?” as I smashed my hand against the passenger seat window, shattering my bracelet in the process, pearls spewing everywhere. I was tired of making mistakes and not learning from them but felt stuck, like I had just lost myself. If feminism’s goal was to eradicate the falsehood that a woman’s worth is tied to her sexuality, it has failed on many accounts. All I learned from drunken, fleeting hook-ups over the course of a decade was how much I was being viewed as a sexual object by men, as a vagina who happens to think and feel, rather than a thinking, feeling human being who also happens to have a vagina. As Laura Kipnis writes in her book The Female Thing: “Welcome to the new femininity—at least under the old femininity you got taken to dinner.”

I agree with Hugo and Valenti’s point, to an extent, about the importance of making mistakes in your love life and learning from them. If it weren’t for some of the wrong turns (and their attendant lessons) in my life, I wouldn’t have found the wonderful man who I am dating today and be able to appreciate him. But I think I owe that more to the few actual relationships I’ve had with the wrong men and less to vacuous sexual encounters that taught me nothing about intimacy or pleasure. Thankfully, I did the hard work to understand how both my familial dynamics and the cultural winds of the day influenced my decisions. I consider myself lucky to have found the right guy at 34 but worry about other women, no matter what age, who are wedged between a culture that tells them one thing and the voice inside them that tells them another.

Again, while I think women need to make mistakes in order to know what they want, at what point does that end? I understand everyone’s journey is unique, but I think young women today are looking for different, more tempered voices other than the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar variety, for tangible, strategic dating advice (such as, if you want a relationship try developing emotional, spiritual, and mental bonds with a man you like or just started dating by delaying sexual gratification—yours and his). My advice is based on the distilled wisdom that I have gained with age. If only one woman can be spared a night of crying against her pillow and get closer to what she really wants because of something I’ve written or said, then I feel like I’ve made a positive difference.

I understand what the feminist credo and Hugo have to say about pleasure-centered sex education and helping women to understand that it’s okay to enjoy sex outside of relationships (it is!) and to make silly, vapid mistakes, but we should also consider the notion that casual sex and hook-ups may not be for many women and can indeed have long-term deleterious effects (emotional and physical). Moreover, I think this sort of feminist-speak can often seem like highfalutin mumbo jumbo to a woman who, say, has hit her early to mid-30s, already spent years exploring her sexuality, made mistakes ad nauseam, and is now ready to settle down but has unfortunately found the dating pool has shrunk considerably. Lori Gotlieb wrote about this dilemma in her controversial article (and subsequent book) for the Atlantic entitled Marry Him! 

And, of course, there’s the ever-present tick-tock of the biological clock. It’s the one factor that feminism and college professors can’t manipulate. This is one such example as to why real-world practitioners are often at odds with academics: A professor sits behind the thick veil of tenure, spouting off theories and philosophies about how the world should be; a real-world practitioner has to deal with the world as it is, to make difficult decisions based on the realities of life.

Based on my experiences and what I’ve seen countless other women deal with over the years, you can see why my approach to dating, sex, and relationships comes from a more strategic, realistic place (another example of this approach: if you want marriage and biological children, you should start taking your love life seriously by the time you reach your late-20s/early-30s), and why I now feel compelled to offer a critique of feminism. I want women to be happy, and to be honest with themselves, without feeling the need to buy into a politically-correct ideology, about what makes them happy. If it truly is lots of casual sex and fleeting hook-ups, more power to you! If not, that’s okay too! For so long I was dishonest with myself, getting swept up in a powerful cultural force that wasn’t there for me when I really needed it. Regarding the feminist movement, we have much to be thankful for, but we must also recognize it has created an unintended set of less-than-desirable circumstances for women that are very real and difficult to confront. We now have to deal with those consequences, honestly and openly and without fear of reproach.

—Photo Trishhhh/Flickr

About Neely Steinberg

Neely Steinberg is a freelance writer living in Boston. Her work has been published in the Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, the Boston Phoenix, and New York Magazine, to name a few. Formerly, she hosted two internet radio shows and an internet TV show on dating, sex, love, and relationships. Currently, Neely is the relationship/dating columnist for Blast Magazine. Send your relationship/dating questions to her at and she will answer them in her column on Blast called “MP4 Love,” in which she posts her video responses. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website:


  1. “Are you suggesting that a married woman who has had only 1 lifetime sex partner is damaging her vagina because she has frequent sex with her husband? Or is it just casual sex that is damaging?”

    I always thought about this. Someone who has sex with 7 partners in a year but only a couple of encounters with each is going to have a lot less sex than someone who is married and having sex with her husband daily or even weekly. What about a woman with no partners who uses dildos? The myth of multiple partners doing something to your vagina (childbirth can occur with only one partner) makes no logical sense.

    • HarlemWorld4eva says:

      It does do something to your vagina if you have sex with males who have abnormally large member and if you don’t practice kegels and have multiple childbirths and no corrective procedures. Of course there are exceptions. Take the blinders off and step into the real world, like the author is saying. Take it from someone who has examined many vaginas and interviewed women regarding their sex habits/attitudes.

      Hell, even ask a gynecologist!

      • MorgainePendragon says:

        “[a woman’s] body is rarely, if ever, permanently changed by sexual activity. Previous or current sexual activity does not make a woman’s vagina “loose.”

        “During intercourse, the vagina may not feel “tight” to a partner or a woman for a few reasons. When a woman is not scared and is sexually excited, the muscles around and of the vagina will temporarily become more flexible and open. Vaginal lubrication that also often happens at those times adds to the vagina not feeling tight.

        **”Contrary as it may sound, when women feel very sexually aroused (excited) and are active sexual partners, the vagina may also feel tighter because of the muscles being more active and because of certain areas of the vulva being more erect and because of more blood circulating to the pelvic area.”*

        Maybe, as the last point indicated, those 200 women you’ve been with just weren’t “very sexually aroused (excited)” and their vaginas didn’t “feel tighter because of the muscles being more active”. 🙂

  2. Brad McMahon says:

    Reading some of the commentary here reminds me of attitudes / outlooks from the 1960’s. We visited the “free love'” concept once, and found it pretty shallow. Good thing that was the only drawback… then.

    Today we have AIDS, and another half-dozen or so Permanent, Incurable diseases. Sleep with enough bums… and it’s only a matter of time.

    Enjoy it while it lasts…

  3. “They need to hear that pursuing pleasure for its own sake when they’re young will not make it more difficult to form enduring monogamous relationships”

    That is absolutely not true. If you speak with most women who are currently in their late 30’s or 40’s who were heavily into the hook-up culture you will find out that they DO have trouble finding a monogamous relationship. If someone is happy living a hook-up life and that is what you plan to do for the rest of your life, great but you can’t sell them the idea that they can live that kind of life and then will be able to form a stable monogamous relationship. Of course, like everything there are exceptions and there are people who have been able to enter into a stable relationship after a promiscous life but the reality is that this is a big minority. The vast majority will not be able so I think is terrible that Hugo is selling that idea to young women.

    • MorgainePendragon says:

      “That is absolutely not true. If you speak with most women who are currently in their late 30′s or 40′s who were heavily into the hook-up culture you will find out that they DO have trouble finding a monogamous relationship.”

      Rubbish. Where DO you get your information?

      I and many, MANY of my female (and quite a few of my male) friends greatly enjoyed what I believe to be (from this post) “hook-up culture” in our 20s and 30s, yet at the same time have since had and/or are currently in long-term (monogamous and nonmonogamous) relationships.

      And I have hundreds more acquaintances who have done the same.

      What a dated, judgemental, based-in-patriarchal morality statement that is that you’ve made. Join the 21st century, please.

      • Morgaine, let’s talk straight here. I’m sure there are plenty of promiscuous women that are in monogomous relationships now in their 30’s and 40’s. But let’s be honest with eachother here. As a older brother to 5 younger sisters, and privy to their plights with men, and from my perspectiive living in nyc for 20 years, I just think you are arguing the excpetions. Sure, we can always argue the excpetions, but where does that get us?

        Do women with a long sexual history end up with a attractive man they truly love? Sure, but what are the odds. In my experience, (and I think facebook is a great example) the loose women I know growing up ended up with men that were half as attractrive as anyone they slept with In the past. Look, women have a lot of power in their sexuality. Some women use their most attractive years to sleep with good looking, interesting, sexually attractive men. Others use those years to attract the most high quality life long companion they can. Its a women’s choicem but make no mistake, life is about choices and trade offs. As a man who met his future wife in college, I’m fully aware of these trade offs. On the one hand, I share a bond with my wife that simply is unattianable for someone who did not have the opportunity to grow up with their life partner. She was in love with me before I was evem me! She put all her trust in a promising young man, and no matter how much money I make, no matter how many degrees I earn, no matter how sick or disfigured I ever become, she will still love the same 21 year old kid she met in college. How can you replace that?

