I was listening to a repeat of a National Public Radio (NPR) show called “Fresh Air”. Terry Gross was interviewing Peggy Orenstein. Ms. Orenstein wrote the books Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Schoolgirls, Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap, and others. The interview was repeated because her latest book, Girls & Sex, is coming out in paperback. Terry Gross always asks insightful questions, and Ms. Orenstein provided some thoughtful answers about girls, alcohol consumption, and the “hook-up” culture. Apparently, when boys and girls consume alcohol, there is a tendency for the boys to take advantage of the girls and not understand that “No, means No.”
When two liberal feminists get together, there are bound to be oversights in the conversation based on their shared assumptions. I thought I would add to the discussion by commenting, with the caveat that I didn’t hear the entire interview and might have missed something.
What about the boys?
I was pleased to hear Ms. Orenstein caution Ms. Gross that we mustn’t forget about the boys. Too often, they are part of the conversation only as aggressors and potential rapists. So, it was nice that they mentioned that, boys too, suffer from alcohol abuse before the two ladies returned to the denigration of 1/2 of the world population. Interestingly, while Ms. Orenstein is concerned about the impact of “the princess/industrial complex” on her daughter, she had nothing to say about the impact of our culture on our boys.
I’ve read that boys are less likely to do well in school, less likely to go to college, and more likely to commit crimes. So, don’t we care? Apparently, Ms. Orenstein doesn’t care enough to research and write a book — except, perhaps, to blame the boys for the way they are.
A backhanded compliment
Ms. Orenstein explained that she had attended a “purity ball”. With some modest self-examination, she admitted that when she attends something like this, she could just slam it. She was quite clear she despised everything these fathers and daughters were doing because she knows “it doesn’t work”. But she did give them points for one thing: at least the fathers were talking to their daughters about sex. Liberal fathers, she said, are not engaged. But she still wasn’t happy with these fathers. They weren’t addressing their daughters in a way she thinks is healthy. She was quite adamant about ensuring she wasn’t misunderstood to condone such things as a purity ball.
But what was the problem, really?
Was the problem here that the fathers were suggesting that the daughters refrain from sex until marriage? Or was it the religious (and probably Christian) underpinnings of the ball?
Or was it because “it doesn’t work”? Huh! We (liberals and conservatives, Christians and atheists, men and women) have been telling men not to rape women for centuries. Apparently, that doesn’t work, because the last I noticed, some men still rape women. Perhaps we should stop preaching “rape abstinence,” too. It doesn’t work, after all. Since it doesn’t work, perhaps we should at least teach “safe rape”.
Obviously, I am being snide. But I attempting to point out the difference our culture’s teachings pre-marital sex (just say “yes” because saying “no” doesn’t work) and rape (just say “no”). I’m sure a liberal will point out that pre-marital sex is consensual, but the entire point of Ms. Orenstein’s book is that the girls are getting the short end of the stick even during “consensual” sex.
All this reminded me of two rather famous quotes.
“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” — C.S. Lewis
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” — G.K. Chesterton
Catcalls, sensuality, and “being hot”
Ms. Orenstein bemoans the fact that girls want to “be hot”, and dress accordingly, only to find that they are “objectified”. But then she denigrates the suggestion that women dress more modestly. That’s sexist, she claims.
So, I want to help out — not that Ms. Orenstein and Ms. Gross want my help. The Christian position is that everyone, boys and girls both, dress modestly. But we are also aware that there are differences between the genders that modern feminism would consider sexist to believe. For instance, my understanding is that men are more likely to be sexually aroused by something they see. Women are more likely to be aroused by a relationship. Past cultures understood this and suggested that women help the guys out by dressing modestly.
But here’s where I agree with feminists everywhere: no matter how a woman is dressed, the boys shouldn’t whistle, cat call, or decide she’s looking to be raped. Where I part company is the blending of genders. Feminists have looked at men and decided whatever they had (good or bad) was what the women needed, and now they are unhappy that the results aren’t good for the women!
Let’s put the blame in front of the correct doorstep
Let’s be blunt. When the superhero Green Arrow sleeps with almost all the women in the cast of the show (even a villainess!), that sends a message. When the Flash has his clothes ripped off by a girl on their second date, that sends a message. Almost every TV show assumes that everyone — everyone — consumes alcohol. When James Bond says “Shaken, not stirred” and then heads to the bedroom with the last women he met at the bar, isn’t this portrayed as perfectly acceptable — even cool?
Do we really think that our children, boys and girls both, don’t notice all this? Do we really think that they remain unaffected when almost everything they see glorifies alcohol consumption? These shows denigrate waiting for marriage to have sex. They mock virgins. If you are a virgin, it means you are a prude, or ugly, or stupid. Do we really think our children don’t get the message?
And let’s be blunt
So, let me be blunt. It’s not the Christians who suggest that their children wait to have sex before marriage who are the problem. What’s wrong with that, really? But if you are a liberal parent who believes waiting until marriage for sexual pleasure means that you are “a prude”, then you shouldn’t be surprised if your son or daughter drinks deeply from that opinion.
No. The problem lies at the doorstop of secular liberals who preach sexual freedom and mock and deride chastity. They just don’t like the results of their own positions — particularly on the girls. Gosh! There’s got to be a way for them to have their cake and eat it, too!
They are having some difficulty finding it.
A true story
A liberal, Jewish woman I know (I’ll call her Naomi) gave her teen-aged daughter (Ruth) the book Our Bodies, Ourselves, a book “by and for women.” I cautioned Naomi about this book, because I had heard it told young girls that they shouldn’t let religious beliefs or their parents outmoded mores determine when they are ready to have sex. Naomi was respectful, but she certainly wasn’t going to take child-rearing advice from a conservative Christian man.
So, Ruth read the book, and she believed what it said. Ruth decided that she was the one who determined when she was ready for sex, and she would be the one who decided with whom the event would occur. When she was 14, she started dating a 26-year-old man. (My memory is fuzzy here. He might have been 42.) When Naomi’s progressive book resulted in that obviously inappropriate partner, Naomi, like any good, conservative parent, put a stop to the relationship. When I pointed out that Ruth had just been putting Naomi’s beliefs into practice, Naomi replied “She [Ruth] just wasn’t being responsible.”
So, what should we do?
Well, it’s not going to be easy. Our culture needs to once again glorify sexual abstinence and chastity. It needs to take a hard look at it’s alcohol use. It needs to send the same message to boys and girls. And, perhaps, it needs to return to the God who loves us for the spiritual help to do so.
Because, without the help of God, this is only going to get worse.