Feminine Appeal: The Casualties of Casual Sex

Feminine Appeal: The Casualties of Casual Sex November 13, 2012

Join Faith Newport and Erin Straza each week for Feminine Appeal, an e-discussion bringing a female perspective to the latest in cultural happenings and hubbub.

Faith: Now that it’s finally over, one of the things that stood out the most to me when reflecting on this election were all of the (often ill-advised) comments politicians made about rape as it relates to abortion. One in particular, Rep. Roger Rivard’s “some girls rape easy” comment really got me thinking. It seems like all too often the anti-abortion movement accuses women of wanting to escape the consequences of casual sex—but isn’t opening yourself up to a potential rape charge just another consequence of casual sex? The guys who meet a girl, treat her right, and bring her home to their parents aren’t worried about this kind of thing—it’s the guys who are sleeping around that have to think about it. Where’s the rhetoric on that?

Stare at this image for five minutes, then look away briefly and the look again for another five minutes. See it yet? There is a metaphor here about casual sex . . .

Erin: That rhetoric doesn’t exist. To acknowledge such a negative consequence would burst the illusion of casual, consequence-free sex. If casual sex opens the door to pregnancies or rape charges, what is the solution?

Faith: But we acknowledge that sex (casual or otherwise) has potential consequences for women, and we generally expect them to live with those consequences. Why don’t we have the same attitudes towards men? I think our culture needs to hold guys to a higher standard, as well as consider them more accountable for their actions.

Erin: I agree: Men and women should be held equally accountable for their sexual choices. (And in my mind, they are.) But the primarily private nature of sex enables partners to engage then split with no one knowing. It’s not like the consequences of getting in a car accident, when there are forms to complete and repairs to schedule and money to pay. If a man has casual sex and fails to stay involved with the consequences the woman faces, she would have to expose his shirking, and we, as society would have to “remind” him of his responsibilities.

Faith: Do you think our society has created adequate ways for women to handle those types of problems? I tend to think it’s hard for a woman to say those things sometimes because judgment against her role can be so quick—perhaps to the point of drowning out what she needs to say. I think the tendency is to absolve the guy from responsibility, because the girl didn’t want a pregnancy, etc., then she shouldn’t have had casual sex in the first place. Culturally we seem to forget that sex and all it’s aftermath, for better or worse, requires two people.

Erin: No, we don’t. But this takes us back to the fallacy of casual sex. There is no such thing. Certainly there are many cases where sexual activity does not produce immediate consequences. But the potential for long-term ramifications cannot be completely avoided (unless one of the partners is infertile)—something the casual sex movement ignores. Once we open the conversation to obligations and responsibilities, people get uncomfortable. That sounds too much like rules and morals. And who is to decide what those will be?

Faith: It’s almost like you would have to approach sex with a commitment involving a socially ordained set of expectations, rights, and responsibilities… Oh, wait—that’s marriage. However, because of the shift we’re experiencing in cultural attitudes towards sex, we may find that another social institution evolves to govern casual sexual activity. Would that be necessary if we were all having committed, monogamous sex? No, but it looks like the people that are doing so have become increasingly the exception rather than the rule. Society still needs a mechanism to protect itself.


Erin: What is this newfangled thing of which you speak?! Marriage? Your deduction made me laugh—yes, marriage is the safeguard for the negative consequences of casual sex. I think the protection that marriage provides is part of its beauty. Christians would attribute this built-in covering to God who first instituted marriage. As society departs from God’s wisdom, maybe there should be some other regulation . . . registration with the county, perhaps? Licenses requiring participants to adhere to Casual Sex Guidelines? But then would people have to report every encounter? Oh my. That could get complicated. Let’s open it up for discussion with the CaPC crowd: How could our society hold both men and women to similar standards for casual sexual activity and its consequences?

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  • So…the negative consequences of casual sex that marriage protects you from is…babies? And potential rape charges?

    The enthusiastic consent movement is actually specifically targeting men and women in an effort to avoid potential rape situations when it comes to casual sex, so your “the rhetoric doesn’t exist” is hogwash. Just because you haven’t heard it/aren’t paying attention to the secular feminist conversation doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Hell, when I started exploring the feminist movement/sex positive world, THAT was one of the first things I encountered.

    Also, your rhetoric in that part – concluding that a potential rape charge is a consequence of casual sex – elides the presence of familial or marital rape (marriage doesn’t automatically protect the integrity of sex any more than a raincoat protects you from a tsunami). Indeed, in many circles, the commitment of marriage is used by many abusers as an excuse to commit rape (“You owe it to me as your husband to submit…”). Because hey, “The guy who meets a girl and brings her home to his parents…” COULD STILL BE A RAPIST.

    This post perpetuates shallow, fear mongering narratives about casual sex, ignores the presence of birth control/safe decision making/enthusiastic consent and what people’s attitudes actually are, and manages to sneak in some pretty damn harmful narratives about rape, too. Kind of amazing, really.

    (Also: it’s worth noting that not all sex outside of marriage is one-night-stands, which you seem to be implying with your sarcastic joking about marriage toward the end).

  • bryan

    I’m so very disappointed to read this from Christ and Pop Culture. This site usually provides a level headed discussion of every day topics as they relate to Christianity, but this might as well have came from the desk of Todd Akin.

  • K

    Marital rape surely exists and must be addressed. The Todd Akins of the world and their ill-founded comments surely exist and must be addressed. But are we so unable to nuance our thinking? To discuss negative consequences is in the same category of talking about “legitimate rape”? Really? Can we not have reasonable conversations about the realities addressed in the post without resorting to the perpetuation of shallow, fear-mongering narratives about marital rape and ignorant politicians?

    I recently told someone that I thought the most substantive, thoughtful comments I’d seen in the Christian blogosphere are here at Christ and Pop Culture. Now I’m not so sure.

  • Melissa

    I’m more interested in the REAL realities of “most rapists getting away Scott free” than in reading the tired myth of “women crying rape when the boy leaves in the morning.”

    One of those thugs happens all the time, and the other one doesn’t. Unfortunately, this blog got their facts mixed up…

  • Drew Dixon

    What “facts” are you referring to Melissa?

    If you read this post again you will find no such reference to “the tired myth of women crying rape when the boy leaves in the morning.”

    Just trying to help you help us see our error more clearly.

  • bryan

    To K
    The ending paragraph in this article concludes that “yes, marriage is the safeguard for the negative consequences of casual sex. I think the protection that marriage provides is part of its beauty. Christians would attribute this built-in covering to God who first instituted marriage.” – which is absurd. This article implies that rape is nothing more than a byproduct of living dangerously outside of the word of the lord. To me, this is as asinine as Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” claim.