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February 26, 2007

Feminism 3.0: Sex Yes, Courtship No

A WaPo article has dared to offer her opinion that the "hook-up culture" now prevalent in colleges -- with young girls giving it away like it's rotting in the warehouse -- may not be really in women's best interests. Apparently they've decided to become whores because that's the feminist way:

Absent old-fashioned dating, which has virtually disappeared, the alternative for these young women is hooking up, which can happen in any semi-private place and includes anything from kissing to intercourse. The beauty of hooking up is that it carries no commitment, and this is huge, for being emotionally dependent on a lover is what scares these young women the most.

To tell a man "I need you" is like saying "I'm incomplete without you." A young man might say that and sound affectionate. But to an ambitious young woman, who has been taught to define power on her terms and defend it against all comers, need signals weakness.

She's written a book on the subject, which is poked fun at by a reviewer, who apparently thinks that screwing as many semi-anonymous guys in high school and college is a brilliant way to learn, one day, to truly love:

Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate? These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn't work that way: In our teens and early twenties, sexual relationships are less about intimacy than about expanding our intimate knowledge of people -- a very different thing. Through sex, we discover irrefutable otherness (he dreams of being madly in love; she hates going to sleep alone ), and we are scared and enraptured, frustrated and inspired. We learn less about intimacy in our youthful sex lives than we do about humanity. And of course, there is also lust, something this very unsexy book about sex doesn't take into account. In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male's good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, "He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you're a prize."And goes on to tell them, "In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they've been on the warming table too long."

It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another's affection and trust. And one's sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere.

In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: "Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn't want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?" And: "Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination." The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.

...

In a culture that values money and fame above all, that eschews failure, bad luck, trouble and pain, none of us speaks the language of love and forbearance. But it is not hooking up that has created this atmosphere. Hooking up is either a faithful reflection of the culture, a Darwinian response to a world where half the marriages end in divorce, or it is an attempt at something new. Perhaps, this generation, by making sex less precious, less a commodity, will succeed in putting simple humanity back into sex. Why bring someone into your bed? Maybe because she is brilliant and has a whimsical sense of humor, or he is both sarcastic and vulnerable, and has beautiful eyes.

And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears -- a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all. ·

Was Kathy Robie the best choice of reviewer for this book? Someone who didn't have a particular stake in slut culture? Welllll... not so much.

The very rare young woman who understands her nubile sexual power and knows how to use it is a force to be reckoned with, indeed.

Kathy Dobie was not such a girl. The centerpiece of her new memoir, "The Only Girl in the Car," describes a brief period -- about a year -- during her teens when she stumbled into an archetypal role among a group of adolescents in her suburban Connecticut town: She was the slut. Her precocious exploits culminated in an awful night during which, as the titular only girl in a carful of boys, she was bullied (by the guy she considered her boyfriend) into having sex with all four of them. She'd just turned 15. Anyone who's ever been a teenager can imagine how quickly the news of that night spread among her cohort, and how brutally she was treated by them afterward.

Dobie isn't stupid -- she isn't now, and she wasn't then. But "The Only Girl in the Car" offers a perfect refresher course in how the naiveté and heedlessness of teenagers combines to make something very much like stupidity. Some girls get slapped with the "slut" label unfairly -- because of their class background, say, or because their breasts develop before anyone else's. Dobie earned her epithet fair and square. At 14 she became intoxicated with her sudden power to attract men and boys with provocative words or a look. After a few nervous false starts, she set about losing her virginity by arranging herself artfully in her family's front yard, dressed in a candy-striped halter top and platform shoes. (Well, it was the '70s.)

With this strategy, she landed a pockmarked, ponytailed 33-year-old who lived with his mother -- a "loser," she realized even at the time, but he served her purpose all the same. Dobie was thereby launched on a campaign of sexual adventure, proceeding through a couple of trysts with a man in his 40s and finally arriving at her nirvana, the local teen center, where she found an abundance of what she really wanted: boys, "the confident, aggressive, dirty-minded ones ... No cathedral could have filled a true believer with as much awe" as the Hamden Teen Center inspired in the 14-year-old Dobie.