        Of course the trade off is that I’m an attractive 35 year old man with a doctorate degree a six figure salary and a healthy social-family life living in a world where I am all the sudden an alpha male with access to all the “liberated” women like yourself that provide easy nsa sex to men like me. And its tough, but its a trade off. I’m honest enough to admit I can’t have it both ways. Why can’t you? Sure, I want to have my cake and eat it, but uts one or the other-either I get to screw all the cute 20-somethings in the city or my relationship with my wife. Feminsims seems incapbable of being honest and telling young women life is about choices and trade offs, and every single decision we make has consequences, especially when it comes to the most intimate act any two human beings can engage in. And YES, in my experience, a womens sexual history absolutely has an impact, ESPECIALLY for women who have begun to age and realize that they will soon no longer be desirable sexually and at the same time must come to the realization they will never have a child of their own or a partner that they can trust will grow old with them. Through the good and the bad.

  4. Just saw the trailer for This Means War, starring Reese Witherspoon.

    The premise: Two gorgeous men who are top CIA operatives are dating the same woman – Reese.

    Reese says she’s never dated two men at once, to which her friend, Chelsea Handler, angrily replies:

    “You think Gloria Steinem got arrested and sat in a jail cell, so you could be a little bitch? Get out there, you get flexible.”


  5. Neely, your post is so full of fail I am not sure where to begin.

    First… Samantha from SATC is not the same as sex positive feminists and vice versa. I am a sex positive feminist and every time I see SATC on the telly I want to stab the screen. I hate the whitewashing of NYC and the rampant shallow, consumerist culture it promotes and I’ve never met a real woman who acts like any of those neurotic *fictional* characters.

    10%? Ok, that is just sloppy writing. You just pull a random low stat out of your butt and proffer it as evidence. Loses major credibility points there.

    You mentioned being lonely and crying… it wasn’t that sex that made you that way. At the moment you were having sex you were feeling pretty damn good… maybe not second later, but lets be honest about the intrinsic value of orgasms, shall we? Later, when you were not having sex and not feeling good you felt lonely and unloved. You are reaching for a reason to pin it on and say… AHA, it was because I had sex BACK then that I feel LONELY now. No. At the time, the sex felt good enough that you kept doing it. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t. And the reason you were lonely was because you hadn’t met your partner yet. Pretty straightforward.

    Also, what would have abstaining earlier have accomplished? You met your partner by dumb luck… just like everyone else on the planet lucky enough to have someone they care about. Keeping your legs closed wouldn’t have temporally changed a damn thing and made you meet him 10 years earlier. You would just have been frustrated by the amount of first dates you had with the guy not calling you back because YOU didn’t put out. Either way, those guys were not destined to be your partner.

    Also, hook up culture is not solely a product of feminism. It is also a product of Playboy and Hugh Hefner… which started in the 50’s. It was as much or more about men and their ideas of what makes them good and decent humans. They were liberated of the need to feel like they had to marry in their 20s… well before women and the height of second wave feminism in the 60s and 70s.

    Merely choosing to be celibate in your 20s as a woman doesn’t increase or magically create men who are interested in monogamous committed relationships in your same age bracket. Those horny guys have always been hooking up with SOMEONE… and that is horny young women… since time immemorial. So if ain’t you they are hooking up with… it’s someone else.


    Also, you advise women to ‘take serious’ commitment and kids in their late 20s and early 30s. But if they are with someone who is not ready for those things or if they haven’t found someone yet… that is pretty empty advice. Love and commitment are not something you can FORCE. You can’t just command them to find the next guy and work ‘The Rules’ on them until he falls into place. Commitment requires a choice by BOTH parties.

  6. MorgainePendragon says:

    “The Samantha Jones (of Sex and the City fame) lifestyle was, in my opinion, a false bill of goods, sold to impressionable young women as glamorous, exciting, and liberating, while ignoring any sort of biological mechanisms that induce women to emotionally attach with their mates. ”

    I don’t get all this Samantha-bashing. I am a full-fledged, “card-carrying” feminist borne of the Second Wave and completely enthusiastic about the Third. I LOVE Samantha Jones. I WISH there had been a Samantha Jones in the zeitgeist when I was a teenager or in my 20s. The best I had was Isadora Wing, who turned out to be disappointing because she just kept on looking for “the perfect man”.

    I also LOVE SATC, although the values– consumerist, shoes, ridiculously extravagant lifestyles (and as with Friends, there’s no way Carrie could’ve afforded all that on a single column. Samantha and Miranda maybe– and Charlotte is independently wealthy? but yeah, it was unrealistic) are not my aspirations. WHAT a relief to see a TV show, a story, first in my whole life, FOR women, mostly BY women, ABOUT women AND their sexuality!?! What a revelation! It was very flawed. It was very white, hetero, yuppie-classed, etc. But I was SO grateful– and the writing is hysterical. I still go to a SATC website for quotes when I need to laugh!

    But there are FOUR women in that show, not one. Each has her own approach to sexuality, to what she wants from sex and what she expects from a partner– not that the two have to be the same thing. I thought it was hysterical that the ONE TIME Samantha “waited” the guy she fell in love with had a dick “the size of a tampon”. It happens. I STRONGLY recommend “try before you buy”. This whole virginity thing is a bunch of patriarchal misogynist BS– it’s not biology at all. In PLENTY of cultures, brides who who already are or have been pregnant are PREFERRED, because it shows they are fertile.

    So as I said before, I believe “Hook-up culture” can be a great thing, depending on how you participate in it. It’s about being honest with yourself and with potential partners, NOT being ashamed of your sexuality and your desires, NOT feeling the need to blame anyone or anything for doing what YOU want to do (whether that’s fuck 1000 men or only 2 or 3).

    PS “ignoring any sort of biological mechanisms that induce women to emotionally attach with their mates. ”

    WTF? WHAT biological mechanism? It doesn’t exist.

  7. “Countless women bought into this lie, only to realize years later that it doesn’t, in fact, feel so great most of the time, and that actually, there’s nothing all that empowering and liberating about spreading your legs with wild abandon.”

    I found this an extremely interesting sentence because in a sense that describes my experience (except for the woman part). After having been “good” and not being rewarded for it (I know this is charged language but it’s the most concise way of presenting it I can think of), I decided to throw forming a connection out the way and just go for no-strings-attached sex…and it left me hollow and unsatisfied. I’ve a friend who’s male as well and for whom it seems to work just great. I, on the other hand, appreciate monogamous, trusting relationships even more *after* this experience. So I’m tempted to agree with Hugo that those experiences are valuable in making us understand what we really value, while “embracing the emotional and biological differences between men and women” just rings hollow, seeming to bulldoze intra-gender differences that might in many ways be more important than inter-gender differences, something where the (newly discovered) and seem to support me.

  8. I can’t really identify with the terms under which this debate is being waged. There are a few dichotomies everyone seems to accept:

    1. High sex drive people want casual sex
    2. Low sex drive people want relationships
    3. Men are high sex drive and therefore prefer casual sex
    4. Pro Sex == Pro Casual Sex
    5. Non causal sex implies a relationship

    I don’t really like casual sex but maybe I define casual sex differently than others. I have a high sex drive. I am a man. I don’t necessarily need to be in a relationship to have sex but I like it more when I trust and like my partner. I am very Pro Sex but I am not so pro casual sex which I regard as a different thing altogether. This is a bit difficult to explain because the assumptions I make are way different than the assumptions being made here.

    I think only one person who adequately captures what I am trying to say and that is Susie Bright:

    “Well, first of all, I detest the term “casual sex” — since when is it actually casual, this so-called casual sex? Every time I was with someone it was intimate. It was intense. I got to know them and they got to know me on levels we certainly wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t gotten together — and I don’t just mean what their bottom looked like, I mean their personality, their feelings. You’re vulnerable with someone. I mean, some people say, “No, I’m made of steel. I just go in there and fuck.” Have I ever experienced that, at all? I just don’t find sex to be this jaded, cynical, stoic exercise. How do you manage to do that and have an orgasm? I don’t.”

