André Anthony Moore, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (New York State License: 001435)

Ketamine and Psychedelic Assisted Therapist certified by The Integrative Psychiatry Institute Practitioner of Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Use Nonverbal Sensorimotor Techniques to deepen Emotionally Focused Therapy

Which is Worse for Women Today: Being a Slut or a Virgin, and Why Should We Care?

A recent survey finding reported in The San Francisco Weekly and subsequently cited in The San Francisco Huff Post revealed that 10 % of San Francisco women admitted to still being virgins and that, on average, they lose their virginity at 19 years of age compared to the national average of 18. Could this be possible in avant garde San Francisco or ultra liberal UC Berkeley? The Huff Post editors, who are not so easily shocked, were in fact “utterly shocked” to learn of such a finding. Does it imply that younger women in San Francisco are on the cutting edge of a new national trend in which virginity shaming is the new slut shaming?

Another Huff Post blog, on hook-ups and missed connections reports that while UC Berkeley hook ups on Facebook are described in lurid detail after the fact, New York University Hook-Ups on Facebook have the more modest goal of helping horny students connect for the first time, rather than reconnecting after the main event. The UC Berkeley Hookups are replete with explicit, erotic descriptions of actual sexual encounters while the NYU Hookups come off as conventional, even decorous. They read more like typical personals that, after basic identifying information, go on to describe likes, dislikes, personality traits, etc. which convey a deeper need for relationship. Here are some representative examples:

From UC Berkeley Hook-Ups:

  • To the guy who couldn’t figure out how to unhook my bra last weekend! We met at SAE and you said you were in a frat. You smelled soo good and we clicked instantly. Next thing, I knew we were heading to your bed near the football field. Sadly I had to leave early morning so I never got your number Ahhh…Hottie tall blonde stranger…who are you!
  • You were the only guy around so I agreed to dance with you even though I was towering over you. I didn’t even mind when you started grabbing my ass in a pretty sexual way. But what the hell were you doing when you reached up my dress?! Your finger felt like a spastic shovel digging through my vag. And when I pulled away, it wasn’t because I felt violated it was because I felt like your jagged nails were going to ruin by precious puss you petite prick! Please learn how to properly finger fuck, you’re giving yourself and your frat a bad rep. Never yours, Girl in dress.
  • To the guy who went to top dog with me. I found it insanely hot how things escalated. The plan was just to get a quick bite, but we ended up in your bed in the end. I loved how you would grab my arms and wrestle me around a bit. Especially when you pinned me down and went in. It was the best sex I’ve had in months. And btw, you have skills like no other. I don’t remember your name exactly but you were tall and slim. Your name also started with a j, I believe? Well that night was amazing and I can’t wait till we can meet again. I’ll be waiting! -SG

The post from NYU Hook-Ups pale by comparison:

  • Female, Sophomore, Straight, White, 5’10, green eyes, long red hair, professional level dancer; slender, fit, [looking for a] tall good looking guy, who is dominant and will take charge of any situation he is put in. A man who is smart, driven, and passionate. Someone who isn’t afraid to get kinky in bed, and knows the true meaning of being a man. No pussy’s allowed, I don’t want a man who can cook, or clean or would even think of doing a woman’s job. Someone who is true to themselves, and will take care of me. Gender roles are very important to me. I will clean, cook, and care for you the way a woman should, and you have to dominate, protect, and control me like a man should.
  • Female, Tisch, 2016, Bisexual, White, Dorming, 5’6”, average build, blonde hair, blue-green eyes. I’m looking for either a guy or girl who wants to have some fun. I’m really up for whatever at this point, though I’m leaning more toward casual fun. I like hopeless romantics and open-minded people. Honesty is the most important thing to me, even in just a hook-up.
  • Female, Gallatin, 2016, Straight, White, On campus, 5’6″, Brown hair, green eyes, curvy. I work out with frequency. Not interested in a hookup (casual sex is meaningless to me) – just something slow-moving, sweet and mellow, probably involving increasingly frequent cuddling. Would appreciate someone who makes good, patient, intelligent and funny company. I am artistic, intensely private, intellectual, emotional, and sarcastic. It’s been an interesting semester for me. I can’t promise anything except honesty.

There is virtually nothing in these Facebook posts that suggests we may be moving from shaming sluts to shaming virgins. However they do suggest an East Coast – West Coast split that hints at a great deal of emotional ground between the two extremes. And what of the rest of the country? Do these posts suggest that young American women today – especially new millennial women in their early to mid 20s – are still torn between coming off as either too slutty or too prudish and risk being disparaged for being too much of one or the other, despite the freedoms gained by their mothers and early feminist role models like Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and and Gloria Steinem?

