When I fantasize about my ideal Valentine's Day, my brain goes to a happy place. The scent of fresh roses and intoxicating perfume. The rich taste of premium chocolates. That Tiffany blue evoking inexplicable happiness. All topped off with a night of passion that leaves me weak and satisfied.
In the morning, I wake up, and he's still there. Even better, he's made me breakfast with a side of a softly spoken, "love you." Cliché? Fair enough. Idealistic? Perhaps.
Meanwhile, I’m lying in my bed alone, swiping through Tinder’s finest. Okay, Chad. Let's see what you have to say. "Nice pics." You're no Shakespeare but go on. "I just feel like the universe really wants us to bang." Way to make a girl feel special. Guys don’t believe that actually works, do they? OMG. I really hope that’s never worked.
Is Romance Dead?
You'd think the past decade would have brought us historical levels of emotional and sexual fulfillment. With unfettered access to birth control, a plethora of options in the sexual marketplace at the swipe of a finger, and the de-stigmatization of most societal taboos, today's culture is a playground for sexual freedom and personal choice. And for those needing additional inspiration, we've had a decade of some pretty great love songs and movies, ranging from heartwarming and quirky to downright heartbreaking. Yes, I'd go so far as to say it should be a golden era for romance and sex.
Except, it's not. Not by a long shot.
Fair warning: this is where it gets depressing. So now is a perfectly acceptable time to grab that glass of wine and box of chocolates. But stick with me, because I promise - there's a silver lining to all of this.
By all respectable accounts, our generation is on the brink of an emotional great depression. And our sex lives? We're in the midst of a 2008 market crash equivalent of a sex recession. In some ways, like in the case of teen pregnancies being at an all-time low, that's a good thing. But what about the rest of us?
If Romance Is Dead, Then What Killed It?
For starters, technology is giving human interaction a run for its money. Many of us spend more time staring down at our screens than into the eyes of actual people. Social media connects us to the world, but we're becoming less sociable. Dating apps provide infinite partner options, but the quality of dates seems to be getting worse.
Social media connects us to the world, but we're becoming less sociable.
Where does romance come in? Well, from a practical perspective, romance isn't really needed. Technology has replaced the natural process of romance, seduction, and sex, by providing instant sexual stimulation with porn on demand. It's everywhere and nearly impossible to escape.
Porn Has Made Men Lousy Lovers
We’re inundated with sexual imagery in media - whether it be on HBO or PornHub. You would think that with all the portrayals of women’s sexuality, men would know exactly what to do in bed. But it seems like the opposite is often the case. We'd be dishonest to dismiss the naked elephant in the room. Between porn sites and mainstream media, the over-sexualization of women has desensitized men to the point of ignorance.
They expect us to act like porn stars in bed, but often fail to make us climax (the numbers are pretty depressing). Somehow, sex has become less sexy.
Alright, I get it. Dating in 2020 sucks. And Romance? Definitely dead. But is it dead dead? Or is it just on life support, locked up in a tower, waiting to be rescued? The thing is, I don't see a Prince Charming anywhere in sight. And if the current state of masculinity is any indication, I don't think he's going to come.
A New Approach to Sex & Dating
So why do we even date, anyway? Most of us date because we want committed relationships. We want to love someone who will love us back. We want a great partner, and maybe, eventually, a husband. But if that's what we're after, our methods are a bit at odds with our goal. Dating apps are engineered to get us to focus on shallow characteristics, namely physical attraction. If we're being honest, basically just physical attraction. So much so that it's easy to develop a deeply flawed habit of selection. We become overly picky about shallow traits and overly loose about character traits.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love a 6-foot tall guy who makes six figures and looks like David Beckham as much as the next girl. But then why is it that when a guy acts like a world-class jerk, we call him out for his character, not his looks? If what we're after is someone capable of commitment, then we should be looking for partners who share the values deeply rooted within us. Nothing kills chemistry like the realization that you see the world very differently. We tend to stay away from subjects like money, politics, and religion. Sure, they can be awkward to bring up on a first date. But is it more awkward than letting a relative stranger into your bed?
We become overly picky about shallow traits and overly loose about character traits.
It's not always easy to articulate what you want from a potential partner, especially when you're simply exploring the options. Worse, many of my friends have found it difficult to demand the respect they deserve from the men they date. We're so conditioned to believe that if we stand up for ourselves, we might be perceived as bitchy. It should be the opposite - women should speak their mind and expect to be heard. It starts with us realizing there's nothing crazy about having standards.
Let's Rethink Our Approach to Sex
If we weren't meant to have great sex lives, there would be no need for us to have orgasms. We don't need them to get pregnant! Thankfully, nature was kind. But that doesn’t mean that female pleasure is simple. Men, by comparison, get off quite easily in more ways than one. Our brains, however, are a bit trickier when it comes to sex. Whenever we have sex, our brains release bonding chemicals that physically tie us to our sexual partner, regardless of the quality of the partner. This happens to provide a potential child with stability and support. And those pesky chemicals? They don't go away just because we use condoms or birth control. That's why our psyche puts a high priority on feeling safe and having trust in our partners.
There is so much misinformation about the female body and what satisfies us. Some seem to think the answer to partner dissatisfaction is to substitute a partner with a treasure chest of sex toys the size of Mary Poppins' carpet bag. But then we are robbing ourselves of the full experience, and putting a (plastic) barrier between ourselves and our lover. Women don’t need sex toys to have great sex - we need to learn about how our bodies actually work and then choose a partner who’s willing to do what it takes.
