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Finally, a Nuanced Look at Hookup Culture and the Sex Lives of Modern Women in Their 20s

A new book explores the wildly, infuriatingly contradictory messages young women face.

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One of the things I talk about in the book is how hungry the women were that I spoke with for conversation about these topics. I was about five to 10 years older than the women I interviewed at the time, and they wanted to know how I was managing to have a relationship and have a career at the same time — what did I think? How could they manage this? How do other people do this? And I think there’s not a lot of honest and frank conversation between women who are a little bit ahead with these young women, and the women themselves in their 20s, and the conflicts get glossed over or it’s assumed that, “Oh, they’ll figure it out,” as opposed to, “Right, these are really hard things to wrestle with and they’re not easily solved and just glossed over by, ‘Well, when you get married by the time you’re 30 and you’ll figure it out.’” It’s not that simple.

Those are all of my questions. Is there anything else that you want to add to all of this?

I have one finding that I really like to talk about: There certainly were women that I spoke with who did manage to kind of express and feel the full range of their desires, for relationships, for sex, and for all kinds of things, and it was much more like my queer, lesbian and bisexual respondents had comfort with the range of desires than it was with my straight respondents. I asked everybody I spoke with, “What would it be like to have sex or have relationships with a partner who’s differently gendered than your usual partner?” I was really surprised about the degree to which straight women had very elaborated responses about what it would be like to be with women, and they all thought it would be much easier to kind of be the full range of themselves. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but it’s fascinating. In some ways it’s an idealization, I think: Lesbian relationships are not easy and they’re complicated in their own way. So one suggestion I have for straight women is that I think part of what we fall into in this pattern of splitting is also splitting men and women, and it’s assuming this kind of a radical difference. What I hear my queer respondents saying is, their partners are human in a way that some of my straight female respondents did not express. One thing that I would just challenge straight women to do is to think of their male partners, or the men in their lives who may become partners, as more like them than different.

 

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow@tracyclarkflory on Twitter.

 
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