libertarian kook science fiction author Robert Heinlein once said, “Every generation thinks they invented sex.” Then he added, “Now get off my lawn!”
No, I made up that last bit, but I am starting to feel like an old geezer myself (Heinlein was 73 when he wrote that line) whenever I recall that quote as I read about the latest trends in dating and mating. Depending on how you calculate, I might be a technical Millennial (I didn’t have my first, legal drink until 2001), but I was pregnant and married before Facebook and smartphones and mostly avoided the sea change that technology wrought on the world of romance.
Or maybe things haven’t changed much at all. Take a look at the exchange over on Discovering Ratchet in the post, “I Just Found Out I Am a Tranny.” While texting on Tinder, some
douchebag charming fellow douchebag called fearless blogger balletandboxing a “tranny” because she disagreed with his own modest assessment of his attractiveness. Because, um, I guess those are the only two choices? Find him attractive, or you’re not really a woman.
There’s nothing new in that encounter, except the medium over which it occurred: if we could travel back in time, way back before Tinder, back when I was in college, we would see a
douchebag guy call me “frigid” because I wouldn’t sleep with him. I’m sure he would have called me a tranny, if he had been watching all the Brazilian porn balletandboxing’s charmer has gotten into, except he’d taken Intro to Psych the previous semester and learned a new word.
I’ve become more convinced that Millennials aren’t that different from the rest of us now that I’ve seen this poll on open relationships from yougov.com. The poll asked a bunch of 20-somethings questions like, “Have you ever been in an open relationship?” (Yes: 18%) and “Would you consider an open relationship?” (Yes: 14%).
Compare those responses to the old-fogey demo of which I am a member (30-44 year-olds): 13% of my peers have been in open relationships, and 14% would consider it.
See? Millennials aren’t any sexier than the rest of us, despite all the technology out there that’s supposed to make sex easier, faster, and anonymous. If we believe the results of the yougov.com poll, and it’s probably as reliable as any scientific research that’s been done on the subject, Millennials are pretty much like the rest of us: uptight and square.
This shouldn’t surprise me, because I learned a long time ago that the sexual behavior (as opposed to the attitudes) of the generations is more similar than different. When did I learn this? Let’s take another trip in the time machine, back to when I was in middle school and researching yet another report on colonial America. See, I grew up in New England, and we spent so much time studying the founding of America, it felt like a requirement (Pilgrim Core?) for graduation. Every year in elementary school, we shuffled off on a field trip to the same
tourist trap educational exhibit to see desperate and drab Puritans worry about how they would survive the winter while their children rolled barrel hoops down a dirt path in a display of colonial “fun.”
“These are all actors,” Miss Logan explained, as if we needed clarification that the yellow school bus we’d just piled out of was not, in fact, a time machine. “These kids are just pretending,” she continued, addressing a class full of nine-year olds who were all wishing for Game Boys that Christmas.
By the time we reached middle school, my classmates and I were already experts on colonial America, yet each year there appeared to be something new we needed to learn about our forebears. One year, while researching in the library whatever topic I’d been assigned (probably whaling), I accidentally discovered the practice of bundling.
Bundling is probably the best known courtship practice of colonial America, even though very little research on the topic has ever been published. It appears to contradict the otherwise sexually strict mores of the Puritans. It meant that a courting couple would be in bed together, but with their clothes on. With fuel at a premium, it was often difficult to keep a house warm in the evenings. Since this is when a man would be visiting his betrothed in her home, they would bundle in her bed together in order to keep warm. [Yes, to keep warm. That’s why they did it.–K.] A board might be placed in the middle to keep them separate, or the young lady could be put in a bundling bag or duffel-like chastity bag. The best protection against sin were the parents, who were usually in the same room with them. It may not have been good enough, however, as records indicate that up to one-third of couples engaged in premarital relations in spite of the public penalties, such as being fined and whipped, that often resulted (Ingoldsby 1995).
My 13- year-old brain couldn’t get a handle on this. Did it mean those men wearing wigs who carried muskets were having S-E-X with those women in petticoats who carried pails of milk? It must, right? And hold on a minute. Bundling meant they weren’t just having sex. The colonists weren’t just like my parents and my friends’ parents, all of whom had sex, obviously, since we were the living, breathing, damning evidence of the act, filling up Mr. Ceccini’s third period social studies class.
Bundling meant the colonists were having premarital sex.
I can’t explain how shocking I found this information. I was thirteen, Catholic and a virgin, busy attending Confirmation class each week where the catechist, Mr. Hennessy, read from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Mr. Hennessy thought the modern world was a terrible place, mostly due to birth control pills and divorce. I got the feeling that he would have been happy as an 8th century monk, even if it meant giving up the institutional sized bottle of Tums he carried around like a talisman, warding off a terminal case of indigestion.
“Premarital sex,” Mr. Hennessy announced one day, as chalky white flakes flew from his tongue, “is yet another scourge of modern society.”
While I didn’t know what the word “scourge” meant, exactly (I looked it up later), I knew it wasn’t anything good, and I knew it made Mr. Hennessy glower at the bored adolescents yawning around him. It went without saying that he was sure we were thinking about sex when we should have been reflecting on our relationship with God and the Church.
Now, I was thirteen and just starting to develop into the pain in the ass I would later become, and I really wanted to raise my hand and ask, right there in Confirmation class, the following question:
“Have you ever even heard of the practice of bundling, Mr. Hennessy?”
But I didn’t. I wanted to make my Confirmation and not get sent to see Father Tom who would have assigned me so many Our Fathers as penance I’d still be reciting the prayer today, twenty years later.
Now, twenty years later, I’m wondering why young people aren’t more sexually adventurous today. Shouldn’t they be, on account of all those sexy apps they’ve got running on their smartphones? But they’re not. Most of them are out there trying to pair up, looking for monogamous relationships, even on Tinder.
The Tinder screenshot comes from the Tinder press kit. Royalty-free stock photos, including all the other images in this post, can be found at freeimages.com.