Virginity as a feminist statement

Best friends forever...until the first kiss.

EMILIO: “Why is being a virgin when you get married so important to you?”

VICTORIA: “Because it’s not important to anybody else,” she snapped, then huffed. “No. What happened was, I saw girls in high school—and one at church—they’d have sex, almost always pressured. Sometimes it was date rape, but they didn’t have the guts to say so. Or they were confused or conflicted about it. And they’d either get pregnant or the guy would treat them like crap. Regardless of what people like to think, I’m not oblivious. I see and hear, and I remember. But I don’t care.”

Didn’t he know that! Her non-oblivion was a tiger trap.

“Now, I ask you. If you see a bunch of girls running around crying after having had sex, what conclusion are you going to draw?”

He pursed his lips. That had never occurred to him. Then again, he wasn’t a teenage girl.

“I drew the conclusion that it wasn’t fun. Not only that, but they ended up with labels that weren’t true at all. Slut. Whore. Easy. Whatever. I saw how the boys treated them and they were not nice. Why didn’t the boys get labeled? Why was it cool and fun for them? Why was it the girls who got all the bad side and the boys who got the good side?”

Emilio was, at the moment, sinking into a vat of goo whose main ingredient, he suspected, was shame. He’d been one of those boys.

And one of those young men.

And one of those almost-middle-aged men.

“Why did the girl have to leave school if she got pregnant, but the baby’s father didn’t? And why,” she continued, “was the girl always blamed if she had the guts to speak up and say, ‘He raped me’? Her skirt was too short. She was wearing too much makeup. She was where she shouldn’t have been. She had too much to drink. She was too flirty. She wanted it. She’s been asking for it. Oh, and my personal favorite—boys will be boys.”

Silver linings. He’d never raped a woman nor, so far as he knew, had he coerced one into doing something she wasn’t sure she wanted to do, which amounted to the same thing.

“Once ‘boys will be boys’ gets pulled out, the girl’s hounded out of town—by women! The boy’s mother will be leading the pack.”

Emilio had noticed this, in fact, and he was vaguely amazed this behavior crossed an ocean.

“It was the eighties. How many girls are going to ask their mothers to take them to the doctor to get birth control? How many girls are going to walk into a drugstore and buy condoms? None, that’s how many. Why? Because if they go on birth control, it means they expect to have sex in the future. And if they buy condoms, it means they’re planning to have sex right now. As far as I could see, there was nothing in it for the girl. And it wasn’t fun enough to have to deal with the consequences.

“It had nothing to do with church, particularly since the chastity lessons in Young Women also put the onus on the girls to keep the boys in line. Analogies like ‘nobody wants already-chewed gum’ and ‘nobody wants to eat a cupcake that’s got the icing licked off’—”

Emilio grimaced.

“—and another one of my personal favorites—I have so many!—‘Boys can’t control their baser lusts, so you have to cover up so they don’t have to discipline themselves.’ Why is it up to me to shepherd a man’s—any man’s—hormones? But the fact of the matter is, secular society, no matter how much it likes to pretend it’s open and tolerant, is no kinder than religious society.

“If I met a man who was willing to marry me for time and all eternity, I would have to assume he loved me and he thought he could put up with me. The risk is there, but it’s a shared risk, because if he changed his mind after, I’d divorce him and take everything he owned. You take me for a test drive, I’ll take you to the cleaners.”

“Oh,” he moaned, feeling that like a knife in his gut. “That’s cold.”

She granted him a haughty sniff. “And heaven help him when my family gets through with him.”

Emilio took a deep breath and released it in a long whoosh.

“Now refute anything I just said. And before you try, let me remind you of Yvette Mallery. Poor girl. She’s twenty-four. Lonely. Not too bright. Caged by her life. The only marginally admirable trait you have is you don’t string women along.”

Sebastian was right. Again. Victoria was awful when she was thoughtless. She was vicious when she set out to cut a man’s balls off, and Emilio felt like he’d been pummeled, held under water, and stretched out in the desert sun to dry and crack.

