Empowered v Scripted Sex

Want pleasure? Intimacy? Fun? Empower yourself.

Want pleasure? Intimacy? Fun? Empower yourself.

You can’t be autonomous and empowered if you are being run by sexual scripts.

Whether the script says everyone should be pure or the script says everyone should hookup.

Plenty of women worry that they will be punished for being sexual, “You slut, ho, skank…”

Even after marriage, the negativity won’t magically disappear. No wonder nearly half of American women have experienced sexual dysfunction.

The only message our moms or grandmas got, premaritally, was “sex is bad.” Today, messages are mixed. But can still be disempowering.

Some women get such a strong “must have sex” push that somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of young women have consented to sex they didn’t want. Sometimes because they lack either traditional excuses or modern strategies for saying “no.”

Meanwhile, hooking up has become “the thing” on college campuses. Some drop out of the sex scene when that’s the only option, like Mercedes, from Penn State:

Sharing that side of myself with a stranger just seems very strange to me. I mean, if you break it down, it’s a very strange thing to do.”

Others hookup even when they aren’t into it. And some will “service” men without reciprocation, thinking guys just need it more. When Kate Taylor explored sex on campus for the New York Times, several women told her that they used alcohol to tolerate intimacy with strangers because it was just too hard to do sober.

So why do it at all?

Some are following a sexual script, wanting to fit in or be cool. Some want a social life and some semblance of connection with men. Others endure hookups, hoping a relationship will follow.

But right in the middle of hookup culture, researchers found that more than 70% of both women and men preferred relationship sex to casual hookups. But most thought no one else wanted them.

Whether young women are dropping out of the sex scene in defeat, enduring hookups they dislike, or distressfully remaining “pure,” their sexuality is far from autonomous and empowered.

But it turns out that our sex lives don’t have to be disempowering. We don’t have to be run by scripts. We do have options.

Really, you don’t need to behave in ways that are emotionally hurtful.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Men Guarding My Purity
Dear Daughter, Have Lots of Great Sex
What’s Wrong With Hooking Up?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 21, 2014, in feminism, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. well said, while many people in my generation go to bars and meet people for “hook-ups” I absolutely refuse. Why is popular culture supposed to dictate my sex life? Thanks, but NO thanks. I’d rather find something with someone that is meaningful, than meet a guy in a bar and take him home for the night. All set being alone and happy rather than alone and promiscuous.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I sure hope that more and more people will start having sex in ways that they find wonderfully authentic instead of feeling run by scripts.

  2. “I’m sure that some people enjoy random hookups. Or sex with friends. You aren’t the only one to say they do. But most people don’t and I was just trying to explain why.”

    People also might be doing hook ups or casual stuff, not simply because its scripted supposedly or the thing to do. But it could be, not so much liking hook ups more and I’m sure they might not enjoy casual sex as much as sex with a person they love. But it might not be about sex for the hooking up, but simply during this time, they are going to want to get laid with someone right? What I mean is, plenty of people, maybe more guys while preferring relationship sex more, may like the single life though. You showed that statistic, but as far as people being “single” I’ve seen tons of girls and guys say they like being single. I see the pros and cons of both sides. Relationships can be the most rewarding but they take work and sacrifice which is why the single life can be attractive.

    A man who likes and wants to socialize and party and go out, especially after college and do what he wants when he wants to will like being singe.. If you want complete freedom the single life provides that. A man can be with his friends and have fun and flirt with cute or hot girls if he wants without being in trouble from his gf, can have sex or womanize. That’s probably why some people aren’t ready for relationships especially serious ones or even have trouble comitting, because they love this freedom so much and it’s hardd for them to stick with one person. When in a relationship its not just about you, its compromising, sacrifice, responsibility, etc. You can’t think just for yourself or it doesn;t work and maturity is important too. And probalby why, many people who still have some immaturity and are selfish, thought they may want a serious one now or down the road, they prefer the single life, because it fits their needs and wants at the time.

