Whether in music videos and popular fiction or public policy and education, sex is both glorified and vilified in contemporary culture. According to journalist Rachel Hills' new book, The Sex Myth, the great significance we place on the practice of pleasure ironically serves to police the ways we can actually experience it. By weaving together feminist theory, scientific studies, and in-depth interviews with young millennials of all gender identities and sexual orientations, Hills adroitly reveals how sex functions individually and collectively in identity formation. She names this regulatory force that governs the relationship between fantasy and reality and sex and self "the Sex Myth," and suggests that today, sex isn't just what you do, it's who you are.
For example: you're not someone who doesn't desire promiscuous sex, you're a "prude," and you're not someone who enjoys frequent sex outside a relationship, you're a "slut." Hills argues that while these labels can be enforced by those around us and society at large, more often than not, we reinforce sexual labels upon ourselves, and "the Sex Myth" makes us feel pressured to live up to them. These self-regulating narratives in turn limit the ways we can engage in sex, thereby preventing us from experiencing true sexual freedom.
So if you've ever been caught up wondering if you're having too much, too little, or the "right" kind of sex, this book is for you. Here are 12 revealing quotes about millennial sex from The Sex Myth:
1. "Under the Sex Myth, sex isn't just a window into the truth of who we are as a species. It is a window into the truth of who we are as individuals."
2. "In contemporary western culture, desirability is strongly tied to what we consume, with women In particular encouraged to purchase products that promise to make them more sexually appealing, such as makeup, skin-care formulas, designer clothes, and cosmetic surgery."
3. "Under the Sex Myth, sex is not just a raw biological urge. It is also a status symbol, With success within the bars and bedrooms of the sexual playing field serving as an affirmation of our success outside of them."
4. "Too often, though, a woman's right to desire hinges on her desirability in the eyes of other people. If they don't want to have sex with her, she is presumed sexless."
5. "Modern media and popular culture tell us that young single people are dining at a buffet of almost unlimited sexual options — and doing sex 'right' means taking advantage of those opportunities."
6. "Desire and desirability are more than just stamps of social approval. They are a form of emotional armor, an illusory promise that if we shape our appearance and demeanor in all the right ways, we will be safe from pain or rejection. But the bid to be 'hot, horny, and in control' also turns sex and relationships into a game..."
7. "In the same way that straight people's sex lives have historically been treated as apolitical, a state so neutral and ingrained that it does not warrant serious discussion, so too are men's experiences often left out of ongoing public dialogue around sexuality. Female sexuality is contentious and politically fraught, bound up in questions of empowerment and oppression. But men's sexuality is framed as something that just 'is' — an uncomplicated biological urge."
8. "Women who have sex outside the bounds of a monogamous relationship are depicted as doing sex and relationships on men's terms, even if they believe they are pursuing their own desires."
9. "The fun, fearless, and sexually liberated feminist might be the prevailing ideal of our times, but she remains an ideal that only a small subset of women — chiefly those who are young, white, and middle-class — are permitted to lay claim to."
10. "Rather than engaging in acts that don't interest you in order to avoid seeming boring and old-fashioned, the truly "radical" act might be to turn your focus to the sex you actually want to have — however 'kinky' or 'vanilla' it might be."
11. "…sex is neither inherently good nor bad, neither intrinsically empowering or oppressive."
12. "It is time to forge a new brand of sexual freedom, a freedom that incorporates the right not to do as much as the right to do. A freedom in which our sexual choices and histories are not burdened with such an excess of significance, in which there is no stigma attached to the gay, the transgendered, or the sexually audacious, but in which there is equally no stigma attached to the asexual, the vanilla, or the carnally prudent."
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