Friday, July 20, 2007

The Nation fails to get The Thrill

Nation online writer Nona Willis-Aronowitz, daughter of late hippie-era rock journalist Ellen Willis and Stanley Aronowitz, namechecks my Thrill of the Chaste in reflecting upon Wendy Shalit's Girls Gone Mild.

The review exemplifies the extreme difficulties modern-day feminist writers have in articulating a philosophy of hedonism. Say what you will about Germaine Greer, she didn't hem or haw about why she should have her beefcake and eat it too. Today's feminist feels the need to appeal to women's "self-respect" — which can excuse even "masochistic affairs."

Willis-Aronowitz praises young women who

bounce between thrilling flings, masochistic indefinable affairs and long-term fulfilling relationships without, as modesty advocates claim, sacrificing their self-respect.
She displays a recurrent fear of being forced to spend the rest of her life with a sex partner. "Why should sex have an everlasting warranty of love attached to it?" she moans. Writing of "the stars of 'Girls Gone Wild' and the fifth graders looking up to Britney Spears," she says, "Regardless of the (sometimes harmful) results of one-night stands or sex before high school, these women are looking to experiment, to find a contrast to immediate, eternal companionship."

That fractured philosophy runs through feminists' apologiae for the sexual revolution — the idea that "sometimes harmful" sexual experimentation should not be discouraged but rather lauded as a sign of deep philosophical striving.

I'm sure that's what predators told the "chicks" in the Sixties right before informing them, as did Stokely Carmichael, that their only position in the movement was prone. Say anything you want about your right to find a contrast to immediate, eternal companionship, baby — just lie back and think of Simone de Beauvoir.

"Maybe," Willis-Aronowitz goes on, "these sexually precocious girls who fervently imitate sexualized twentysomething role models are picking up on the element of fun that sexiness can bring to everyday life."

Have a one-night stand to pick up on "the element of fun that sexiness can bring to everyday life"? Why not just buy a new lipstick? It's cheaper than getting tested for HPV.

What really offends Willis-Aronowitz is not that casual sex might be "sometimes harmful" to women, but rather that books like Shalit's put under her nose the rotten fruit of the lifestyle her parents endorsed. "[J]ust because feminists should acknowledge unhappy teen girls doesn't mean they should have to denounce the gains of the sexual revolution," she sniffs.

Perhaps Willis-Aronowitz believes she is better off without the gains of the sexual revolution — like the corpses of her unborn sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, or nephews who might have lived had her mother not urged others to support abortion. At the least, when she mentions what she views as gains, she seems to mean something other than the rise in not only abortion but divorce and child abuse in the wake of the "liberation" she lauds.

"Sexual liberation," she writes, "forever expanded the definition of 'good sex,' which is precisely the legacy in danger of being reversed by sexual conservatives."

And Willis-Aronowitz looked at the sex and saw that it was "good." And she defined "good" down to an "experiment." And she defined the "experiment" as "sometimes harmful" "masochistic affairs," but far preferable to "eternal companionship."

And Shalit's vision of a return to modesty is looking more attractive all the time.