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      As far as I know, there is statistical research that suggests many mammals break along gender lines in terms of desiring casual sex vs. committed relationships.

      That said, the situation is complicated by the fact that humans have language and higher culture, so biology is probably less destiny for us than other animals.

    • MorgainePendragon says:

      Hear hear, Assman. Your comments are often some of the most pithy and insightful on GMP. I wish there were more of them but then if there were, you wouldn’t be so pithy, now would you? 😉

      Doesn’t Susie Bright make so much sense? Don’t you just want to send all these budding and full-fledged misogynists, so terrified of women’s sexual power, over to her? It’s hard to believe she’s in the US– but then, she wouldn’t be such an anomaly in [most of] Europe.

      Really, in cultures that are casual about sex, there just isn’t the level of terror, hang-ups, judgementalism, hostility, confusion … someone either on this thread or another mentioned that in BDSM communities (where they MUST TALK about sex, they MUST BE OPEN and HONEST and CLEAR about what they want) even in the US have so much less misunderstanding and more respect for each other, regardless of gender.

      What patriarchy (and rape culture) do is allow the fears, uncertainties, ignorance and apprehension about sex to be turned into woman-blaming and woman hating. Europe is also patriarchal– but in the area of sex, because communication is more honest and open, it’s much less oppressive.

      As Robin Williams once said, though, what can you expect from a culture founded by The Puritans, the people who were TOO UPTIGHT for the British?

  9. harlemworld4eva says:

    How come no one ever brings up other unintended consequences of copious casual sex such as overly enlarged vaginal orifice. This is an impediment to long term relationships later on in life too. Men think about these things.

    • Oh please. Copious casual sex does not damage a woman’s vagina, other than the risk of pregnancy and STD’s. The vagina has extremely powerful muscles. Childbirth can make a woman’s vagina less “tight” (although I’ve heard it sometimes has the opposite effect). So can aging, because of muscle atrophy (same reason your stomach gets flabby over time).

      Are you suggesting that a married woman who has had only 1 lifetime sex partner is damaging her vagina because she has frequent sex with her husband? Or is it just casual sex that is damaging?

      Please stop repeating urban legends.

      • MorgainePendragon says:

        Misogynistic misinformation, more like it. LOL

        The levels of ignorance are appalling.

      • HarlemWorld4eva says:

        I’m not repeating urban legends. I’m talking about real life. I have been with over 200 women of all types. A lot of sex with varying penis sizes and childbirth does wear down the vagina. Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t make it that way.

        Also, not all are the same, some withstand the wear and tear better than others. #dontshootthemessenger

        • MorgainePendragon says:

          200 women? Out of, oh let’s say roughly 2 billion of an age to be sexually (consensually) active during your lifetime.

          A good random sample: NOT!

          LMFAO, what an ignorant, misogynistic prejudice, not backed up by ANY medical facts. You obviously know nothing about female anatomy– or actually, anatomy or biology of ANY kind.

          ONLY in US America, where ignorance is proudly proclaimed!

          • harlemworld4eva says:

            Go examine some vaginas that have been through the type of wear and tear I am referring to (repeated insertions of various above-average sized penises and childbirth(s)) and then get back to me.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      It can have an impact, but your bits are your own to use and decide what to do with. I you go through life “saving them” for a special occasion that never comes around, what good is it?

      Even if there are a few men who are put off by sexual experience theres just as many that are attracted to it.

      • HarlemWorld4eva says:

        Thank you for at least acknowledging the truth. I didn’t say people with worn vaginas were bad people or anything.

        It’s just something that makes a man think.

  10. I take issue with this article on a number of levels, but I think my main problem is that Neely seems to suggesting the sex-positive feminism INSISTS that all women MUST “unleash their inner slut” and have as much casual sex as possible in order to be liberated and empowered. From all my reading, that’s not what sex-positivity condones at all.

    “our responsibility as sexual creatures, to show the world we can fuck like men do, have instantaneous orgasms, and feel faaaabulous while doing it in our 4-inch Manolo Blahniks.”

    For example, this is sentence sounds like a formula for an episode of Sex and the City. Last time I checked, Sex and the City and sex-positive feminism have little-or-nothing to do with each other. Conflating the “Samantha Jones Lifestyle” (i.e the behaviour of one character from a TV show which is widely known for its shallow and problematic portrayals of women) with sex-positive feminism is over-simplifying the issue and weakens the argument considerably.

    Sex-positive feminism, as far as I understand it, promotes the idea that what a woman does or doesn’t do with her body is her own damn business. She might choose to remain celibate her whole life, she might want to wait until marriage, she might have a few serious relationships and some sporadic drunken hook-ups or she might have kinky sex with strangers every other night. Whatever. As long as it’s all between consenting adults, she can do whatever she wants and no one has the right to judge her for her choices.

    I understand that sex-positive feminism can be skewed towards promoting a woman’s right to sleep around and explore her sexuality. This is probably because, for many many centuries, this wasn’t an option for women at all. And I still think female promiscuity is far from being a “politically correct ideology,” there are still plenty of aspects of our culture that shame promiscuous women for their actions. I encounter that kind of language every day.

    “10% of women.. are capable of effectively and consistently compartmentalizing their emotions when it comes to no-strings attached sex” – is this a real statistic? There doesn’t seem to be a citation. In any case, I’m one of those women and I feel like much of the language in this article shames me for the way I choose to live my life and undermines my experiences. For example, sentences such as “there’s nothing all that empowering and liberating about spreading your legs with wild abandon” read as a grossly generalised judgement call and successfully shame the many women out there who DO feel satisfied and liberated by casual sex.

    Ultimately, each individual (regardless of gender) has the responsibility to define their own boundaries and set their own standards when it comes to sex, and also to be aware of the societal pressures that could potentially prevent them from making a good call. As Hugo emphasises, the exploratory periods are important and can ultimately be beneficial. As Neely says, every journey is unique. If you discover that you are incapable of having a one-night stand without feeling like shit the next morning, then stop having one-night stands! If you discover you are incapable of committing to any one person at this time in your life, be responsible and make this clear to your sexual partners!

    In conclusion, I agree with Copyleft in that I don’t think hook-up culture is something that we need to “blame” on anything, and even it was, sex-positive feminism is still miles away from being the most prevalent cultural force that influences women’s choices.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Well said.

    • Shame free existence is not a reality for anyone. Their will be people with different opinions about certain behavior so the fact some level of shaming may exists doesn’t mean society is faulty. In fact we could all turn out to be wrong promiscuity in both genders as was done in the past. Sexuality needs to fit into a family friendly frame work. The whole reproductive component of our life cycle is not suppose to be a after thought. We have seen the consequences of that and it’s really looking like a failed social experiment. Unstable families or people simply avoiding children all together on mass is not a productive outcome. No amount of self centered orgasm chasing will make up for generations of broken families and a future we fail to raise well or give birth too.

  11. My major gripe with Hugo’s stance is that “You can learn from your mistakes” so quickly becomes “you have to make mistakes in order to learn”. While the difference seems subtle, it’s not actually. I know that there are a lot of people out there that think that acting like a fool will actually make them better people down the road. There are plenty of things that you can learn from – mistakes are probably the worst of them. Having a ton of one night stands will not automatically make you a better partner or parent. I agree with the second author that a person learns a lot more (and in a wider range of areas) from a real relationship.

    For me, it’s all about priorities. The things that a person values in a casual encounter (attractiveness, willingness) are not the same things as what is valued in a actual relationship (communication skills, empathy, compassion, kindness, responsibility, selflessness, etc.) It’s up to a person what they value and what they seek out in other people.

    Do I think that having casual encounters means that you’re runined and that you’ll never be a good partner? Of course not. But, I do think that it means that you might have some catching up to do. I do think that someone with a couple of long term relationships under their belt is better equipped for a long term relationship than someone with only one night stands.

  12. MorgainePendragon says:

    “I also happen to think most women aren’t all that interested in having a lot of [ casual, no-strings attached sex] for purely sexual reasons, with multiple partners no less.

    Hi, I’m Morgaine, and I have enjoyed and hope to continue to enjoy quite a bit of casual, no-strings attached sex in my life.

    So have and do many of my female friends. And a fair number (majority) of my students at the variety of universities at which I’ve taught.

    Here’s what might mean a HUGE difference in our perspectives: I lived in Europe for nearly a decade, where ” casual, no-strings attached sex” is not a big deal. It’s like ” casual, no-strings attached” dinner out, full of passionate, political conversations that are as much foreplay as anything physical. It’s like going and hanging out at the nude beaches with people of all ages and body shapes and sizes, because they’re not so bloody uptight about the human body and human sexuality.

