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February 26, 2007

Jill From Feministe Responds

Since she took time to post here, I figured I should offer her rebuttal in a main post.

The misattribution of the post to Jill has been fixed, hopefully.

That post wasn't mine. And Zuzu -- who actually wrote the post -- never said that promiscuous anonymous sex was empowering for women. She was only arguing that this isn't anything new, and that the hand-wringing seems to be more about female sexuality than anything else.

With all due respect, this is a semantic quibble. She's not bemoaining "female sexuality," which is something pretty much everyone is in favor of, broadly speaking. Who the fuck wants to be with a woman who doesn't enjoy sex (or, in my case, at least can't manage to credibly pretend to)?

She's bemoaning girls fucking anything with "two balls, a dick, and a heartbeat," to invert the old joke. That's not really a complaint about "female sexuality." That's "hand-wringing" about young girls embracing a specific theory of what "female sexuality" ought to be, and, furthermore, almost certainly to their own detriment.

The author of the WaPo piece denounces women who play the field...

What's the compulsion to engage in euphemism here, Jill?

"Playing the field" could mean just dating a lot of guys. It could mean dating guys without fucking them, deciding which one would really like to be with; it could also mean dating a lot of guys, but fucking them all.

Strepp isn't writing about either. She's writing about girls who just fuck guys without even dating at all.

Surely you see the difference between that and how "playing the field" has traditionally been understood?

...and in other articles accuses women of making their boyfriends impotent and salutes the role of the wingman. In other words, she has a history of being hostile toward younger women.

I'd like a cite, though I strongly suspect you are giving these articles a willfully tendentious reading.

I'm 23. Two years ago I was still in college. Right now I'm in law school. And maybe my experience is atypical, but I didn't see a whole lot of this "hook-up culture" of women sleeping with the entire fraternity. But I had a boyfriend throughout college, and so maybe I was just missing out.

You can blame feminism all you want, but the Girls Gone Wild / performed female sexuality for male pleasure is hardly a feminist invention, and is contrary to everything we believe. But it's probably easier to keep beating the Strawfeminist to death than it is to actually grapple with feminist arguments, right?

It is something new, Jill. If it doesn't seem new to you, it's because you're 23. What frame of reference do you have to compare it to?

If you believe Strepp overstated the extent of the new feminine promiscuity -- well, you're probably right about the overstating; Lord knows one doesn't sell many books by understating a problem. But overstated or not, something has changed in the past ten or fifteen years.

To the extent it's "nothing new," well... maybe, but only due to the brief precedent of the 70's free sex culture, which of course disappeared by and large by the mid-eighties, due not to any large awakening to the virtues of chastity, but due, of course, to AIDS.

And now, with AIDS apparently not quite so scary as it was from 1985 to 1993 or so (felicitiously enough, just about the time I was in college, as m ex-roommate not_steve_in_hb often bemoaned), the free sex experiment of the seventies seems to have returned in full force.

Now, your having been in college far more recently than I -- I can't discount your claim that this isn't going on. That's anecdotal evidence that I have to consider. But I have anecdotal evidence from another recent college graduate who says this is precisely what's going on. Where's the truth actually lie? I'm not quite sure, though given all the pictures girls are posting of themselves naked, kissing other girls' breasts or even asses, or even engaging in sex, I'd have to say that my admittedly-limited capability to determine the truth nevertheless compels me to believe it's closer to Strepp's version than yours.

As for this not being the fault of feminism -- are you arguing that this new culture of distaff James Bondism is not endorsed by feminists 3.0 as a positive embrace of one's sexuality and a freedom from previous, male-imposed double-standards of sexual modesty? If that is what you're claiming, I confess I have no idea what zuzu might mean by commentary like this:

[Quoting Dobie's review:] Stepp goes on to offer something more definite: What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, “my plaything” and “my bitch.”

[zuzu:] Isn’t that also known as “playing the field”?

Well, as I said above, "playing the field" seems to rather understate what Strepp is describing. She's writing not about, as they may have said in an earlier age, allowing a number of gentlemen suitors to come a-courtin', but about young girls simply fucking a lot of different guys without so much as a coffee date beforehand.

You and zuzu seem to just be arguing in favor of a semantical gloss that obscures the nature of the behavior being discussed. What purpose does that serve? You know what I'm talking about; zuzu knows what I'm talking about; I know what I'm talking about. So enough of this "playing the field" evasion.

A more accurate term anyway would be "taking one for the team, and then taking another one for the JV squad to boot."

And what should I make of this?

In any event, most college students are over 18. If they want to hook up, they’re grown people.

Well, they are "grown people," but only barely so, and furthermore Strepp's book addresses this phenomenon among high school girls as well.

One thing I don't get from the sexual left. They are for sexual liberation, I know that. But they sometimes seem to also be in favor of the sexual liberation of children.

Do I really think most feminists endorse that? Probably not-- but they're also afraid to say one cross word about the sexualization of children for fear of sounding like "prudes," or being on the same page as the dreaded Patriarchal Christian Right even as regards immature, underage girls sleeping around.

