Katherine Mooney, a hospital receptionist from Liverpool, has had seven lovers, a tally that — shocking as it may seem to many – is considered low among single women her age. Katherine Mooney considers herself a typical 25-year-old. She has lots of friends, an active social life, a job she enjoys, and goes on many dates with plenty of eligible young men. There’s one thing that marks her out as different from others her age however: Katherine physical intimacy in thai dating culture’t have sex.
And it’s most definitely not due to lack of opportunities. For Katherine isn’t a virgin: she’s had seven lovers, a tally that — shocking as it may seem to many — is considered low among single women her age. But she made the decision to go celibate two years ago, after yet another meaningless sexual encounter that left her feeling worthless and used. Nowadays, she is committed to a new dating rule: sex will remain off the agenda until she is in a long-term, loving relationship.
So committed is she, that she won’t even consider kissing a man before the end of their third date. Needless to say, she says she’s considered something of an oddity. No man seems to want me once they realise I refuse to separate love from sex,’ explains the hospital receptionist from Liverpool. But the simple truth is that I’m sick of being treated like a piece of meat by men who can’t get their heads around the fact that the sex they watch online isn’t actually the kind of sex girls like me want any part of in the real world.
And the only way I seem to be able to get that message across, while at the same time protecting my dignity and self-esteem, is to put my own sex life on hold. It’s hard giving up your sex life at my age — people hear I’ve been celibate for so long and think I’m either a liar or there’s something wrong with me. But the positives are that I like myself better now than at any point in adulthood, and have never felt more confident. I’m happy to wait until the time feels right to start having sex again. 28 per cent of women over 40 lead sexless lives, and that more than half of UK adults have not had sex in the past month. Katherine is a young woman living in an era of supposed sexual liberation — many in her generation have embraced a sexualised culture that sees bed-hopping and promiscuity as a sign of emancipation rather than slack morals.
Unfortunately, it has also developed a skewed idea of what sex is all about. Today’s young people are growing up learning about the mechanics of lovemaking not through clumsy teenage fumblings with an equally inexperienced partner, but via an endless and easily accessed stream of online porn that at best is unrealistic — and at its brutal worst is disturbing, violent and utterly demeaning towards women. Research by the NSPCC last year revealed that 39 per cent of boys aged between 14 and 17 routinely watch porn, regularly exposing them to the message that sex is something men do to women, and if they don’t like it, well, too bad. Being in a relationship doesn’t enter into the equation. This same study also found that one in five teenage boys harbours negative attitudes towards women, and that 40 per cent of teenage girls have experienced sexual coercion — in other words, they have been pressured into sexual activity they didn’t want, which in some cases, horrifyingly, ended in rape. Meanwhile, 44 per cent of teenage girls and just under a third of teenage boys in England have sexted — that means exchanging explicit sexual images and messages — with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
And just over 40 per cent of girls who sent naked pictures of themselves said those images had then, humiliatingly, been forwarded to other people. Then there’s the pressure young girls feel to look a certain way — our daughters are growing up believing that if they don’t have large breasts and skinny bodies devoid of pubic hair then they won’t match up to the expectations boys have of womanhood. These images are all gleaned from pornographic material seen by both sexes, and are a sure-fire route to low self-esteem. Little wonder then that young women like Katherine are starting to ask themselves: Where’s the liberation in all this? These days you’re considered a prude by your friends if you’re not putting yourself about,’ she says. Loveless, casual sex is supposed to be something my generation enjoys.
Between the age of 17 and 23 I slept with seven men, and not one made me feel desirable or special. Some were one-night stands, others were friends I occasionally had sex with. It was soulless and they were either into weird stuff they’d seen online, and expected me to be happy to play along or they were completely uninterested in making sex enjoyable for me. It made me feel like nothing more than an object. I think I deserve better than that.