Now that I have your attention, I wish to direct it to a split decision handed down today by the 10th Circuit. On equal-protection grounds, the court struck down an ordinance in place in Fort Collins, CO forbidding women from baring their breasts in public except for the purpose of breastfeeding. Ed Whelan at National Review is on the case, and he reports the following:
In his majority opinion (joined by Judge Mary Beck Briscoe), Judge Gregory A. Phillips cites with approval the district court’s objection that the ordinance “perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not.” In a classic false dichotomy, Phillips concludes that the city’s “professed interest in protecting children derives not from any morphological differences between men’s and women’s breasts but from negative stereotypes depicting women’s breasts, but not men’s breasts, as sex objects.” Ditto for “notions of morality” that might underlie the law.
The minority opinion, which Whelan quotes at length, is, as he points out, quite sensible. The difference between the two opinions, I would add, comes down to the majority’s acceptance of this absurd dogma: there is no natural difference between women and men worth noticing. Nearly everything that we used to attribute to sexual difference is explicable in terms of gender — which, when the term is appropriated from grammar and applied to human beings (as it first was ca. 1960), means that it is arbitrary . . . a social construct . . . and nothing more. Therefore, the law cannot take cognizance of the differences between women and men.
What is missing from the majority’s opinion is a recognition that the artificial mores and manners that we construct with an eye to the sexual differences supplied by nature are constructed on the foundation of those natural differences. These mores and manners differ somewhat from one society to another, but there is no civilization that fails to articulate mores and manners of this sort, and that is telling. Moreover, the majority willfully ignores the fact that, within this astonishing diversity of mores and manners, there is considerable uniformity and that this uniformity is a product of rumination concerning the import of natural sexual differences on the part of a vast number of human beings who are on other matters at odds.
The sad truth is that the dogma that provided the foundation for the 10th circuit’s decision is shared by nearly everyone who teaches at the colleges and universities in this country and that the credentialed elite produced by these institutions is by and large on board with this nonsense. What makes it particularly astonishing is that this dogma has gradually become established in an era in which students of biology have gone the other direction — suggesting that nature, rather than nurture, is the primary influence on the way we customarily think and the way we live. On the one side, there is ideology. On the other, there is science. We as a country are choosing the former.
I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will overturn this decision, which is at odds with the positions taken by other circuits. But we should not kid ourselves about what lies ahead.
Welcome to the second installment on a discussion about the penis. I am a nurse with almost ten years of experience, now. I have probably seen over 3,000 penises during my career and have a decent idea of what is normal and abnormal due to my exposure. While many men may fret and concern themselves […]
Kimberly Resnick Anderson, licensed sex therapist, and Bridget get real about the many issues facing couples in today’s modern world, from how common sexless marriages are, to power dynamics the #metoo movement and exploitation, to the impact of porn on men’s sexual function – particularly the neurological impact it can have on young men. Nothing […]
God designed our private parts, didn’t he? As designed, protection would seem to be the primary purpose. Am I wrong? Full disclosure—I do not find tattoos, body piercings, or any other efforts to change the body to be appealing. I consider the health risks, being an insulin-dependent diabetic, to be too great for myself, and […]
David Marcus on defining gender. WIRED and other progressive outlets are coming out against chromosomes and anatomy as being…anti-science? Progressives are barbarously enabling and encouraging mental illness and bodily mutilation. People that need help, often children, are being inflicted with irreversible mental and physical harm in an attempt to bend reality to fantasy. A rejection […]
@katebraestrup got a lot of love a while back on her post, “Thoughts From a Former Dysphoric”. My impression upon reading it was she was describing gender nonconformity, not dysphoria. Our dear Kate was a tomboy, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Dysphoria ought to mean deep discomfort, though, not just being a little different. The red tribe has an interest in both downplaying and, well, up playing “gender dysphoria”. Describing tomboyishness as “dysphoria” both downplays and up plays the condition: First, tomboyishness is not so bad, not really all that dysphoric, so what are people complaining about? Second, if every tomboy becomes convinced she’s “gender dysphoric” then oh my sweet Jesus on rollerskates, what is this world coming to?!! Before you know it, there’ll be fire and brimstone coming down from the skies; rivers and seas boiling; forty years of darkness; earthquakes, volcanoes; the dead rising from the grave; human sacrifice; dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!
What about those who aren’t just tomboys, or their male equivalent, but truly unhappy in their birth sex, perhaps with good reason? Even then, even though their discomfort is real, they may find copping into gender conformity a more sensible solution than, as @henryracette put it, copping out of it.
I don’t mean to sound like Admiral Motti aboard the Death Star in a New Hope but the attempt by feminists to organize a nation wide sex strike for the purpose of defending the institution of abortion is a useless gesture. That is not to say that a sex strike could not work or to […]
Marriage and Love In high school my friend Josh and I once discussed marriage and love. Was true love even real? Do people marry other people for reasons of character or more material considerations? Was anyone even capable of keeping their virginity for marriage? He and I had different answers to these questions. Josh believed […]
When I was a little girl, I wanted badly to be a boy. Boys got to play the games I wanted to play and had an exclusive claim on the adjectives I hoped to apply to my adult self, such as courageous, honorable and adventurous. I was in the wrong body to be what I wanted to be.
I shudder now to think what would have happened to me had my parents been encouraged, by childrearing experts and the general culture, to take me seriously when I vociferously and persistently declared my desire to be a boy.
My discovery of feminism cured my gender dysphoria. The problem, as the ’70s-era feminists defined it, wasn’t that my female body and individual personality were mismatched, but that the definitions of female and male were unnecessarily and irrationally narrow and pinched.
