I get the feeling that my girlfriend’s been with many more people than I have, even though she’s only 20 and I’m 30 (I’ve had 15 partners). She’s very upfront about her sex life, and says she’s “not ashamed of having been a slut.” I don’t expect her to be a virgin, but it bothers me that at every party we go to I have to meet some dude she slept with or hear the details of her wild exploits. I believe she’s faithful when in a relationship (she expresses disgust about cheating). I just don’t feel very special, being constantly reminded that, for her, sex is on the same level as playing cards. How can I let go of my doubts and just enjoy being with her?
— Not A History Buff
Like a growing number of young women, if your girlfriend had put a notch in her bedpost every time she bagged a guy, odds are she would’ve been sleeping on the floor in a pile of sawdust in a matter of months.
Notches aren’t the half of it. Girls from junior high to college are taking a chain saw to conventional morality and “the double standard,” doing their aggressive best to out-boy the boys in scoring emotionally Lysoled, take-a-number sex. The morning after a hookup-athon, they sit around with friends, musing, “What’s-his-name was ENORMOUS!” All the ways they might have rebelled — like listening to Eminem and dressing like teen hoochies — have been coopted by so many suburban moms that the final frontier of shock value has become demoting sex to an after-school hobby like tennis. Eventually, no matter whose arm a girl’s on, she can’t pass a bag boy at the supermarket without blurting out, “Oh yeah...you had that crazy tattoo!”
Supposedly, this trend marks the end of Western civilization, at least according to the finger-wagging abstinence nannies (clearly a highly persuasive form of sex education). Sociologist after sociologist squawks to the press that the hookup girls will be “irreparably emotionally damaged!” — conveniently forgetting all the sexual frolickers who made it out of the roaring ’20s and free-love ’60s without their heads and the earth simultaneously imploding.
But, maybe, just maybe, it’s...just a phase. Maybe, when these girls weary of playing sexual revolutionary, they’ll zip up their pants and look for emotional connection. Evidently, “been there, done him (done him, too)” got kind of old for your girlfriend. She, however, remains 20: short on identity beyond bragging rights to more hookups than the average cable repairman, and under the impression that sexual sophistication plays out like post-traumatic stress disorder (only she got to have the sex, and you’re forced to relive it).
Where you go wrong is thinking sex is special. It isn’t. Monkeys have it, and not because somebody gave them flowers and expensive jewelry. But consider this: while your girlfriend was the antithesis of selective about the men she slept with (apparently, not only sowing her wild oats, but a soybean crop equivalent to that of mainland China’s), she appears quite picky about the man she relationships with. Make an effort to identify and appreciate any merits she might have beyond her proficiency as a sexual acrobat. Explain that the problem isn’t so much that she “got it” in the past, but that she flaunts it in the present (tacky, tacky!), yanking your attention away from your relationship. Plainly put, what you don’t know won’t make you hurl.
A man on the flake
I thought this guy at work was interested in me. He went out of his way to see me, and said, “Call me, we should go out sometime.” I left a message, but he never called back. It upset me, so I ignored him for a while. I still can’t figure out what happened. How can I get some resolution?
— Left On Hold
Guys who ask you to call them for dates aren’t asking you out; they’re merely making conversation. A guy who wants you will crawl naked across broken glass and eat dog food, if that’s what it takes to get on your calendar. After he licks up the last little bit of Alpo, he’s unlikely to settle for “sometime” — a word which should be your cue to forget a guy until he phones to make plans for an hour you can find on your watch. Why a guy is all talk and no clock is immaterial. The essential point is that “sometime” is no time at all, which makes it a very bad time for a date, but hey...could there be a more ideal-sounding time for one of those unpleasant exams with the snaking internal camera?