Elizabeth Keenan, who is working on a book about 90s nostalgia. One of our favorite topics! We ended up talking a lot about sex. One of our other favorite topics!
So, Ada, we had a great interview today with Dr.
On that tip, I finally forced myself to read the Caitlin Flanagan article that neither of us could initially bear. It’s mainly about the dangers of today’s hookup culture, a subject that has really already been covered ad nauseam. One of my problems with this piece is that much of it is based on adult paranoia, rather than what is really going on with teenagers. (This is something I wrote about for you once, back when Oprah was losing her mind over so-called “rainbow parties.”)
My even bigger problem with the piece is that Flanagan assumes that teenage girls don’t really experience sexual desire. Instead, they are natural romantics who have been “forced into a sexual knowingness.” She also says that: “Unlike the girls of my era, who looked forward to sex, not as a physical pleasure (although it would—eventually—become that for most of us), but as a way of becoming ever closer to our boyfriends, these girls are preparing themselves for acts and experiences that are frightening, embarrassing, uncomfortable at best, painful at worst. These girls aren’t embracing sex, all evidence to the contrary. They’re terrified of it.”
To all of this I say: speak for yourself, lady.
madonna in her bracelets! worn pre-internet!
Ada, I kept trying to come up with a sustained response to your post, but I’m feeling stereotypically feminine and non-linear today. Nevertheless, some thoughts:
- Jealous about Lady Gaga! Post photos! The one time I had a chance to see her I was busy writing a paper. Anyway, I’m interested in your idea that pop culture today is more affirming than it was when we were teenagers. We had Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Alanis Morissette, Liz Phair, Salt ‘n Pepa, Mary J. Blige, etc. I feel the same way about pop culture icons now as I did then: that a lot of them are a mix of feminist-y and regressive. For example, I think it’s cool that Taylor Swift writes her own music, but I think her lyrics are really retro. When she asks Romeo to save her and then he says, “I talked to your dad/go pick out a white dress.” HE TALKED TO HER DAD?! Does Taylor know it’s 2010?! But, seriously, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, which I think are different from mine. I am totally open to reconsideration.
Any excuse to show Tracey Emin
Oh, Ada, Katie Roiphe’s anti-feminist enfant terrible persona is so tiresome. In almost everything she writes she blames puritanical feminists for making sex no fun. But it’s hard for me to take her celebration of Norman Mailer’s violent sex scenes seriously, given that Mailer famously stabbed and nearly killed one of his six (ahem) wives. When Roiphe talks about the bygone belief in sex that could change things, possibly for the better, I think: for whom?
Anyway, what Roiphe calls “postfeminist second-guessing”—on the parts of ambivalent male characters—we could additionally call “post-sexual revolution second-guessing.” Younger guys might realize that some of the stuff Mailer and Roth thought was so great actually has some fallout, emotional or otherwise. Roiphe should read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Hearts of Men, which convincingly argues that the sexual revolution was always partly an attempt by men to escape the confines of stereotypical masculinity. For some, that meant the violent sex and threesomes that seemed incompatible with respectable marriage; for others, perhaps, it meant sex in which they didn’t have to be the initiators or always at the ready for. Some guys don’t want to be conquering heroes.
Kara, have you read Katie Roiphe’s essay on the cover of today’s New York Times Book Review, “The Naked and the Conflicted“? In it, she glorifies the lust-celebrating writing of the Old Lions like Mailer and Roth. By comparison, Gen-X male writers are simpering girly-men, she suggests.
Neal says the whole essay is one long personal ad about how Katie Roiphe likes S/M, hates feminism, but I think it perfectly summarizes the backlash against Third Wave Feminism, which translates to: it’s no fun. Continue reading