Competing Desires: Casual Sex in a Monogamous Society
Last week, I spoke with an elderly couple. They’re both in the sixties now, but when they married each other, he was seventeen and she was eighteen. Sounds crazy, right? Furthermore, they were both virgins when they put the rings on each other’s fingers. A situation like this is nearly unheard of today—especially for millennials. On college campuses across America, casual sex has become the norm, and long-term relationships and marriage are generally regarded as an endeavor to undertake far in the future.
This revolution in the treatment of sex and relationships has many causes, one of them being our addiction to instant gratification. I believe this addiction is negatively affecting our capacity to form and keep lasting romantic relationships.
In America today, we can have nearly anything at the push of a button. We have fast food, internet access everywhere, instant communication, television, porn. When we have a need or a desire, it doesn’t take long to see it fulfilled. Why? “There’s an app for that.” Whereas, years ago, you might have to make a trip to the bank to deposit a check, now you can take a picture of it with your phone. Boom, done. The efficiency of meeting our wants and needs has increased tenfold, and with it, so have our expectations. We cannot accept inefficient means to our desired ends.
As a result, young people today view sex differently than previous generations. At the same time, we live in a very sexually heightened age. Sex is everywhere. And the threshold for what is accepted in terms of sexual promotion today is extremely low. The combination of sexual freedom and the desire for instant gratification means… people be bangin’. And often. It’s not uncommon for young people, and especially college students, to have multiple partners. And with each successive partner, these young people become more and more used to a laissez-faire treatment of sex.
Maybe this isn’t a bad thing. Sex can be extremely liberating and obviously pleasurable. However, sex holds a unique place in the realm of relationships and marriage—things that many perpetuators of casual sex still seem to desire for their future. There are all different kinds of relationships, marriages, partnerships, etc., but the prevailing idea in America is that they are defined by monogamy. Thus, indulging in casual sex now, with the hope of a monogamous relationship in the future, creates problems. Those who take part in it set themselves up for a rough transition, increasing the likelihood of failure in relationships and marriage.
So, what is our responsibility to these competing desires? All habits can be broken, but it seems that preventative measures could increase the likelihood of reaching the long-term goals that many of us have. However, any addiction is hard to break.