If I’m being honest, I rarely spend time with people more than a couple of years my junior. It’s nothing personal. I’ve just grown accustomed to being the baby — whether it’s in relation to family members or the men I date. So when a family friend I used to babysit back in the day wound up in Buenos Aires, I couldn’t help but take our little reunion as an opportunity to probe his brain about all things youth culture. 

Drew recently graduated from UC Berkley — a world-famous institution known as much for its earthy, crunchy vibes as it is for its stellar academic reputation. As he regaled me with tales of his wild youth, I was utterly amused to hear that he had been in a fraternity in college for two reasons. First of all, he is the antithesis of the douchebag Chad typically associated with frat life. Secondly, Americans tend to associate Greek life with more conservative schools, particularly ones in the Deep South, as opposed to ones in the Bay Area — a place known for its progressive politics.

He admitted that only 10% of people on campus participated in Greek life and that while it had been a good opportunity for him to fill up his social calendar, he hadn’t remained all that close with his cohort post-graduation. We got real about the differences in sex and dating culture between Millennials and Gen-Zs. Though we’re only five years apart, there seemed to be a world of difference between our respective college experiences. Neither one was better nor worse, just different — a testament to the rapidly changing culture surrounding consent and dating norms.

How the Noughties Brainwashed a Generation of American Women

Joe Francis: Toxic Man of the Noughties
Joe Francis saw a gap in the softcore porn market of the late 90s and made millions filling it with his Girl Gones Wild! Franchise. He is currently hiding out in Mexico, evading arrest for some creepy sexual abuse stuff. Go figure. Photo Source: The Guardian 

For better or for worse, I was a child of the early aughts. Having been at an impressionable age when franchises like American Pie and Girl Gone Wild! ruled the cultural zeitgeist and reckless party girls like Paris, Britney, and Lindsay, dominated the headlines, it’s no wonder I wound up becoming a poster child for unbridled hedonism myself. The noughties marketed itself as a time of sexual liberation for women. Never before had women been allowed and encouraged to binge drink and engage in casual sex to the same degree men did. 

While there was undoubtedly a feminist undertone to the whole be-slutty-be-proud-get-a-tramp-stamp phenomenon, it was overshadowed by something much more sinister. Because it wasn’t women telling stories about women. It was men projecting their fantasies (i.e women kissing women or getting gang-banged) who were writing, directing, producing, bankrolling, and reporting on women through a definitively cringey, male gaze lens. 

How this played out in the general population wasn’t pretty. Every college-educated, American woman I know born in the early to mid-90s (with the exception of the goody-goody teetotalers who spent their college years studying in the library in preparation for their spinster cat-lady lives -OR- the party-pooper control freaks who were terrified of letting go and hid behind the mama bear mask, all while talking mad shit about the so-called-friends whom they insisted on babysitting on crazy nights out) has a date rape story, not dissimilar (although rarely quite as brutal) to the Stanford rape one. It goes something like this: 

Girl goes to party, takes hella shots, and winds up dancing with a boy. One thing leads to another and the next thing she knows, it’s morning. She wakes up discombobulated in an unfamiliar setting. Her clothes are strewn on the floor and there is a naked stranger lying next to her. Shame and fear wash over her with equal force: “Fuck I’m sore down there. What happened? Did we use protection? How did I let myself get this drunk?” are the questions that race through her head as she holds back the urge to projectile vomit all over the comforter. 

Noughties Queens: Lindsay, Britney, and Paris.
Queens of the Noughties: Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton. Photo Source: Vanity Fair  

“How much did I drink last night? Did I take something else? Could someone have roofed my drink?” She ponders. She goes into detective mode, searching for clues as to what the hell happened last night. When she fails to find a used condom or condom wrapper, another wave of panic sets in: “I need to get Plan B and an STD test ASAP.” She collects her things as quietly as she can so as not to awaken the mystery man snoring peacefully beside her. 