    • That could be. And then some young people do serial monogamy, too. Although a lot of them just thought that everyone else was doing hookups and just dropped out, Or practically dropped out — meaning, didn’t do too many hookups or did more FWB.

  3. so deep and interesting. I consider it very healthy way to explore more.

  4. At what point do children learn how to cope with feelings that might cause them to look for love in the form of sex? The push is to learn math, science, English, social studies; go to school and get book smart. I don’t know how kids normally learn coping and stress management skills, or learn how to deal with emotionally challenging situations; I remember when I was a kid, there wasn’t anyone who talked to me about love and relationships, and rarely did I know of anyone who I felt comfortable talking to about personal issues or emotional confusion. I think it’s clear, without research and studies, that people, including children, often look for love in all the wrong places, and especially when they grow up without learning how to manage emotional and mental difficulties in a healthy way, will feel that connecting physically will help with their inner feelings of isolation and feelings of not being loved. Instead of teaching them that 2+2 = 4, perhaps the push should be to first start teaching kids the importance of self-love and self-respect. With that, they’ll respect other people, and know that love can’t be taken away because it resides inside them, not fleetingly generated conditionally by other people.

    • Yeah, that is so true. A number of women have written about their experiences using sex to find love. I have posted some of their papers here (When they give permission). This sort of education needs to be more widespread. Some of my students have expressed the same thought.

  5. “A lot of people say that sex is way better when emotion is involved. It both heightens and deepens everything. ”

    I’m sure that is true and I agree one night stands are boring. And sex for sex is not great if it’s meaningless. However, what you’re talking is sex and how much better it is with emotion.So of course people will say it is more enjoyable to have sex with a person they love, and thats something they want if its about great sex. Perhaps casual sex is not meant to be fulfilling but in the moment fun, and people know this and know they may prefer a relationship. But they are having fun now as you are only young once right? You have the rest of your life for relationships right so why the hurry for sex with a relationship? When you have your mid 20s to late 20s or 30s, 40s and so on for serious relationships?

    “which has looked at correlations with happiness. You would think that random sex would make you happier because it’s so pleasure-oriented. And yet the happiest people have one partner. ”

    I don’t think random sex would make a person happier, I actually do think a relationship well a good loving one not an abusive or volatile relationship would make people happiest. I get it, I’m a sensitive person myself with plenty of feelings which is why there has always been the conflict for me. But enough about me. I think random sex is not the best thing if it’s just go to bar hook up, etc. I see it not so much as random sex, but casual stuff causing happiness IF in the context of having fun with friends and parties and these fun social events in college, and the memories and laughing aobut what your buddies did and the wild, maybe stupid stuff on during those fun epic nights when young and in college. But not a one night stand but having girls your friends with or in the social circle from college and parites will tongs of girls and just having fun and getting laid is the basically the cherry on top. It’s the freedom and just having fun with friend and memories and stuff worthy of memories.

    This doesn’t lead to happiness in the end result as it isn’t really fulfilling and I think its natural to want more. But it’s the perfect stepping stone to set up to love and a relationship. It’s hard to not want it all. Have fun and then be serious. Casual stuff can bring happiness because it can allow a man to have freedom and just sow his oats and memories with his boys, and get that out of the way and like a book, allow for the next page to be turned. I see this as a stepping stone to allow for a man to be ready for a relationship and step into it as he’s had his fun, though its not fulfilling he’s now ready to get serious. Plenty of men get the cold shoulder and have committment issues. And Some might just be their personality but I also wonder how much is it for guys simply having not sowed their oats like they wished and still reluctant to settle down.

    Then again I know guys who had sex with I think 2 girls and married young or been in a relationship since highschool or since college and are truly happy and don’t care they didn’t fool around when young. So who knows, maybe its a matter of find the “one” the right person that makes it all worthwhile.

    • I’m sure that some people enjoy random hookups. Or sex with friends. You aren’t the only one to say they do. But most people don’t and I was just trying to explain why.

  6. In a few cases, people hookup and have sex, not because of love but because they don’t want to feel odd man out in their friend’s circle. Such people rush into relationships and have sex either to just experience about it or to just not feel ashamed in their group.