Feminism declared that I could play baseball and cops ‘n’ robbers, dream of any number of interesting and noble futures, be completely myself, and yet be a completely normal female too. This was liberating.
Naturally, feminist theory didn’t solve all the problems of embodied female life. Biology is what it is: I still had to endure menstruation; rape was a seemingly omnipresent threat (the statistics are a whole lot better now, FYI), and, when the time came, the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and childrearing definitely got in the way of my becoming a rodeo rider, relief pitcher for the Orioles, or an FBI agent.
Well, that’s life.
Which is to say; that’s biology. And it is biology that the transgendered are struggling so desperately against, which essentially means they are mad at life itself. Or, specifically, that part of life that is most relentlessly gendered because genitals=genesis=genes=generation=regeneration … the original and still the best explanation for why little boys have lingams and little girls have yonis.
Yes, we humans are astonishingly plastic but remain, nonetheless, sexually dimorphic mammalian creatures. Just like chimpanzees, chipmunks, and Chihuahuas, we reproduce by means of sexual intercourse as it is enacted by persons defined as male and female by anatomy and chromosomes.
Clearly, human beings can decide not to reproduce — traditionally, by refraining from heterosexual intercourse but also by using our minds to invent workarounds. We can be involuntarily sterile, for that matter, but the essential anatomy and physiology that distinguishes — absolutely — male from female, and the purpose for that distinction remains. Celibate nuns and lesbians still menstruate and ovulate; gay men and men who believe themselves to be women nonetheless produce sperm.
As a little girl, I wanted to be what I imagined a boy was. Having never been a boy, I didn’t really know. And, I would posit — with all due respect and much, much sympathy — that a man cannot be or become a woman, or genuinely experience life as a woman. He can only experience life as he imagines a woman experiences it.
Why, though, can he do this? Why can the impression that a man — Caitlyn Jenner, say — actually is a woman be so incredibly powerful?
As a working hypothesis, the disorders of our minds arise out of our mental capabilities. There has to be an ability that precedes the disability. I nominate empathetic imagination as the ability gone awry in the transgendered mind.
During the Olympics, I watched a figure skater fly around the ice and leap into the air, spinning then landing lightly on one blade and swirling away: I didn’t just apprehend it with my eyes and mind, I felt it in my body. For long seconds, it was as if all I’d have to do is leap up from my comfy chair, throw on a pair of skates and my limbs would know how to do that magical thing.
Indeed, this may be why we are capable of finding joy in watching sports (or, for that matter, porn) because we can imagine ourselves into other bodies. Heck, we can imagine ourselves into the bodies of animals: the best equestriennes, dog trainers, and lion whisperers are surely those who teeter on the edge of identifying “as” rather than merely “with” their animals.
As an adult, I am a happily female mother of six adult children who looks forward with stereotypical eagerness to being a grandmother. And yet, I work primarily and gladly with men — specifically the courageous, honorable, adventurous men who work as game wardens in the Maine woods. I am frequently, and very comfortably, the only woman in a roomful of people and often the only woman for miles of snowy, woodland “around.”
The imaginative empathy that allows me to be with them might be on the continuum with that which once demanded I be them, no?
Activists who scornfully declare that a white, straight, middle-class man cannot possibly understand what it is like to be black, gay, poor, or female … are wrong.
That’s what the transgenderism “movement” demonstrates — not that we can or should determine our own gender (or race or whatever) “identity,” but that human beings are indeed capable of profound empathetic imagination. Because we can imagine ourselves into our neighbor’s lives, God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” is difficult … but it’s not actually impossible.
The transgendered provide perhaps extreme demonstrations of what is our common and sacred gift. Tyrants of various stripes urge us to suppress that talent — don’t feel sympathy for the deported Jews! Don’t imagine yourself an occupant of that basket of deplorables! Christ, however, asked us to nurture and encourage our capacity to truly see, truly understand and in some sense, at least for a long second, be and therefore truly love: it is the gift of which he was both giver and exemplar.
Christianity and Eros: Essays on the Theme of Sexual Love, by Philip Sherrard, first published in 1976, is a modest attempt by an Orthodox theologian to begin to address the “sacramental potentiality of sexual love” from a Christian perspective, to correct what the author sees as several ways Christian thought has mis-stepped or erred over […]
@henryracette ends a recent editorial with a plea to “re-establish the idea that women are, once again, prizes to be won by men.” I’m sure Henry means well by this, but women playing the role of men’s sexual prizes strikes me as part of the problem, not the solution, at least where women’s regrets about sex are concerned. Besides the fact that a man who believed he had “earned his prize” might be less inclined to take “no” for an answer, the short story “Cat Person” suggests that women seeing themselves as a sexual prize for men may be yet another prompt for women to “bestow” the “prize” of themselves unwisely, simply to gratify their own image of themselves as men’s “prize”.
Margot is the protagonist of “Cat Person.” Margot, a college student, flirts with Robert, an older man who’s no Master of the Universe. Robert’s not ripped, or powerful, or wealthy, just an ordinary Joe Margot met by chance, a Joe whom Margot knows little about, despite the two of them having struck up an elaborate texting correspondence. Robert, who says he has two cats, is a beguilingly witty texter. In person, though, Robert seems awkward, less than what Margot hoped from their texting. At times, Margot even seems to judge Robert as a loser, and yet she sleeps with him. Why? Chiefly, it seems, because she falls under the spell of her own vanity: she sees herself as Robert’s prize and falls in love with herself in that role.