“I … can’t.”

“The woman takes all the risk and all the blame, even if she’s brutally raped. She could even end up with a baby she didn’t want if she doesn’t get rid of it somehow. Destroys her shot at making anything out of her life. That’s eighteen years of risk, eighteen years of poverty, eighteen years of her life, gone in forty-five minutes. She ends up alone and on the bottom of Maslow’s scale for the rest of her life.

“I’ve been mocked for being a thirty-two-year-old virgin. Why? Why would any woman over twenty be mocked for being a virgin in a society that also mocks women for choosing unwisely? Or following their bliss just like men do? Or being victims of a horrible crime? The only explanation is that the woman takes all the blame, all the risk just for existing.

“But you know what? I don’t care if people mock me because I may be a lot of things society thinks are horrible—especially in a woman—but I am not delusional and I am not going to screw up my life over something that seems to be about as fun as a drive-in movie, if that, and I refuse to be a victim. You’re upset about ‘Let’s be friends’? Give me one reason to believe you wouldn’t do that to me, too.”

••• TL;DR •••
I am fucking sick and tired of self-described feminists reviling women who choose virginity/celibacy as some backwoods, fundamentalist Christian, hick-r00b, sheltered, naïve victim of an oppressive patriarchal construct. Women who are happy in their sexuality and sex lives are no more empowered than a woman who chooses to remain celibate for whatever reason until whenever. Feminism is supposed to give women credit for knowing their own minds, making their own choices, and respecting those choices. All of them. Not just the ones you agree with.

Scheduling fun?

Laissez le bon temps roulez!I’m asking a question, but I’m not sure I’ll understand any responses I’ll get.

A long time ago, I wrote this post: Mommy, why don’t you smile anymore?

I was doing a psych eval for clearance for a surgery I hope to have some time this coming summer, and the shrink said, “You don’t know how to relax, do you?” Why no. No, I don’t. I don’t remember the last time I had actual fun that didn’t involve guilt for being unproductive.

Twittercrank linked me to this: Young/Old. I’m some depressing amalgam of each. I have a comfort zone. Some of those things I can violate. Some I can’t. Depends on the day and time of the month.

I was cruising Pinterest (as I do) (does gorging on eye candy qualify as fun?) (especially if I feel guilty for the DIY projects I’m not getting done?), and I saw this: How to plan for a busy week {college students}. Doesn’t apply just to college students. On the poster’s “must-do” list is to have fun (paraphrasing).

How does one do this?

I scheduled a fun night out with a friend who had a conflict at the last minute. I didn’t go. The fun part was having a friend to go to a thing who would also enjoy it. Dude offered to take a night off and go with me, but he would have hated every second of the three hours, and who wants to put their spouse through that, especially if they have to take time off work to do it?

Went out with Dude yesterday for lunch. Was it fun? Well, I enjoy being with Dude and I like the restaurant’s food and it was calming and relaxing, but is that fun?

I don’t find the same things fun that my kids do. WTF is fun? What is the concept of fun? Am I fun-deficient? Do I not know how to have fun? Rather, do I not know how to have fun with other people? Am I not paying attention? Is my attention span really that short?

Or have I just gotten so cynical that I’ve lost some sense of wonder about life? (Hint: This is the correct answer.) What I want, really, is to be able to laugh with my kids and husband and have fun with them.

Suggestions? How can I scale back my cynicism? How can I scale back my sense of guilt for not being productive constantly? How can I expand my narrow lifestyle’s worldview to fun so I can laugh with my kids? And, well, what is “fun”?

I am an expert witness because I say I am*

don_henley_-_actual_miles_2528front2529-300x294Someone sent me to an interesting article on a book I haven’t read, The Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset. I hesitated to write this because I haven’t read the book, but I’m actually commenting on the post itself.

“The Smartest Book About Our Digital Age Was Published in 1929. How José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses helps us understand everything from YouTube to Duck Dynasty.”

