As the persona of the 'strong independent woman' rises in popular culture, with figures like Hillary Clinton and Beyoncé leading the pack, at what point do we separate someone's strength from a basic emotional desire for a relationship? Sophie Kingston-Carter discusses why we need to start differentiating someone's identity from their relationship status, and accept that the independent person may still wish for a date and a kiss.
Let me tell you a secret: I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve never had sex, and I’ve only kissed one guy (and it really wasn’t the romantic first kiss of fairy tales). No, I am about as traditionally virtuous as they come. An eighteenth century matriarch would be incredibly pleased to have me as her daughter, for I would not cause a scandal at the ball, nor give her sleepless nights over my questionable actions. However, I am not living in the eighteenth century, and our present day calls for a little more sexual awareness.
I was raised a Catholic and my mother was pretty hopeless when it came to discussing sex, especially sex in a modern cultural context. However, I was savvy enough to piece together information and give myself a basic level of knowledge. At school I was pretty much undateable as my parents both taught there, and who wants to have their girlfriend’s parents as their teacher? I would hear the stories of who had hooked up with whom and it really did not matter back then. I was fine being single; I didn’t want some messy, hair-raising, public teenage relationship anyway.
All that changed when I arrived at university, though, and I was surrounded by a new sexual culture. My religious views had changed and all of a sudden, sex before marriage no longer bothered me. In fact, I wanted it. I came to realise that I was a woman, with womanly passions and needs. Yet, I have spent two years at university and apart from one drunken night making out with a near stranger and running away from a guy who was far too forward, I remain as single and as much a virgin as I was the day I arrived.
While I have matured in sexual desires I have also matured as a person. ‘Elegant’, ‘put-together’, and ‘strong independent woman’, people say over and over again to me. While I do identify as a feminist and find these labels flattering, I also say that there is no such thing as the strong, independent woman who needs no one else. I have fought my battles, I have gained my strength, I have begun to carve my own way in this vast world. There is no need for me, or any other woman in my position, to have a man beside her. A man cannot strengthen us, or make us complete. Only we can do that for ourselves and it takes every ounce of determination to do so.
However, as I sit night after night bidding my flatmates goodnight as they disappear with their respective partners, I do feel as if I am missing something. As I walk along the street and see couples walking hand in hand, I admit that I am jealous. I want to feel what they feel when they look into someone else’s eyes and see the loving glance of their partner. I want to have someone else’s arms around me as I fall asleep on a cold night. I want to experience sex and find out what all the fuss is about.
While I berate myself for the jealousy, my desire for a relationship is based on wanting a new experience, needing sexual fulfilment, and experiencing the emotions that have thus-far been denied me. It is difficult to feel completely confident in my personal strength and determination if there is a whole array of emotions and sensations out there that I have never felt. I have had the time to mature and gain control of my own emotions, readying me to co-exist with another human rather than being dependant on another. Insecure people make for insecure relationships, and I am no longer insecure.
I do not need a relationship, absolutely not. However, that does not mean I do not want one, and wanting one does not make me less of a strong woman.