What arouses Margot most about Robert isn’t Robert himself, but how Robert sees her. It’s not until she believes he has treated her “as though she were something precious” outside a 7-Eleven that she begins to feel “a sparkly lightness… the sign of an incipient crush.” The next moment she feels magic with him in person (and not via text) likewise focuses on how she sees Robert seeing her:
But, when Robert saw her face crumpling, a kind of magic happened. All the tension drained out of his posture; he stood up straight and wrapped his bearlike arms around her. “Oh, sweetheart,” he said. “Oh, honey, it’s O.K., it’s all right. Please don’t feel bad.” She let herself be folded against him, and she was flooded with the same feeling she’d had outside the 7-Eleven—that she was a delicate, precious thing he was afraid he might break. He kissed the top of her head, and she laughed and wiped her tears away.
“I can’t believe I’m crying because I didn’t get into a bar,” she said. “You must think I’m such an idiot.” But she knew he didn’t think that, from the way he was gazing at her; in his eyes, she could see how pretty she looked, smiling through her tears in the chalky glow of the streetlight, with a few flakes of snow coming down.
When she begins to imagine what sex with Robert would be like, although she guesses (correctly) she wouldn’t find sex with him satisfying, what excites her is “imagining how excited he would be, how hungry and eager to impress her”. When he reacts to her
as if she were something too bright and painful to look at,
she finds that
sexy, too, being made to feel like a kind of irresistible temptation.
Once Margot ends up in his bedroom, with him undressing, she finds herself overwhelmed by her predicament:
[T]he thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming; it would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon. It wasn’t that she was scared he would try to force her to do something against her will but that insisting that they stop now, after everything she’d done to push this forward, would make her seem spoiled and capricious, as if she’d ordered something at a restaurant and then, once the food arrived, had changed her mind and sent it back.
Nonetheless, seeing herself as his prize is what gets her stalled motor running again:
As they kissed, she found herself carried away by a fantasy of such pure ego that she could hardly admit even to herself that she was having it. Look at this beautiful girl, she imagined him thinking. She’s so perfect, her body is perfect, everything about her is perfect, she’s only twenty years old, her skin is flawless, I want her so badly, I want her more than I’ve ever wanted anyone else, I want her so bad I might die.
The more she imagined his arousal, the more turned-on she got
When things stall again, she imagines herself “herself from above, naked and spread-eagled” while Robert touches her. Though the image disgusts and humiliates her, it still manages to fill her with “a kind of perverse cousin to arousal,” which is apparently enough to keep the tryst going.
Again and again, seeing herself as a sexual prize motivates Margot to press forward with Robert, no matter how little she desires Robert for himself or how much she might regret it later. If Margot were simply out for her own pleasure, and less fixated on how lavish a prize Robert must find her, she’d be less motivated to go so far with him so fast. But Margot is lost in her own fantasy, where she stars as some man’s prize – which man’s prize seems to matter less than that the prize is her.
Perhaps if Margot also believed marriage were a prerequisite for sex, both she and Robert would be less harmed by her role as sexual prize. After all, marriage forces you to consider who the other person is and whether you could stand a lifetime of him – or, for that matter, whether he could stand a lifetime of you. No matter how fixated a woman might be on her role as sexual prize during the honeymoon, no matter how much that fantasy might stroke her ego, it’s difficult to get to a honeymoon on ego alone. Even if Margot weren’t waiting all the way ’til marriage for sex, if she saw her role in dating as delaying sex, that would still buy her time to question whether the ego-stroke of being a man’s sex-prize is reason enough for sex with him. In both these cases, it’s the willingness to delay sex that makes women’s playing the role of sexual prize acceptably conservative. By itself, the role of woman as sexual prize has little to offer those of conservative sensibilities.
Treating a woman as if she’s your prize is a fantastic way to get a woman’s attention, true. A man looking to bowl a woman over for quick seduction could do worse than treat her as if she were some rare carved gem, some priceless treasure. Do that to a susceptible woman, and you might soon have her on her knees – if not kneeling to you, then to her deity of choice, begging for the strength to resist you. But it’s not her vision of herself as a prize to be won by men that would prompt her to resist your sexual advances. It would have to be something else. Perhaps her sense that her worth is not in whether she is a prize to be won by men. Perhaps some other shyness or modesty. Indeed, if she disagreed with your claim that she’s the sex-prize you’ve been anticipating, that by itself might be enough to render her bashful: nobody wishes to be revealed as a sexual disappointment.
Women are more vulnerable than men in important respects, so it makes sense for the notion of female honor to reflect that. Because women are more vulnerable, it makes sense for women to screen men carefully, to be sexually reticent, to consider their sexual reticence a part of their feminine honor. While we could call the screening process a test of male “worthiness”, it’s not the same as envisioning women’s role as “prizes to be won by men”.
Even saying women’s screening of men measures “worthiness” is slightly problematic: there are, after all, many worthy men we may have to screen out. I can count more men I’ve met who seemed worthy of me than I can those who proved clearly unworthy. And yet I’m married to one man and expect that marriage to last a lifetime. If I were a prize to be awarded to the worthiest man, which man should I have gone to? And where would I get social permission to refuse offering my body as a prize to any man who met my threshold of worthiness?
Now that I’m married, I can resort to niceties like reasoning that any man other than my husband who expected me to offer my body to him would by his very expectation prove himself unworthy. But when I was single, it wasn’t so simple. Moreover, men are people in their own right, and expecting me to value their worthiness purely in terms of their mate-value to me is really too ridiculous! If I thought I risked making a worthy man seriously unhappy if we coupled, should I yield? In practice, I did not. That decision carries wistfulness, but no regret.
