'Get Mine, Get Yours'

Sexual swagger and slang do not mask a generation's loneliness

At the conclusion of her remarks on accepting the 2003 Golden Globe award for best supporting actress in a television series, Kim Cattrall repeated today's ubiquitous feminist mantra, "Remember, women: Men come and go, but girlfriends last forever." The cynicism of the Sex and the City actress reflects the outlook of many single professional women who have casually experimented with a series of disposable lovers.

And their numbers are growing: The proportion of women between 15 and 44 who are married has declined from 73 percent in 1960 to only 55 percent in 2000—reflecting both the decline in marriage rates and more than a million divorces annually. The number of cohabiting women has grown from only 439,000 in 1960 to over 4.7 million in 2000, and 35 percent of these women have children. The declining willingness to make a marriage commitment increasingly strains the family, the linchpin that holds modern society together.

The Census Bureau has to reckon with a new category. It uses the term "unrelated individual" to designate someone who does not live in a "family group." Sadly, we've seen the percentage of persons living as "unrelated individuals" almost triple, increasing from 6 to 16 percent of all people during the last 40 years.

Many single women have given up on the idea of lasting love, turning instead to impersonal sex for their physical needs, and believe that Cattrall is right: "sisterhood" best meets their emotional needs. But even in the sowing-your-wild-oats scripts popularized by Sex and the City, Friends, and other arbiters of cultural chic, the freedom of casual sex frequently looks more like loneliness and alienation. Indeed, in the eyes of some, the shows reflect the drive for intimacy more than the desire ...

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