Cindi Leive edits a magazine called Glamour. I have never read it but I can guess what it’s about. Surely, she was the right woman to review Peggy Orenstein’s new book about teenage girls and sex.
She opens with a scene that sums it all up, though in ways that escape her:
There’s a moment midway through Peggy Orenstein’s latest book that seems to sum up what it’s like to be a teenage girl right now. An economics major taking a gender studies class is getting dressed in her college dorm room for a night out, cheerfully discussing sexual stereotyping in advertising with Orenstein — while at the same time grabbing a miniskirt and a bottle of vodka, the better to achieve her evening goal: to “get really drunk and make out with someone.” “You look hot,” her friend tells her — and the student, apparently registering the oddness of the scene, turns to Orenstein. “In my gender class I’m all, ‘That damned patriarchy,’ ” she says. “But . . . what’s the point of a night if you aren’t getting attention from guys?” Her ambition, she explains, “is to be just slutty enough, where you’re not a prude but you’re not a whore. . . . Finding that balance is every college girl’s dream, you know what I mean?”
This is not new. Tufts professor Nancy Bauer described a similar scene in a Times article several years ago.
The difference is: Bauer understands that she is describing what happens to women when they drink the feminist Kool-Aid. Leive does not understand that one of the major cultural forces making these girls do as they do is feminism.
And yet, the woman whose idea of a great evening is getting drunk out of her mind on vodka—vodka that she, liberated woman, supplies herself—and then making out—surely a euphemism for what she can only do when she is blind drunk—with a guy who she just met. She is living the feminist dream, but is too drunk and too brainwashed to know it.
For reasons that do not require too much exposition feminism seems to instill in young women a pathological anxiety about their ability to attract men. These women so completely lack confidence in their femininity that they are willing to do literally almost anything to gain male attention, or, as Amy Schumer famously declared, to catch some dick. If that's your standard of success, you have a problem.
After all, if you have spent all of your time learning how to lean in, to be assertive and aggressive very few men are going to find you all that attractive. They might be willing to use you for sex, if you insist, but that is usually as far as it goes.
Today’s liberated woman, fresh from her class in woman’s studies might, if she is sufficiently intelligent, figure out that feminists have been pimping her out to the patriarchy:
For guys, she says, there is fun and pleasure; for girls (at least the straight ones), too little physical joy, too much regret and a general sense that the boys are in charge. Fully half the girls in Orenstein’s book say they’ve been coerced into sex, and many had been raped — among them, by the way, that econ major, who was so confused that when her assailant dropped her off the next morning, she told him, “Thanks, I had fun.” The sexual playing field Orenstein describes is so tilted no girl could win.
To be fair, Leive offers Orenstein’s list of all of the factors that have produced this situation. I do not disagree with any of them. But, why is feminism not on the list and why do these women not understand that feminism has robbed young women of their self-esteem as women.
When you are blaming pornography, you should also recall that feminists have encouraged women to be open and free and sexually liberated. And that feminism for decades now has promoted a graphic awareness of the female genitalia. Recently, feminists started having a national conversation about periods.
Any woman who feels sexually exposed will also feel that she does not have any self-respect. As for the last shred of her dignity… she will drown it in vodka.
Leive lists some of the problem:
There’s pornography, which teaches boys to expect constantly willing, fully waxed partners, and girls to imitate all those arched backs and movie-perfect moans. (Sorry, male college students, but studies show that the percentage of your female peers who fake orgasm has been steadily rising.) There are the abstinence-only sex-ed programs of the last two decades, which she argues encourage shame and misinformation; and the unhelpful tendency of even liberal parents to go mute with their daughters on the subject of what they deserve in bed. (“Once parents stopped saying ‘Don’t,’ ” Orenstein observes, “many didn’t know what to say.”) There’s alcohol, so much alcohol, a judgment-dulling menu of Jäger bombs and tequila shots. There’s selfie culture, which Orenstein charges encourages girls to see themselves as objects to be “liked” (or not) — a simple-sounding phenomenon with surprisingly profound implications, since self-objectification has been linked with everything from depression to risky sexual behavior. There are the constant images of naked, writhing women, as well as the idea that taking your clothes off is a sign of power.
However much girls feel abused or worse in hookups, they prefer hookups to having feelings or having a relationship. Because the latter might make them feel like girls and might make them want something other than to be down on their knees servicing a guy they just met.
To be more explicit, feelings might lead to a relationship and a relationship might lead to a commitment and a commitment might lead to a marriage and that, my friends, would sidetrack the woman’s career. And we know, for feminists that only thing that matters is the career track:
… girls share that while an endless string of hookups can bum them out, many of them prefer it to “catching feelings” for a guy, which would make them more vulnerable. (The interviews also reveal an almost comical generation gap. When one recent high school graduate explains to Orenstein that performing oral sex is “like money or some kind of currency. . . . It’s how you make friends with the popular guys. . . . It’s more impersonal than sex,” Orenstein writes, “I may be of a different generation, but, frankly, it’s hard for me to consider a penis in my mouth as ‘impersonal.’ ”)
Unfortunately, Leive and Orenstein think that it can all be solved with more therapy and more sex education. A sad conclusion. It would be better if older feminists took some responsibility for the situation they created.