Sex is the new handshake.
Don't believe me? Think I'm wrong because you're in such-and-such committed relationship, or because you only have sex when you're truly in love, or this reason, or that reason?
Well, that's fine. Everyone doesn't have to feel as though sex is the new handshake in order for me to make this assertion. Besides, not everyone shakes hands anyway.
Speaking from experience, sex has moved to the forefront of personal relationships. It's gone from meet--date--get to know--fall in love--commit--have sex*, to meet--date--have sex with the other variables (get to know, fall in love, commit) possibly not even making an appearance.** Sex has become the way that we get to know each other; apparently, the way we relate to each other when understanding and words may fail. I have some ideas as to why.
1. The death of the pre-modern courtship
No, I'm not going to wax poetic about how I feel about the status of modern courtship. I'm not going to reminisce. But I will say that the matter and manner of courtship has changed, and that is undeniable. Many things have changed it--the times we live in, the advent of social media and technology in our lives, shifts in societal norms, etc.
Now that we've established that courtship is different than it used to be, it's safe to say that back in the day, sex was the reward of marriage. It goes back to the formula above; in that formula, sex was what came after fall in love--commit--marriage. Courtship was a grounds to marry, and even though courtship itself has transformed throughout the years, it's still a grounds to marry. But--and it's a big but--with the institution of the idea of marriage also having transformed throughout the years, marriage is no longer a societal guarantee. So, with marriage no longer necessarily waiting around behind courtship, it makes sense that sex isn't necessarily sitting grounded behind marriage anymore, either.
2. The de-taboo-ification of society
Back in the day, we were all puritanical, with a little bit of hedonism riding just below the surface, waiting for someone to engage it, so we could suppress it. Now, it seems as though society has greatly embraced our underlying hedonism... to the point, sometimes, that it seems like excess.
It seems like these days, society on the whole enjoys things that makes it feel good--as opposed to before, when society seemed more concerned with things that it made it feel right--and it's no secret that sex makes people feel good. It seems like society is more open to sex. Or, rather, to people who are open to sex.
I always thought it was rather stupid and, quite frankly, puritanical junk (just can't escape those roots) that sex was such a taboo topic. It should always be considered as very important (as anything that can begin and end life should be***), but it shouldn't be taboo. Sex can be a very healthy release of emotions and energy. Apparently, a portion of society feels the same.****
3. Children experiencing natural sexuality w/each other sans the components of societal fear or parental fear
People are sexual. This is normal. Children are sexual also. This is also normal.***** I was always sexual, and I was always aware that I was, but I experienced and explored my sexuality mostly by myself, but also through kissing and a bit of petting, not by myself. Though I was offered sex as young as middle school (I honestly cannot remember being properly propositioned, and I don't think he was serious about it, either, but I know it happened, the proposition, that is, not the sex), I wasn't biting, and can honestly say I wasn't the least bit curious about what I was missing. I happened to grow up in a time when society's grip on instilling fear/distaste of sex was a little firmer. There was no 16 and Pregnant when I was a kid. If you had sex or, God forbid, got pregnant, you weren't a television star, you were a trollop, a fast girl, which I knew I didn't want to be, because I also had the fear of my mother's disapproval instilled in me as well.
My mother had me when she was 27 years old, and she always told me the story about how people called her an old maid to be having her first child at 27, and she always told me how she didn't care what they had to say. She clearly took pride in not caring about how people thought she should live her life, and I picked up on that. (She also told me the story about how her younger sister had gotten married way earlier than her and had three kids [twins and another child] within two years with a man that wasn't really a good fit for her. My mother never told this story disapprovingly, but something in my mind let me know that this was not what I wanted to do.)
So, with no media portrayals of it being okay to have sex as a kid, and with my mother's silent disapproval, the urge to actually engage in sex didn't legitimately enter my life until I was a very young adult. However, kids in these modern times are growing up without the hold that society had on me.
Now, kids call each other "hoes"****** the same way they call each other "green" and "gay." They use all these words to call each other stupid, but I feel like the word "ho" for children today doesn't have the same dire connotation that it had for kids in my day. In today's times, kids can turn on the televison and find kids who were/are sexually active. (Uh, Britney Spears' little sister, Sarah Palin's daughter, any girl from 16 and Pregnant, even the show Secret Life of the American Teenager showed a relatively positive situation regarding the main character, who gets pregnant around 16. Is 16 the magic age? Oh yeah, and the other girl on that show gets it in like every episode. I'm an adult and don't even get it in like she does.) In today's times, kids are giving each other head in the back of school buses and having sex in school bathrooms. Not only has the media's/society's grip loosened tremendously, but I feel as though that parental disapproval probably isn't what it used to be. Parents are getting younger and younger themselves, so when it comes to that unspoken message, like the one my mother gave to me, what unspoken message are they sending their own children?
At the end of the day, I liken sex to a handshake not to say that it happens more frequently now than it did at any other period in time (well, let's just say I'm pretty sure people may have gotten it in a little more in the 70s, but that's just my assumption), but to say that sex has now become just as common as a handshake. You can disagree with me if you may, but when I have my 17 year old sister telling me about her classmates who are pregnant and/or who have STDs without even batting an eye, I'd say the whole lot has become pretty common.
As common as a handshake before a business meeting.
*--there is no scientific formula; this is just a supposition on my part based on personal experience and assumptions on how most other people probably conduct themselves.
**--for the purposes of this argument, we're talking about serious relationships lacking some of the latter variables, not more sexually-focused endeavors, not to say that more sexually-focused endeavors (i.e. hooking up) has to necessarily lack the aforementioned latter variables, but the assumption is that they do.
***--begin: pregnancy, end: AIDS. Never looked it that way until the idea floated to me today. It's true that something people occasionally treat quite carelessly can begin and end life.
****--Sex in the City changed my life. Even though I was watching the watered-down TBS version, it was still enough to implant a fierce image in my head. I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw, minus her indecision and her dwarfish height. (Sorry, folks. At almost six feet tall, seeing how short SJP actually is frightened me.) I wanted to live in NYC with my little computer, but I also wanted to have the sexual prowess of Samantha. Miranda was too lesbian-like for me to want to be like (and, no surprise to me, she is a lesbian in real life, the actress whose name is slipping my mind right now), and Charlotte was too puritanical. Boring. That show showed me (before I went through this mental thing and decided it was all bullshit because they were all in their damn 40s and still having sex and being dissatisfied every episode) that there was power in sex and sexuality for women. That I could suck a dick and brag about it and not be a ho. For all it's worth, there is power in that awakening. And despite how I may have felt about the show afterwards, I never lost the magic of that awakening.
*****--notice I said sexual, not sexually active.
******--I work with kids. I would know.