Then comes the walk of shame. Mascara running down her face, she makes the seemingly endless trek back to her dorm on the opposite side of campus. People are totally giving her the up-and-down and frankly, she can’t blame them. Her hair is disheveled and she’s rocking the bralette and leather mini skirt she wore to the frat party the night before. It doesn’t get more THOTy than this. When she finally gets back to her room, she makes a beeline for the bathroom. 

Up comes the yellowish green stomach bile she’s become accustomed to throwing up after nights of hard partying: “Alcohol poisoning again? I’ve got to stop drinking on an empty stomach!” she scolds herself before hobbling to the shower. After curling up in on the floor and balling her eyes out for a solid 20 minutes, she gets out of the shower, makes herself cute, and texts her friend: “Hey what are you doing tonight? Last night sucked and I’m trying to blow off some steam. Down to go clubbing?” And thus the cycle of sweeping things under the rug and escaping through debauchery and one night stands continues. 

How Mind-Altering Substances Blur the Lines of Consent

Sensuali Blog: drugs and consent
Let’s be real — who doesn’t like sex on drugs from time to time?

In those days, the onus of such an event fell entirely on the woman. My teenage years were basically a never-ending series of binge drinking, random hookups, and shame spirals. As a fiercely independent woman who felt very much in charge of my own body, I always blamed myself for the sex I had while blacked out. And honestly, as unpopular of an opinion as it might be in the woke world we find ourselves living in, I still refuse to label myself a victim. To do so is to say I have no control over my actions, and that is complete and utter bullshit. 

Of course, I would be far more sympathetic to a friend who came to me and told me a story about having drunken sex and not remembering it. I would tell her how sorry I was she went through something like that. But then I would suggest she read my Guide to True Empowerment, as a means of reminding her that her traumatic experience and the grief she is experiencing is totally valid, but that it doesn’t necessarily make her the faultless victim and the guy she hooked up with the evil rapist. Few things in life are ever so black-and-white. 

9 times out 10, the guys I slept with while inebriated were just as fucked up as I was. That’s where the whole consent thing gets tricky. By today’s standards, being too drunk means you are not consenting. So what does it mean if you were both fucked up? Did you rape each other? The societal narrative of a man who has blackout sex is glamorized as a conquest, rather than something to feel dirty and ashamed about. 

To be clear, I’m not condoning men who intentionally pressure women into getting fucked up so they will put out or who take advantage of women when they are on the verge of passing out. The point I’m trying to get across is this: feeling gross about a sexual encounter does not give a woman cart-blanche to call rape and potentially ruin a man’s life — a fear I find more and more men living with in recent years. 

The wokest of women will retort, “Well good! Now they understand the fear us women experience on a daily basis and are finally being held accountable for their actions.” To which I would say this: “I am very much here for our society to evolve beyond the boys-will-be-boys rhetoric that has enabled men to get away with abusing women for time immemorial and I understand that drastic change is required to reverse the deeply misogynistic culture we’ve been existing in since the agrarian society arose and effectively transformed women from autonomous beings into property whose purpose was to produce heirs. But I am skeptical of anything that attempts to influence behavior by instilling fear. Why not shift the focus from fear to that of love and understanding? The opposite sex need not be perceived as a foreign entity beyond comprehension, but rather as human beings who yearn for the same intimacy and connection you do.” 

A Millennial’s Attempt at Understanding Sex Culture Through a Gen-Z Lens

This new age of sexuality has its upsides, of course. Women are more emboldened to make the first move and open communication is encouraged from the get-go regarding boundaries and intentions. But I sense an underlying fear that is preventing people from experiencing the kind of closeness they so deeply desire. Take Drew for instance. He told me that he intentionally avoids making eye contact with a woman who is dressed provocatively or striking up a conversation with a cute stranger for fear of making them feel unsafe and violating boundaries. 

