Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

No strings attached

Several days ago Scott Carson posted a link to an article about Duke University, exploring sexual attitudes on campus in light of the rape allegations made by a stripper against several members of the lacrosse team. There's a blatant double standard, acknowledged by some of the young women interviewed, at play. On the one hand, the girls feel that they're entitled to total sexual equality with the men -- equality in this case meaning that both sexes are as promiscuous as they can possibly be. Traditional sexual mores are not simply ignored; these students don't seem to even know they exist.

Hiring strippers is also a ''joke,'' of sorts -- though there's been a lot of fuss made over the lacrosse team having done so, which most of the students I talked to found puzzling. ''I was like, wow -- I didn't realize that there was that stigma,'' says Naomi.

What people don't get, she says, is that none of this is shocking -- to her or to anyone she knows, really. Girls, like boys, tell gross jokes. They go to strip clubs -- there's one in downtown Durham that students frequent every so often as ''a joke.'' Girls also hire strippers to dance at their birthday parties or other events -- one sorority hires a stripper ''in a tie-dyed thong and a flabby stomach'' every year as part of its annual initiation rites.

''It's totally gross, and we're all like, blech,'' Naomi says.

And afterward, says Anna, ''You're like, 'That was fun. That was a fun activity.' ''

On the other hand, the girls know at some level that the guys are just using them by exploiting their willingness to give out sexual favors without doing any preliminary softening-up or post-coital follow-up , and they allow it because they're naive enough to hope that a relationship might develop out of a guy's respecting this modern behavior.

Among Naomi and her friends, a certain weariness creeps in when discussing the whole scene. ''Girls reduce themselves a lot here in order to be able to have the sexual freedom that I think they don't have by doing that,'' says Naomi. She sighs. ''There's a big difference between the global values and feminist ideals we think we should be subscribing to and the behavior a lot of us exhibit -- and I do it too,'' she admits. But maybe not as much as some of her friends, she adds. ''One of my friends thinks she's the biggest feminist, but to me she is one of the biggest anti-feminists, just because of her sexual behavior'' -- which is hooking up with several guys in the course of a weekend, including one, a ''regular'' who ''really treats her like shit.''

''But, you know, she's doing it out of fear,'' says Anna, smiling a bit. ''It's like, 'Oh, yes, consistent sex -- that's great. And maybe he'll invite me to this big frat formal that's coming up that everyone wants to go to.' '' She chuckles condescendingly.

These kids may attend a prestigious university, but they're lacking a certain level of basic common sense. Why should a guy commit to one of them if he can get the goods for free? But even if one popular girl decided that she wasn't going to put out without some sort of guarantee of exclusivity, she'd have to get the other girls to go along with her so that they'd have collective bargaining power over the men. And there'd have to be some sort of stigma attached to girls who slept around without a guarantee, because she'd weaken the position of every other girl by making no-strings-attached sex available. The women need to be the guardians of their own interests.

I've been reading a book about Iraqi village life: Guests of the Sheik, by Elizabeth Fernea. Mrs. Fernea spent the first two years of her married life in a small village with her anthropologist husband, and while he studied the men of the tribe, she became accquainted with the women. In a culture where a woman's virtue was often worth more than her life, and in which it was desperately difficult to raise children and run a household without the support of a man, the women understood the damage that even one or two promiscuous women could wreak and actively worked to keep even the taint of scandal away from any member of their set. Coming from a different religious, philosophical, and cultural background, many of their precautions felt draconian to me, but there's no question that these Iraqis had a grasp of basic human commerce and social reality that seems to have eluded their liberated, wealthy, Ivy Leagued sisters.

I told a friend at one point thatI would never have sex until I was married because I wasn't going to give anyone the goods until he was obligated to take care of me and provide for any children -- the reverse of the "why buy the cow" scenario. I wanted a signed contract stating that Joe Husband was legally bound to me and his offspring. That's just common sense.

"But that's so cold!" she said.

"Is it?" I asked.

"What about love?" she rejoined. "Does Darwin know this?"

"Of course he knows!" I exclaimed. "Do you think he would have it any other way? We're engaged, aren't we?"

Cold, hard realism about the social protections and restrictions of a contractual sexual relationship doesn't mean that there's no love involved. And thinking sex without commitment equals either sexual equality or happiness is not liberation. It's just stupidity.


Anonymous said...

And there'd have to be some sort of stigma attached to girls who slept around without a guarantee, because she'd weaken the position of every other girl by making no-strings-attached sex available.

Hopefully there would also be a stigma attached to GUYS who slept around without giving guarantees...

bmmg39 said...

I agree with Rose. Hold all people to the same standard, rather than cling to ridiculous, inaccurate, gender-based stereotypes.

mrsdarwin said...

Did I say standards should be different for men and women? No. And frankly, I think the frat boys at Duke are disgusting, unprincipled, immoral -- and really good at cost-benefit analysis. Why put out extra effort to get a girl in bed when she'll hop in there willingly?

In a free-for-all atmosphere like Duke, where traditional standards of morality aren't even part of the equation, holding everyone to the same (low) standard of sexual behavior doesn't seem to be producing equal satisfaction for men and women. I'm not making this up based on antiquated stereotypes -- that's what the Duke girls in the article are saying.

Perhaps if the girls actually held the guys there to a higher standard, they'd make an effort to live up to it. Dunno, but I didn't see any evidence from the article that anyone but the local police were interested in holding the lacrosse players accountable for their behavior, sexual or otherwise.

Darwin said...

I think the thing MrsDarwin is pointing out (and it's a point worth making, in a world that increasingly ignors moral reasoning) is that even beyond any moral consideration (at which level clearly men and women have an equal duty to sexual morality) there is a natural law, and even a biological law level of sexual propriety to contend with.

In addition to being moral creatures made in the image of God, we're also biological creatures where if the female gets pregnant, she carries the child for nine months and cares for it for eighteen years or more. Because of this, humans have a rather deep seated set of instincts dealing with sexual satisfaction and propriety which even fifty years of contraceptive culture can't overcome. Human nature doesn't change.

Thus, the average woman gets less satisfaction out of promiscuity than the average man because at a basic, biological level she's programmed to feel nervous about uncommitted relationships. Women are designed to feel used when their used. Men, on the other hand, don't necessarily suffer a biological or survival setback if they father children they never see again. So they're not designed to feel particularly bad about being used as a sexual object. In a basic creature sense, it doesn't have nearly the potential to hurt them.

bmmg39 said...

"...holding everyone to the same (low) standard of sexual behavior doesn't seem to be producing equal satisfaction for men and women."

I'm for holding everyone to the same HIGH level of behavior, not low.

"Men, on the other hand, don't necessarily suffer a biological or survival setback if they father children they never see again."

Well, women don't NECESSARILY feel one, either. But most normal men AND women would never want to be in that situation.

People keep perpetuating this myth that men are lascivious ogres, whereas women just want to hold hands and talk. Sometimes, though, it's the exact opposite. Sometimes, it's the woman acting wildly and pressuring the man for sex. Those who cling to Mars/Venus stereotypes may have difficult with this reality...