One of my friends is having 'no strings attached' sex with a friend of hers. (And no, I'm not using 'friend' as code word for myself. That would be the least subtle way of admitting I'm cheating on my boyfriend ever. There would be some serious strings attached to that sex and not in a bad way.) She's known this guy for years and whenever they're both single they find themselves calling each other up for what I can only describe as fun calls. I don't like using that phrase though because I feel like a nana trying to use complicated 'street lingo' in an attempt to be down with the kidz. Maybe the kidz of the late 1990s when that phrase was popular. MEGALOLZ. Anyway, they call each other up for sex. Got it? Good.
No one's getting hurt, so what's the problem? Well, there wasn't one until a couple of weeks ago. My friend was at the pub, had the prerequisite tequila and chips breath and was about to call her buddy when an acquaintance stopped her. "Are you sure you're okay with this?" the concerned sex-stopper asked. "Okay with what?" my friend wanted to know, scrolling through her phone contacts list to find 'Sexy Henry'. "You know, sex with someone who doesn't care." Wow. It was like she'd found a giant pin and popped my friend's fun balloon. Suddenly there were lots of strings attached. Her belief that the sex she'd been having with her friend was completely harmless was suddenly unravelling like a bargain bin negligee. "Aren't you scared of getting hurt?" the acquaintance pushed. "You know, when he meets someone else? A real girlfriend?" Nope. My friend hadn't been. She didn't want to be Sexy Henry's girlfriend. While they were very compatible sexually neither of them had any interest in actually dating. Was this in some way morally wrong? Should she want to be more than just his sex buddy? Was being someone's sex buddy in some way anti-feminist? The insinuation was that as a woman, my friend should want to be more than just this guy's occasional hook-up. That not wanting to be his girlfriend was in some way unfeminine. That she was lowering herself by being his sex plaything. That she was behaving in a masculine manner by not demanding a more regular relationship – even though she didn't want one.
It's amazing that these kind of moral conundrums still exist for women regarding sex and sexual behaviour. Two consenting adults can't decide to have uncomplicated sex without there being an underlying neediness on the side of the woman. Because women can't have uncomplicated sex, right? Sex is so tied up with hand-wringing emotional torment that if we don't actually want something more from someone we're sleeping with we're emotional cretins.
Another friend of mine is embroiled in a similar sexual minefield. She snogged a guy she fancies before finding out he has a girlfriend. Yes, he's a bad man. She and a group of friends then went out again and…they snogged. Again. Yes, bad friend. But really? She doesn't know his girlfriend, surely this is his problem not hers? Yet because this has happened twice or even three times now she feels a moral responsibility to confront it. Even though as far as she's concerned he's a nice chap, but a snog's a snog. He has a girlfriend. That's the end of it. But it's almost as if because she's a woman she has a responsibility to his girlfriend, when he hasn't addressed the matter at all. It's a kind of 1950's "Oh, he's a cad, isn't he?" indulgence towards men and sex. My friend doesn't want to hurt this guy's girlfriend, but then she's not, is she? He is. Why should she feel more responsibility as the woman? If the situations were reversed and it was a male friend of mine who was snogging a woman with a boyfriend would anyone feel as if he should be chastising himself for hurting the guy? It's almost as though because she doesn't actually want anything else from this guy she's in some way un-womanly, whereas he escapes all judgement. Which, in my humble opinion, is useless.