The Localist

There’s a sexual revolution sweeping Sydney


Have you noticed? You can tell a lot about a place by the way its people conduct their love lives, and the young singles’ scene in Sydney is fascinating at the moment.

Settling back into Sydney life over the last few months has meant re-learning just about everything, from bus routes to hot dining spots and how to avoid a red nose after only 5 minutes in the sun. One thing that has dramatically changed since I last lived here nearly a decade ago is the dating scene.

Ten years ago, many girly conversations I overheard at uni went along the lines of  “so and so’s boyfriend won’t settle down…she’s worried about wasting the next couple of years waiting for him to commit because at the end of it if he’s still not ready she’ll be 23 and over the hill”.  Naturally I was mortified by the desperation of comments like that. My friends were more of the type that would choose to put off committed relationships in favour of travelling overseas, meeting interesting people and pursuing challenging careers.

These days I see my Sydney friends in their 20s are also delaying getting into committed relationships – however for a different reason. Too much choice.  Girly conversations now often involve sharing updates about my friends’ “parallel dating” lives.  One friend – who I probably shouldn’t name – says it’s the first time that she has dated more than one guy at the same time and that, surprisingly, she doesn’t even feel guilty about it. This one totally objectifies blokes, referring to her suite of lovers not by their name but by their occupation (“the farmer”), nationality (“Irish”) or prominent feature (“eyebrows”). She recently decided to break up with “the farmer” after a whirlwind romance spanning a whole weekend because she was organising her calendar one day and realised she was too busy to visit him on his farm until 2014.

As Sydney has blossomed into one of the wealthiest cities in the world, more of its women are in top jobs, have become increasingly independent and are able to buy their own luxury handbags and even property. At work my director, chairman and the most revered (i.e. scary) people in the company are women – in a traditionally male dominated industry. More and more women are earning higher incomes than their male partners and aren’t bothered about it.  When I was in my 20s girls used to bang on about being attracted to guys who had drive and were successful, but these days single girls I know are less interested in wealth and many say that they aren’t into guys who just have boring office jobs.

But what has really awakened the sexual revolution of late? Well, if you see a chick on the train tapping furiously on her smart phone she probably isn’t on Facebook.  These days it’s all about online dating. Ten years ago my uni mates and I exchanged horrified glances when a fellow student announced that she was dating a guy she’d met online. We thought she was bonkers. A few years ago while checking out a friend’s new home one friend randomly remarked “your new neighbour is gay”. When asked what he was on about he showed us the Grinder app on his phone – indicating that the nearest willing and able body was 3 metres away. This shocked – and intrigued – us. Now I would say about 80% of my single friends are on Tinder, the straight equivalent.  It grabs the most flattering photos from your Facebook account and you don’t even need to agonise over writing a witty profile. The online stigma is forgotten.

Faced with more choice than ever, women in their 20s and 30s seem to have suddenly grown balls. Balls with short attention spans.  Apps like Tinder have revolutionised dating. Suddenly there is a plethora of choice, women are more confident than ever and their behaviour more bad ass. I find myself on the end of calls from guy friends wanting to analyse the behaviour (i.e. non-responsiveness) of chicks they are trying to date and needing reassurance that they are interested. Meanwhile my girl mates are nonchalant and seem to enjoy being in the drivers seat.

When I berated a friend yesterday for not bothering to explain to a guy why she didn’t want to see him anymore she laughed, shrugged and replied “guys used to do it to me all the time!” The scales are tipping and girls are having more fun than ever. Ahh, to be 25 again!


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