"How has the most empowered generation of women in all of human history come to feel less control over their bodies than their grandmothers did?" Megan McArdle wrote in her recent Bloomberg piece, Listen to the 'Bad Feminists' (they're the ones who still believe women have power).
I blame, in part, the regressive, "women as a child" feminists who preach and normalize the idea that women are helpless. Women are powerless, and there is nothing they can do if a man interrupts them, raises his hand more than them in class, or tries to get in her pants when she's less than enthusiastic about it.
Regressive feminists love painting women out as not only powerless, but also incapable. To use a few examples from Is Everyday Feminism... Secretly Anti-Feminist, women are apparently incapable of using the scientific method, creating a need for "feminist science":
From: Structuring feminist science, in Women’s Studies International Forum
When you teach a woman that she is powerless, she will become powerless. When you teach her that men should shut up and listen whenever she's talking, because otherwise they're "mansplaining" and "manterrupting", she will become someone who doesn't know how to handle being interrupted or ignored. (See also: You Can't End Rape Culture Without Addressing Feminine Passivity.)
Regressive feminists are a huge part of the reason modern women feel powerless.
But a recurring theme in many of the recent stories about "rape culture" and how bad men are... is politeness. Awkwardness. The idea that it's easier to give an unwanted blowjob or have unwanted sex than it is to say no to unwanted sexual advances. Absent of any force, abuse of power (actual power -- like, he's your boss, not like he makes more money than you), or coercion, you consent to unwanted sex.
Which makes me wonder... Is sex really that meaningless to you?
Is whose penis enters your vagina such an unimportant matter that it's "easier" to let someone penetrate you, risking disease and pregnancy, than it is to say, "Actually, I changed my mind," or, "Seriously, FUCK OFF. I. SAID. NO."?
Like, okay. If I'm playing volleyball, and I think the ball was out but the other team thinks it was in, I'm not going to fight too hard to prove my point. It's just pickup! Who cares?
If I'm hanging out with my friends, and I want Chinese food but everyone else wants pizza, I'm going to go with the flow. It's not a big deal.
But if someone tries to kiss me, and I don't want to, so I turn my face and back away, and the bastard tries again, anyway... I'm not going to let him kiss me, just because it's easier than saying no. I'm going to tell him, "No. I don't just go around kissing everyone. I don't want to kiss you. Stop."
If he says anything other than, "Okay! Sorry!" -- one guy even said, "Not even one kiss? PLEEEASE?" -- I'm going to let him have it:
'Get OUT of my apartment. RIGHT now."
Because, you know what? A kiss means something to me. Sex means something to me. There is no situation in which I would give in to unwanted sex because I thought it was "easier" or "less awkward." There's no reason I would feel "powerless" to do something about an aggressive suitor. My body, my sexuality -- they matter to me.
I share them how I want, and when I want, and not a moment sooner. And I tell my dates that.
Because it's not a question of who gets next serve or what Americanized foreign cuisine we're ordering. It is a matter of my body, my dignity, my health, and my choice.
Regressive feminism is a problem. But so is the fact that technology, which leads to stunted social and emotional skills (you can't really develop those skills when you're staring at a screen all the time), as well as bizarre attitudes, perceptions, and desensitizations about sex (thanks, porn).
This socio-emotional disconnectedness and sexual desensitization manifests itself in "hookup culture," or alcohol-fueled hookups with strangers. It's no substitute for a relationship, but it helps young people delude themselves into feeling like they've connected with another person, and that gets them through the week. Meanwhile, the alcohol required to feel comfortable being naked with a near-stranger leads to blurred lines around consent.
This is where regressive feminists step in to remind us all that women are helpless and powerless, and there is nothing they can do to alter male behavior -- they can only receive it. Men must change. They must mind read. They must constantly, consciously, proactively accommodate women. Because women can't be trusted to use their words.
These very same feminists mock the prudishness of Christians who think sex is something special (not Muslims who wear the hijab, though -- that's totally empowering). They mock abstinence. They mock the very idea of "virginity" -- apparently, the whole concept is a myth that doesn't even exist. According to Everyday Feminism:
But maybe, just maybe, the Christians are right about this one. As explained in How NOT to Be The Girl From 'Cat Person':
We live in a raunchified, pornified world. This contributes to feelings that sex is a meaningless, physical act. Even though, really, from a neurological perspective, there is no such thing as "no strings attached" sex. Sex produces neurochemicals that act directly on our brains and bodies.
If you grow up thinking that sex is no big deal -- that it's fine to do it whenever, with whomever -- you're less inclined to stand up for your body, and more likely to treat it like a pizza or a bad call in a pickup game.
But if you grow up thinking that sex is something special.... maybe you're less likely to put a dick in your mouth, simply because it was presented to you. (True story. See also: I'm a Feminist, and I'm With Aziz Ansari.)
Maybe you're an atheist. Maybe you hate organized religion. But that doesn't mean every religion is wrong about everything. I mean, yoga and meditation are pretty rad, right? And, maybe, so is treating sex like it's special. (I'd love to see the data on that.)
But the crazy thing is -- sex clearly is special. In one breath, we say women should feel free to have casual sex, just like men. Women should feel "liberated" and they should "experiment." In the next, we talk about how traumatizing and damaging sex is, unless under just the right circumstances...
So let's just stop pretending sex is meaningless. It's not. Biblically, scientifically -- take your pick. It just isn't.
Which brings us back to McArdle's Bloomberg piece:
Which suggests an uncomfortable possibility. No, not a neo-Victorian morals police to force morally loose women out of town. But a decision by women to force better behavior from the men who offend them, and even to browbeat other women into going along.
In other words, perhaps we can learn a thing or two from our grandmothers:
After all, as I wrote in I Went on a Date With Aziz Ansari. It Was Fun, and We'll Probably Do It Again, that date could have gone very differently. It could have turned into a relationship -- or, at least, a mutually enjoyable and fulfilling sexual encounter.