Let’s see. Radical feminists are trying to improve everyone’s sex life by insisting that our nation is awash in a “rape culture.”
If rape is as pervasive as they believe—point that has been hotly contested—the proponents of the rape culture narrative are saying, more or less, that no sentient female could consent to have sex with a large number of today’s males.
An interesting thought, to say the least.
Obviously, this is all supposed to improve everyone’s sex life. If only men accept their propensity to rape and abuse women, they will become kinder and gentler lovers. Will they ever learn how to make love like women? The question remains open.
Not so much because it is impossible, but because women would never stand for it. The very thought of a kinder, gentler lover sends many women to their nightstands where they whip out their well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Gray.
Seeing sex in terms of rape transforms it into compelling drama. If men are burdened with a criminal impulse to rape women, their minds are doubtless consumed in a struggle between their worst impulses and the punishment that will attend acting on them.
If Jackie’s story is not compelling drama, I don’t know what is. Yet, it obscures a larger and more difficult story, the story of what feminist thinking does to a woman’s mind and to her life.
Alyssa Shelasky bears witness to the effect feminism has had on her life. She offers us an excellent description of her mental state, made more useful by the fact that she is an unabashed feminist. She has drunk deeply from the wellsprings of feminist thought and believes every word of it, uncritically.
And yet, at age 37 she finds herself in a difficult position:
On the best days of my life, and the cruelest hours of the night, I have always had an inner-meditation: I am excited about the future. However, this summer, when I turned 37, while licking the wounds of yet another rough breakup, my mantra didn't seem to be working. I suddenly felt a lot less poised about the one thing that had always mattered most: motherhood. Nothing could change the fact that I would never be a young mom like my own — one of the million things I worshipped about her and had hoped to emulate; but, much more disturbing, as I took a relationship inventory I realized that as my longing for motherhood had grown over the years, my taste in men had apparently gone way off-script. None of my boyfriends had ever wanted children, or wanted children with me; they were often children themselves, or did not safely belong anywhere near innocence.
Shelasky wants children. Her biological clock is ticking loudly. And yet, she is drawn to males who are anything but father material.
Interestingly, she does not seem to be free to choose between different kinds of men. She is slave to an impulse that drives her toward the men who do not want what she wants.
Evidently, she has no taste for relationship harmony. She is incapable of making a free choice based on her stated desire for children. She might have learned this from feminism, but I suspect that she also learned it from therapy.
Unfortunately, she can only develop relationships with losers. She describes them:
With the men I love and those who love me back — the artists, the exotic, the electric, guys my girlfriend refers to as “men with a high degree of difficulty” — any passive-aggressive, poorly communicated suggestion that we shift from “pull-and-pray” to “stay-and-pray” has only caused fighting and hysteria … even years into the relationships, even when I was engaged. Ultimately, my looming desire for motherhood factored into all the bad breakups, and I always regretted pushing so hard.
All of it produced the kind of mental conflict that leads people to therapy. In therapy, I imagine, she learned to blame it on herself. Or better, she learned to guilt-trip herself. She told herself that if she changed her attitude she would attract a different type of man.
In her words:
I convinced myself that wanting kids continually ruined everything; that I was luring these men in with promises of romance and recklessness, then sucker punching them with some whiny wannabe-housewife whom they didn’t recognize and couldn’t wait to shed. I hated her; she scared them all away. Although, I never figured out why — in their eyes — I wasn’t allowed to have sensuality, joie de vivre, AND ovaries and a biological clock. But it seemed like I had to choose: Be the girl who fucks or be the girl who breeds.
Obviously, there is something of a behavioral dissonance here. Women who are sexually liberated, who do not want to depend on a man and who certainly do not want to make a home for a man are not telling the world that they are wife/mother material. They are mistress material.
You might be consumed with desire for a child--biology does not cease to exist because you think it's a social construct-- but if you are defining yourself as a mistress, pregnancy is a curse, not a blessing. It is a problem, not a solution.
Shelasky seems to have learned from her feminist masters that wifedom is domestic servitude. Thus, she rejects any behaviors that signify wifedom.
If a woman adopts all of the behaviors that would define her as a mistress—she is free to do so—she will be treated as such. She will attract men who do not want entangling alliances.
But if, having adopted mistress behaviors, she suddenly declares herself to be wife material, she will appear to be a fraud. And she will be rejected because she has been duplicitous.
This situation inverts what happened in far too many homes when the second wave of feminism hit our shores some four decades ago.
Women who had adopted wifely behaviors, who had faithfully fulfilled the terms of the marital contract, decided, egged on by Betty Friedan that their condition was akin to being in a concentration camp.
They rebelled. They threw away their aprons, refused to make dinner and demanded that their husbands do the laundry.
The result was predictable. Husbands felt that their wives had broken a contract. They felt that they had been defrauded. A wave of divorces followed.
Happily, Shelasky understands that different behaviors define different womanly roles:
But wanting kids so damn badly also felt like a violation ofcool-girl code. Smart, sexual, self-sufficient women aren’t supposed to have anxiety about these things! I mean, is there anything less Gloria Steinem than losing your shit over the ticking clock? Modern women are supposed to have well-hung lovers, exasperating girlfriends, and Saarinen tulip chairs (check, check, check); we’re not supposed to pray that our fibroids shrink, take prenatal vitamins like Valium, and work our Ovia app like a Carrie Mathison mission.
Next, Shelasky defines her problem:
Either we date for passion and lust (yesss! But that leads to threesomes, not onesies), OR we hunt down stable men exclusively for marriage and procreation (terrible! I can’t do it!). OR we stay calm, we wait a little longer, and we trust that there is someone out there whom we will love and desire, who is sprinkled in baby dust and ready for a family. I like that, and as a friend, a sister, and an advocate of the single woman, I know that’s the healthiest mentality. But the thing is, I am ready. I am so very ready. And I don’t want to wait anymore.
Note the term: threesomes? Doesn’t it suggest adultery? Or a close facsimile?
Now, Shelasky has decided that she can retain her identity as a mistress and still have a baby. Obviously, it’s been done before. It isn’t really that much of a novelty.
And yet, a mistress who has a child is more than likely to be bringing the child up on her own. Again, that is her prerogative. It is probably not the best solution; it probably isn’t even a solution… but it wasn’t my idea that women should recreate themselves in a role where pregnancy is a curse.
When Shelasky discovers that she can have a child on her own she feels liberated. I am not so sure why she had to wait 37 years to have this revelation. The trope of the single mother happily raising a child on her own goes back at least to Murphy Brown. And that was more than two decades ago.
She feels that she can embrace her biological urge and at the same time look for the right man. Better yet, she is persuaded that having accepted her biological she will now be more desirable to the right man.
One suspects that she discovered this in therapy.
In her words:
And now that I’m completely comfortable with my biological clock, staring it straight in the face, good men are everywhere. I’m not sure if it proves my theory right or wrong, and I don’t really care, but guys are definitely turned on by a woman who knows what she wants, and welcomes it with grace.
Whether or not guys are turned on by a woman who knows what she wants—shades of Freud in that phrase—they are certainly more attracted to a woman who is not lying… to them or to herself.