Lena Dunham, in the way she dramatizes the four female characters in HBO’s GIRLS, gives us a more realistic, true-to-life continuum between the two extremes:

First, Jesssa the glamorous slut who’s had a whole string of sexual encounters – from a hot surfer “who really liked me” as they shucked pearls from oysters in Bali, to casually fucking a substantial number of her girlfriends boyfriends; who gives the impression that her au pair stint in Paris was something exotic as if she’d been in a salon with Georges Sand; who’s much too classy to be on Facebook, and tells her friend Hannah that “If I wanted to go on dates, I would. but I don’t because they’re for lesbians.” “Are you okay?” Hannah asks her in astonishment. Then there’s Jessa after she discovers she’s pregnant, sitting in a bar drinking a White Russian, and the frightening way she deals with her abortion. Of the four young women dramatized by Dunham in GIRLS, Jessa is the only one I worry about because she’s the most fragile and least resilient.

Second, Hannah who makes a half-hearted effort at a deeper emotional connection when she’s having sex with her boyfriend Adam but lapses into role playing his sexual fantasies, as if she were an anthropologist engaged in participant observation. “I knew when I found you on the street you wanted it this way,” Adam tells her. “But we didn’t meet on the street,” she answers laughing, “We met at a party.” But as Adam thrusts into her she whispers, “Ah, ah…my god, on the street. Yeah, the street.” It’s no accident that Judd Apatow, the executive producer of GIRLS, once wrote in an email to Lena Dunham: “Why are you so afraid to write romance? Romance is hope.” Apatow could well be a creative therapist when he issues this challenge to Hannah’s talented creator, a young women who I suspect struggles in real life like her character for genuine emotional connection with a caring lover.

Third, Marnie, the only one of the GIRLS consistently employed full-time who has the work thing nailed down like her older Gen X sisters in Sex in the City, and like them is struggling with the love thing. And what a struggle it is. She falls asleep watching Mary Tyler Moore with her roommate Hannah in order to avoid sleeping in the same bed with her boyfriend Charlie. She can barely hide her frustration when she has sex with him.”Hey, look at me…Let’s look at each other when we come,” he pleads. “I’m gonna turn around,” she answers in irritation. “But you hate doggie.” And they move to doggie because Marnie can’t stand to have eye contact with Charlie. Later, Marnie tells Hannah that Charlie’s touch feels like a “weird uncle putting his hand on me at Thanksgiving.” When Hannah asks, “How does it feel to be loved so much?” she answers, “Like a bitch.” And of course Hannah, the accomplished participant observer, explains, “Because you’re sick of eating him out because he has a vagina.” Three cheers for Dunham for that one!

Fourth , Shoshanna who’s so in awe of her cousin Jessa that she feels compelled to greet her in French; who uses a self-help book, Listen Ladies: A Tough Love Approach to the Tough Game of Love, to ease her anxieties over sex; who finally admits to Marnie as they’re waiting for Jessa to show up for her abortion, “I’ve never had sex, okay? AKA, I’m almost 22 and I’m a virgin. It’s like everyone and their mother has had sex except me and I’m a virgin.” Of course Marnie fails to reassure Shoshanna when she tells her that “Sex is really, really overrated.” “You think I’m a loser,” Shoshanna answers. Then Shoshanna at the main event, sitting with Matt an ex-buddy from camp after they’ve watched a movie, nervously ticking off other movies they could watch on Netflix, “City girls are much hotter than Long Island girls,” he tells her. And, “Oh, I like to eat pussy too.” So Shoshanna finally has her first experience of oral sex, as if she’s undergoing a medical examination. It doesn’t help when she tells Matt, “Except for the fact that I’ve never had sex, I’m like totally not even a virgin, I’m like the least virgin-y virgin ever.” It also doesn’t help when Matt tells her virgins are not really his thing, that “I’ll totally have sex with you once you’ve…already had sex. It’s just, you know…virgins get attached or they bleed. It’s like not gonna happen.”

What are we to make of the sex dramatized in GIRLS which is a whole lot richer and more complex than promiscuous and lacks a single hint of prudishness? More importantly, why should we care?

Lena Dunham superbly dramatizes in GIRLS what Leslie Bell describes in more scholarly language in Women in Their 20s Shouldn’t feel Bad About Wanting a Boyfriend. Bell provides a moving picture of the emotional plight of today’s new millennial women, diagnosing it as splitting or a painful manifestation of cognitive dissonance as they live their everyday lives much like Jessa, Hannah, Marnie and Shoshanna; continually torn between their need for a career, independence and control; engaged in the tough game of love, often as sluts and sometimes as closet virgins; and most of the time repressing their life-giving need for relationship and vulnerability in the arms of a caring lover.

What couples therapists, counselors and relationship coaches can take from this is that many (not all) of today’s new millennial women – and let’s not forget their boyfriends – are in need of emotionally focused therapy that encourages them to get more in touch with the raw spots triggered when they feel emotionally deprived or deserted by each other. Furthermore, given the one-two punch that new millennials have been hit with because of the housing bubble and subsequent economic recession of the last seven years, they would also benefit from low cost, brief solution focused therapy that encourages them to have new, out of box emotional experiences and also build upon experiences that have worked for them earlier in their struggle for greater emotional safety and intimacy.

Imagine what a creative couples counselor or sex therapist could do to help Hannah and Adam, Marnie and Charlie, and Shoshanna and her first real lover get more in touch with what they’re truly feeling so they can feel safer with each other and have genuinely loving sex.

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