Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Perils of Promiscuity

Consider the source. These comments were not posted on some conservative blog. They appeared on Gawker, of all places, in an interview with an anonymous therapist who serves as their in-house expert.

In the column the therapist answers some pressing questions about women and promiscuity. He answers them straightforwardly and directly. He speaks from his own clinical experience. Since his observations coincide with my own, I find his to be especially salient.

Now that feminism is trying to reconstitute itself in a new war on slut-shaming, this anonymous therapist informs us that promiscuous sexual behavior is bad for women. How bad for how many women, he does not say. It may be enough for women to know that such behavior will hurt them. If they choose to do it, they will not be able to think that everyone was encouraging them.

So, this therapist is correct to counter the aberrant notion that women should declare their liberation by embracing their inner slut.

When asked about promiscuity, the therapist answers:

Women that experiment—both heterosexually and homosexually—have, in my experience, faced higher levels of guilt and a lack of identity as their lives begin to settle down. Understand that this is a chicken-or-egg scenario, because sexual promiscuity in women in is one of the three major symptoms of internal anger and self-hatred, along with substance abuse and self-mutilation.

He continues, offering a rather extreme example of a woman whose “number” is around 70:

I had a female patient once. She was very attractive, had three kids and was married to a prominent figure around town. She admitted to me that as a teen, she was extremely sexually active due to some feelings of unattractiveness and abandonment. Once she had kids, she felt guilty that her kids would one day—and I'm quoting here—"realize that they were birthed from a 'whore,'" and that there was no special physical connection between her and her husband because he was like, the 70th man she'd been with. She felt unworthy of her social prominence because no one knew who she truly was. Since she could not separate from her past and never truly dealt with the core issues of her inadequacies, she began to self-destruct with substances, a spending addiction, and oftentimes engaging in communications that would jeopardize her husband's career.

If a woman’s sense of shame keeps her from doing things that she will later regret, then perhaps it is not such a bad thing. I have often argued the point here, but Cassy Fiano recently wrote a spirited and excellent defense of slut-shaming here.

Next, Gawker asks the therapist whether young couples should tell each other about their past sexual experiences. Should they reveal what women call their “number?”

The interviewer suggests that confession might be good for the soul and might alleviate guilt. Long time readers of this blog know that I advise against full disclosure of matters sexual.

Gawker’s therapist concurs:

Once you know that number, you begin to dwell on it and then the mind begins to go places it shouldn't go and then start to rationalize and over-think the numbers—i.e., how many were one-night stands? How often were feelings shared? Does that make it better or worse? And so on. It's just a useless piece of information that tends to eventually, more often than not, impact the relationship either on a conscious or subconscious level. So keep it to yourself.


n.n said...

It's easy when you have selfish ambitions and especially when young and naive.

So, shame still has a place in our society? That would imply we also have objective standards. There may be hope for us yet.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Trying to keep hope alive... and trying to ensure that shame keeps having a place in society.

n.n said...

It's necessary, but not sufficient.

Today, in Utah, the Teachers' union and PTA have conspired to push for comprehensive sexual education in grade school. There are two problems with their proposal. First, this is further evidence of parents delegating their responsibilities to the state, and simultaneously abdicating the dignity of their child and their own. Second, this is further evidence that education has failed miserably. It should be sufficient to teach biology, and specifically human biology, and, perhaps, a course in risk management, to fill in the gaps left after parental tutoring. This fits perfectly with a recent survey of American graduate and doctoral students, which indicated a majority of them are little more than overly educated technicians.

Perhaps you are right. As I have noticed in your articles, it's not just preserving shaming which is critical, but also the correct focus. Conservatives need to learn how to characterize, then correctly and effectively frame the issues. Their philosophy neither offers nor promises instant gratification and therefore they will for the foreseeable future remain at a disadvantage.