"Women had come so far," or so the thinking went, that "we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny." If male chauvinist pigs "regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves."First of all, doesn't anyone read "Fear of Flying" anymore? Well, everyone read it when it came out, and I can assure you that the Erica Jong character in that book, after pursuing the "zipless f**k" for 300 pages, finally gets the opportunity and realizes it's a bad idea. ("My zipless f**k! My stranger on the train! Here I'd been offered my very own fantasy. The fantasy that had riveted me to the vibrating seat of the train for three years in Heidelberg and instead of turning me on, it had revolted me!") So what's with this "even Erica Jong" business?
Well, Ms. Levy is having none of it, and she is not the only one. Even Erica Jong seems to feel that something has gone wrong. Known for popularizing the idea that a woman may want consequence-free sex, Ms. Jong today declares: "Being able to have an orgasm with a man you don't love . . . that is not liberation." It isn't? Someone should tell this to Annie, a blue-eyed 29-year-old who admits to Ms. Levy that she "used to get so hurt" after a night of sex that didn't yield an emotional bond. Now she has gotten over it, or tried to: "I'm like a guy," she brags.
How did this happen? Why did feminism sell its soul to the sexual-liberation movement in the first place? After all, the original feminists were fighting to be taken seriously. Hugh Hefner, by contrast, said that his ideal girl "resembles a bunny . . . vivacious, jumping--sexy." There seems to be a contradiction here.
Second of all, doesn't anyone remember the Andrea Dworkin/Catharine MacKinnon era anymore? There was a whole theme back then about how pro-sex liberals were ruining feminism (and how real feminism had to be very hostile pornography). There's an indignant little anthology from 1990 called "Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism." Feminists have been fighting forever about whether to be pro- or anti- sex or something in between.
It may be that, like Ms. Levy, a lot of feminists now regret getting in bed with Mr. Hefner. Yet if you mention the word "modesty" within 20 feet of them their heads spin around like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." This is where they get stuck. Only if feminism can embrace the more traditional ways that men and women have courted throughout the ages can it have anything practical to offer young women. To the extent that feminists dismiss as worthless anything that is perceived as "backtracking," they only help to perpetuate the "raunch culture"--even as they deplore its effects.Hmmm.... I wonder who's going to buy Ms. Levy's book? There doesn't seem to be anything new here about feminism -- which it apparently distorts ridiculously. Maybe the intended reader is the virtuous, puritanical sort who finds these lame sex stories exciting.
Take a beach scene that Ms. Levy recounts, when the male "friends" of two girls pressure them to take off their suits. Soon surrounded by a circle of 40 screaming men, the girls say "no way!" but eventually give in and spank each other to appease the crowd.
The author of the linked opinion piece (from the WSJ) is Wendy Shalit, who, we're told, wrote a book called "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue."
Well, I'm sure Shalit encounters plenty of feminists who don't like her word "modesty," but her assumption that they have bought into a Playboy vision of free sex is absurd. They just hear social conservatism in that word. It's quite possible to reject social conservatism without falling into some exaggerated libertinism. Shalit's title advocates going back to old-fashioned values, so it's no wonder most feminists balk. They rightly want new ways to think about what is good for women, not a re-insertion into the old set-up.
And as for that "Exorcist" imagery: that's a pretty old cliché. Can we have something fresh?