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Dating sucks everywhere, but it sucks harder in LA, and it sucks more now than ever.

A few months ago, before meeting someone for the very first time, as we were texting to confirm plans, he asked if I enjoyed giving blow jobs. When I didn’t want to answer, he called me a prude.

(I canceled the date.)

On another first date, a guy asked me when the last time was that I had had sex and how often I masturbated.

On a different date, a guy asked me if I could give him an ETA for when we’d have sex.

And yet another time, the guy ended the date early when I told him I wouldn’t be going home with him.

That there is a problem here is obvious. But what exactly the problem is – and where it stems from – is complicated. And I’m going to make it more complicated by talking about Miley Cyrus and Rihanna and Britney.

Have you seen Britney’s new video?

Have you seen Rihanna’s new video?

And we’ve all seen Miley at the VMA’s (unfortunately).

Somehow we have evolved from a culture where strippers wanted to be pop stars to a culture where pop stars want to be strippers. Where sex is supposed to be cheap and easy and pleasure constant.

Happiness — not merely its pursuit — is now something to which we are entitled. Which we deserve. Which capitalism, with its eternal seduction, has convinced us should be available with each and every purchase. And if we are not happy, something (the right product? the latest gadget? an easy lay?) is missing. Because we should be happy all the time. And, most alarmingly, that happiness should come easy.

We’ve become a culture obsessed not only with product over process, but a culture spoiled with the illusion that these products should be readily available. Is it the fault of media? The fault of online shopping? The fault of online dating (which is really just online shopping for that aforementioned easy lay)? The fault of a consumer culture gone mental? All of the above. We know what we want, and we want it now.

A real man would never ask a great catch of a woman, an intelligent choice for a long-term investment, for a sexual ETA. Because a real man would be enjoying the process as much as the end result. Because a real man would enjoy the challenge, would be stimulated by the work involved, and would actually be disappointed by any result that came too easy.

But it’s not just the fault of these honor-free man-child douchebags. It’s also the fault of media icons like Rihanna and Britney and Miley who think being sexy means being easy. Madonna, who lived and breathed sex for much of her career, always had an edge. Hers was an inaccessible sexuality. Doubt me? Watch the videos for Open Your Heart or Express Yourself. They were all about how she owned her body and her sexuality. And if you wanted her, it would be on her own terms.

And then watch Rihanna’s latest. Or just go to Spearmint Rhino. It’s all the same.

The “end of sex,” by which I mean the end of courtship and romance and traditional gender roles, has not only come with a decline of true sex appeal but also with a sensual immaturity that rejects complexity in favor of simplicity and immediacy.

Movies, the ultimate barometer of popular culture, used to sizzle with flirtation and romance. But in the words of Camille Paglia in The New York Times, “from the early ‘70s on, nudity was in, and steamy build-up was out. A generation of filmmakers lost the skill of sophisticated innuendo. The situation worsened in the ‘90s, when Hollywood pirated video games to turn women into cartoonishly pneumatic superheroines and sci-fi androids, fantasy figures without psychological complexity or the erotic needs of real women.”

To anyone currently on the dating market, sound familiar?

A review of Britney’s new single in the Daily Beast argues that “The most important thing to point out about this ludicrously fabulous video is how Britney looks, which is just about flawless.”

No, the most important thing to point out about the video would be the music (which is horrible), or the lyrics (which the review admits are random), or the concept behind the video (which the review acknowledges as nonsensical). But instead, the video is great because Britney’s body is HOT and her dance moves are HOT and her outfits are HOT. And Rihanna is triumphant and victorious because she’s dancing in a denim thong.

No, no, no. How did this happen? How did our misguided notions of sexual empowerment get so twisted? How did being a badass woman become taking off your clothes and dancing around a stripper pole? How did sexual equality evolve into neutering women who are in positions of power? Sexuality should be powerful. Sexuality should be complicated. Sex should be a challenge, and sexuality shouldn’t be stripped down to baby oil and a stripper pole.

No, I don’t have sex on the first date. No, I don’t want to talk about masturbation with someone I just met. No, I’m not going to text with a stranger about blow jobs. Not because I’m a prude but because that’s how much I love sex. Because sex is magical and beautiful and complicated, and I want to keep it that way.

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