Penurious Progress (as the sexual revolution marches on)

I was going to just post a reply on Facebook to this, but I started to run on…

What got me started was this article, posted in response to this article.

The tension building up from the sexual revolution is palpable and painful to the touch.

Sexuality is on the cutting edge of a huge cultural shift going on right now in our world. I tend to think of cultural shifts as being like the San Andreas fault. A whole bunch of tension builds up and then there is a sudden lurch. The lurches aren’t controlled and can be both good and destructive at the same time.

The problem faced by legislators trying to address sexual autonomy and rape culture is that laws are written as if the people they apply to have one culture. Our culture is hardly uniform. We have a culture evolving, with subgroups of that culture evolving at differing rates and developing differing ways of coping with change. Can we apply a law uniformly to a culture that is far from uniform? I’m not sure – which is not an argument against trying, it is just a comment on the difficulty of doing it well.

There are a couple other things these articles bring up that I’d like to touch on.

We do need to work on the culture of entitlement to sex. That means making (some) men fully understand sex is for mutual benefit. I firmly believe most men know that, and that the problem is largely that there is no good way for women to tell the good guys from the bad guys. You good guys, get to work on making that easier for us.

We also really really need to make sure women understand that both yes and no are valid. There should be no fear, hesitation, judgement, or repercussions associated with having, or not having sex. One of the things I hear a lot is that men are vulnerable to women accusing of them of sexual assault when they later regret having had sex with them. Forget the flawed premise that women are that vindictive for a minute for the sake of staying on topic. Why don’t we just make sure women don’t have to sort out mixed cultural signals that lead them to regret their decisions? Let’s get rid of the madonna whore complex that brands women sluts when they say yes and teases when they say no, because it’s hard to give a straight answer when neither answer is a winner for you.

Lastly, and I love this part, the article touches on commitment and relationships. The sexual revolution freed men and women part way, but kept both genders tangled up in old mores and attitudes. That left the rebellion against strict sexual codes open to excess. There has been excess. The hook up culture leaves everybody vulnerable to misunderstandings. Sex and lust are not really conducive to obtaining legally defensible consent. We get swept up in lust and it inhibits our ability to read other people. Again, not an excuse for men ignoring signals, just an explanation of how a subtle signal could get lost. Also not an argument against making consent the cornerstone of sexual assault laws. The better you know someone the more familiar you are with their subtle communication. Within commitment, consent is informed by an existing framework of mutual respect and affection. Now that we have the right to have sex we should make sure it is actually right to have sex.

I am fixated on this issue. I was so very lucky to be raised by a mother who never made me feel like sex was a dirty word and a father who never made me feel like having sex was a bad decision. I observe from a very safe place. I see all the tangled issues and all I can do is comment from my point of view as a woman who hasn’t been afraid to speak up, who was never called a slut for saying yes or a tease for saying no, in a society where women are pretty empowered, and as a woman who has a fabulous partner in her life and a stable and mutually fulfilling relationship. I wish everyone could have what I have. But they need my parents, and they need my background.

I am trying my darndest to spread the good stuff around. You can too.

Let’s start by outing men like Daryush Valizadeh who are not compatible with where we want to go as a culture. Let’s raise our kids to respect sex, and respect each other. Let’s admit that, in our desire to make change, we are going to make mistakes and will have to tweak how we deal with issues as they arise, and let’s work together to move forward.

 

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