That women should consider themselves “worth the wait” and hence delay sex might strike a man as equivalent to “the idea that women are, once again, prizes to be won by men.” But if we wish young women to behave the way I think we want them to, I would not teach them that they’re prizes to be won by men. Nor, really, would I teach young men that lesson, either, to spare young men the heartbreak, frustration, and anger of believing they’d earned their prize, only to have their prize turn them down.
My husband and I met a potential new landlord yesterday, and without either of us realizing it, each of us walked away with very different impressions of what had happened during the meeting. The meeting was an ambiguous image, like the rabbit-duck or old-woman-young-woman illusion. Many human meetings are like that, particularly between the sexes.
Those of us who occasionally follow what feminists are saying, if only as reconnaissance, may have heard of the “missing stair problem” (warning: link not entirely SFW). Imagine a house with a poorly-lit stairway containing a missing stair. Everyone who lives there knows to step over the missing stair. Everyone who visits regularly knows about the stair, too. But a new visitor would not know, and if not told in time, might stumble and fall. Some people, the analogy goes, are like that missing stair – others must carefully work around them to avoid getting hurt, and the hazard they pose is simply taken for granted by those in the know. Sexual predators, in particular, are likened to the missing stair, especially sexual predators who aren’t “lone wolves” but who have ingratiated themselves into a community, where they become a fixture, and others take on the duty of attempting to protect innocent members from the predator (while also protecting the predator from social ostracism or having to change his ways) rather than “fixing the stair” by refusing to tolerate his predatory behavior.
Eventually you take it for granted that working around this guy is just a fact of life, and if he hurts someone, that’s the fault of whoever didn’t apply the workarounds correctly.
I have seen this happen. Most memorably at a church.
Myriad caddish, wolfish, or creepy behaviors fall short of being criminal, while some go beyond merely overstepping moral bounds and actually violate the law. Some guys are merely awkward and sometimes accidentally overstep bounds without meaning to. Others use ambiguity and the pretext of accident as cover for deliberately overstepping boundaries. The truly predatory are masters of the art of exploiting social ambiguity to take advantage, but many young men in love or at least in lust are a mix of trying to take advantage while also being rather overwhelmed themselves. How young women ought to act when surprised by – let’s just call it caddishness – is obviously an endlessly absorbing topic of conversation.
Evidently, young women should be schooled in defensive womaning, just as we school youths in defensive driving. It seems that girls used to get defensive womaning lessons, but we’ve dropped the ball with the past few generations:
I was a teenager in the late 1970s, long past the great awakening (sexual intercourse began in 1963, which was plenty of time for me), but as far away from Girl Power as World War I was from the Tet Offensive. The great girl-shaping institutions, significantly the magazines and advice books and novels that I devoured, were decades away from being handed over to actual girls and young women to write and edit, and they were still filled with the cautionary advice and moralistic codes of the ’50s…
…They told us over and over again that if a man tried to push you into anything you didn’t want, even just a kiss, you told him flat out you weren’t doing it. If he kept going, you got away from him. You were always to have “mad money” with you: cab fare in case he got “fresh” and then refused to drive you home. They told you to slap him if you had to; they told you to get out of the car and start wailing if you had to. They told you to do whatever it took to stop him from using your body in any way you didn’t want, and under no circumstances to go down without a fight. In so many ways, compared with today’s young women, we were weak; we were being prepared for being wives and mothers, not occupants of the C-Suite. But as far as getting away from a man who was trying to pressure us into sex we didn’t want, we were strong.
Neither liberals nor conservatives have given girls great lessons in defensive womaning lately. Anyone on the Right can recite the litany of what makes the Left’s lessons to young women bad – generally some variation on “this lesson encourages young women to avoid taking responsibility for themselves”. The Right’s lessons to young women don’t share a unifying flaw. Some lessons are too moralistic (“don’t do bad things and you won’t have to worry”). Some suffer from not being moral enough (“boys will be boys” or “experience is the best teacher!”). Advice on when and how young women should resort to violence in defense of their innocence tends to be conflicting: As conservatives, we don’t want to say violence is never the answer, but preparing young women to use violence to effectively deter unwanted sexual advances is, in fact, tricky, and it’s not really surprising when the underprepared freeze, especially when a strong desire to do violence to the one wronging them (a desire conservatives encourage) clashes with inexperience in handling sexually-charged scenarios (inexperience conservatives also encourage, since we value sexual innocence).
While plenty of people seem worried about stranger rape, the caddish behavior women find themselves (successfully or unsuccessfully) fending off typically comes from acquaintances. Even sources highly skeptical about what counts as rape or assault acknowledge that most sexual assaults occur between acquaintances. Furthermore, a great many invasions of personal space that shouldn’t be prosecuted as assault (after all, the law cannot demand that men be able to read minds, or decipher every subtle cue) are nonetheless morally violating, and understandably leave young women feeling wronged when they occur.
We’re conservatives: we more than any other group ought to recognize that the law does not exist to right all wrongs. And this means we ought to be able to understand that young women can be sexually traduced even when no crime has occurred; that their sense of having been wronged isn’t necessarily in error, even when the vocabulary they use to describe the wrong (such as “assault” when it’s not assault) is grievously in error.
Conservatives generally suspect more damage is done by labeling a sexual encounter as assault when it isn’t than is done by failing to label it assault when it is. We can believe this while still acknowledging that not every mislabeling of an incident as assault is terribly inaccurate, nor are the men involved in such incidents innocent of wrong just because they’re innocent of a crime.
