Tuesday, March 31, 2009


In the Obama-engendered fog of AIG-General Motors-Fannie Mae bailouts/takeovers, it is the critically important cultural signposts that often get lost, particularly in the still-swooning U.S. media. As Americans, it is our good fortune to be served via the internet by any number of foreign newspapers. Special recognition goes to the British press, who seem not to have imbibed the Kool-Aid as have their peers across the pond.

As evidence that not every occidental print outlet has abandoned its mandate to apprise readers on contemporary cultural mores, the Daily Mail recently informed its subscribers of an unsettling trend in the world of chick-lit. The Mail's sex advice columnist, Rowan Pelling commented on the tidal wave of female-oriented erotica, with each tome bearing an unabashedly titillating title (i.e.:
"Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity," "Confessions Of A Working Girl," "The Secret Life Of V," "Insatiable: The Erotic Adventures Of A French Girl In Spain," and "Girl With A One Track Mind.")

Of particular interest to Pelling was Charlotte Roche's fictional "Wetlands," a book detailing the (sex)life of 18 year-old Helen Memel. According to Pelling, Memel
"revels in her own lack of hygiene and narrates the book from her hospital bed, following a mishap depilating an intimate area."
While "Wetlands" in its own right may represent an eye-peeling story of emancipation from male-dominated sexual praxis, in sum - at least by Pelling's lights - the genre is merely "the literature of deep moans and silky panties," and hardly represents an advancement of feminist ideals.

While I would fight tooth and claw for women's right to sexual freedom, I'm not sure the sisterhood has gained much if it sees that freedom as a chance to brag about sex and conquests in the same kind of tedious and lewd manner that made the new lad so obnoxious back in the Nineties.

Take the ceaseless gung-ho attitude of the current rash of female diarists who boast of pulling random men at bus-stops and taking them home for a quickie.

This is viewed as a triumph; women playing men at their own game and winning. But the victory seems to be uniquely Pyrrhic.

If you read these books the narrative arc doesn't take you much further than Bridget Jones: despite the raunchy tone, the women are mostly all seeking Mr Right, and almost all remain single despite (some would say because of) all the frenzied bed-hopping.

I don't see why having lots of one-night stands should be a feminist statement. Does that mean those women with few notches to their bedposts and no interest in outré practices, let alone in writing about them for the world's diversion, are less feminist, less emancipated?
It does not surprise that - to Pelling's way of thinking - the most disturbing thing about the rise of this modern strain of "feminine" erotica is the corrosive effect of the messages it intimates to the larger culture, especially to adolescent teen girls.
[N]owadays every two-dime sexual adventuress feels they have an amazing story to tell. And it's often dressed up as new feminism.

This is the depressing 'raunch culture' identified by U.S. feminist Ariel Levy, which leads to actresses baring their all in men's mags, and young women flashing their breasts in nightclubs.
.. Women are persuaded to think it's cool and liberating to be sexually provocative. Ten years ago I, too, thought all this raunchiness was basically harmless.

But at the age of 41, with two small boys and four nieces aged seven and under, I feel very differently.

I can no longer ignore the fact that these cultural influences filter down to pre-pubescent girls, making them want to dress like mini-hookers and gyrate like Pussycat Dolls.

Isn't it time to admit that all this ropey, second-rate erotica is neither sophisticated nor fun?
As discussed elsewhere, in its unvarnished form, modern feminism posits that to behave "like a man" - especially as it regards sex - is to achieve the height of feminine empowerment; in the main, second-wave feminism has fortified itself around the precept of establishing equality between the sexes in every area, to include sexual behavior. By proposing that men and women are fundamentally the same, save for how they are socialized, feminism created the conditions that allowed for the negation of women's essential nature. As young women are expected to fully incorporate masculine and feminine tendencies (while young men are not held accountable for much at all as it pertains to adult responsibilities), femininity as it is classically understood has been demeaned.*

This negation of the essential feminine self reveals the central failure of modern feminism. As much as feminist elites can yammer on about arcane subjects such as lesbian feminist consciousness or Marxist feminism, they are as silent as the dead on the matter of giving young women the means by which to negotiate their interactions with the larger society vis-à-vis sexuality. Rather than providing a range of options, so-called "choice feminism" only gave women two, complete engagement with Рor more often than not, total submission to Рthe dominant culture, or complete withdrawal into oblivion.

Both capitulation and cultural oblivion represent two forms of the same type of forced self-negation - a purposeful diminution of the female whole for the sake of a vague shadow of femaleness. The self-destructive behavior evidenced by many of today's young women (i.e.: Anna Nicole Smith, Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears, etc.) is little more than a form of slow-motion suicide; it is as if these young ladies suffer from W.E.B. du Bois' "double consciousness" such that their psyches can barely keep from being torn asunder.

This new feminine erotica cannot reasonably be said to be either feminine or erotic. To be sure, the genre is dessicated and devoid of the fullness of real-world sex in all of its complexity, and represents the emptiness of modern feminist thinking itself. What is needed now more than ever is a feminist ethic that does not orient itself towards the impossible goal of behavioral equality of the sexes, but rather on affirming the natural and necessary distinctiveness of each gender. While my hope its that such will someday be the case, experience suggests to me that we will continue to see equal confused with special.

*The paradox is that feminists have done so with results not unlike those achieved under the Taliban in Afghanistan, with the only difference being the means; the Taliban nullified women by creating a second-class status for them, whereas feminism established a nether-gender for women, rendering them biologically female but sociologically masculine.

Update: As if on cue, I was made aware of a newspaper story from New Zealand that further illustrates how the so-called male sexual ethic has pervaded feminist culture and affects the behavior of women in that country and elsewhere. The money quote from this story regards a 2007 survey suggesting that
"29% of the 5000 men surveyed felt they had been pressured into having sex or had had sex unwillingly."

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