This is the best of all times to be a man. Sex isn't the promise of a future partnership. It's a prize that's given freely at the beginning of a "who-knows-what" type of interaction with a woman.
Standing in the middle of this sociological shift, I look around my world to see how other women are feeling about this current state of affairs. Are they happy? I'm not. Do they feel powerful? I don't feel empowered from this position. Is there no way out of this mess? And how do modern women negotiate their value and identity among the many others who are also sleeping with the man with whom they're also sleeping?
Sex has become the new currency of admission women are expected to dole out in the hopes of reaching partnership. I was hoping this was only a temporary adjustment in the openly sexual dating terrain. But, no. It's now the coin a woman must forfeit to get into the game.
I have a nagging problem with this current template for romance. I remember the way it used to be. Having lived long enough to know the beauty of another format (one in which men courted and pursued a woman), I find the alteration of that process confusing and torturous.
Sexuality was given after a man had proved his merit, not the other way around. It was the man's burden to prove his worth to gain admission to one's heart (and bed). Intimacy was the last leg of his journey. It was the reward given for an arduous transit, and was only given in the solid knowledge that he would treasure that gift and honor its value.
Looking out over the horizon of how women must now enter the world of dating, the sadness I feel isn't centered on my own discomfort. My greater concern is for the millions of women who want love and are now forced to go about that quest from a construct that reverses the order of its events.
Many women have never known the sweetness of a format that places them as the desired treasure to be "sought and earned." They've never known the beauty of being pursued, courted and honored. They've never tasted the joys of feeling their complete value when gazing into the eyes of a man... but rather, are now accustomed to searching his eyes for a glimmer of worth.
Yes, we're big girls. We can do as we wish. The stigma of being sexually active no longer casts a shadow of erosion over our value. Yet, the price we pay for admission to this new game of potential partnership is steep. "Sex first" is the chip we must place on the game board of love.
Given that fact, how can we all proceed with a sense of dignity and openness? Can one dig down deeply into the fibers of their own self-esteem and ride this ride, while keeping one's internal value intact?
I've had to navigate my own approach to the rapidly changing world of dating. As in any extreme sport, I know that I must be my sole source of self-confidence. No man has the right to determine my value. I'm in charge of how I conduct myself, regardless of how I may be perceived. The choices I make (or don't make) are independent of a man's acceptance or approval. It's only my assessment that counts.
Women have an internal tabulation system that balances the scales of "risk versus reward." Is this man worth the price? Are we willing to place our intimacy chip on the line and gamble its outcome? And if we lose, how do we recover the price we've paid with our heart?
These are the questions women ask as we test the waters... one man at a time. We try our hand at love knowing the game is stacked against us. We dig deeply into our self-confidence and remind ourselves of our own self-worth. We take that assessment out of the hands of the men with whom we dance this dance, and firmly place it back in our own hands. We remember that no matter how shaky the ground on which we stand, we are the ones electing to gamble at the table of love. We will make the decision to pay the fee, or not. And we will own our choice and own our hearts as we leap into verdant unknown.