As about indoctrinated by woke culture as one could be — based on a combination of factors including a staunchly feminist upbringing, being the age he is (23), and going to one of the wokest universities on the face of the planet — Drew’s heart is in the right place. He is just trying to be respectful of women. But as far as I’m concerned, the pendulum has swung a little too far. Young women have internalized the notion that they are victims in life, completely powerless to the savage desires of men. Feminist men, meanwhile, are doing the best they can to make women comfortable. But the end result is a bunch of socially awkward, sexually inept twenty-somethings who feel safer connecting online than in real life. 

But not all hope is lost. Progress is never linear and change doesn’t happen overnight. There was one thing Drew explained to me about his college days that really exemplified the cultural transition we are currently undergoing. He still lived in a mansion and threw  epic ragers with his frat bros — a tradition as longstanding as colleges themselves. But with a this-progressive-shit-is-probably-only-happening-at-UC-Berklee-for-now-but-will-likely-become—the-standard-across-all-colleges-nationwide-within-the-next-five-years twist.

Classic American Frat Party
A modern-day twist on an age-old tradition: the five pillars of consent. Photo Source: krcu.org  

In order to combat the negative experiences that have occurred throughout the history of his frat, including sexual assault and fatalities from alcohol poisoning, a few new rules were enacted the year before Drew pledged his frat. For starters, only people with wrist bands — which are distributed amongst the Greek network and then to friends of people in Greek life — help to ensure shady, predator types who are not affiliated with the school can’t crash parties. Secondly, only beer is allowed to be served on the floor. This is meant to dissuade party-goers from getting overly intoxicated by way of hard liquor. 

Finally — and most importantly in my personal opinion — no one is allowed in until the bouncer of the party has listed off and explained the five pillars of consent: revocable, conscious, enthusiastic, ongoing, and verbal. While I’m sure freshman me would have rolled her eyes at such a seemingly fruitless, not to mention obvious, set of rules, Drew made a point of conveying how seriously he and his fellow students took these guidelines. Not only was cultivating a safe space pivotal to not getting suspended as a frat, but this younger, woker generation clearly has a much deeper understanding of the dangers of getting overly intoxicated, especially in a world that perpetuates the objectification of women. 

They grew up hearing the horror stories of my generation and the generation before that, and are much less likely to dismiss a woman who reports sexual assault. Yes, there’s definitely some fear infused into the social mating rituals of today’s youth. Men will tend to air on the side of caution if there’s even the slightest doubt in their mind that the object of their desires is anything beyond a little tipsy. But this to me is a better alternative than another batch of traumatized women who come out of college with a minimum of one date rape story. 

Closing Thoughts

I’ve gotten down on Gen-Z for being a little too snowflakes with their approach to hookups, especially in regard to the whole victimization thing. But I fully acknowledge that my extensive trauma may play into that. Who’s to say my early experiences losing control of my body and not fully processing these experiences as assault didn’t pave the way for a career in sex work, where I channeled my trauma into hyper-sexuality and became obsessed with reclaiming my pussy power through a false narrative that I was always in control?

Per my usual shades of grey analysis, all the perspectives I’ve shared above can be true. Overall, I think society is shifting towards more conscious sex that prioritizes being fully present and verbalizing consent. There’s no denying how awesome this is. But there have been some overcorrections, at least within super woke communities, that perpetuate fear-based thinking and hold youngsters back from putting themselves out there socially. The one thing I think we can all agree on, regardless of our age or political views is this: it’s certainly an interesting time to be alive. 

Culture
Conscious sex
consent
generational divide
psychology of sex
sexual behavior
sexuality
Jules

Jules

Author

Based in Brooklyn, Jules has dedicated her twenties towards harnessing her pussy power, exploring the muse, whore, and wild woman archetypes along the way. When not blogging, you can find her sweating the toxins out in a hot yoga class or sipping a matcha latte at a pretentious coffee shop, whilst she scribbles away in her journal.


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