    I lived in a culture where monogamy was a choice, not an obligation. Where as many people who make a commitment to each other to live together and perhaps raise children together DON’T marry as do– and monogamy may or may not be part of that contract.

    Where people recognise that sex is a bodily function and pleasurable for BOTH genders– not seen as something one gender does TO the other. Or where persons of the same gender aren’t thought to be “unnatural” nor are they persecuted.

    I (and millions around the world) don’t have any problem with “hook-up culture” as long as it’s between consenting adults who take responsibility for their actions. There’s no need to “blame” anyone for it because it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    Some people are happy to choose monogamous pair-bonded relationships. JUST AS MANY prefer another dynamic– neither is morally, ethically or socially superior to the other. And it’s no one else’s business.

    • Krystelle Shaughnessy says:

      Here here!

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      There are alot of women out there with very liberated attitudes to sex, the quote you mentioned doesn’t deny it. What it suggested is that *most* women still feel pressured (either by biology or society) into chastity.

      As for your european experiences, glad you had a good time :). But keep in mind that you’re talking about an entire continent consisting of over 50 countries, even more cultures, and hugely varying attitudes to sex and nudity.

      “Some people are happy to choose monogamous pair-bonded relationships. JUST AS MANY prefer another dynamic”

      I don’t look down on polygamists, but I don’t think they represent anything near 50% of most human populations. Maybe that wasn’t meant to be taken literally though.

      “I (and millions around the world) don’t have any problem with “hook-up culture” as long as it’s between consenting adults who take responsibility for their actions. There’s no need to “blame” anyone for it because it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

      Wel said 🙂 I think there are disturbingly misogenistic and misandric elements to PUAs and followers of “The Rules” though. Like most disciplines they have the potential to be used in positive or negative manners.

      • MorgainePendragon says:

        “*most* women still feel pressured (either by biology or society) into chastity.”

        Do you have numbers on that? The US makes up less than 5% of the world. So US women make up less than 2.5%. I’m curious as to where you get this assertion.

        “Some people are happy to choose monogamous pair-bonded relationships. JUST AS MANY prefer another dynamic”
        “I don’t look down on polygamists, but I don’t think they represent anything near 50% of most human populations. Maybe that wasn’t meant to be taken literally though.”

        There are OTHER options as well, between monogamy and polygamy (or polygyny 😉 as I pointed out: simply, non-monogamous marriage/commitment.

        And The Rules is as misogynistic as the PUA attitudes/culture. I don’t know how learning to control men through behaviour modification (like a DOG) can be seen to have positive potential. It’s a bunch of rubbish. I wouldn’t want a partner that I had to go through all that crap with; nor could I respect him once I “had” him if he was SO stupid as to be manipulated that way.

    • Do you fear the day when men will no longer find you sexually desirable? I also lived in europe for a few years, and I find my experience to be completely at odds with your own. Sure, people are more comfortable with their bodies, but not with casual sex. You make it sound so chic and cool. Did it ever occur to you that them men were very open minded because that’s what men do to get laid? If a guy wants to screw you I doubt he is going to give you a lecture about being easy. Look, imnot complaining. I think feminism created an awesome new world for single bachelors. Every time I get laid I thank the gloria stienems of the world for all the easy sex they have blessed men with.

  13. I think what sex positive, egalitarian feminists don’t realize is that most women simply are not satisfied with just sleeping around. Most women do not enjoy no strings attached sex *to the extent* that men do. Not only that, but are often trying to turn a hookup into a boyfriend.

    Men simply want sex more than women do. This is such basic truth to anyone who is honest that it’s laughable I have to give an explanation to what everyone reading this knows, but might fail to accept. Even on a rudimentary level, we can dispel the myth that women crave sex to the extent that men do since biologically men produce 12 to 17 times more testosterone than women do. Amongst it’s many other effects, testosterone is the primary hormone involved with stimulating human libido. Therefore, barring steroids, there is simply no way a woman can ever experience 17 times the amount of her own testosterone. It is biologically impossible for a woman to want sex as much as your average man does. Of course some women have higher testosterone, but even a high t woman does not have 12 to 17 times your average woman’s testosterone level.

    (I find it interesting that liberals and feminists alike claim they uphold science. But it seems as though they accept science when it is convenient to their agenda and dismiss it at other times. If you cannot accept basic biology and draw logical conclusions consistent with reality, I question if you’re being willfully dishonest or simply too steeped in your ideology to bother considering adversarial information.)

    The myth of women wanting sex equally or more than men do is such a popular social convention in that it sexualizes women, while not making them appear as outright sluts. They can avoid the stigma of promiscuity while presenting the fantasy that they are secretly “more sexual” than they are “allowed” to be. Of course this is all nonsense as men and women have completely different mating strategies. The hard truth to stomach for a lot of feminists as they creep up in their years is that women, **on average**, do want to settle down with a man and raise a family. Most women who are wandering around in this current hook up culture from man to man having casual relationships are vastly unhappy. A lot of these women want relationships. Just as men primarily want sex, women primarily want relationships.

  14. Randomizer says:

    Missed the whole hookup thing myself, though my sister wh was a teen in the late sixties probably saw more of it than me being 20 Ish in the pre-cocktail HIV years. I’m with watsername who noterd that the sexual revolution and feminism are separate but cotemporal phenomena.

    In my experience, single guys who are ambivalent or negative about parenthood avoid 30-something women due to the tic-tok so younger and older women have more prospects.

  15. Excellent post, Neely! You definitely made the better argument here.

    As for Hugo, this paragraph in particular stood out as an example of nonsense piled upon nonsense:

    “Experience really is the best teacher, even if not every student learns the lesson the first (or 101st) time. Women in particular need reassurance that their worth is not linked to their number of sexual partners. They need to hear that pursuing pleasure for its own sake when they’re young will not make it more difficult to form enduring monogamous relationships (if they want them) when they’re older. These are lessons I’ve learned, lessons I’ve seen the men and women in my life learn and embrace.”

    Where to start? Notice how the first sentence of that paragraph has absolutely no logical relationship with the sentences that follow it. He starts out by asserting the benefits of experience [of having lots of casual sex and failed relationships], so you expect the following sentences to illustrate those benefits. Instead, he segues into the importance of feeding women a bunch of falsehoods in order to keep them from feeling like crap *despite* their experience.

    How is experience being a slut supposed to teach women that men won’t value them any less for being a slut, and that it won’t make it any more difficult to form enduring monogamous relationships, when both of those things are objectively false, and require a constant stream of propaganda to make them seem plausible? To the extent that women “learn” such “lessons”, it’s the propaganda that they learn it from, not the actual experience of being sluts. And they don’t actually need to be sluts to hear the propaganda.

    Furthermore, why is it so important for women to become sluts in order to learn those lessons, when the only reason for them to “need” such lessons in the first place is so that they won’t feel bad about having become sluts?

    He might as well say that it’s important to keep eating shit until it starts to taste good to you, just so that you can have the all-important experience of knowing how great shit tastes. And that it’s important to keep telling shit-eaters how great it is for them to eat shit, and how it won’t make them any less socially acceptable, lest they take heed of their own lying eyes (and sense of smell/taste) and feel bad about all the shit they ate, and thereby fail to experience how truly delicious it is.

    Finally, I trust that the irony of a man in his 4th (and counting?) marriage purporting to tell people what will or won’t damage their ability to form stable monogamous relationships is not lost on anyone.

    • A couple more things on Hugo and experience. For one, it’s not like only sluts have experience. *Everyone* has experience. It’s an unavoidable consequence of being a conscious, living being and, well, experiencing life. Sluts have the experience of being sluts, and as a result they lack the experience of not being sluts during the same time frame. What Hugo wants us to believe is that the slut experience is superior to the non-slut experience, but he doesn’t say why. Instead, he tells us of the importance of feeding sluts a bunch of BS so that they won’t feel bad about their experience.

      Furthermore, he only wants sluts to learn from their *own* experience (and only if they learn what Hugo wants them to learn), rather than other peoples’, which is what the truly wise do. He doesn’t want people thinking “Hugo’s own experience resulted three disastrous marriages. His life has been a trainwreck. I don’t want that for myself, so I think I’ll avoid doing what he did.”

