Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Returning to Abstinence

Happily enough, after I posted my comments on what the New York Post was touting as the new celibacy (link here), I came across Jessica Grose's take on the same subject in the DoubleX blog. Link here.

Her title says it all: "Why Is a Former Sex Blogger 'Rethinking Virginity?'" Her subtitle adds this to the mix: "'Sex Positive' young women reconsider abstinence."

Interestingly, Grose conflates oversharing on Facebook with hooking up. She does it so effortlessly that I was, at first, somewhat skeptical. But, all things considered I believe that she was right to do so. A culture that encourages women to expose too much of their privacy in public is also a culture that induces them to hook up.

Writing about Lena Chen, a young Harvard student and former sex blogger who is now organizing conferences to rethink virginity, Grose says: "Chen is part of a handful of women bloggers who are sobering up quickly after their youthful indiscretions, and lately, the sober seems far more prominent than the indiscreet."

Clearly, Grose, who often presents the correct feminist point of view, is giving thoughtful consideration to the position that many of these women have found themselves in. If she does not wholeheartedly grasp their decision, she does not condemn it either. And she does not do so even if it requires her to lend some credence to the value of abstinence.

I have on occasion disagreed with Jessica Grose, so I want to express my agreement with her and praise for her work.

What is causing this trend reversal? First, Grose credits the simple fact that young women who are entering the work force have discovered that prospective employers check out their Facebook pages and Google their names. More simply, they have discovered the importance of reputation and the need to manage it carefully.

A woman might think that she is expressing herself when she posts pictures of what she was doing at the latest drunken Bacchanalia, but many employers will hold it against her. And even if they did not, you cannot function effectively in the business world if you do not present yourself as a serious professional in all of your public appearances.

Second, Grose says that shame is motivating these women to rediscover the value of discretion. Apparently, this shaming is being instigated a group of campus scolds who think ill of women who hook up or who are generally indiscreet. We might, as Grose seems to suggest, disagree with such a judgmental attitude, but it is difficult to see what, if not shame, is going to reverse the trend toward hooking up.

For the record, shame is not a social construct. It is a universal emotion that accompanies the public exposure of one's sexuality.

While I believe that Grose would usually want to side with those women who are out there exploring their sexuality, she offers what I would consider a balanced and sympathetic hearing to those women who are attempting to restore the value of abstinence.

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