Which brings me back to missing stairs. A dude doesn’t have to be a criminal to be sexually predatory. Because we’ll never create a world free of sexual predation, of course we want to equip youth – and young women in particular – with skills to fend it off: hence defensive womaning. But neither should we tolerate a world where it’s everyone else’s job but the sexual predator’s to prevent sexual predation from happening. So, while we can teach young women truisms like guys are on average more socially clueless than girls, and can’t be trusted to respect every soft refusal, we rightfully won’t be believed if we push such lessons too far.
If we treat the disparity between men and women’s social skills as so great that we sound as if we’re claiming women are the ones responsible each time “clueless” men wishfully misinterpret women’s cues as sexual when they aren’t (rather than men being primarily responsible for themselves), we rightfully won’t be believed. The truth is, plenty of men are capable of understanding subtler social cues, at least when it’s convenient for them to do so, and while there are plenty of awkward young men out there, it’s also common for predators – or to use more neutral terminology, the sexually over-eager – to use “I didn’t geddit” as cover as long as they think they can get away with it.
If we treat young women’s freezing or hesitation in the face of shocking scenarios as something that only happens to babies with “no moral agency” – as if it’s impossible to be an adult who froze – we rightfully won’t be believed. If we keep on yammering on about women’s duty to carefully step over each missing stair, but we’re mysteriously silent on ever fixing a missing stair, we rightfully won’t be believed.
Even today, there are times when the plea, “Could we stop treating it as women’s duty to learn the art of carefully stepping around every missing stair and sometimes just fix the goddamn staircase instead?!” is a sensible one. This may come as a shock, but just because it’s a plea feminists make doesn’t automatically make it wrong.
Laid up with some injuries, figure I might as well write something provocative so I can enjoy the show.
I’m a single guy. Let’s assume that I do want to get married and have kids. Safe assumption. Let’s walk through the process as modern feminism has wrought it.
You ask as girl out. As the kidnapper from Big Jake has it, if anything happens, your fault my fault nobody’s fault at all, the boy dies. Your Hollywood/media creep can get away with anything but the rest of us take a chance with the mildest of passes. Its like pissing in a minefield, sure the odds are low, but couldn’t you do something less dangerous?
Oh, and not just any girl. If she’s not in your age bracket or already taken or doesn’t click with you or just isn’t desirable because she’s a shrieking feminist harpy then game over, go back to square one. Heck, maybe she just doesn’t like you.
Then, if you do get a girl, she takes up your free time. Whipping noises aside there’s a real opportunity cost to maintaining a relationship. If you’re not devoting your free time to thinking about keeping her happy you won’t have a relationship long.
Let’s say you do get married. Strictly from the numbers there’s a good chance you won’t stay married. When you do get divorced she’s getting half your stuff, minimum, and the kids because she’s the woman.
Lets say I navigate that Scylla and Charybdis, what’s my reward at the end? A modern girl whose slept with de minimis three guys before me, who insists that I do the cleaning and laundry, who pays me no respect but demands an instant kowtow at any slight. So, a modern girl.
That’s not to say there aren’t good girls out there. That they have no problems in the dating market. The rules that make it impossible for men also make it impossible for women as a logical consequence.
This all brings me back to the original question. Given the costs versus the rewards, why bother?
Do you know what all the women above have in common? They are all teachers, at K-12 level, who have been arrested for having sexual relationships with their students. All of those students were under 18 years of age. A teacher has power over her students, so can order them to do things that they […]
With all the men being taken down by past exploits caused by their sexual drive (rightly so in all too many cases) I started to look for symmetry in this situation. While I believe that men and women are different in many ways I have never thought women were morally superior to men. It is […]
“He drinks because of you.” Even knowing now what I didn’t know then, the claim stinks of false blame, though youth and beauty are said to have great power over those who admire them. Young I was. But beautiful? Not really, I thought. A great many budding young women are kept far too busy frantically scrambling to keep the less-beautiful parts of puberty from turning their bodies into an embarrassment to take the extra step of deliberately using their bodies to gain power over others. Some girls absolutely are Machiavellian little minxes equipped to use “sexiness” to manipulate others before they’re even old enough to drive. Other girls are as absolutely not: these latter are innocents in a society that still claims (however implausibly) to value innocence. And of course, gals come in all stages in between.
Toddlers are innocent. Toddlers are hilarious – and destructive – because they haven’t yet figured out their own agency. Our own toddler likes nothing better than to make something “happen” – but he has little idea what, or why. He’s more powerful than he knows, which adds to the havoc. Much innocence comes from simply not knowing yet what the hell you’re doing. While babies’ innocence of basic motor coordination, language, literacy, and social skills is cute, it’s not inherently valuable. Indeed, the quicker children outgrow that kind of innocence, the better. But we do value youngsters’ sexual innocence. We also value young adults’ sexual agency. Puberty is sexual toddlerhood, only we’d really rather not have our teens exploring the world with their genitals the way toddlers do with their mouths. Fortunately, children are, at least in theory, quite grown up in other ways by the time puberty hits; in theory, able to apply lessons they’ve learned about their agency in other spheres to sexual agency; in theory, able to use reason to assert their sexual agency while maintaining their sexual innocence. In practice, though, developing sexual agency while maintaining innocence is tricky, especially absent wise counsel.
