Is Our Hookup Culture Really That Awkward?


Girls, the new HBO series by indie favorite Lena Dunham, is coming out soon — and comedy emperor Judd Apatow is a producer, which means the show is going to be either a mega hit of gargantuan proportions or a cult favorite everybody suddenly loves and knows all about seven years after it gets canceled. And while it might turn out to be a good show, I’m really worried that Dunham is subversively destroying young females’ self-esteem by portraying characters that are designed to relate to young women, but in reality, only tear down their egos and replace them with bundles of undeserved neuroses that make them think that sex sucks.

Think I’m exaggerating? Well, if you’ve seen Tiny Furniture, you’ve seen how horrible sex can be for a smart and quirky rich girl. And if you’ve read any of the interviews Dunham has given about her upcoming series, you know you’re in store for lots and lots of awwwwkard sex.

In one interview, Dunham said that she hopes Girls will be an accurate depiction of the sex lives of women her age, adding “I can always promise awkward sex — not sex in a pipe, but I won’t disappoint you. It’s still cringe-worthy.”

In a NY Times interview, Dunham said: “It was so important to me that there could be a girl who was confident but sex made her incredibly anxious, or a girl who respected herself but was using sex to push boundaries to understand herself better.”

Dunham’s co-star, Allison Williams, added: “By the way, as an actor, it’s a lot easier to film awkward sex scenes than really sexy ones.”

Jenni Konnor, an executive producer of Girls, said, “We have a lot of sex on the show and most of it is bad. We are trying to make truthful sex scenes about women who are young and inexperienced, with men who are young and inexperienced, and what that looks like.”

And on January 12, Dunham tweeted: “Hey @DonaldGlover! @campsucks and I are coming for you. Hope you like awkward sex (scenes)!”

I have no clue what that tweet was in reference to, but it indicates to me that Dunham has a thing about awkward sex.

So what’s with all this awkward sex that “real” women in their 20s seem to be having? I realize that sex can be a funny thing in general, especially when you’re young. It can be loving, meaningless, dirty, beautiful — sometimes all at the same time. But awkward? Twenty-somethings having sex can be a lot of things, but awkward should be far down the list. We’re too horny. When all you want to do is screw, there’s no time for awkwardness.

However, I’m a 20-something straight man, so my natural ignorance might make me unaware of a serious epidemic of awkward banging going on. For all I know, there are thousands of hipsters trying to get their groove on, but they keep tripping over their American Apparel hoodies and getting tangled up in their own self-introspection. Maybe when it comes time to engage in penetration, the 20-something would-be lovers get an irresistible urge to reflect on what they are doing and, as a result, end up not doing it. Maybe the sexual awkwardness is so prevalent in our culture, it can only be explained by a de-evolution of the human race, since the most natural act we can do — at a time of our sexual peak — is becoming too hard (no pun intended) to do.

While bad sex in your 20s happens, I have my doubts it is as common as the makers of Girls seem to believe. And yes, I know that somewhere, a girl I had sex with is reading this and thinking, “Uhhh… sex with you was totally awkward, Ray. Don’t you remember all the crying and revelations about what you do with mango peels?”

But that is neither here nor there, Carol.

I am concerned that Hollywood’s depiction of sex is going from unrealistic romance and passion to exaggerated awkwardness. And this can have a similar, if not more damaging effect on the image of sex. While the over-romanticized sex of Hollywood’s past probably gave many young people unreasonable expectations of what to expect, this new “sex is awkward” theme that they’re projecting seems just as disingenuous. Just because sex might have been awkward for a few people who have been lucky enough to pen their own TV series, does that mean we should be marked as a sexually awkward generation?

Look, I have a lot of problems with my generation: we’re selfish, pretentious, and superficial. But one thing I like about us is that we’re the coolest sexual generation there has ever been in quite a while.

Think about it: interracial sex is totally cool, homosexual sex hasn’t been as publicly accepted since probably Greek times, and premarital sex is pretty much obligatory. All the boundaries that were set in stone merely a few decades ago are gone and we’re a lot freer than we were. And it’s my belief that we’re better at sex — not more awkward. How do I know we’re better at it? Because there are cool sex toy stores like Babeland that have helped make it acceptable and even praiseworthy to make sex better for you and your partner with the help of fun-colored inanimate objects. That’s progress!

In short, we’re a kinky generation — and we should be applauded for it. If there’s one positive thing I can say about us, it’s that we’re good at sex because we do it so much, in all kinds of ways, with all kinds of people. So why is sex among 20-somethings suddenly being depicted as “bad” and “cringe-worthy?”

A single episode of Girls hasn’t come out yet, so I’m obviously not criticizing the show itself. It might be smart, funny, and mostly true. But I do criticize the concept of sexual 20-somethings being awkward, which has been hyped by the show’s creators and the HBO machine. And while the show might end up being good, weird sexual depictions aside, I have this weird, nagging suspicion that because somebody has had an awkward sex experience in her life, Judd Apatow has decided it’s a good way to appease women who think he’s sexist, but will only end up demonizing sex for young women and encourage them to believe that they are weird and sexually misunderstood — just like Lena Dunham’s character…

And then nobody will get laid. Thanks a lot, Judd Apatow.

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image – Girls