      • I wonder how well Hugo would have fared in the dating world after his numerous trysts and marriages if he were a woman. Would this hypothetical woman, whose behavior fits the common definition of “slutty,” have found a Mr. as talented and physically attracitve as Hugo’s wife? I believe that “slutty” women have more to fear when attempting to nab a long-term partner than “slutty” men (and I grant that this is due to sexism) – isn’t it ironic that Hugo’s male privilege is probably at least partially responsible for his blase view towards the pitfalls of promiscuity?

        And Ms. Valenti’s book, if my math is right, was published when she was only 29. I kind of wonder if her attitude towards hook-up culture would be the same if she were in Ms. Steinberg’s position. I doubt it.

        • And to clarify, I DO believe that women have it worse than men when they are “slutty” and I DO believe that this double-standard is sexist and unfair. But, as been said, it’s there and to pretend it’s not is pretty foolhardy.

          • PM says:
            “And to clarify, I DO believe that women have it worse than men when they are “slutty” and I DO believe that this double-standard is sexist and unfair. But, as been said, it’s there and to pretend it’s not is pretty foolhardy.”

            PM I do admit that when a slutty man and slutty woman are both ready to commit to LTR’s the man has a definite advantage.

            But, I don’t think this is a baseless double standard that society imposes on us. What I mean is this double standard doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens within dating/hookup culture.

            Even in todays very permissive culture women are still only hooking up with guys who can build sexual tension, tease, have confidence. I.E. it’s not (typically) boring hard-working poindexters who are hooking up. In other words, even in todays highly charged sexual atmosphere, women are still the choosers, and men are the pursuers.

            If a man has successfully bed many women, that says he has successfully “charmed the pants off of” many women. In other words a man who beds many lovers builds credentials. Many women with incredibly charming confident men will even look the other way when he cheats as it is better to share a man who is a sterling man who moves her soul and cl1toris like the next 400 men ever could then to leave him for a boring poindexter.

            On the other hand being the CHOOSERS a woman who says she has no selectivity at all is saying she doesn’t value herself to “sell high”. If a woman believes her only redeeming quality is her between her legs, then this will rub off on men too. A woman’s lack of choosiness builds NEGATIVE credentials.

            To wrap it up. Women are like locks (in that men have to try and get them to open). Men are like keys.

            A key that opens many locks is a good key.

            A lock that opens for every key is a poor lock.

            • ohfortheloveof says:

              Oh Jesus, not this “locks” BS again.

              That crap is just a way for men to control women’s sexuality. It’s not our fault that your desperation for sex makes us the choosers and you the beggers (GENERALLY speaking), but please for the love of Christ stop trying to pretend that the double-standard against women makes any kind of logical sense. It clearly does not and such moronic analogies, while good fodder for low-rent, not-ashamed-to-use-recycled-material ‘comedians’, it has no place at all in serious discussions.

              • It’s a simple concept.
                Being the seeker isn’t about sex–it’s about companionship. I have seen several women ON THIS WEBPAGE detailing how they never asked men out (even the ones they preferred who looked like good LTR material) and only settled for the men who ASKED THEM and were now in their 40’s and childless.

                Since men have to prove themselves worthy, then the man who has done this before MANY women must indeed be a catch.

                It’s a simple concept. If a car wins awards from many publishers and review companies then it is a good car. The double standard (about male and female sluts) is a direct result of women’s (in general) inability to leave their comfort zone and go for what they want.

                You can’t have your comfort (not to approach) AND bitch that the double-standard is unjustified.

                • Anonymouswoman says:

                  Ok JohnD, so I am a woman and what I want is to be sexually satisfied and happy to enjoy sexual fun while I keep my eyes open for a “keeper”.

                • You’ve WAY oversimplified things, John. The lock & key analogy is severely lacking. And women DO hit on men, we just gotta train our eyes to see it when they do it.

                  • I am sure that women do hit on men. However, in this RARE instance it is typically men who A) have demonstrated the ability to generate desire in women and B) have bedded many women.

                    Even in the rare instance that women hit on men, it is usually a ladykiller they hit on.

                    Which still makes my point. Women think that men who have bedded many women are HAUT! because they have proven themselves worthy.

                    When a man must prove his “worth” to get female companionship (even if she initiates because he is worthy) then it makes a man who has slept with many women a catch to other women.

                    From a woman’s perspective it makes sense that they desire a man who’s best accolades is being able to pleasure other women.

                    Women may stomp and cry about the double standard, but after all it is women who make the rules about what makes men desirable to women–not men.

                    In this regard women are just battling their own nature.

                • John D, you and I have had the discussion before and so yes I’m one of those women you are referring to. And yes I have told you that I feel like I wasted my younger years on guys who didn’t want to commit, but the problem was, for whatever reason, those were the guys who wanted to date me. Looking back on my life, I can’t think of a ONE SINGLE man who I can say, wow, I should have pursued him because he was great marriage material. Of course, yes, I can think of guys who were great marriage material, but they obviously had no interest in me. How do I know that? Because they didn’t show any interest. Even if they were too shy to approach me, I would have picked up on something. They would have given me googly eyes, if nothing else. I did (and do) flirt with men who I like if they seem attracted and interested in me, to encourage them to keep talking to me so eventually something will evolve. But it is up to them to give me some encouragement as well, because otherwise, I will (probably rightly) assume they aren’t interested.

                  Men are always bitching that women don’t make the first move, yet in my experience, what they mean is that they wish the really hot women would ask them out so that they (the men) wouldn’t have to work so hard. Men are not interested in being approached by the sort of women who don’t get approached very often and would theoretically benefit from being more assertive (i.e. women who are less attractive and tend to be ignored).

                  So you can keep bitching, but probably nothing will ever change unless men fundamentally change.

                  • Jill,
                    While part of my point was women don’t initiate, I was mainly responding to ohforthelove (at the top of the thread) regarding the double standard of male s1uts being acceptable, but female s1uts aren’t.

                    I was pointing out the irony that WOMEN define for themselves what is attractive in a man.

                    Women can cry about this double standard all they want, but they are really only fighting their own desires because it is women THEMSELVES (or at least a large majority) who are attracted to ladykillers who have lots of past lovers.

                    As long as men have to prove their worth then a man who has bedded many women has the “gold seal of approval” and will be considered a catch.

                    There is no double standard. It is just women’s choices in action.

  16. Look at the incidence/prevalence rates of chlamydia and herpes if you need help with the facts.

    • A lot of people who believe they are in committed monogamous relationships contract various STIs!

      • Newsflash – the operative term here is “believe”!

      • Some stats:

        Every year, 1 in 4 sexually active teens contracts an STI.
        More than 25% of New Yorkers are infected with genital herpes.
        There are approximately 19 million new STIs each year — almost half of them among people 15-24.
        The cost of STDs to the U.S. health care system is approximately $16 billion annually.

    • Or the proven consequences for children of broken families and fatherlessness. Or female fertility rates in delayed marriage. Or the degree to which multiple partners correlates with failed marriage, and hence the aforementioned consequences. Etc, etc

  17. In between all the finger-pointing accusations as to ‘who’s to blame for our hookup culture,’ has either side bothered to say why casual sex has suddenly become a bad thing that needs to be explained, diagnosed, and stamped out?

    Hookup culture doesn’t have to be a “problem” in need of fixing. What happened to letting people pursue their own interests and do what they find enjoyable and satisfying?

    • word

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Agreed, Copyleft, well said.

    • Krystelle Shaughnessy says:


    • The hookup culture is a problem to these angry beta males that feel left out because they cannot hookup with the supermodel they feel entitled to. 🙂

    • Oh perhaps because a lot of people, especially women, are vastly unhappy in it. Does that count for anything?

      • Not really, when they have the free choice to participate or opt out as they prefer. Freedom’s a wonderful thing.

        • You’re being deliberately obtuse. We are talking about a social phenomena, a societal shift here, not a game of opt in and opt out. If you really think it’s that simple, you’re in denial.

          • I don’t personally know of a single person who has “opted-in”. No, seriously. I don’t know a single family member, a single friend, or a single friend-of-a-friend who has played and got burned by the hookup game. The only one that even comes remotely to mind is my mother, who’s almost 50, but she doesn’t go out binge drinking at clubs and bring guys home for one night stands. Not that there’s anything wrong with that either.

            For some young people, the pressure may be there, but I don’t think it’s at pervasive as everyone thinks, and it’s definitely not a crisis. I hear from plenty of people online that are neck-deep in hookup culture and casual sex, and they’re having the time of their lives. Good luck telling them that they’re ruining relationships for everyone else and that they should feel bad about it.

