If you want to know why hookup culture is bad for women, watch Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I’m serious. The film actually has a number of themes that are relevant to our current culture, but one of them — believe it or not — is the difference between love and lust, and how each motivation affects a relationship.
In the movie, Belle is offered two suitors — and two possible life paths — in the form of Gaston (the narcissistic village heartthrob) and the Beast (the cursed, misanthropic, and misunderstood prince).
Gaston is the hot guy you meet in a bar who takes you home for a night of hot sex but doesn’t call in the morning. He’s square-jawed, big-biceped, and hairy-chested. He’s got a deep, seductive voice, and a confident swagger. He’s nice to look at, but there’s nothing going on below the surface. If you’re looking for love, Gaston’s not your guy. There’s only one person he’s capable of loving, and that’s himself.
The pretty girls in the village are literally falling all over themselves to get into Gaston’s pants. “Be still my heart, I’m hardly breathing. He’s such a tall, dark, strong, and handsome brute!” they sing. But not Belle. She’s got Gaston pegged dead to rights, calling him “boorish” and “brainless,” which he is. And, because she sees right through him, she’s not attracted to him in the slightest. See, a guy like Gaston — who, in modern society, would be a total player — isn’t husband material.
Then there’s the Beast. The Beast, we’re told at the beginning of the movie, ran afoul of the wrong enchantress by being “spoiled, selfish, and unkind” so — poof — he’s a beast. Why a beast? Well, that’s kind of what Gaston is too, right? Someone ruled by his basest male urges — one of them being lust. But now, since the Beast is ugly on the outside, he can’t just go to bed with the girl. He’s got to win her love.
The difference between Gaston and the Beast, of course, is that Gaston’s going to be a brainless jerk whether you sleep with him or not. The Beast, though, is different. We know he’s different because, even though he acted cruelly to the enchantress, he’s a prince in a fairytale — and when you meet a prince in a fairytale you know there’s good in him somewhere. Why? Because symbolism. Trust me.
Let’s imagine, for a second, that Belle felt the way about Gaston that the silly village girls do. So maybe they have a one-night-stand, it fulfills them sexually in the moment, and then they move on. Gaston goes on being the same gorgeous narcissist, and Belle is no closer to finding someone she loves who loves her in return — which is what most women ultimately want.
But if, instead, sex is off the table, the man’s urges must be channeled elsewhere. And if, like the Beast, he’s actually a good man who’s just been allowing himself to be controlled by his urges (read: women seem willing to sleep with him on a first date so, why not?), then the place where he can channel his masculine energy is in loving, protecting, and caring for the woman he loves. And, by doing that, he becomes someone worthy of the woman’s love.
That’s exactly what happens between Belle and the Beast. By being the kind, caring, true-to-herself girl she is — the kind of girl who doesn’t just jump in the sack with hot guys like Gaston — Belle inspires the Beast to protect her from wolves, selflessly give her a library, and let her go to her father even though he’s sure she’ll never come back to break the spell. And, in doing all these things out of love for Belle, he becomes the kind of man she’s looking for.
Belle doesn’t transform the Beast from a jerk to a hero — unlike Gaston, who is a jerk through and through, the Beast was always a hero deep down — but she did allow him to become the best version of himself by holding out for love. That, ladies, is really how it works. Act like someone who’s willing to have meaningless sex, and you’ll get a guy who only wants meaningless sex. But act like someone with self-respect, and you’ll find yourself a guy worth falling in love with.