In 1962, Helen Gurley Brown wrote a best-selling novel titled, Sex and the Single Girl. She was a vocal advocate of women’s sexual freedom and her fashion-focused magazine, Cosmopolitan, claimed that women could have it all – “love, sex, and money.” She coined the phrase, “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere” as she focused on the self-made, ambitious, glamorous, unashamed, and sexual model for the successful and full-filled woman. It is reasonable to say that women had as much right and freedom to determine their own path in life as their male counterparts and not to be treated as anything less, but it’s interesting to see if this path Helen Gurley Brown has helped to pave has been a healthy one for today’s young woman. Her coined phrase has certainly seemed to pit God’s plan against her own vision.
While I have always thought that it was unfair for women to be expected to hold up the bar of higher standards of integrity and dignity and for men to be allowed to act irresponsibly, self-focused and immature without shame, I never accepted Helen’s premise that the fulfillment and progress of women was found in becoming more like self-focused, irresponsible nineteen-year-old boys. Growing up, I often felt as if young men were missing the point as they compartmentalized and used others for person benefit and pleasure without personal responsibility for the consequences. Young women seemed more in-tuned with the meaning, purpose, and beauty of God’ plan, often challenging their male counterparts to a higher standard of life. Money, success, and achievement could all be good but never more important than relationships, love, faith, and family. Sex was beautiful, intimate, bonding and part of the unique miracle of creating life. Many boys would push to see how far they could go and girls with dignity were expected to show that they were worth waiting for, that there was meaning and purpose to the act that was intended for a committed relationship. Even with today’s technology, no form of birth control or contraception is 100% effective (failure rates are 15-19%,) so no responsible couple would take the chance of creating a new life that they were not ready to care for and give a stable family. Since young women could not literally walk away from this reality, they have had to think more seriously and responsibly about it for centuries – and have worked hard to bring reluctant male partners along. In Helen’s philosophy, abortionbecame the necessary backup plan to failed contraception to provide women the same freedom as men have but to what cost when they realized this was actually a living human being that was put to death in an act of brutal violence. No one told them this with the promise of “safe-sex.”
So, what has changed over the past 55 years? Instead of seeing the full meaning and purpose of sex as both unitive and procreative, society has worked hard to separate these purposes into compartmentalized boxes – casual sex for fun and recreation, hooking-up and one-night stands, friends with benefits, sex without responsibility or commitment, multiple partners, companies that advertise adultery services, a staggering epidemic of STD growth (19 million new cases per year), more depression, anxiety and a growing inability to be intimate and connected. Women have been more objectified more than ever and cohabitate without hesitation, despite the mounting evidence that it leads to more breakups, more divorce, and is more detrimental to the woman in the relationship than the man. Women's estrogen receptors absorb five times the bonding hormone, oxytocin, during physical intimacy and they confuse this intense bonding with true love before a foundation of trust and friendship is established. Breakups are fives times are devastating to women who are less likely to find someone new than their ex-boyfriend. Multiple partners lower her fertility and ability to have children, and breakups of these mini-marriages have a significant impact on the essential ability to trust and give oneself fully in the next relationship. No real man would subject someone they love to these risks, to the negative health risks of birth control, nor would they treat her with this lack of respect and dignity for who God made her to be.
Is it possible that God had a better plan than Helen? If true love is unconditionally willing the good for the other and not for oneself, then that ultimate good would be to help your partner’s soul make it to heaven. Following God’s will and plan and looking for its full meaning and purpose in our lives is key to that loving goal. A couple that honors the dignity of each other in true love and friendship that fosters complete trust and willingness to risk showing your true selves requires the commitment of a permanent marriage. Think about the freedom to completely let down your guard and show everything about yourself to another without the risk of them leaving you. This is marriage. Think about the example Jesus gave all of us as he showed us the meaning of total self-gift and love. Think about not only the love and friendship that can be experienced in this type of self-gift to each other but also think of experiencing the full meaning of sex and physical intimacy with the one person you were intended for. In that act of total self-giving, the couple can create the miracle of new life welcomed into this love and commitment. Instead of being self-focused on material goods that cannot satisfy, we give ourselves in love to each other and this new life in family. This plan has been seen by many as limiting and even suffocating to women when the promises of the worldly pursuits yield only busy emptiness in return. Sex was never intended for less of today's cultural norms but formuch more. It was never intended for the single girl or boy where it always lacks the fullness of this gift of love.