Sure, women might be able to come by sex more easily than men, but that doesn’t mean it’s good sex.
“Women don’t have to work for it.”
“Women are the gatekeepers to sex.”
“Women can just walk into a bar and someone will have sex with them.”
“Women can get laid whenever they want.”
When you write about gender and sex on the Internet—especially when you’re a 25-year-old straight woman who writes about her own sex life on the Internet—you get a lot of comments like those above. You get a lot pushback from men, with varying degrees of hostility, about the “ease” with which women find partners. Some of them approach asking for empathy and an open dialogue about how daunting and discouraging it can be for men to try to get some action, others approach with vitriol, spitting insults and misogyny and an ugly sense of sexual entitlement.
On both ends of the spectrum, there is palpable resentment about the perceived availability of sex for women. To really address their comments, and explore this oversimplified dichotomy, we need to collectively rethink what it means to “get laid.”
But let’s start with this: Are their contentions true? If you gave me half an hour and sent me out into this cold Chicago night and told me to bring home a willing man, could I do it? Maybe. Probably. OK, yes, you’re right, I could. At the very least, the homeless man on the corner has already indicated this evening that he’s available if I’m interested. If I walked into the nearest bar and climbed up on a stool and wolf whistled to find some quiet and said, “Excuse me, gentleman, my apartment is across the street and I’m feeling a little randy. Anyone down?” I think I’d get a taker or two. Why don’t I? I like sex, I wish I had more sex, I’m not opposed to casual sex, so what’s stopping me?
To answer that question, let’s unpack the semantic knot of what it means to “get laid.” Take a moment and do a little thought experiment with me. Find a piece of paper and write down your own definition of “getting laid.” If you wrote, “having sex,” now parse that further; what does it mean to “have sex?” Did you write something along the lines of “penis in vagina” or “vaginal penetration?” Even if you didn’t, a lot of people would. Set aside for a moment the heteronormativity of that definition (which would imply that gay sex is not “real” sex) and focus instead on how un-fun that sounds. What a low bar! Is that really something that I’m so lucky to have access to?
Let’s take this thought experiment a little further: What if we redefined “getting laid” to mean “having an orgasm” or even more broadly “having enjoyable sex?” What happens then? How easy do you think it is for me to, as the commenters put it, “get laid without even trying?”
I can only speak for myself, but with that redefinition, it’s suddenly a much taller order. Sure, I might be able to find some guy to come home with me if all I really want is to let someone else get off on top of me, but what’s the likelihood I’m going to enjoy myself? What’s the likelihood he’s going to be invested in my pleasure? What’s the likelihood that he’ll be open to the conversation, verbal and non-verbal, that I want to have about my preferences? Is it worth it to climb on that stool and make my plea to the bar patrons if I’m not going to get where I’d like to go? Doesn’t seem like a good bargain to me. I’m only interested in some casual, no-strings fun if I think we’re all going to have a good time, and that’s a risky bet with strangers.
Even if we grant that women can “get sex” whenever they want, there is no guarantee of good sex. There is no guarantee of an orgasm, or even a partner who cares whether you are enjoying yourself. There is, of course, no guarantee of great sex for men either (everyone can stumble on a bad lay from time to time), but male pleasure is the primary focus of most heterosexual sex, especially of the casual variety. Think back on our thought exercise: If we are consciously or unconsciously defining “getting laid” as penetration, statistically most men will get off and most women actually won’t (75% of women do not orgasm without clitoral stimulation). The act that most people view as a fundamental building block of a straight sexual interaction is not how most women reach orgasm. For most of us, you’ve got to throw in a few other maneuvers. Finding the random guy who’s willing to learn your tricks is not as easy as finding a guy who just wants to perform his own favorites, regardless of your reaction.
What I want out of a sexual interaction takes a little more time and conversation than the average bar meet-up is likely to offer. There’s nothing less satisfying than trying for an easy, casual hook-up and realizing that the dude I ended up with is only interested in the version that works for him. Maybe I technically “got laid,” but I didn’t have much fun. If I were confident that any random dude I brought home was going to be invested in having mutually satisfying, awesome sex, I might try to “get laid” more often.
Emily Heist Moss is a New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works in a tech start-up. She blogs every day about gender, media, politics and sex at Rosie Says, and has written for Jezebel, The Frisky, The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.