  7. A nicely researched take on being run by sexual script. Perhaps I belong to another generation and as such quite naive on the subject 🙂

  8. “But only 11% of the school population actually enjoys that, and more than 70% of guys said they preferred relationship sex.”

    This makes me wonder, about what is wrong with guy’s then. This might mean that guy’s would in the end result prefer a relationship and that be the ultimate goal, but they like having fun with casual flings for the time being while young. If this means they actually want and prefer a relationship now or during college and rather that than hook ups. It really makes me wonder as in why the hell aren’t they doing it then? 11% actually enjoys that and 70% of guys said they preferred relationship sex, yet they are hooking up? I mean what’s so hard? If they want a gf and a relationship, they have a ton of girls at their school that, I’m sure some of the girls are nice or good enough to be girlfriends. It’s not like there’s a lack of choices in college, so I don’t see why its so hard to meet a girl and stick with her and she’s your gf now.

    Then again, as a man I kind of get not wanting to be in a relationship when in college as college is short and a guy has the rest of his life to get serious. A man isn’t going to see so many girls and hot girls all around him from classes, etc in his lifetime, except for college and highschool. Once out of college its a different ball game. Sure there’s girls you’ll see at the bars, but it’s not the same. The horndog in guy’s make them just want to have fun during the brief time they are in college. Sorry not trying to be a pig, I’m just being truthful, I know how guys can think as I am one and I guess the temptation there is and can be for men when surrounded by many hot girls.

  9. Friends with benefits doesn’t seem to hold the same problems that hooking up does. Unless it’s “Friends with benefits, But without the friends part.” That seems to be pretty difficult, too.

    That’s my point, I see fwb as kind of “hooking up” too as that stuff is casual, flingy and not relationship. I think just as many people are into having sex and casual stuff with people they know and friends with, etc, but not in a relationship. And not simply a one night stand. I don’t see why girls feel they have to do one night stands when they can have sex with friends or guys they know atleast and its less awkward or weird. Sure it can be with a guy she knows or friends with, but its atleast not a stranger. plus one night stands just seem dangerous to me, not that this stuff can’t either. But girls meeting a guy they’ve talked to at a bar for what an hour or two and then go home with him? Kind of vulnerable isn’t it since they really don’t know him or hardly do and now having sex with the guy?

    I would think college students have non relationship sex would be doing fb, or fwb stuff just much as one night stands so it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. For me, I never cared for a one night stand, just seemed boring and don’t know the girl. However, fwbs better if not wanting a relationship but still getting sex.

  10. And when you bring up hook up, and from the fact of the girl’s quote about her sharing herself with a stranger sounds like one night stands. Which I get, they are and sound unappealing. But can’t hookups also be a fling or casual sex? Therefore, these girls aren’t having sex with “strangers” and more liikely guy friends or guy’s they’ve known or know and meet or have met and part of that social circle from? So they aren’t strangers and they aren’t one night stands in the sense of meeting a guy at a bar they don’t know and then get talk to and then go home with. But rather at a party or bar with friends and a guy or guy’s they are friends with or friends with their friends who’ve they’ve gone out with to events before and hook up with one of the guy’s later that night?

    • Friends with benefits doesn’t seem to hold the same problems that hooking up does. Unless it’s “Friends with benefits, But without the friends part.” That seems to be pretty difficult, too.

      In college some women prefer FWB because it doesn’t get in the way of their studies as much. Others find themselves wanting a real relationship — or, either of these things can apply to a guy, too.

  11. Why is there a sexual script? Can’t people do things because they want to or what they think would be fun? It seems like women are run by scripts more so apparently. And how did women get the vibe that having sex is the thing to do? I’m pretty sure women or girls don’t get pressure to “get laid” like guys do. Boy talk, especially highschool is about how many girls so and so is banging and hot hot she is, etc and this manhood thing to hook up and get laid. And sure guy’s have this script too, some anyway, with feeling they should be getting laid. But can’t the lines be blurred too? Where what a man feels he should be doing because of society telling him, but also what he truly wants to do, because hooking up seems fun and is fun to him?

