In one corner, representing slut-shaming, fear-mongering, guilt-tripping and maternal narcissism, Wall Street Journal writer Jennifer Moses. In the other, a calm understanding that sexuality (both adolescent and adult) is neither good nor bad in nature, but complex and highly individual.
Moses’ piece hinges on the hypothesis that modern moms are deeply conflicted about their own sexual histories. Wary of hypocrisy, they refrain from reigning in their daughters’ desires to dress like Julia Roberts circa Pretty Woman:
“We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.”
There may be women (most of Moses’ circle of girlfriends, apparently), who felt that the “sexual freedom” of the ’70s manifested as unwanted sexual pressure from peers to “find true womanhood in the bedroom.” I am sad for these women. Pressure to be sexually adventurous is as harmful as pressure to be sexually chaste. But whoa… Sara and I have some initial reactions to the good-time-girl/good-girl dichotomy:You are either a “good-time girl” who regrets your sexual history, or you waited for marriage. I think we’re missing another possibility. If one bothered to look behind Door #3, one might find at least a few women who did not wait for marriage and don’t regret their pasts. Shocker, right? Women can have pre-marital sex and also avoid crippling guilt! Who knew?
“What teenage girl doesn’t want to be attractive, sought-after and popular? And what mom doesn’t want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.” Ugh. Here we go again with the beauty myth.
The real question, the one we ought to be asking ourselves, is why do teenage girls feel that their sexuality is the best thing about themselves, the thing they need to share with the world? Why not their smarts, their humor, their kindness, athleticism, or artistic skills? Does Moses experience that “thrill” when her daughter brings home an “A,” scores a goal on the soccer field, earns a genuine compliment from a peer, or articulates herself eloquently? Or are those thrills reserved for “drop dead gorgeous mode?”
Girls dress like prostitutes because it’s a quick path to compliments and praise. Everywhere they look, they see positive energy and admiration directed like laser beams at the “hot” girls. Who wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of all that?
Sidenote: Moses seems to think that sex is deadly:
Related Post: Checkout an article I wrote for The Good Men Project called “Talking to Your Daughter About Beauty”
Related Post: Moses isn’t the only one who got it wrong… Caitlin Flanagan at the Atlantic strikes again.