            • You are obviously living in an echo chamber of sex-positive dogma, surrounding yourself with like-minded people. My blog exists only because women and men flock to it to describe their dissatisfaction and unhappiness directly attributable to hookup culture.

              There has also a great deal of attention given to the negative aspects of casual sex in the culture in studies, films, books, etc. All of this has been covered in depth in the mainstream media. Yes, some women do enjoy it, but as Neely says they are a small minority. They should not speak for all women, or defend a culture that harms many more women than it “helps.”

              • anonymouswoman says:

                Agree completely. Just because one doesn’t personally know anyone who has been burned by it, that does not mean those people do not exist. They clearly do, and the backlash to this culture has already started (thank goodness).

              • Well put, Susan. I’m just glad I realized this and was able to be honest with myself at 22 as opposed to 32.

              • Susie, no one is stopping you from wearing a purity ring, ok?

                Most institutions are actually in favor of your bride-mentality. Why are you upset? Oh yeah, because that doesn’t make you happy either… smh.

          • Please identify the alleged ‘harm’ being done by people freely choosing to live and love as they please.

            • Too many women aren’t being honest with themselves about what they want. They’re freely and gladly getting into unrewarding, sexual relationships with men who have too many options who would never in a million years commit to them, but for one night. And these lies being perpetuated by sex positive feminists or egalitarian feminists that “women want to have sex without any promise of commitment just as much as men do” further enables this phenomenon. A lot of t women actually believe this until they’ve suffered enough emotional pain to change their course of action. Some realize entirely too late when they’re past their primes and options have completely dwindled.

              Small incremental personal decisions have the power of shifting an entire societal paradigm. People do not operate or make decisions in a vacuum. We cannot take society out of the context and insist that these decisions are based 100% on the individual whims and desires. To do so is, I repeat, deliberately obtuse.

              • Krystelle Shaughnessy says:

                Diem I believe your line one captures a great deal of the debate here. The problem I have is the willingness to blame “sex positive feminists” or “egalitarian feminists” for the problem that many women (and men I might add) are not honest with themselves when they are in their 20s. I also agree with you that we can’t divorce people’s decisions from the society in which they live.

                Another pertinent shift that has occurred in our society in the last couple of decades is a shift to longer time periods in post-secondary education, longer time periods of people in they 20s living in their parents’ homes, and longer periods of time before young adults become financially comfortable. I wonder how these factors, and many others, have influenced the point in time at which young adults (also know as late-adolescents in many research circles until the reach 24) are actually still developing their identity including their sexual identity. Many people are just learning about relationships, about what they want in a partner sexual and otherwise, about what they how to find and how to get what they want. Testing these things out can happen in all kinds of ways; the myriad of casual sex relationships are some ways people can test things out. I actually don’t think these are that unlike the phenomenon of serial monogamy where men and women date one after another after another after another. I’m curious, if I have 6 boyfriends or 6 girlfriends in the course of a year – is that better than if I had 3 friends with benefits and 3 one-night stands? If so, I’m open to hearing the justification.

              • Ahh, so women need to have their relationship options narrowed FOR THEIR OWN GOOD. Thanks for clarifying that women who make choices you disapprove of are really helpless victims of brainwashing who don’t understand what they’re doing.

                Are there medals for accomplishments Radical Feminist Theory, or is there some sort of plaque and awards ceremony?

      • Freedom doesn’t guarantee happiness; but servitude pretty much guarantees unhappiness.

  18. Excellent post, Neely, and a fascinating juxtaposition of views. The Sexual Revolution was the child of the Women’s Movement and the Pill. Four decades later we’re reeling from the effects of all those unintended consequences. Thank you for speaking honestly about the very real pain that most women suffer when they adopt a regular diet of casual sex. It’s something I hear every day.

  19. Lumping criticism of sex-positive feminism as “feminist-bashing” is sickening and way off base.
    The sad reality of modern feminism is that it has become a vehicle for anti-male hatred and anti-marriage legislation throughout the country.

    From feminists fighting against joint custody legislation to feminist legislation forbidding boys from playing on girls’ sports teams in schools, the deep-seated hatred of males and just about anything traditional that is the core of much of feminism is finally becoming apparent to many.

    The dogmatic knee jerk reaction that is reflexively given to just about any criticism of aspects to feminism is beautifully illustrated in your post above.

    • Can you explain what joint custody legislation feminists are fighting against? OR the case of a boy being prevented from playing on girls’ sports teams? I pay attention to news and both of those are pretty new to me.

      • Title IX allows for “positive discrimination” against boys in many states. There, girls can play on boys’ teams, but boys cannot play on girls’ teams.

        In California, women’s groups have fought against presumptive, rebuttable joint custody legislation, and lobbied for move-away laws that would allow a custodial parent, the vast majority of whom are mothers, to move away from the noncustodial parent with minimal limitations.

        Also in CA, the state funded shelters for decades that only accepted female victims of domestic violence while allowing male victims little or nothing in terms of resources. Thankfully, after much legal action in the early 2000s, that legacy of feminist bigotry was put to bed.

        Go to Fathers & Families’ website if you need to be educated more about this issue.

      • I’ve actually read a number of columns about high schools preventing boys playing on girls teams even though there are examples of the reverse allowed in the same system.

        Of course I get a lot of my news from mensactivism d0t 0rg

        There you will see all the stories of men as villains played out in reverse. You will see lots of stories of women killing their own children, women killing or maiming men, and many MANY false rape accusations in which the accuser is not punished, even though the man she accused was likely to get 10 years or more if she had been successful.

    • Why would a boy want to pay on a girl’s team? I’m just curious. I’m having trouble understanding why their would be any demand for that at all. And if enough boys want to switch over to play on girl’s teams (maybe because the competition is weaker and they win more), now you’ve got a boy’s team, or at best a co-ed team.

      • Some sports (volleyball, field hockey, cheerleading) are not offered to boys at all.

        • Fair enough. I guess my concern is that if the men on the team can out-perform the women, it kind of defeats the purpose of having a women’s team. I don’t think it is sexist to acknowledge that women are generally physically less strong than men. Certainly there are some women who are extremely strong and athletic and could hold their own against a male player, but having a guy on the team could definitely be an unfair advantage as well as taking the place of a girl who would otherwise have the opportunity to play. If a boy wants to join a girl’s team, I think to be fair, he’d have to prove that he’s playing at the same level as the girls. I wouldn’t have a problem with it in that case.

          • Jill says:
            “Fair enough. I guess my concern is that if the men on the team can out-perform the women, it kind of defeats the purpose of having a women’s team. I don’t think it is sexist to acknowledge that women are generally physically less strong than men.”

            The sexism part applies when these same school systems let girls play on boys teams when there is already a girls team (I remember reading an article on this in which an EXTREMELY tall girl wanted to play on the boys basketball team to up her game because she dominated the girls team).

            All the instance where boys want to play on girls teams is due to the fact that a boys team in ______ activity doesn’t even exist.

            So, boys are FORCED to lose a spot on their team to advance a girls career (nobody seems to care that if a high-performing girl joins the boys team a boy loses a chance to be on a team) when there is already a girls team, but boys can’t play on a girls team when there is NO BOYS team?

        • PM says:
          Some sports (volleyball, field hockey, cheerleading) are not offered to boys at all.
          Badminton, tennis, swimming and many others are disappearing across the country (for boys).

          Now there is talk of inflicting title IX on high schools too.

  20. Krystelle Shaughnessy says:

    The feminist bashing in some of these comments and the blatant blaming of feminism as the root cause of the sexual revolution (that’s right, there was actually a revolution about sex all on its own people) makes my stomach churn. I am not a women’s studies scholar but I am a feminist human sexuality scholar and pro-casual sex, sex-positive educator. I concur with Jocelyn on the mirriade of individual differences missing from this conversation. Beyond that, lumping feminism as if it is one thing and one thing only also gravely concerns me. Believe it or not, there are feminist scholar’s who believe that sex is best kept to the confines of a loving relationship, who want women to learn about sexual pleasure so they can experience it in their long-term relationship, who believe that female empowerment is about having a choice about whether, when, and with whom they want to reproduce. Tieing feminist ideology to SITC and a MEDIA-INDUCED sexualization of women ignores the complexities and intellect within feminist theory.