In short, women shouldn’t have to behave like men sexually to experience liberation and pleasure. We don’t need an infinite number of partners to be satisfied - we need one great one. And we don’t want an endless parade of hook-ups and one night stands. It can be almost impossible to know what we need in bed (and then ask for it!), but at least if you’re doing it with a partner who loves you, you’re off to a strong start.
Why Commitment Makes for Better Sex
When you're having sex in a long-term relationship, you build trust & intimacy with that person. You become more vulnerable, emotionally and physically. You don't need battery-powered toys or gymnastic level positions to have great sex - just a loving partner who is genuinely committed to your pleasure and well-being. Practice makes perfect, and sex is no different. You and your partner will get better together over time!
Practice makes perfect, and sex is no different.
If sex with someone you love is much more fulfilling than transactional hookups with strangers who don't have your best interest in mind, then maybe the dating crisis is a lot simpler than some might think. Maybe all the over-stimulation is having the opposite effect. Maybe our senses have gone numb. Maybe the unrealistic expectations that porn gives men is making for more painful and less satisfying sexual encounters. And maybe, just maybe, all the convenience technology offers should be re-evaluated when it comes to our relationships. Say that's it. We've figured it out. We've Nancy Drewed the apocalyptic world of dating in 2020. Where does that leave us - the ones who refuse to settle? The ones who want to experience all the amazing things that romance and passion can bring?
Women Have the Power
Let's revisit the tower. You know, the tower where Romance is locked away, seemingly dead but is really on life support? It's not looking good, and it seems to be only getting worse. The time has come for women to embrace our own version of the hero’s journey. In the myths, the man gets to fight and slay the dragon. But what do women get to do? It mostly seems like we get lost in the pages of history. But women have their own quest to follow. We don’t have to slay the dragon - we have to tame it. In the myths, the dragon is the beast - but in reality, women must tame society’s tendencies toward violence and nihilism. A society that has lost femininity has lost its compassion and virtue. For most of human history, women have defined the romantic landscape (we're looking at you, Helen of Troy).
A society that has lost femininity has lost its compassion and virtue.
Romance isn't going to be rescued by men. They might defend us from monsters outside our borders, but it’s the women who have to defend us from within. So here's a radical idea. What if we were the ones to do it? If someone's going to bring love back from the dead, and not just romance, but all of it - genuine passion, good sex, reliable commitment - why can't it be us? We control the dating atmosphere, for better or for worse, but somewhere along the way, we seem to have forgotten that. The truth is, women are the gatekeepers to sex. Our sexual power has the ability to shift trends, change the culture, and even start (and end) wars. We hold the power to define love, commitment, and what we are willing to accept from men. And they know it. Now, if you're thinking, "Well, of course I want to be a badass goddess warrior. But what does that have to do with romance?", here’s the thing...
Why Romance Is Worth Saving
It's not just that we can bring fulfilling romance, passion, and commitment back into our lives, but it’s in our best interest to do so. Why not have a partner who bolsters us through the battles and trials of life? Can we go it alone? Of course. Many have. And that's a choice you alone can make. After all, life can be hard. But it's also full of adventure and beauty and wonder. A partner stands with you while you’re suffering and can appreciate your triumphs over it more than anyone.
By the side of a great woman stands a great man.
As many celebrities have shown us, all the success and accolades in the world are empty without a partner and family to share them with. Strong women deserve strong partners, like Beyonce & Jay Z. Gisele & Tom Brady. Kanye & Kim. Maybe it’s time to rewrite the old phrase: “By the side of a great woman stands a great man.” So if love, passion, and commitment are what we're after, then it's in our best interest to change the rules of dating and sex for the better. It's not a question of if we can, it's if we will. With that in mind, the Women of Evie compiled 6 of our favorite resolutions to help us get started on the path to saving romance and sex in 2020.
1. Know your desired outcome.
Know what kind of relationship you want, then model your actions, words, and how you present yourself to potential partners accordingly.
2. Don’t wait to be pursued!
As much as we’re ingrained to see this as the man’s role, most of us fail to realize just how much men hate rejection. Walking up to a woman is peak vulnerability for most guys. When they fail to get that number, it can be crushing to fragile egos. So don’t let an opportunity slip by because you think he isn’t interested just because he didn’t initiate.
3. Don’t judge a book entirely by its cover.
Maybe there’s a guy. You know, the one you’ve always put in the friend zone. But if you think about it, he’s always been there for you when you’ve needed him. Chances are, he’s way closer to boyfriend material than most dudes you’ll find on Tinder.
4. Start saying “No.”
It’s such a powerful word, and we’re taught that it’s rude from a young age to disappoint people. But men aren’t going to change when it comes to how they approach and date women unless we shut down certain behaviors, like thinking they’re entitled to our bodies because they bought us a couple of dinners. You might get ghosted more often but guess what? Be thankful when it happens because you dodged a bullet.
5. Make them wait.
It sounds simple, but men need to work for sex. Not with gifts or expensive vacations, but with proof that we’re not just conquests. And one of the best ways they can prove their intentions is through time.
6. Lastly, get to know your body!
Our bodies are amazingly complex with the power to literally grow another human inside of us. From our cycles to where we carry stress and everything in between, knowledge is power (and pleasure!). No one’s going to care for your body as much as you.
From all of us at Evie Magazine, we wish you a romantic and happy Valentine’s Day!
Behind the Scenes with Maia Cotton. Directed by Patrick Dwyer