Conservatives want youth – but especially, let’s be honest, young women – to exercise more agency in guarding their genitalia. Even libertine conservatives want today’s young women to recognize their sexual agency better, and most conservatives would also like to narrow the gap between the age at which women lose sexual innocence and the age at which they marry, through some combination of earlier marriage and later loss of virginity. We want this not primarily to control women (though for some, control is part of the appeal), but to make human life generally more flourishing – for women, too. One problem, though, is that, while lack of awareness of one’s own sexual power isn’t all there is to innocence, it’s part of it.
We often hear that women’s dress reflects knowing use of their sexual power: women dress “sexy” because they know the power it has over men. Well, no, not all women do, particularly young, innocent women. Girls know being “ornamental” is a role young women are expected to fulfill. Some young women know exactly how that role gives them social power. Others – more innocent – truly do not. They dress “ornamental” in order to play-act a role expected of them without understanding what the role is and the powers it has. The very act of playing the part is educative: young women will eventually learn, if only through trial and error, what presenting oneself as alluring is more-or-less about. But just as parents who’ll happily let their toddler accumulate some scrapes and bruises in the course of his play, so that he learns from his mistakes, still step in to save their toddler from worse harm, those interested in young women having an innocence left to defend must naturally take an interest in guarding young women from what would severely compromise it, even – especially – when the young women are too innocent to have developed the awareness to effectively guard themselves.
When Tocqueville visited the United States, he noticed that American girls were well-educated sexually. Not because they had an encyclopedic knowledge of contraceptive methods and various kinks, but because they were guided into maturity in a way that encouraged them to exercise agency over what was then quaintly called their virtue:
In France, where remnants of every age are still so strangely mingled in the opinions and tastes of the people, women commonly receive a reserved, retired, and almost cloistral education, as they did in aristocratic times; and then they are suddenly abandoned, without a guide and without assistance, in the midst of all the irregularities inseparable from democratic society. The Americans are more consistent. They have found out that in a democracy the independence of individuals cannot fail to be very great, youth premature, tastes ill-restrained, customs fleeting, public opinion often unsettled and powerless, paternal authority weak, and marital authority contested. Under these circumstances, believing that they had little chance of repressing in woman the most vehement passions of the human heart, they held that the surer way was to teach her the art of combating those passions for herself. As they could not prevent her virtue from being exposed to frequent danger, they determined that she should know how best to defend it; and more reliance was placed on the free vigor of her will than on safeguards which have been shaken or overthrown. Instead, then, of inculcating mistrust of herself, they constantly seek to enhance their confidence in her own strength of character. As it is neither possible nor desirable to keep a young woman in perpetual or complete ignorance, they hasten to give her a precocious knowledge on all subjects. Far from hiding the corruptions of the world from her, they prefer that she should see them at once and train herself to shun them; and they hold it of more importance to protect her conduct than to be over-scrupulous of her innocence.
Well, that was then, and this is now, and these days, I’d say plenty of American girls no longer benefit from the sexual education Tocqueville describes. For all the lip-service paid to the claim, “I can do what I want with my own body,” Mark Regnerus notes that a substantial fraction – 25% in one national study – of American women describe their loss of virginity as neither forced nor wanted. While this evidence that women can still distinguish between regrettable and forced sex ought to reassure the menfolk, if you know you can do what you want with your own body, and nobody’s forcing you, why do what you don’t want?
Why, if these young women have sexual agency, are they not using it? For all the “girl power” lessons they’ve gotten, Regnerus often observes that today’s American girls don’t see themselves as having much sexual power, especially when they’re young and inexperienced.
If youth believe they’re expected to discover their sexual power through simply having sex (this is the “use your genitals the way toddlers do their mouths” method), it shouldn’t be at all surprising when the sexually innocent are also quite innocent of their sexual power. Tocqueville, though, described an America where girls could learn how to defend their virtue while presumably still having a virtue left to defend: obviously, it’s possible to arrange lessons short of hide-the-sausage which might serviceably give young women enough inkling of their sexual power to permit them some mastery over it. What else might leave a young woman so unaware of the power she actually has that she fails to exercise it, despite all the rhetoric telling her she is and ought to be empowered?
Speaking just for myself, I had no idea when I was younger (and perhaps still don’t really know) how imperfect a young woman’s body can be while still being plenty arousing to many men. I didn’t grasp how many men don’t notice flaws that are perfectly obvious to any woman, and how much youth all by itself provides its own beauty, even to ugly ducklings.
I saw “beauty” as an act to put on because it was socially expected – a rather fraudulent act, too, when I did it: I didn’t picture myself as ugly, exactly, merely as not-beautiful, as having something to hide. Men were attracted to beauty, I had learned, and I simply wasn’t beautiful enough, I thought, to have much power over men. (I was also dimly and cynically aware that men may also find convenience attractive, but the prospect of serving as little more than a convenient collection of holes hardly seemed like “empowerment”.) Besides blithely assuming I couldn’t exercise much sexual power over men, I didn’t want to exercise such power, either – the “mean girls” I noticed exercising that kind of power over others were not the people I wanted to emulate. I liked guys. I admired them. I didn’t get my jollies trying to control them.
It’s quite possible to make yourself more attractive, to flirt and tease, without really knowing what all the coquetry is for – without quite realizing it’s for giving yourself the same kind of dangerous powers over others that others might have over you. It’s difficult to blame people for failing to control a power they don’t know they have. Laws cannot be geared toward protecting humanity’s most outstandingly naive individuals since the most naive are too far from the norm to take priority over the needs of normal people. But within some range of “normal”, we expect laws to err on the side of favoring the innocent. Hence, we expect laws to protect younger postpubescent girls sexually, despite the fact that they’re physically “ready” and many of them are already savvy enough to know exactly what they’re doing with their “readiness”: Many other, more innocent, girls of the same age don’t yet realize the postpubescent power they have, and consequently there’s less justice in permitting the Gods of the Copybook Headings to punish them severely for their innocence.