    On another note, I was stuck by Neely’s comment: “I want women to be happy, and to be honest with themselves, without feeling the need to buy into a politically-correct ideology, about what makes them happy”. I’m sorry – is this to somehow imply that a woman’s course to happiness and authenticity as argued by Neely and other “non-feminists” is not guided by a political ideology about what makes a woman feminine and happy? As I am to read this conclusion, Neely is willing to tell us that searching for a man to love when we are in our early 20s so that we are married with children before we are in our early 30s is the proper, non-politically aligned, course towards female happiness. In no time, someone is going to tell me I should take my 12 years of post-secondary education home so I can drown my intellect in rye while I take care of my children all day long so that my husband can drown his in beer after a long day of providing bacon for the table. Mad Men here we come!

    • You can wait until after your 30s, but there’s this thing called fertility.

      We’re not allowed to discuss its decline with age in feminist circles, so you may want to look it up on the internet and educate yourself….

      • Krystelle Shaughnessy says:

        Options: adoption; fertility technologies such as in vitro if you are keen on giving birth, surrogates if you are keen on spreading your own genes but can’t give birth; god-forbid some of us would be happy “just” being great aunties or *gasp* step-mothers. We all know there are lots of divorced men out there by the time they hit 35 with kids 😉

        • You are certainly free to spend thousands on fertility treatments later in life, Privileged White Affluent Feminist Single Mother by Choice.

          FLASH – male and female biology are not the same!

        • Those are not great options. I think most would agree that having children,naturally, when you are younger is better.

          I’m 45, never really wanted kids but still sort of wanted to keep my options open. When I turned 40, I realized (from watching friends of mine go through it) that all of the options at that point – adoption, in vitro, surrogacy, etc. – are very tough, and expensive, and that I no longer have the energy for babies/small children and I don’t want to be 60 when my child graduates from high school. So I concluded that that ship has sailed.

          I’m not trying to denigrate older moms in any way. Everyone makes their own choices. Choosing to adopt or using fertility treatments are good things for those who need them. But young women who think they may want children someday should not be under the false impression that it will be easy to have children in their 40’s.

    • Krystelle says:
      “As I am to read this conclusion, Neely is willing to tell us that searching for a man to love when we are in our early 20s so that we are married with children before we are in our early 30s is the proper, non-politically aligned, course towards female happiness.”

      Clearly you’re free to make any choices you want. But if you are going to delay building a LTR and family building until your mid to late 30’s then you should at least admit that you may be sacrificing your long term happiness for your career. (or for other female readers, those women who concentrate their early 20’s or 30’s on “fun time” with lovable losers).

      Many women seem to understand on some level that dating and looking for love in your late 30’s is a dismal prospect for women. However, many women seem to be instructed by media & academia to ignore this very likely outcome for women who delay family building.

      I have read many MANY articles from late 30’s or early 40’s professional women who lament the fact that there are not marriageable men at their level. The typical column also tries to paint this as a male inflicted problem because professional men in their late 30’s or early 40’s who find themselves single (by divorce or never married) either marry younger women, or marry down in terms of the women’s accomplishments. It seems that these women after making their career a priority are now trying to say that these men aren’t free to make their own choices too(bad or good) or should feel guilty about these choices.

      When we all start out of the gate it is a simple truism that women hold all the cards. I have read studies that men looking at pictures of beautiful women have brain scans similar to a heroin addict getting a fix.

      There can be no denying that a beautiful (or even plain) 18-24 women commands a lot of power over men through her appearance.

      But, when we talk about trying to build LTR’s in the late 30’s this power dynamic changes and it is men who become the choosers (and can be choosy) rather than women.

      In my opinion this breaks down to the following reasons.
      1) In many instances even a woman who has remained single has a relatively high chance of having a progeny she must think about. Most men do not want to raise another man’s children

      2) Many of the “fun time” men that women use in their 20’s for titillation/hookup purposes (egotistical, unconstrained impulses, confident) are either in jail, low end jobs (think Al Bundy from Married with Children pining away for his glory years as star quarterback), have their own progeny, or owe lots and lots in child support (a study showed that men in prison for violence on average have double the progeny of the average male lending credence to the concept that women do indeed prefer jerks for fun time if not for LTR, but there are consequences) and don’t have two dimes to rub together
      Look here at an episode of 16 and pregnant in which a very pretty (and seemingly) intelligent girl talks about “caging” (through pregnancy) a lone wolf guy who looks like the typical slacker, has a bunch of sh1t in his face, and won’t get a job.

      ht tp://
      Or for that matter look at Pamela Anderson. Debatably one of the most beautiful women in the usa constantly choosing to be with abusive losers. This type of trend of women choosing titillation (or for that matter a career) over building a LTR early in their lives is their business. But it just puts another boulder in her backpack to carry when she IS READY to marry and build a family with an industrious hard-working man that she deserves (or feels entitled to).

      3) “many of the good men are taken”. Men who can both titillate women and are ideal for LTR’s are typically snatched up by smart women in their early years when their beauty is at an all-time high and they are capable of snagging such men.

      4) In their 30’s many men are much more picky.
      Typically men in their late 30’s or early 40’s are at their peaks career wise. Typically the man is at the point where he will be achieving his most accolades which increases his primary attraction marker to women: confidence.
      Contrast this to women in their late 30’s and early 40’s and her main attraction marker (physical beauty) is just beginning to wane hard.
      Men can continue increasing their attractiveness to women up until their 60’s or further (think how many young women have said Shaun Connery or Harrison Ford are sexy). It seems mother nature is cruel indeed to women.

      Look here to the cruelty of mother nature to the “Afghan Girl”
      ht tp://
      Again, you’re free to do whatever you want, but you just need to be realistic that if you are going to make your career (or “fun time”) a major center of your life that typically something else MUST give.
      Just for the record I am 45. One of my favorite sayings to late 30’s or early 40’s women who say “where are all the nice guys?” is to respond: “Back in your 20’s where you left them”.
      Choices have consequences.

      • That photo of the “Afghan girl” shows a woman who has led a hard life. I see a woman who still has beautiful facial features (look at the perfect shape of her lips) but she has a lot of surface skin damage from many years spent in refugee camps in the sun and freezing wind of Afghanistan. It also looks like her nose might have been broken at some point. According to the article, she doesn’t know her age but she may be only be 29 or 30 years old in the “grown up” picture.

        So, I’m not sure why you are using this photo to mock older women for getting ugly.

        • Jill,
          I’m not mocking anybody. I also agree that the actual changes to the afghan girl’s face are tiny, but they are numerous.

          I was pointing out that for women who want to fill their 20’s and 30’s with “fun time” men or a career, be prepared because things change for the worse for women.

          I believe that the best things for both genders is to marry young, but then WTF do I know. I’m just some random slob ranting on the net (attempt at whimsy).

          Society has been harmed immensely by radfems shopping no-fault divorce across the country. It’s really sad that such a small group has caused so much strife and resentment between the sexes and caused so much harm to children.

          • anonymouswoman says:

            Wow. Really? You think the fact that many men are shallow and care about looks more than anything else is news to any girl over the age of 12?

            It’s really sad that some men have so completely bought into the idea that women want money, and men want young, pretty things (not people, mind. people (and not things) have more value to them than what they look like).

            • So, men being immature and thinking with their little head is a travesty, but women being immature and thinking with their cl1t is a myth?

              Wow, sexist much?

              • anonymouswoman says:

                Where did I say that immature women didn’t exist? WTF?

                I said all women know that shallow men only care about the way women look, this is not news. At all. And yeah, shallow women only care about how much men earn, I’m sure you won’t be blowing anyone’s mind with that nugget of wisdom, either.

                While we’re on the subject, do you mention that super rare secret about women liking money to men as advice regarding their choice of careers? Or is such consideration of shallow idiocy only something you think women should be reminded of as if it’s important in any way, shape or form?

    • If you’re trying to tell people that it’s outrageous to blame feminism for the sexual revolution, it’s probably not a great idea to turn around and tell us that you think the sexual revolution is totally awesome because you’re a feminist in the very next sentence. Just sayin’. For future reference.

      • Krystelle Shaughnessy says:

        I’m a feminist sex researcher… but I encounter feminists who don’t believe in anything I have to say about sex and relationships. My POINT is that there is diversity in everything. Here, I always thought the Good Men Project was teaching us more and more about the beauty in diversity. Yet, the ongoing discussion to this piece is leading me to believe that diversity is beautiful as long as you aren’t a feminist because we all know there is only one brand of feminism.

    • Great comment. Voices like yours are sorely missing from these “discussions”!

  21. From :
    “She is currently exploring definitions of various casual sex relationships (booty calls, friends with benefits) and is also examining how modern technology is changing the way we date. ”

    I look forward to aid in identifying highly sexual women and helping them with their orientation.

