Friday, March 5

Over The Hump

Jessica Grose, "The Shame Cycle: The new backlash against casual sex". March 3

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?

17 comments:

Kent Fisher said...

It's been said before, in better words (or at least fewer): Doghouse for Prez!

loretta said...

Well, the entire article is ragged, poorly supported, mainly ridiculous and egregiously simplified, but the worst part is the last sentence:



Caught between the false liberation of the last decade and the fervent conservatism of the new one, it makes some sense that Hephzibah Anderson called the whole thing off for a year. It's much easier than dealing with the shame cycle.


Why was it a "false liberation?" It wasn't false. There was quite a lot of *real* liberation and opportunities for me & my daughters that had not existed in my childhood, much less prior to 1970. The author is angry about the wrong things! She should get herself a copy of "Reviving Ophelia" stat.

Also, where is this alleged "fervent conservatism" of the current culture? Seriously?

Nonsense on stilts.

Jay B. said...

The current raft of regret seems to be a response to the Girls Gone Wild archetype of the late '90s and early aughts.

Who regrets what now?

I've been very, very, very lucky (evidently) to have dated/romanced/fallen for/etc. women who a) like consensual sex and b) didn't have to dance on a table to get it. Many of them even enjoyed it casually without guilt, regret or self-recrimination.

That said, I do think it would be funny if thong-wearers walk around beaches these days wearing a Scarlet Letter tattooed on their left cheek, right around the hip from their black cat tattoo.

loretta said...

Incidentally, I was so hoping you were going to fisk David Brooks' newest piece of crap from yesterday, falsly equating the tea-party idiots with the left-wing protestors of the 60s, when he was but a wee lad in short pants.

Doghouse Riley said...

This weekend, I think.

lawguy said...

For some strange reason "sadder but wiser" seems to sell while "I had a great time, and I'm fine with it" doesn't. Perhaps those who buy the books never had a really good time and just want to see those who did suffer.

twif said...

translation: boys told me if i didn't fuck them or at least show my tits, i wasn't a "real feminist".

i'm not sure what generation this nitwit is from, but as i finished my BA in '98, i guess it's the same one. maybe it was cause i was hanging with mostly potheads, but i missed this whole "women feeling like they needed to fuck anything nearby" phase of pop culture. possibly because mainstream pop culture is only enjoyed by somewhere around 30% of the population (yes, i made that number up).

R. Porrofatto said...

Apparently pop culture is a tyrannical bastard, dictating everything from sexual choices to perceptions about the universe, while coincidentally absolving its victims of any responsibility for being such slack-jawed submissives. Of course, for self appointed culture mavens like Ms. Grose, resentment is an evergreen commodity that's always easy to sell, and if all else fails, Slate readers can always blame Boomers for paying for their college educations.

On the bright side, the loathsome Joe Francis will be comforted to learn that his downfall is due to cultural backlash, and not felony tax evasion.

And magnificently well put, as usual.

D. Sidhe said...

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?

Amen, amen, a-fucking-men.

Feminism means we get to decide what we want to do with our bodies, lives, careers, relationships, etc. Some of us will make bad choices, which is no reason to start taking away the choices available to us. I don't hear people going on about how men should be prevented from going to college because they might join a frat and regret it, or having a career because they might decide later they wish they'd spent more time with their kids. I mean, christ knows men aren't immune from making bad choices, but apparently that's different somehow. Probably women just aren't brave or tough enough to deal with their bad choices, so of course we have to protect them from that.

There's nothing inherently bad about casual sex. I've lived my life by that, and never regretted it enough to change it. Are there people I wish I hadn't slept with? Sure. Enough that I wish someone else had prevented me from making the decisions? Not on your fucking life.

Bad decisions about casual sex don't seem to traumatize people in the absence of moralizing on the subject, no more than bad decisions about anything else. It's the stuff where you're not allowed to make a decision for yourself about it, to say no *or* yes as you please, that causes the problems.

People who think that bad decisions are reason enough to take away the ability to make decisions worry me. *Women* who think that drive me to fury.

Bill In OH said...

Well great. I was going to write something really pithy and clever about conservatives and personal responsibility and pop culture and all that, but R. Porrofatto already wrote the damn thing for me (way better than I could have, BTW).

And at the risk of sounding like a toady (aw hell, I don't care) Mr. Riley, you are a fucking national treasure. That was just an awesome takedown. I almost need a cigarette.

Rugosa said...

D Sidhe, I want you to have my babies!

As a Certified Baby Boomer, I went to college in the era of sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll. Did I do some stupid stuff? Yep. Would I want to have been kept from doing stupid stuff by people with authority over my autonomy? Heck no. Some of it was damn fun at the time.

Whetstone said...

For some strange reason "sadder but wiser" seems to sell while "I had a great time, and I'm fine with it" doesn't.

I think because it's a dramatic narrative. Or because of the sort of atavistic editor who appreciates the likes of Caitlin Flanagan.

Whetstone said...

Also, in re "They," the final word on the subject is from the brilliant short film The Accountant (written, directed, and featuring the preacher from Deadwood):

Tommy: "Who's them?"
The Accountant: "Who ain't?"

Narya said...

jesusmotherfuckingchristinabirchbarkcanoe.

I graduated from high school (emphasis on "high") in 1976. There was a brief fragment of time between, when women could fuck like rabbits, for FUN, and didn't need to be pornulated. And then the patriarchy lumbered in and started insisting that women had to shave all their hairy bits, and wear heels rather than birkenstocks, and pole dance and lap dance and whatthefuckever dance. But at least some women (and men) around my age Remember When.

I had a fuckload of casual sex (i.e., Last Name Optional), and I had a fuckload of fun. And, as D. Disidhe noted above, "Bad decisions about casual sex don't seem to traumatize people in the absence of moralizing on the subject, no more than bad decisions about anything else. It's the stuff where you're not allowed to make a decision for yourself about it, to say no *or* yes as you please, that causes the problems."

Yes, I repeated it, because it bears repeating. Now quit reading here and go have some casual sex.

Colleen said...

This is just fantastic, Doghouse. Anyone with a small ice cream scoop worth of brains could tell you how super-sexy is a media creation that brings in the big bucks--not a philisophical end game of the feminist movement. Jeezus fuck, I grew up with this shit and I could tell you that.

Grace Nearing said...

In the '70s, the sexual revolution reached its peak with Erica Jong's "zipless f---."

Didn't know readers of Slate's XX section had such delicate sensibilities.

Julia Grey said...

Bad decisions about casual sex don't seem to traumatize people in the absence of moralizing on the subject

Right.

Grose herself is making a contribution to the "shame cycle."

I just despise these women who want to remove my rights because THEY made bad choices, like the woman who had 3 abortions and now can't have children, so she turns into an anti-abortion rights activist. I try to intellectually understand her pain, but I just feel utter contempt.

There are some things women SHOULD be ashamed of.