The over-sexualization of young girls is especially troubling. Teen sex has always been a "problem" in some way or other, but the rate of STD's among teens has reached an all-time high. Our society is obsessed with sex in all forms, and if you aren't, then you're perceived as the one with the problem. No more so than for women, who are subject to double standards and all kinds of 'rules' that don't seem to apply to men.
I can't help but wonder if the 'liberated woman' mentality that came out of the most recent feminist movement is nothing but a farce - a way of making us feel better about our past bad choices, justifying otherwise bad behavior, and basically making us think that whatever problems we have will just 'go away if you ignore it.'
In some ways, perhaps indirectly, the women's movement brought about a new way of thinking about sex - anything goes, "love the one you're with," etc., which has been a time bomb waiting to go off - for both women and men. Perhaps as a way to free ourselves from that negative stigma, it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and only made things worse. Rather than help us learn about our self worth as women and the amazing things we can do, our culture has taken it to extremes, trying to separate love from sex. In other words, they have tried to drain all the emotional ties, both good and bad, out of sexual relationships and what it symbolizes. In some ways, it's like trying to fill a cup that has a large crack in it; eventually it's going to slowly leak out, maybe imperceptibly at first, but noticeably. Patching it back up helps for a little while, but then the crack gets bigger - until it can't really be repaired at all.
read the PDF here) basically said "it's totally okay" to try on multiple partners like a pair of sweat socks, experiment, do what makes you happy, but protect yourself from pregnancy and disease. The one thing they're forgetting is that even if you don't get a physical disease, it can create another kind of disease: one of the mind, of the emotions. I don't necessarily think we should be shamed into feeling that sex and our bodies are dirty; but neither should we think that it's perfectly okay to give it away to anybody that walks by, either.
If you do have somewhat of a checkered past, we're told to ignore our inner feelings that perhaps what we're doing is wrong, and proceed as if nothing has happened. Get over it! It's in the past! We can all be friends here! is the mantra. If you don't want to be "friends" with someone, it's perceived that you're still pining away for that person, even though it couldn't be further from the truth. Maybe people think you're still bitter, or behaving like a child if you don't manage to have some contact, however benign, with the former boyfriend/girlfriend.
Just like teenagers, adults are impressionable when it comes to relationships and sex. We have fallen for the big lie that says it's okay to throw your feelings away and just do whatever feels good. Every time I see Cosmopolitan magazine on store shelves, I want to puke my guts out: 10 things guys want you to do to them in bed! Learn how to please your man! What is your man really thinking about sex? Blah blah blah, it's freaking endless. Who'd think that all the while the editor of that magazine, Helen Gurly Brown, was the biggest shriveled up looking prune of a woman that you ever saw. That's not teaching us how to have REAL, meaningful relationships with anyone but OURSELVES. Heads up, people: (ladies?) YOU are not the number one priority in your life. Stop thinking about yourselves all the time and then you'll be able to take care of others, and even yourself. I wonder: when women, accompanied by their young daughters, pass through those checkout aisles, what do their daughters think when they see these magazines?
What is our over-sexualized culture teaching us, and our daughters, about how to love and respect their bodies, within appropriate parameters? The same culture that has a hard time separating breasts for pleasure and as a source of nourishment to a baby; the same culture that likes to tell us "You don't need a man to validate yourself as a woman," yet does just the opposite. No one seems to want, or even know how, to put those ideas into practice.
If anything, the sexual liberation movement has taught us less how to behave and think like women, but to approach those same ideas of sex and relationships and think like a man. The other day I was reading an article from Cosmo (gag) called "Should exes be friends?" At one point, I thought this might be true, although it certainly depended on the relationship. Bad idea. Very, very bad idea.
One tidbit they mentioned: more men, statistically, still pine over former flames than women do. (Who said anyone was pining for each other?) This stat might be telling: that as women, we're taught to treat these once-important relationships as more 'throwaways' than anything else. That it's okay to pick up and move on without more than a passing thought.
The article set some parameters for whether you should be friends with an ex. Like, it's okay to be friends with an ex if, after a night of drinking, you "still wouldn't sleep with him." One Ph.D. offers this "advice" -
It is possible to be "just friends" with an ex, especially if the relationship was mostly platonic anyway. "Even if a romance loses its spark, you can still enjoy each other's company," says Patricia Farrell, Ph.D., author of How to Be Your Own Therapist. Plus, he remembers why he fell in love with you and can give you an ego boost when you need it.What, exactly, does "mostly platonic" mean? Not only are those boundaries fuzzy, but using someone else to get an 'ego boost' is doing just that: using them. I imagine this psychologist's patients are going to need more than just therapy after taking advice from her.
Further in the article, you are suggested to "booty call him for a sporadic shag if "the sex is fantastic but your feelings don't run deep" or "the day after a booty call, you feel just as good about yourself as you did the night before." Another expert Ph.D. tells us that sex with an ex can be positive because you're just in it for the fun: "Not only are you already comfortable with this person sexually, but also there's little at stake since the relationship aspect is over."Yep, like a pair of sweat socks that can just be washed over and over again, such is completely emotionless sex with another person.
Two things this article doesn't mention at all: how the other person might feel if he knows you're just using him, and how your possible current (or future) partner might feel about your past. It's all about me, me, me and what I can do to please me, me, me. We want to be seen as the sensual and emotional females that we are, but yet simultaneously want to be able to act like it's perceived men are allowed to act. What?!
Conversely, we allow - no, expect - men to behave cooly and detached from relationships as a matter of course, as if that's the measure of a man. (And yet, somehow when they do behave that way, we can't stand it. Weird.) Deep down, no doubt, they don't even want to behave that way - because many of them aren't - but there's sort of a societal expectation of them to behave badly. Sure, many of them do, but if they don't, they're sort of treated as an anomaly, as if it's too good to be true.
The entire idea of sexual liberation, just like Cosmo magazine, has taught us how to do little more than justify our own needs over those of others and gratify ourselves at any cost, all while saying it's okay. And in doing that, it's supposedly cloaked in learning how to respect yourself, but has done the total opposite. All those ads from the 1950s that warn men about "those kinds of girls" has pretty much come true.
Somehow, in all of this, we misinterpret new-found 'sexual freedom' as loving and respecting our bodies, that it's okay to show them off because we're proud of what we have. We let ourselves and the female image be objectified and take the emotion out of what we have to offer a man - not just any man or a string of them - because we don't even recognize our own self-worth and beauty that we already had and just didn't know it. Whatever innate power we had, we have let ourselves give away for the asking.
A Return to Modesty, by Wendy Shalit
Love Your Body - Offensive Ads
Statistics on HIV/AIDS, STDs and Unintended Pregnancy - State of Illinois pamphlet
STDs and Teens: A Reality Check
The Daily Mail: Friends with Benefits