The other night I watched Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution (available on Netflix). It’s a feature length documentary all about modern-day hook-up culture and the way that it is, essentially, destroying a generation. I could not recommend it more. It’s hard to stomach, but a glaringly-obvious call for change that every man and woman needs to see.

You might not be a college student on a spring break sexscapade, but you are without a doubt influenced by the social pressures placed upon you as a man or woman. This documentary does an excellent job at highlighting the ways that we’ve created our own culture of sexual violation and violence, objectification and isolation. We’ve let this happen to ourselves. So, we can keep complaining if we like, about how boys will be boys, but we are a key driving force in the proliferation of the problem as long as we continue to support this current paradigm. Big changes desperately need to be made; huge!

None of us should have to grow up faster than we are ready to, but the reality is that most of us do. We might come from a broken home that requires us to parent ourselves or younger siblings while we’re still just fledglings. We might have found ourselves mixed up in the wrong crowd in school that seemed to cause things to spiral out of control in the blink of an eye. And before we know it, we’ve been given an identity and a place in this world without actually having had much say in the matter at all.

So let’s talk about sex and sexual identity, because what we learn about sex while we’re growing up will shape our subconscious for the years that follow. If we are constantly bombarded with a negative perception, this will permeate into our lives unless we become conscious of it and try to fix our relationship with it. We learn this stuff from our family, friends, pop culture, social media and the ample supply of pornography that saturates the world.

Ladies: do you remember the first time that you realised you were being looked up and down like a piece of meat? I mean, you probably don’t remember the exact first time, but you might recall the sensation of suddenly getting boobs or hips and the creeping self-consciousness that ensued; that sudden awareness of your self and how you looked and how others noticed you that made you stop and have to think about whether you were doing things right and worse, if you were good enough.

And it never stops.

You go through life and the older you get, the less of a shit you give if you’ve got any sense. You realise that you’re enough as you are and that there are far more important things to spend your time on than frantically dilly-dallying over your appearance. But the cat calls and the male harassment never goes away and on a bad day, it can really feel like the nail in the coffin. For who are these men to make us feel like prey items? Who are they to be so disrespectful as to treat us like objects? Do they not realise we are humans with feelings, deserving of respect? No, clearly not.

But who made them that way after all? Are these men born with it in their DNA? No, of course they’re not. It’s a learned behaviour. And where does it come from? It’s comes from the messages that seep into their subconscious via popular culture. These are the same messages that tell me that in order to be successful, I must look like [insert female pop artist here] and prance around barely-clothed. That’s how I can become a great woman.

[I read the above once over and I sort of sound like a ‘SEX IS BAD!’ religious fanatic and I promise you, that could not be further from the truth. My opinion is that our relationship with sex and the way we define genders is terrible in today’s society. That’s what I’m getting at.]

Within each of us are both divine masculine and feminine energies. Men generally embody more of the former and women, the latter. The divine masculine is focus and strength and logic. It is the quest for improvement and truth. It is reason and survival and loyalty. The divine feminine on the otherhand is nurturing and gentle. It is healing, wise, patient and emotional. It is intuitive and expressive. Polar opposites meet somewhere in the middle and an excellent, balanced human is made.

So how did it get this messed up, then? Was it Playboy? Was it MTV? Was it the Bible?! Does finding the source of blame even help us move forward? I think it’s all much of a muchness, to be honest and if it’s improvement that we seek, then focusing on the past in too much detail might not necessarily get us anywhere, anytime soon.

As Libertated quite rightly points out, we live in this tragic time when women are seen as things to conquer by many men and women see each other as tough competition for who can turn the most heads. It’s as though the men are all captains of their own sports teams and the women in a giant cattle pen of sorts, left powerless; their fate in the hands of the guy that might just pick them.

Fuck. That. Says. I.

We need to realise that sex is a vessel for more than physical gratification, because we sure as hell don’t seem to realise it. At its most sensational, it is a tangible expression of emotional connection. And it does all kinds of crazy stuff to our bodies (crazy good). But at its most destructive, it serves only to numb us temporarily, from whatever inner turmoil we’ve got going on.

When sex, or rather, conquests, are used as something men hold over one another to decide who embodies the most masculinity, it is a cruel, waste of energy. And when women compete to be the top choice of said men, it is an inauthentic isolation from sisterhood. We’ve got ourselves so caught up in worrying what everyone else thinks that we’re missing what’s there. Sacrificing fulfillment of our own needs and joy for the sake of pleasing others? And it’s all very bizarre because surely those that love us would not want us to find ourselves in that position?

The plot thickens.

We have a deep desperation to be somebody; the best type of somebody. One that’s adored and epitomises one or other of the genders that we feel we resonate most with. That’s what it really comes down to: acceptance. Only, our perceptions about what defines the genders is incredibly out of whack. The day we start allowing each other to be the people that we actually want to be, rather than the people we feel we ought to be will be the day that we stop with all this bullshit.

The problem with this whole hook-up culture is that it means we’re missing what’s there. We’re suffering an unimaginable loss of genuine connection with one another and it’s wreaking havoc. The entire point of life is to follow your joy and make meaningful connections with others. Every positive memory you have has a feeling signature attached to it that your moments shared with other people created for you. But if we’re missing the opportunity for connection, I truly fear the repurcussions long term.

An unhealthy balance of energies in men and women is what is causing some men to think it’s OK to treat women as objects; like cars they can buy. It’s a constant effort to try to get the one that’s the most attractive, until boredom strikes and then it’s back to the barrel. And when women aren’t seen as people on the same level, terrible things can happen and a lot of unnecessary pain can fester. When we are treated like posessions, our subconscious makes us question our own self-worth. If the messages women are bombarded with from popular culture and their peers are ones of superficial qualities deemed vastly more important than things which truly matter, we begin to believe them. And that’s a sad day for everyone. There is nothing more fierce than a woman made to feel empowered and nothing more courageous than a man who encourages it.