Babbling may not just be a stage in language acquisition, but a stage in any autonomous mastery – motor babbling, for example, is a means of autonomous machine learning. Conservatives caution young women to be careful about the sexual signals they send, but when you’re innocent enough, the “signals” you send are just so much babbling. I remained innocent a long time and often found myself confounded by complaints I had been sending specific signals when, as far as I knew, I hadn’t been. Like the complaint I’d driven a fellow undergraduate to drink merely by talking to him – and holding his hand once – before we went our separate ways: I would like to think that, in order to be a femme fatale, a girl at least has to put some effort into it.
A guy might object, well, I was putting effort into it. My appearance, for example.
Unrealistic standards of beauty attract a lot of blame, though it’s often not clear exactly what for. I’m beginning to wonder if one thing unrealistic beauty-standards might rightfully be blamed for is this tendency for modern American girls in the first bloom of sexual maturity to radically underestimate – and hence fail to own – the power they have over men. I consumed less pop-culture trash than many girls do, but even I got the impression that I’d be fairly disgusting to everyone (nonsexually, too) unless I could approximate a beauty I wasn’t born with – indeed, I considered myself a grim-enough case that’d I’d have to work extra just to be perceived as physically “normal” and not a pariah. Given this, why would I think I had the kind of beauty that could mesmerize men? I wouldn’t. Guys attributing that kind of power to me quite naturally struck me as riotously off their onion. And also as unfair: as blaming me for a desire to dominate others I did not have.
Meanwhile, what the guys saw was a gal who, despite no great natural gifts, was trying awfully hard to make herself attractive… to them sexually, they concluded – because why wouldn’t they? How could I not know the power of my youth and beauty (such as it was)? After all, it was perfectly obvious to them.
Douglas Murray recently wrote of one young man’s attempt to play a player – to capitalize on an older man’s sexual interest while worming out of the “obligation” to “repay” that interest with sexual favors. Murray observed,
The belief that power lies only — or only meaningfully — with older, richer, more “powerful” men and that these prey on younger, prettier, more vulnerable people is not just wrong because it is a construct of the modern, misandrist Left. It is wrong because it entirely ignores the form of (for want of a better term) bottom-up power that also exists. That is the form of power that attractive young women as well as men are capable of deploying in order to make some people do almost anything to gain their approval. As well as being observable in everyday life, it is also the subject of a great deal of art, as well as many novels and operas (both comic and tragic).
Only once did I try to play a player, and I found it terrifying. Fortunately, some combination of shy stubbornness and abject terror kept me from repaying his quid with my quo, until his abrupt disappearance. I’d say the whole affair scared the pants off me, only the result was more like it scared the pants firmly on me, which may have explained his vexation right before he vanished.
Was I exercising power over this fellow? At the time, I couldn’t discount the possibility I’d caught his interest because I was an easy mark – in his eyes, a pliable waif (which I almost proved to be, to my chagrin). That is, I suspected my sexual “power” over him might be no more than my convenience and relative powerlessness. Which isn’t to say he abused or exploited me – he didn’t. But the lessons I learned about power from the encounter weren’t, “Wow, I have sexual power over this guy!” Instead, I learned I had power over myself (though not as much as I’d hoped) – power to avoid falling entirely under a charming man’s spell, though not the self-mastery to avoid it with any dignity. Having gotten in over my head with this fellow, I was far too preoccupied with exercising self-control to consider whether I had control over him.
Whatever his intentions, he was the more experienced one – the player – while my knowledge consisted of little more than the broad truism that innocents like me should be wary around players like him. The thought that I was exercising power over him, too – that he had to worry about my approval – still makes me laugh. Of course, I knew – as he could not – that he already had my approval, in quantities great enough to cause me to doubt my self-mastery and even sanity. Sure, maybe I did have far more power over him than I knew – but if so, the fact that I didn’t know it was precisely the problem: we can’t plan to act on powers we don’t know we have.
The more experienced have had more chance to master the powers of their attractiveness, and that mastery is itself a power. While of course youth and beauty have power, the young have had less time to learn what those powers do. Often, the young and inexperienced ought to know better, in the sense that they ought to have listened when their elders warned them, but those older and more experienced really ought to know better – firsthand. No wonder we’re inherently less inclined to give an older party in a sexual scandal as much benefit of the doubt as a youthful party, no matter how attractive or intelligent the youth. Even wayward, fairly experienced youth seems likely to be less experienced than the sort of older person who considers such youth fair game.
Neither youthful innocence nor unrealistic standards of beauty fully explain, though, why so many of today’s youngest American women perceive themselves as sexually powerless enough to doormat themselves into having sex that’s neither forced wanted, a state of affairs that ought to disgust both those who value chastity and those who value individual autonomy.
While we could blame these young women for their pathetic self-assessment that they’re so powerless, we might also ask what they learned that taught them to see themselves this way – and I doubt that bugbears like “misandry”, “SJWs”, “self-esteem”, and “snowflake culture” are the only answers. Specifically, we might ask what other lessons girls could be learning instead to teach them to master their powers of youth and beauty without them having to sow their oats like wild young men, even if reliable contraception has permanently split the mating marketplace. America’s contemporary conservative Christian culture at least tries to offer youth alternative lessons here, although, in my opinion – and in Regnerus’s gathered evidence – with underwhelming success. Despite Christ’s admonition to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves, teaching innocent young girls to be sexually “shrewd” doesn’t sound, at first blush, like what Jesus would do! But if innocents cannot be taught to be shrewd while they’re still innocent, why should we expect them to defend their innocence successfully enough to make it truly their own?