    • You’re right. Men and women are both run by scripts. Guys are pressured to hook up just like girls are, and score points for hooking up with a lot of girls. But only 11% of the school population actually enjoys that, and more than 70% of guys said they preferred relationship sex.

      I just focused on women for this one for simplicity. The post was inspired by a comment made by a reader where we were talking about women and sexuality.

  12. Beautifully written and thought provoking.

    There is something that is really rotten with how young people (and older ones too!) perceive sex, love, and human connectedness. The problem seems to be that for some reason women (and young men) do not know love nor desire to experience it. They repress their emotions and feelings for no good reason other than they think they are suppose to do so.

    Today, I was talking to a 28 year old young woman. Now that she has gotten her career well on track, she is interested in a relationship with a man. But, since she has never had one, she does not even know what is involved! Incredulous. All she contemplate is it is not just sex. She does not know any other aspects of just what a relationship is. I asked her if she had ever met a man whom she felt something. She said ‘yes.’ However, she dismissed it because the ‘timing was not right.’ Oh boy…

    I think all humans (even sociopaths) desire some degree of human connection. It is simply a part of our being. What this hookup nonsense does is create a false sense of being. Hence, the use of alcohol to make it happen. It is to reduce their pain I would guess. Sad.

    What I fear is a great deal of social dysfunction in the future for a lot of young men and women. My son is 17. He is still a virgin. He has little interest in girls or sex. He is much like me when I was his age – nerd. Lol! Honestly, I am glad he is the way he is, indeed.

    Great job!

    • Thank you. I’m glad you liked the post. And I’m glad to hear your thoughts.

      People become so disempowered when they feel they must do sexuality in a way that is inauthentic to them. Sure, some people enjoy random hook ups, and I figure if it works for them, fine. And I certainly don’t like the sexual repression that surrounds slut-shaming women.

      At the same time, one survey found that only 11% of college students actually like hookups. Yet most thought that was their only option.

      We really need to get to a point where we can have sex in ways that feel authentic, and that are emotionally enriching instead of emotionally harming.

  13. So true. I believe that connecting to our sexuality internally is key then everything else becomes easier to decide/resolve. So is healing our personal and collective wounding around sex and sexuality. Performance turns to authentic experience. Sex becomes empowering rather than disempowering. Sexual violence starts to decrease.

  14. Interesting post. As long as we continue to live in an isolated, individual based at the expense of community based society, we are going to have people acting .
    Instead of there being open discussion about those aspects of life that are confusing we are left with trying to figure out what normal is.
    We don’t learn social norms by learning from our neighbors friends and family, we learned social norms by watching television or looking at the computer. Scary

    • Interesting thoughts. Real community vs unthoughtful, follow the heard, group-think, perhaps.

      • Yes I think the worst part is that there’s really no herd, we just think there’s a herd. I think everyone’s out there bumping up against each other not wanting the other person to know that they don’t know what the Hells going on. You always make me think thanks

      • “There’s really no herd, we just think there’s a herd.”

        That’s so often true. Like with hookup culture. Of course, slut-shaming can have a real heard in back of it, especially pre-60s. Even now it’s still bad enough that girls commit suicide, or sometimes want to. Or, there’s the sexual dysfunction. So heard vs real community.

        Yet even as a real herd shames, the fantasy rears it’s ugly head again as a lot of slut-shamed girls are actually virgins who are just very attractive and attacked because they’re seen as threatening sexual rivals.

        And of course, even those women having sex aren’t sluts anymore than men are. It’s just social construction. Perhaps that’s what you mean?

      • Yes, it is social construction, but it’s based on some outdated either Victorian or Puritan ideology. I think what I’m trying to say is it’s all unspoken.
        The sins of the father are passed on to the son. The sins of the mother have to be passed on to the daughters as well

      • Yes, that’s true.

        Always enjoy your thought-provoking comments.

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