...

If it wasn't some obvious dysfunction that provoked Dobie to seek out the furtive, inexpert caresses of the "boy-men" of the Hamden Teen Center at a painfully early age, then what did? Her answer to this question is intimated rather than baldly stated, and it's complicated. Partly, she wanted to feel, as she did during her brief teen center heyday, "as alive, as bold, as free" as the bad boys around her.

...

Yet Dobie doesn't disown the impulse behind her brief foray into promiscuity, that headlong dash to freedom and exploration. The hankering to model yourself after "a boy who joins circuses or travels west with a pistol and a dog" is nothing to scoff at, even if the first time you take a stab at it you screw up badly. "The Only Girl in the Car" is a grownup's memoir, not a fetish of past miseries thinly wrapped in the pretense of having reached "closure." Dobie is not nursing grievances, but explaining that she continues to take chances (albeit different kinds of chances) even though she once paid a horrible price for doing so.

Well! Definitely she's an expert, but perhaps not an unbiased one.

Predictably, the Feminists 3.0 at Feministe are horrified by all this damned prudery.

What's driving this, it seems, is the ideological position by feminists that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. They simply do not want to believe they "need" male companionship in the romantic sense, and can be, as Dobie strived to be, as "free" with sex as those "bad boys" at the teen center.

Here's the problem: Dobie might be able to manage it -- she's pretty much an out-and-proud slut -- but most women can't. ZuZu from Feministe and the rest of her merry band of yes-womyn can caterwaul that women can be just as ruthless and coldhearted about sex as a pure convenience, and can use men like disposable stroke mags just as well as men can use women, but the fact is, they can't.

You guys think you can be sexually ruthless? Think you can view another human being as nothing more than a walking receptacle to the degree men can? To quote Niccole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut:

If.

You only.

Knew.

It's pathetic that this is what is now deemed "progress" among the feminists -- attempting to ape the most selfish, brutish behavior by men and calling themselves enlightened and empowered for doing so.

But what makes it tragic is that it simply isn't true, and these young women are being told that they shouldn't care about dating and courtship and romance, or even a guy simply liking them very much as a human being, but should simply rack up as high a sexual bodycount as possible, because that shows "independence."

Are they happy?

They seem not to be, by and large. The guys, of course, are thrilled. The male fantasy has always been nearly anonymous, committment free sex as often and as with many partners as possible (witness gay men making this fantasy a reality, with women removed from the equation), and feminists have given men just that.

And Feministe and the rest can keep claiming that women ought to be happy with this awful state of affairs, but they're not, and they won't be, not until they finally learn to keep it in their pants long enough to discover if their next sexual conquest is even attracted to them.

That's right -- a guy will get so horny he'll have sex with a woman he's not even physically attracted to (let alone romantically interested in), if it's late enough and there aren't any prettier takers around.

If it were true that young women really didn't want romance or love at all, this might perhaps be viewed as -- if not a desirable state of affairs -- at least one that was, in sexual terms at least, satisfying for women. But it's not. The reason these young women spurn romance and call it "yucky" and make fun of those involved in relationships as "married" is because we are compelled to denigrate what we actually crave but cannot have, and the reason they can't have what they actually want is that they're fucking guys so quickly guys hardly have a chance to catch their names.

And, "double standard" or not, it has always been the case, and will continue being the case into the year 3000, that it's rather difficult to work up the enthusiasm to court a girl when she's been nailing everyone you know without such courtship (why should I be the one who has to put in the effort?), and it's hard to have that sense of pride in one's romantic "get" when you know she's been passed around the fraternity like a blunt.

You've come a long way, baby.

You guys won the sexual revolution, huh?

Keep telling yourselves that.



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posted by Ace at 03:59 PM

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