Are you, like me, puzzled to learn that Popular Science magazine recently shut down comments on its website, declaring that they were bad for science? Are you amazed, like me, that Duck Dynasty is the most-watched nonfiction cable show in TV history? Are you dismayed, like me, that crappy Hollywood films about comic book heroes and defunct TV shows have taken over every movie theater? Are you depressed, like me, that symphony orchestras are declaring bankruptcy, but Justin Bieber earned $58 million last year?

Why yes, I AM wondering what’s up with Duck Dynasty. I AM pissy about the constant retreads coming out of Hollywood. I AM annoyed that Justin Bieber can finance a country’s worth of symphony orchestras. (I’m not really sure about the Popular Science thing, though.)

All is well. I’m intrigued. I’m invested in this piece. I’m even slightly nodding at this:

Put simply, the masses hate experts.

It’s so true! They so do!

But there’s a little tickle in the back of my mind at the use of the word “experts.” Then come a few more phrases that make me squirm a little.

If forced to choose between the advice of the learned and the vague impressions of other people just like themselves, the masses invariably turn to the latter. […] The upper elite still try to pronounce judgments and lead, but fewer and fewer of those down below pay attention.

Huh.

  • Experts.
  • Learned people.
  • Upper elite.

Ortega couldn’t have foreseen digital age culture, but he is describing it with precision. […] He would understand why Yelp reviews have more influence than the considered judgments of restaurant reviewers. He would know why Amazon customer comments have more clout than critics in The New Yorker. […] a friend who is affluent, educated, and a noted wine connoisseur. [who] now relies more on wine advice from websites where anyone can post their evaluations of different vintages.

And this is where the article loses me, but not because I’m in high dudgeon over the key words.

There are several practical/pragmatic variables here that the author of the piece hasn’t accounted for:

1. product accessibility
2. expert accessibility
3. artificial restrictions to #1 & #2
4. fallibility of experts
5. accessibility of product and information
6. unfulfillment of desires

1. The masses aren’t likely to have access to the restaurants a critic would. They may not have access to the symphony. They may not have access to wine.

2.

a. The masses aren’t going to be reading reviews of restaurants they can’t afford to go to. Further, before Google, one had to know where to look for this information, and one isn’t likely to look for that information for places they can’t afford.

b. There are only so many experts for so many things that we as a culture experience or want to experience. Not every book can be reviewed, much less in the New York Times, the holy grail of book review sections. There are not enough restaurant critics or column inches to review every eatery in any given town.

3. The point of an expert review isn’t to educate or recommend or dissuade or make such things desirable/accessible to the masses. It’s to put up a wall between the “experts,” “learned people,” “elite” and the masses. It’s a bright line: This is our turf. Do not cross. Who chooses which books and restaurants and wines get the column inches? The experts, the learneds, and the elites, who have absolutely no interest in talking to the masses at all. Those column inches are jealously guarded.

“Amateur” reviews on Yelp and Amazon are plentiful and varied. Every thing that the masses are interested in have an opinion behind them that they can use to evaluate their own choices. There are no column inch limits. There are no carefully curated lists, leaving off what the masses are actually interested in.

4. Experts. Now there’s an interesting concept. Expert. One who is more learned in X thing than all the other learneds in X thing. A synonym is “consultant.”

Except the masses have seen the experts. They have listened to the experts. They keep listening to the experts, because the experts are more learned than they are—and they know it.

And then … what they see is that the experts are wrong quite a bit of the time. They are confused. “This expert is saying X, and I want to believe him, but my lying eyes are telling me something else. Which one do I believe? DAMN MY LYING EYES!”

So they go on about their business because, in the grand scheme of things, people aren’t going to change if something’s working for them, even if an expert tells them they’re wrong, even if they want to believe that the expert is right. They’d rather just live with their vague feeling of being wrong because they can’t reconcile the viewpoint of the expert with their own experience.

