They say wine is an aphrodisiac. Cosmopolitan’s “29 Aphrodisiac Foods That Can Affect Your Sex Drive,” tells readers with confidence that a glass of alcohol could be the missing link between your head, your heart, and your vagina.
It’s a helpful list for the sex-unfortunate. Which is to say, if you enjoy any of the following, your love life is probably enviously steamy: maca, pumpkin, champagne, celery, garlic, pine nuts, ginseng, apples, saffron, hot chilies, figs, asparagus, avocados, bananas, chocolate, oysters (gross), pomegranates, salmon, almonds, walnuts, vanilla, watermelon, honey, coffee, strawberries, cherries, and red wine.
Going into college, one of the appeals of adulthood was my newfound independence. Living free from my parents, I got to make an array of new choices on my own. Those choices included what I did with my money, my time, and — more interestingly — my body.
I’d seen Sex and The City. Being a grown-up meant ordering a latte from that cute Starbucks barista who insists on getting your number. After some witty banter and some wonderfully-timed pick-up lines, the show would cut to you waking up in his bed the next morning. How you ended up there is left to the imagination.
Cut to early 2019, when the Argentinian company Tulipán released a product with slick packaging and an important message. Behold: The Consent Condom. The box only opened if there was a hand pulling on each side. Four sides. Four hands. A symbolic gesture intended to illustrate the importance of consent.
But is consent really that simple? 39% of high-school-aged teenagers didn’t think withdrawing consent during sex was okay according to a Family Planning Association study. And who could blame them? What is the compromise between yes and no? Perhaps, a four-handed condom.
My first time sleeping with a stranger, I let him stay the night. It wasn’t bad. Not anything to write home about (though, I suppose sex shouldn’t ever be). It could probably have used more wine. Or some oysters.
I stared at the ceiling after it was over, content with myself for having checked a box off on the mental college to-do list my high school self had mapped out. Casual hookups with boys I barely knew. I’d seen Carrie Bradshaw do it time and time again, so laying there in my dorm room with the sweaty, snoring stranger I just had sex with felt glamorous and grown-up.
Cut back to 2019, when Healthline came out with an article with the tagline, “From the Bible to pop music, the implication that alcohol works like some sort of love potion has been around for ages.”
Alas, a reality check for the sex-fantasists. Wine may not, dear friends, be an aphrodisiac at all. In fact, wine is Russian Roulette with your orgasm.
Although women can become more aroused (it’s pretty much hit or miss), alcohol decreases genital response. Which is to say, your body won’t always react the way your mind wants it to. Arousal at the expense of pleasure. The harsh reality of a vaginal paradox.
For the next couple of hours, the boy I slept with would wake me up by groping me in my sleep. After several times of telling him to stop, I sent him home and never invited him to stay the night again. So much for my Sex and the City jump cut fantasy.
Cut to August 8, 2017. Bustle releases an article answering the question no one dares to ask out loud — “Why Are Men Aggressive Toward Women During Sex Or On Dates? We Need To Stop Teaching Guys It’s Romantic To Be Pushy.”
The cultural expectation of men making the first move leads to aggressive dating. Men are conditioned to not take no for an answer because society taught them that much. In many cases, sexual assault is a learned trait (though not any less the assailant’s fault).
Cut to January 17, 2015, when Chanel Miller originally planned on staying home, but then decided to attend a frat party with her sister. What was the harm in spending one night out? So, they went together.
Frat boys. Liquor. Blood. Bandages.
Chanel read about it in the paper the next day: how she was found unconscious with pine needles in her hair. Naked. She’d woken up to a nightmare of not knowing who had been inside of her.
Cut to July 15, 2017, when Cosmopolitan covered the “Yes Means Yes” bill that had just passed in California. It forced universities and colleges in the state to redefine consent in their code of conduct. Sex is only consensual if there is a clear, unambiguous, “Yes!”
Beat around the what-was-she-wearing, how-drunk-was-she, did-she-fight-back bush.
Cut to a year prior — he was a 20-year-old Stanford swimmer put on trial for raping a woman behind a dumpster at a party. Chanel Miller addressed him directly in her statement. With a maximum sentence of 14 years in federal prison on the line, the judge sentenced him to six months in county jail. He only served three, was released on good behavior, and later even tried to appeal the charges.
Such was the judge’s compromise on her body and his red solo cup fantasy.
Cut to January 27, 2010, when Cosmopolitan was there to tell you “The Best Places to Have Public Sex Without Getting Caught.”
It’s an adventurous bucket list for the sex-obsessed. Which is to say, if you enjoy any of the following, your love life is probably enviously steamy: a park, a fitting room, an empty classroom, an old school elevator, a utility closet, and a movie theater.
Possible amendments I’ve added if you’re feeling particularly steamy: a walk-in closet, a kitchen, a dorm room, a party, after you said no, behind a dumpster, after you said no twice —
The reality is that the media we consume shapes our definition of sex. When we get so many mixed messages, it can be difficult to filter out what it truly means to feel safe and comfortable with your partner. That part matters.
We grow up understanding consent in jump cuts. You meet the barista and then you wake up in his bed. There’s no talk about how you get from point A to point B. What’s missing is the necessary conversation with your partner about boundaries that help make informed decisions with our bodies.
Sex doesn’t have a fast-forward button, so we need to make sure every moment is accounted for.