The Shame Cycle
The new backlash against casual sex.
But after a while, we did not really want to do any of those things anymore, as Tina Fey explained in an interview with Vogue earlier this year. We have been handed "a sort of Spice Girls' version of feminism. We're supposed to be wearing half-shirts and jumping around. And, you know, maybe that's not panning out." Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis was put in jail. Christina Aguilera married a nice Jewish boy and had a baby. She's been replaced on the pop charts by 19-year-old virginal chanteuse Taylor Swift, who sings chaste love songs about Romeo and Juliet. Paris Hilton is rarely in the tabloids and we haven't seen her nether regions in years. Finally, the fictional Carrie Bradshaw is wed and living a New York domestic fantasy.
And there's the flip side to the stripper fantasy. Domestic bliss is now the cultural ideal for young women, which is why Lori Gottlieb haranguing women to settle for Mr. Good Enough in her new book Marry Him hit such a raw nerve. Cue the "spinster panic" articles, like this one from the New York Times in January, which talks about how successful beautiful women are "victims of a role reversal" that will leave them single because men aren't making as much money as they are anymore.
At the start of this decade, we have thoroughly internalized these recent conservative cultural messages about the importance of marriage: "73 percent of women born between 1977 and 1989 place a high priority on marriage," writes Hannah Seligson in the Wall Street Journal. If what Gen Y wants is marriage, then it follows that feelings about sex would be more complicated—and in some cases, deeply judgmental. A Princeton freshman wrote an op-ed last week about why her friend should not be allowed to claim rape after a night of highly inebriated sex, the implicit message being that she should not have been having inebriated sex in the first place. A poll taken last month in London showed that women were less likely to forgive a rape victim than men were.
Of course, the Princeton freshman was roundly pilloried, along with Lori Gottlieb. Women are not quite ready to admit that we are ready to be domesticated again. But the Girls Gone Wild model doesn't appeal much either. Caught between the false liberation of the last decade and the fervent conservatism of the new one, it makes some sense that Hephzibah Anderson called the whole thing off for a year. It's much easier than dealing with the shame cycle.