5. The masses will go for what’s accessible, be it product or information, and they will turn away from carefully curated lists to find what they actually want. If they don’t find what they actually want, they’ll go for a substitute. Miley Cyrus is not Britney Spears is not Madonna is not Cher. But Madonna’s a decent substitute for Cher, and Britney’s a decent substitute for Madonna, and Miley Cyrus is—

My apologies to Britney, Madonna, and Cher.

Not only are these things accessible, they are in their faces. I do not see experts in their faces, giving them a reason to find a more erudite alternative.

6. The masses can’t make what they really want to have, what their ears and eyes want, so they have always had to take what they can get, whether they like it or not.

This is why genre self-publishing has taken over NY genre publishing. People found authors who will give them what they already know they want, but were not being provided. Authors don’t make tastes and trends. People who are looking for stories that resonate make those tastes and trends. Publishing takes pride in its gatekeeping, but it has a lousy record on what people actually want.

The article goes on with this:

The same people who denounce expert opinion about movies or music will praise a skilled plumber or car mechanic.

An expert opinion about movies or music is just that: an opinion. It has no basis in skill or objective measure. Further, movies and music are not staples of life; they are spices.

A skilled plumber will come out in freezing weather to replace a hot water heater. A skilled car mechanic will keep a piece-of-shit car running so someone who can’t afford a new car can get to work to feed their families.

How is this apples-and-Volkswagen comparison being made without irony and with a straight face?

The value of blue-collar expertise is accepted without question. The same people who get angry when I make judgments about the skill level of a pianist, would never question my decision to pay more to hire a superior piano tuner.

Shocking.

This is a peculiar state of affairs …

No it’s not. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be part of the masses.

At one point in The Revolt of the Masses, he complains about a woman who told him “I can’t stand a dance to which less than 800 people have been invited.” So how would the Spanish philosopher respond to the crowd mentality that seeks out viral videos with a hundred million views?

This is not difficult to comprehend. There are more people to choose from. This is not analogous to how many people vote for a YouTube video. This is analogous to having a billion YouTube videos to choose from.

Lastly, some more vocabulary:

… the possibility for barbarism to flourish in tandem with technology; or the unbalanced specialization which favors science over the humanities; or (in his words) “the loss of prestige of legislative assemblies.”

  • Barbarism.
  • Unbalanced.
  • Not prestigious.

The masses are asses. My dad used to say that when observing what made popular culture. The case can be made, yes. Mobs have regularly shown themselves to be asses.

I’m not above making judgments on the taste of the masses, although I’ve learned that it’s wise not to do it publicly.

But to say that the masses are asses because they don’t listen to the experts is missing the point: they know who the experts say they are, but they don’t trust their advice and they know that the self-proclaimed experts aren’t there to sweep them into culture and a better appreciation of the humanities.

The experts are there to keep them out.

* “In the Garden of Allah” by Don Henley lyrics | audio

No.

This popped up in my feed today:

No.

“No,” I said, immediately and out loud.

I remember by whom, when, where, and why I was earnestly exhorted to “be soft. Be soft. Be soft.”

His name was Joe, a much-older friend/teacher. It was a Monday in November and it was dark and raining and I was 18. I was sitting in his car in the parking lot of Merrill Hall at BYU, after he had brought me home from class. I was upset that I couldn’t seem to get what I wanted (a date).

“Be soft,” he said. But I’d had soft beaten out of me long before then and I was pretty sure I’d never be able to become soft, so I silently rejected his advice as an impossibility. I didn’t know it then (nor did he), but I was angry. There’s just no dealing with anger when you don’t know that’s what it is. And why do people find women’s anger so frightening?

I understood what he was trying to tell me: Attractive women aren’t hard. They certainly aren’t cynical, sarcastic, and wary. They are not angry. If you want a date–a husband, you can’t be those things. Men don’t find those things attractive.

Be soft, he said then.

I don’t know how, I said.

Be soft, Vonnegut says today.

No, I say.

No.