OKAY, before you say anything: it's Spring Training. Shagging fungos, a few limber-up tosses against the side of the barn, snorting at the latest Slate XX Factorish idiocy; get the juices flowing (oh, sorry) without any real exertion. Cycle of Life. Cycle of Shame. Vortex of Stupid.
Needless to say, Ms Grose, I'm not a member of your generation, with its hook-ups and its iPods and its apparently inability to write 800 words without referencing a plotline from Sex and the City, or some other piece of pop-culture flotsam, as though it were more real than what's real. I'm old. I've made it through five decades without confusing Universal Truth with the contents of your diary, and, forgive me, I intend to continue.
The current raft of regret seems to be a response to the Girls Gone Wild archetype of the late '90s and early aughts. Ariel Levy described the new era's version of sex positive in Female Chauvinist Pigs, "a tawdry, tarty, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular." We were supposed to dance on tables like Paris Hilton and wear ass-baring chaps and hump the floor like 22-year-old Christina Aguilera did in her "Dirrrty" video, or at least find that sort of thing appealing, otherwise we were marmish prudes. We were supposed to go to strip clubs and wear Playboy necklaces around our necks—as Sex and the City star Carrie Bradshaw did.
Okay, hold up. You were "supposed to" ? I find this omnipotent They--ubiquitous Corrupter of Teenage Morality and Denier of Jonah Goldberg the Right to Dislike Negroes in Print--to be a major puzzlement, since I can't find hide nor hair of Them (although you and Douthat occasionally link to Feministing as though you think it's part of Their legal team), but you can't walk ten paces without tripping over someone They've corrupted. Yet no one ever seems to blame Christina Aguilera personally, nor her handlers, marketers, and puppeteers; they're engaging in commerce. They aren't They.
Who made you or anyone else watch, let alone like it, emulate it, accept it as anything other than Yet Another Consumerist Shitwad somebody hurled at you in hopes of making a buck? Nobody taught you to duck? Fer chrissakes, you were not a bobbysoxer forced to choose between Race records on the wireless and polite society, nor an Ur-feminist told to go fetch the coffee. You didn't suddenly find yourself in a world torn apart by global war, with centuries of racial and sexual prejudices crumbling around you, if not threatening to fall on your head. You found yourself in front of the teevee watching music videos and celebrity trash news. Christina Aguilera did not rise naked from the Sea; she came from the New Fucking Mickey Mouse Club. That wasn't enough to tip you to something?
Nothing--certainly not They--kept you from ignoring all that, as much as humanly possible. Nothing kept you from recognizing the cheap and tasteless for the sideshow it is. I realize that almost no one escapes unscathed; I myself once owned a paisley tie. But please, really, Paris Hilton made me do it? Then you fucking deserved whatever it was, and a horsewhipping after. Count your blessings.
But after a while, we did not really want to do any of those things anymore, as Tina Fey explained in an interview with Vogue earlier this year. We have been handed "a sort of Spice Girls' version of feminism. We're supposed to be wearing half-shirts and jumping around. And, you know, maybe that's not panning out." Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis was put in jail. Christina Aguilera married a nice Jewish boy and had a baby. She's been replaced on the pop charts by 19-year-old virginal chanteuse Taylor Swift, who sings chaste love songs about Romeo and Juliet. Paris Hilton is rarely in the tabloids and we haven't seen her nether regions in years. Finally, the fictional Carrie Bradshaw is wed and living a New York domestic fantasy.
Jesus Christ, Tina Fey is fucking forty years old; if she's jumping around in half-shirts and sleeping with drunken soft-drink reps there's something wrong with her the Spice Girls didn't have anything to do with.
So maybe no one's said this to you before, for some reason, but you're getting older. You're turning middle-aged. See if you can't do so with a little more grace and self-awareness than you evinced when turning into a sexual being. They made you dress like Mel C.; now they want you to be Taylor Swift (and look, ixnay on the Romeo and Juliet crap. Swift was a talented youngster snapped up, sadly, by the Country Music and Sausage industry. This means the odds are almost prohibitive that she'll remain chaste and virginal until her first album that doesn't meet expectations. Knock fuckin' wood, but ask Tanya Tucker. Ask the Chaste-Until-Marriage Britney Spears). Cover your ears. Avert your gaze. Go read a book that isn't a memoir or thinly-veiled novel about yourself.
But mostly, stop this:
After all, Klausner is a feminist who doesn't believe there is anything wrong with casual sex.
Kate H. Millet, I don't think there's much if anything wrong with 98% of the items on the Psychotropic Substances Act of 1978, either, but it doesn't mean I think they should be freely handed out to grade schoolers, nor that everybody who ever eats peyote will enjoy a technicolor dreamtrip to the stars. "Not believing there's anything wrong" with something is a far cry from insisting that Nothing Can Ever Gro Wong. Believing that traditional matrimony and gender stereotyping have been employed to bully and subjugate Women is not the same thing as deciding every female nurse is a tool of the Patriarchy, every woman lumberjack a lesbian, and the best thing one can do about it is sleep with anything with a pulse. Some might think all those things, but attributing that to Feminism just because you can't tell the difference between Paris Hilton and a real person is just full of it.
And for the life of me, I don't understand why. If an aging demirep decides to make a few bucks writing the autobiography of her cervix, what are her options? If she's a terrific writer she might get published. If she's got the goods on George Clooney or Eliot Spitzer, or, preferably, a half-dozen assorted, she will get published. Otherwise she hangs it on Society and schlepps it around. So what? She had it both ways (sorry, again), but only one of her gets to cash the royalty checks. The fact that Sadder But Wiser, Inc., gets the book deal doesn't mean the Happy Sluicer had the weaker argument.
Fer chrissakes, the fact that some woman somewhere slept with a bunch of losers at the behest of E! doesn't begin to counteract the number of people kept in loveless or brutalizing marriages this week by the Church. What Feminism fought to provide you is the right to choose for yourself. And you took the opportunity to watch some teevee?