Dear Brunch Bunch,
This is about body count, why is it okay for a guy to have a high body count but not for a girl? Growing up in an Asian country, there’s a lot of taboo, shame and suppression surrounding girls having sex and ever worse, girls having sex causally. While a part of me understands there no shame in consensual sex irrespective of whether you’re in a serious relationship or not, a part of me also can’t disassociate with the shame and slight embarrassment from partaking in casual flings. How do you dissociate yourself from feeling that way? And how to get over the fear that maybe in the future when I’m ready to get into a serious relationship, it might become a slight issue with whoever I’m with as what is acceptable for guys in terms of body count is usually not acceptable for girls.
Dear Casually Curious,
Sexuality has always been a contentious topic in society. And chances are it’s not gonna change anytime soon. Let’s be honest; people love poking their noses into other people’s businesses—humans are curious creatures after all. But hey! That fits in line with your query, doesn’t it? You can’t help being curious…and we’d bet neither can a lot of university students.
Casual hookup culture is on the rise (even if it is difficult to spot in conservative Singapore), and far more people are open to the idea now. But how to disassociate yourself from the shame of partaking in casual flings? Well, that’s a trickier issue to deal with. But we hope we’ll be able to shed some light on how you can try to navigate your complicated feelings on this.
It seems to us that much of your fear and apprehension regarding casual sex stems from your keen awareness of the social stigma. It’s good to be aware, but sometimes this awareness can be a double-edged sword that makes you hyper-sensitive to others’ perceptions.
And all that hyper-sensitivity ultimately does is build up your own fear. Take it from someone who has had anxiety ruin her fair share of social interaction because she was too preoccupied with what other people thought of what she was saying and doing. Sometimes the best thing to do is to get out of your own head.
The best way to do this may be to first understand the roots of this stigma and where these ideas may have come from. While we are no experts, the negative perception of casual sex and the double standards regarding body count could possibly be derived from the lack of birth control and the history of polygamy in both Western and Eastern cultures.
I’m betting you wouldn’t partake in casual sex either if, with every encounter, you ran a high risk of getting pregnant! And in those times, pregnancies out of wedlock were not well-regarded (to put it lightly). So, of course casual sex wasn’t tolerated and it wasn’t something a reputable lady would even consider. But that’s no longer the case; the magic of modern medicine means you can now engage in casual sex without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy hanging over you.
As for the double-standards…it’s no secret that earlier civilisations allowed men to have numerous wives and sexual partners, while women were forbidden from doing so. There’s also the age-old hallowed ideal of ‘The Virgin’—women were expected in those times to be virgins upon marriage and be chaste, effectively eliminating their sexual agency. This may not be a reflection of today’s mindset but rather, a relic from our past. A sort of reflex mechanism, if you will, that has been embedded in our collective subconscious from decades of practice. But like other unhelpful reflex mechanisms such as flinching when a dodgeball is flying at your head, maybe it’s time we start overriding them.
But of course, we know it’s definitely not easy to eliminate such feelings of embarrassment. You’ve been socialised for so long to think and feel in a certain way, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to break out of it! Experience may be the best teacher, as scary as it sounds. If you partake in casual flings and you find that you enjoy them, you may become more inclined to feel positively and be better able to disassociate yourself from the shame/embarrassment.
If you feel more comfortable with working on it quietly by yourself, then you should definitely take this route. Alternatively, if you find that your friends have a similar mindset/outlook, you can gather their support as well! Finding supportive friends to share your experiences with can be emotionally good for you. You may even find supportive groups on the internet if you prefer to preserve your anonymity, but a word of caution: beware of potentially harmful websites!
Action is always the scariest part. It’ll take huge amounts of courage to go through with it and take that first step when you’re feeling insecure or uneasy. But stepping into that fear and embracing the unknown may be just what you need to overcome it. And if you find that you really did not enjoy the experience, or were too uncomfortable, then you can always step back and redraw your boundaries.
Knowing your own boundaries and what you are willing to give to another is very important in any relationship, but especially when it comes to sexual relations! Do what feels right for yourself, as long as you know that your actions are bringing no harm to yourself or to others, and you find that the activity does bring you enjoyment. And don’t let anyone pressure you into anything you are uncomfortable with.
But since you have taken your time to really think through this issue and your fears, you seem to already be well-aware of what you are comfortable with and what bothers you. But it can never hurt to regularly re-affirm your boundaries.
Re-affirming your boundaries also means knowing exactly what you will accept from your future partners moving forward. While it’s understandable that you’re worried about how your dating choices might be perceived by your future potential partners, you shouldn’t let this dictate them. Just think about the past one year; how many meticulously-laid plans have gone into disarray because of the pandemic and how many of us could have foreseen that? You never know what surprises your future may hold for you, and worrying will do you no good. For all you know, your future partner may be completely accepting of it, and you may have missed out on a beneficial and enjoyable experience simply because you were scared!
Here’s another angle you might want to view this issue from: just like there are women who may feel uncomfortable with casual sex, women who are curious about it, and women who love it, there will also be men who are understanding towards their partners’ history of casual sex, and those who are not. What matters most is that you find someone who is understanding of it, and who doesn’t make you feel any less for partaking in it or enjoying the experience.
A relationship shouldn’t be defined by the partners’ individual pasts; rather it’s about developing a mutual acceptance of each other. For some this may come easy, and for some this may require a little more work.
But sexuality isn’t gender-specific and sexual liberation should not be viewed through a gendered lens. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If your future partner has a problem with your dating history, then it may be time to re-think whether the two of you should continue on that path together.
Generally speaking, this also goes back to the idea that society isn’t exactly accepting of girls having casual sex—your future partner(s) may have this innate idea that it’s not exactly OK, but if you’re willing to put in some work and try to talk it through with them and correct this misconception, your relationship might just go a long way.
It’s always difficult to get rid of a certain fear, but ultimately, if something holds you back, it’s worth trying your hardest to get out of it!
Wishing you all the best,
The Brunch Bunch
The Brunch Bunch are a student-led advice column for information and entertainment. The column is in no way meant to or supposed to substitute professional help. Questions regarding medical conditions or requiring professional help must always be sought from professionals.