Hookups versus domesticity: Go!
Ladies, put away the condoms and get out the aprons. Hookup culture is on the decline, domestic tranquility is on the rise, and women are starting to feel shameful about having casual sex– or so argues an article in Slate today by Jessica Grose. Grose cites a number of pop culture indicators that NSA sex is out and a more virtuous sexuality is in– Taylor Swift sings about love and not sex, Carrie Bradshaw (from Sex and the City) got married, and Girls Gone Wild is no more, to name a few. To which I have three responses: Lady Gaga, Samantha, and … well, since when did Girls Gone Wild have anything to do with sexual liberation?
As Tracy Clark-Flory’s response on Broadsheet notes, Grose’s argument is compelling and well-supported. But like Clark-Flory, I think it misses the mark. First of all, Grose equates sexual liberation with one-night stands, which I think is an unfair generalization. To say that some women experience shame after a hookup is one thing, but to generalize from that that the sexual revolution is over is a gross over simplification. She creates a false dichotomy of the “stripper fantasy” of Paris Hilton and table dancing on one end, and the “domestic fantasy” of Bradshaw’s married life on the other. I think it’s safe to say that for many women who consider themselves sexually liberated, and who consider one-night stands to be totally okay, dancing on tables and wearing “ass-bearing chaps” was never representative of their sexual identity.
And again, there are a number of counter-examples to this supposed rise in domesticity and chastity. Lady Gaga is an extremely powerful, feminist, and yet hyper-sexual figure. In the same Sex and the City Movie where Bradshaw finally gets Big, Samantha leaves her boyfriend of five years, telling him: “I love you, but I love me more.” And to argue that Girls Gone Wild was somehow an incarnation of positive feminist sexuality is to completely misunderstand what the sex-positive movement is all about. Girls Gone Wild was about exploiting women, and it was produced by a man for consumption by men. That is completely different than a woman choosing to go home with a guy without any intention of getting married to him.
As Clark-Flory puts it, the backlash that Grose describes is more complex than just sex out, marriage in: “Maybe instead of signaling a backlash, these are actually signs that we’re slowly inching toward a world where a woman isn’t either good or bad, a wife or whore, a virgin or slut.” I think Taylor Swift’s songs are great, and send a pretty positive message to young girls. I think the same thing about Lady Gaga (except maybe replace the “young girls” part with “young women”). But I would like to say that while plenty of women may have one-night stands that they regret, there are plenty of other women who have them and feel fine, even great (and there are plenty of men who have them and feel gross, too). “Shame” is the last word we should be re-introducing to young girls and women about their sexuality. Instead, we should be celebrating each end of the spectrum– Swift and Gaga, Carrie and Samantha. And I think we can all be thankful for the demise of Girls Gone Wild.