I have been sitting on this post for quite a while, but the Roy Moore accusations really bring the lie to our stupidity when it comes to teenagers, sex, and consent. In many ways, this involves many issues. It has been my contention for a long time that treating teenagers like kids makes them ineffective adults. Why do we treat teenagers like kids? Because their brains are going through huge developmental changes.
Yet those huge developmental changes don’t keep us from saturating in-utero fetuses, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers with a smorgasbord of information and education: classical music, books, mathematics, languages … you name it, we throw it at them. Why? Because some insane amount of the brain is developed by the age of three or four. Neural plasticity thinks that what’s baked into the process makes kids more likely to succeed in those areas later in life.
Ok, but teenagers can’t? When we talk about what happened to our young adults, maybe it shouldn’t be too hard to show that this concept of adolescence has had a huge detrimental effect on them. They aren’t children. They are adults in training. And everyone knows this. How do I know everyone knows this?
Because when someone brings up teaching teenagers abstinence, we think those stupid fuddy-duddies have their heads in the sand. “Don’t you know they are doing it anyway?” we say, derisively. Hmm … do you think its ok for children to be having sex with children? What’s your limit? When is it to early for kids to have sex with kids? Can we get all Brave New World and go with three-four year olds? Or does that offend your sensibilities a little too much? The Germans did it. We like emulating Europe, right? Oh, but its Germany. They disqualified themselves on moral uprightness with Nazis. So maybe eight? Eleven?
According to one of our members, pediatricians comment with complete neutrality on how she should expect her 11-year-old daughter is having sex. Really? I could have sworn the age was 15. At least it was when I was a kid. I was still playing with dolls at 11. My sex fantasies at that age involved dreaming of a girl in the 1860s, sleeping by the fire in a heavy dress, with some cowboy cuddling her. Everyone is fully dressed, FYI. Boom, pregnant. How’s that for 11-year-olds and sex?
Oh, I had it all figured out by the time I reached puberty. Don’t let my innocent, childlike fantasies fool you. I most certainly was a child at 11. And I’m quite certain I was a child at 13 and 14, too, albeit a pretty mature one. When I was 15, I had a crush on my softball coach. I remember my sister confiding in me on how hot Coach H was. Oh, absolutely, I agreed (I was 16, by then … my sister had just started high school). “Which one do you like?” she asked. <Blush> You see, the coach I had a crush on was the 50+-year-old history teacher who had been coaching softball and teaching for nearly 15 years. My sister was talking about his college-aged twin sons who helped coach.
But I didn’t hit on him. I didn’t flirt with him. I had myself together. Does that mean I didn’t know other students who did flirt with teachers? Oh yes, I did. I also knew girls in high school dating much older men. Willingly. You see, if you accept that they are old enough to be having sex, then you are expecting them to be old enough to make life-changing decisions. But we, the real adults in the room, don’t actually think that. But that is the message you give teenagers.
What exactly is the benefit to making life-changing decisions with a fellow teenager stuck in high school and still having to complete four to six years of college to get a decent job? Are you seriously telling me you think girls (who carry the majority of the risk in sexual relationships) are going to be ok with that dynamic? No. Seriously. Tell me. You really think girls are going to be okay having sex with someone who isn’t financially secure? Girls think guys in high school are stupid and not worth their time.
<Insert a Clueless movie clip here.>
So we came up with these laws of legal consent. We knew young, sexually mature girls would be interested in having sex with older people. So we told the older people, the onus is on you — you can’t do anyone under this age. Different states, different rules. My state is 18, with some Juliet laws at 16. Some states have 16.
So for that moving target of adolescent sexual maturity, we have a legal age. Roy Moore allegedly took advantage of that legal age. And in three out of four cases, he engaged in a chaste relationship lasting several months (according to the girls). The fourth one (with a 14-year-old) is the problem, but the people who are out to burn Moore* (who I know nothing of other that the 10 Commandments and this episode) think all four are the problem.
Some of those people who think all four are the problem would be totally cool with their 16-year-olds having sex with their irresponsible 16-year-old boyfriends. Heaven forbid they share a kiss or two with a 32-year-old man!
These are some weird, bizarre, and completely inconsistent views on sex. And I’m not going to claim any kind of moral superiority here — I’m confused as hell, too. On one had, we have teenagers reaching physical and sexual maturity who haven’t a clue how to be mature because we don’t think they are capable of it. On the other hand, we have cultivated an idea that it is ok for children to be having sex (if you are ok thinking teenagers are children and that teenagers have sex, you are good with children having sex).
I understand the point of these “age of consent” laws — at least I think I do. It’s to protect children who reach sexual maturity at incredibly insane ages, like five to eight. But our teenagers are getting mixed messages. Ask me how I know. (I grew up in it!)
So, figure it out. Do age of consent laws mean anything?
*This isn’t about Moore. It’s about how we talk about each of these cases. Three were perfectly legal, but we want to claim that there’s something wrong with them. He wasn’t their teacher, so you don’t get to fall back on that tired line. Either they are old enough to consent or not.
Boy, we are living in an age of stupidity. This story is an argument in favor of that assertion. Online social media giant Facebook has initiated a pilot program in Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom in which users are asked to submit their intimate photos to Facebook and, in return, Facebook […]