But, really, this has to be my favorite. From the review:

[quoting Dobie's reivew:] 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.

Think about those images: you’re nothing but Swedish meatballs, missy, and if you let just anyone stick their frilly toothpicks in you, you’ll sit out on the table too long, and your gravy will congeal long before the little can of Sterno under the chafing dish goes out. You’re only worth anything if some man thinks you’ve got that new-car smell. You can dance, but you look like a dog being humped.


But the weirdest, and potentially most revealing, image is the whole broken windows thing. I dunno about you, but if someone throws a rock through my window, it’s a safe bet I didn’t give them permission. I let my guests in through the door. And it’s not going to fall off the hinges if I let more than one person through (even at once!).

I have trouble reading that as anything other than a slam on Strepp's lament about Girls Gone Wild Gone Mainstream, and, unavoidably then, an endorsement of same. Even multiple partners at once, it seems, is wondrous new sexual landscape needing exploration.

Now Jill claims that such behavior is contrary to everything "we [feminists]" believe. Perhaps that is so, and perhaps this post is just overstated and not terribly thought out or coherent, as many blog posts are (including most of the ones on this site).

But rather than telling me all the things feminists don't believe on this issue, perhaps Jill would be more helpful if she explained what they do believe. Can she affirmatively tell us, for example, that she more or less agrees with Strepp that perhaps younger girls should be a tad more selective as regards their sexual partners? That perhaps, contra William Blake, the path to wisdom often does not lead through the palaces of excess?

I don't know. I wasn't attempting to create straw-woman "feminazi" type arguments, Jill. I am honestly telling what it seems the 3.0 feminists are telling me about sexuality lately.

If I'm wrong, please correct me. I would, despite whatever you may believe, actually be quite comforted to learn an entire influential political movement has not gone batshit crazy on the subject of youthful female hyperpromiscuity.


PS: If you want to respond, but only on your own blog, that's fine, I'll link it. I'm not huffily demanding you provide my blog with content.

If you can clarify things for me, I honestly would appreciate it. If I am wrong, I'd like to know that. And yes, I've been wrong frequently, and my ego is nicely shattered by this point so as to not prevent me from admitting error.


Sharpening My Question: First of all, don't bother telling me that if young women truly wish to be promiscuous and actually derive true satisfaction from such they should be allowed to do so. I say don't bother because I imagine most are in broad agreement on this; certainly no one's calling for Saudi-style religious police to beat loose women with sticks. For those women who wish such a lifestyle -- well, many may disapprove, but there's little we can do to stop them, and few of us have a real interest in actually trying to do so.

So just take that particular point as stipulated in your favor.

What I'm asking is: Is a culture of rampant promiscuity without even the slightest trappings of dating good for most young women? True, there are outliers like Kathy Dobie, who seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the slut lifestyle but do most young women want this?

Assuming they don't -- and they'd actually prefer a bit of relationship along with their sex -- is it wise for feminism to suggest to them that such a lifestyle is what they should want? Is it smart to propogate, or at least leave unchallenged, the proposition that not only can young women treat sex as disposably and ruthlessly and carelessly as most young men do, but that they should do so, else they fall into the trap of "dependence on males"?

And couldn't feminists like yourself perhaps do a slightly better job of communicating to younger women that perhaps they're better off being a little more demanding of and discriminating about those they choose to favor with their netherbits?

Hell, they're not going to listen to me. Nor any guy. (And no guy is going to ever talk with this when sex is actually on the line -- there has never been, in all of recorded history, a guy who responded to the statement "Well I don't know, I think maybe we ought to wait" with "You're damn straight we should wait, Missy! Now you're getting with the program!")

My source on this -- your age, mind you, and also your gender -- tells me that it's quite common for high school and college girls to treat sex like the see it on Sex & the City. The trouble with that, as she says, is that not only are those older women, but furthermore they're not actually even women -- they're gay men as played by women.

Even feminist hero Tina Fey remarked upon this, noting that a Samanatha-like statement such as "All that girl needs is a cock up her ass" is not something a woman would say, but a gay male comedy writer might say.

And on "playing the field:"

Your euphemism is poorly chosen. For even if one "plays the field," one does so with the expectation a winner will emerge from the race, a horse that one eventually hopes to ride. Strepp is writing of women who are simply fucking men with little expectation of ever having any sort of relationship with them, beyond the "friends with benefits" sort of thing, which is really just "friends with benefits almost exclusively accruing to the male 'friend.'"

Furthermore-- to be even more literal about this expression, you can't actually win while "playing the field." Any bookie can tell you that. Betting on any horse may be a bad bet, but betting on nine or ten horses at once will bankrupt you even faster. The odds are simply too stacked against you. The house, as they say, always wins.

And the house here is young men. The Oppressive Patriarchy, Junior Division.

Correction: I'm told it was William Blake, not Oscar Wilde, resposible for the path to wisdom runs through palaces of excess line.

Even when I try to be smart, I end up a moron. Such is life.


And If This Is Not What Feminism 3.0 Holds... Why on earth do we have feminist bloggers claiming nonsense like this?


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posted by Ace at 06:11 PM

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