Why some radical feminists are realizing that the hyper-sexualized world they helped to create is toxic to women.
Third and fourth wave feminism have heralded casual sex, immodesty, pornography, and promiscuity as emblems of female empowerment. But now, 20 years after pro-sex feminism clinched the feminist movement in the 90’s, the unsavory consequences of “sexual liberation” are presenting themselves. The same feminists who promoted promiscuity as a means for liberation are slowly realizing that the resulting hyper-sexualized culture degrades women.
At the Network of Enlightened Women’s 2018 Young Women’s Leadership Retreat, Emily Jashinsky, opinion writer for the Washington Examiner, addressed attendees on issues related to the Me Too era, and the evolution of the feminist movement. Pro-sex feminism promotes promiscuous behavior, embraces pornography, and encourages immodesty, all in the name of liberation. Anti-sex feminism demands that women are treated as persons, not objects. By nature, this feminism promotes more conservative sexual standards.
To young people, an “anti-sex” or the conservative version of feminism seems about as mythological as a UFO or unicorn. As put by Jashisnky, “There used to be [anti-sex] feminists who said pornography, certain advertisements, and the cover of Cosmo, were exploiting women. Women our age can’t even imagine a feminist movement that would take issue with those things.”
This is because pro-sex feminism has dominated the women’s movement for the last 20 years. Conservative voices have been deliberately excluded from the conversation. But now, some feminists are changing their tune. In fact, some radical feminists are unwittingly echoing the sentiments of conservative feminists who were silenced back in the 90’s.
But why the change? We are now fully experiencing the consequences of the sexual revolution. Feminists are living in the hyper-sexualized world they helped to create, and they don’t like what they see. The hook-up culture has left women empty and hurt. The rampant consumption of violent porn has increased the risk of rape and sexual assault. Women are more depressed, confused, lonely, and dissatisfied than before the sexual revolution. If feminists don’t already regret the sexual revolution, they certainly should.
So, what do feminists have to say about these recent trends?
Maureen Dowd, a columnist for the New York Times, and left-wing feminist published an article in reaction to the Aziz Anzari case, Stormy Daniels, and other similar scenarios. In this article, Dowd questions why so many young women are having casual sex, even when they don’t experience attraction. Dowd asks,
“So you’d rather have bad sex with someone who doesn’t appeal to you than find a way to extricate yourself? You can Lean In but you can’t Walk Out?”
Here you have a radical feminist actually criticizing another women’s sexual decision. While Dowd is not explicitly renouncing hook-up culture, her article does show that hook-up culture isn’t working for many women. Her article goes on to point out that many college-aged women need to get drunk before engaging in casual sex. If this is the case, it is clear that many women don’t truly want casual sex to begin with. Whether or not Dowd admits it, her article makes many of the same points conservatives have been making for decades. The hook-up culture is not empowering women, it is confusing and degrading.
Leah Fessler, a self-proclaimed feminist, wrote a popular piece on her dissatisfaction with the hook-up culture on her college campus. She described how many women don’t enjoy hook up culture but feel pressured to participate anyway. Fessler wrote,
“The truth is that, for many women, there’s nothing liberating about emotionless, non-committal sex. … In doing this, we actually deny ourselves agency and bolster male dominance, all while convincing ourselves we’re acting like progressive feminists. But engaging in hookup culture while wholeheartedly craving love and stability was perhaps the least feminist action I, and hundreds of my peers, could take.”
According to research that Fessler conducted on her campus, women crave intimacy and commitment, both of which are lacking in hook-up pseudo-relationships. Women and men are struggling to find meaningful human connection, and are hurting as a result.
Despite recent trends, there is a reason to hope that change is achievable. Many people, feminists included, are finally realizing the havoc that casual sex, porn, and promiscuity, have wrought on society — Check out The Dating Project, The Love and Fidelity Network, and Fight the New Drug, which proposes alternatives to the hookup culture, and promote genuine relationships.
Yet, there is still a long road ahead. The ultimate goal of the women’s movement should be for women to be valued, honored, and respected. In order for this to be achieved, all people, including conservatives, need to have a stake in women’s issues. We can no longer allow women’s issues to be partisan. Now is the time for conservatives to join the conversation and reshape the women’s movement. After all, it will be the return of traditional sexual standards, strong families, and recognition of differences between the sexes which will heal our toxically sexualized culture. Conservatives cannot remain silent on these issues, because we can bring key solutions to the table.