    We need more booty calls and FWBs – thanks Jocelyn!

  22. Feminism has destroyed the woman’s ability to be feminine and only left her with sex as the opportunity to get in touch with that femininity. It’s broken down the structure of marriage and given men the opportunity to technically spread their (blank) seeds without having to take care of the woman.

    Peeps are lonely. Thanks feminism!

    • Sorry to break it to you… peeps were lonely long before feminism, in and outside of marriages. Never heard of The Awakening? You ought to read it.

  23. Thank you for starting this dialogue, Hugo and Neely. Feminism and hooking-up is a very cool intersection to explore and I look forward to further posts on topic.

    I have to take issue with one of the stats that Neely presented in her piece:

    “I was told, by the 10% of women who are capable of effectively and consistently compartmentalizing their emotions when it comes to no-strings attached sex, that emotions were overrated, anathema even, and could easily be separated from sexual acts with another human being, to unapologetically unleash my inner slut (there’s that word again)”

    Being a sex researcher, I have to wonder about this 10%. Having researched casual sex, women’s reasons for engaging in casual sex, and highly sexual women, I feel required to point out some important points related to this statistic and subsequent discussion.

    I examined highly sexual versus less sexual women in the following paper which was based on over 900 women.

    The women in our study were divided 50/50: half of the women were highly sexual women, the other half were less sexual. Admittedly, we purposely surveyed women who may place more importance on their sexuality (i.e., feminist sex store postings) but these women were categorically different on all 52 different items – 7 of which were specific to casual sex (e.g., “I enjoy sex even when I am not in love with a partner” “If I am sexually attracted to someone, I do not need to be in a relationship with that person to enjoy having sex”). This is only one study but I think it highlights some important findings worth discussing.

    The Samantha’s of the world may not be accurate, but that doesn’t mean that the Charlotte’s are any more accurate. I think we could delve deeper into this topic if we acknowledged and accept the range of attitudes that women have towards casual sex, as well as acknowledge the idea that men are not immune to potential negative emotional outfalls from casual sex.

    Continuing to discuss women as only experiencing negative outcomes from engaging in casual sex might even sound like veiled slut-shaming itself – because it assumes that women only engage in casual sex in order to get into a relationship. What if women only state this after the (casual sex) fact, because it’s the (only) socially acceptable reason (“I thought we would end up dating”) for women to admit having casual sex in the first place?

    I think what is missing for me is exploring the different reasons that different people (men, women, various sub-groups of men or women, etc) have for engaging in casual sex that moves beyond these traditional views of female sexuality.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Thank you!

    • Excellent!

      I noticed that difference between Hugo and Neely; the “highly sexual” vs “less sexual” aspect wasn’t taken into account in either side, and it disappoints me to see both of them to more or less assume that the vast majority of people of either/any gender have the same, if not similar levels of sex drive, and compatible sexualities, which just isn’t true. I’d wish one of them would have acknowledged that men can and do often get burned by hookup culture as well.

  24. Sex-positive feminism has a lot to do with hookup culture.

  25. Blaming the hook-up culture on feminism is naive. The hookup culture existed in the 1970s ( it was probably stronger than now ) and nobody blamed feminism for it. At the beginning, SATC was loved by gay men because it’s gay men that behaved like the female characters of SATC. It’s only after that some feminists praised it because feminism was dying at the end of the 1990s and they thought that by saying that the female characters of SATC were empowered they would attract women.

  26. Feel like it’s a bit weird of you to frame your displeasure with the Samantha Jones/SATC model as displeasure with feminism, like SATC hasn’t been critiqued to death BY feminists.

    IDK, I don’t regret any casual sex / hookups I have had, and I credit reading a lot of feminist lit during a long period of college celibacy after I got out of my brutal off-on emo high school leftover LTR. By the time I got around to fucking around, I had solid and fully-formed ideas about what I wanted out of sex, what I wanted out of partners, how to go about exploring things I thought I might be into… I feel good about all the sex I’ve had and most of my sexual encounters just make me feel like high fiving folks. Maybe I’m a special 10%-of case, but I really don’t think I’m that special a snowflake.

  27. edit would =wouldn’t

  28. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    And I’ve come to believe that feminism’s inability, and at times refusal, to acknowledge differences between the sexes has been disingenuous and has gravely backfired on women, leaving them ill-equipped to discover what really feels good and right to them.

    Perhaps if we stopped worrying about contrived “differences between the sexes” and taught individuals to explore their own individual needs, we’d have more people discovering what feels good and right to them.

    • Yet there are gender based tendencies…. I’d agree that on most things gender differences are more like a Venn diagram then Black/white. In this case, I found years ago the sex without emotional connection damages me.

  29. Always thought a good rule was if you need to get drunk to have sex……the sex isn’t worth the price. I’d learned that as a guy at 19. Why have sex with someone you would want to have as a friend?

    • anonymouswoman says:

      “Why have sex with someone you would want to have as a friend?”

      This is exactly how I see it as well. To this day I am not certain how much my abusive background factors into some of the decisions I made when I was young, and how much was a belief that if it was good enough for men, then women were entitled to it too. Only years later did I realize it really wasn’t fun at all. Not just because I was spending time with people I wouldn’t want as friends, but also because of the whole ‘quantity vs. quality’ thing.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Do you mean why have sex with someone you WOULDN”T want as a friend? Cause I’d much prefer to have sex with people I care about.

  30. harlemworld4eva says:

    Right on sista!

  31. Isn’t hooking up simply the objectification of all parties involved? Isn’t that a cardinal sin against feminism? And doesn’t this culture lend itself to sexual harassment and sexual assault? As a new feminist I would like some help here.

    • objectification of ANY parties is a cardinal sin against *humanism* in general, not just feminism. it seems to me that we have traded in the almost exclusive objectification of women by men to a mutual objectification in terms of “commitment free hook-ups”. a fair amount of research has shown that objectification does lead to a pervasive attitude when it comes to rape-culture, harassment, etc.

      the thing that Neely said that really struck a chord with me, a woman in her early 30’s, was “…if you want a relationship try developing emotional, spiritual, and mental bonds with a man you like or just started dating by delaying sexual gratification—yours and his.” granted, this isn’t always a guarantee of success, but it definitely helps.

      • So, after 40 years of breaking down the status quo, feminists are starting to admit that the idea of courtship wasn’t so bad after all.

        Color me amused.

  32. I hear ya, Neely. I’ve hooked up plenty of times but the only thing I really regret about it was I could have probably been doing something a lot better with my time. Learning a different language, discovering new planets or volunteering at a nursing home. No offense to some of the guys I hooked up with. Some were really nice and good in bed, but ultimately it’s just empty calories. And sometimes the sex was just not worth it at all. So for me, it’s not about the emotions at all. It’s about the time I wasted with people I didn’t vet. to be worthy of it instead of spending that time on myself and my own interests. But at 19 were all a bit boy crazy.


  1. […] in that blissful/awful state of non-dating dating, leading to the hook-up culture that many a trend piece has been written […]

  2. […] Neely Steinberg’s post at the Good Men Project. Here’s Neely Steinberg, on her reaction to no-strings attached sex. Neely: I agree with a […]

  3. […] Recently I wrote an article for the Good Men Project about hook-up culture, in which Hugo Schwyzer and I disagreed about the effects of casual sex. It gained the attention of Susan Walsh, author of the blog Hooking Up Smart. She wrote a post about our contrasting opinions, and offered her thoughts as well. The comments section within her post grew quickly—as of today there are more than 1,000 responses. Reading through the feedback, I was struck by the disillusionment and disappointment among men with the content on the Good Men Project, a site whose very purpose is to bring issues of modern manhood to the forefront of national discussion. […]

  4. […] Steinberg is not a stranger here. I consider her neither an ally nor an adversary. That said, she has a very nice article in which she shares perspectives with Hugo Schwyzer regarding feminism and the hookup […]

  5. […] tip to Susan Walsh. Everyone should read this. I’m busy right now, but will comment on it later in the […]

  6. […] reposting this piece from February 2009 in response to my dialogue with Neely Steinberg at Good Men Project, and to her friend Susan Walsh. I wrote it when Heloise was two weeks […]

  7. […] dish up the dirt at the end of the post, but first I want to call your attention to Is Feminism to Blame for Hookup Culture? just published there by Neely Steinberg. It came out of this whole kerfuffle, and in it she offers […]

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