Rebelling against a culture of porn

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The Article

Which is the greater oppression—sexual virtue imposed by the patriarchy, or sexual libertinism imposed by the matriarchy?

They call it empowerment, but in fact the decade-long vogue for “girls gone wild”—“bad” as the new sexual “good”—is just another form of cultural tyranny. Except now the oppressors are post-morality theorists and “desperate housewife” moms urging public “hotness,” rather than stern, moralistic fathers suppressing it.

Today, the sexualization of girls begins in infancy with 12-month sized rompers announcing, “I’m too sexy for my diaper.” At age four, it’s The Bratz Babyz, singing “You’ve gotta look hotter than hot! Show what you’ve got!” At six it’s a pouty, scantily dressed My Scene Bling Bling Barbie draped in diamonds. By 12, it’s Ludacris singing ( Ruff sex): “make it hurt in the garden.” Fully brainwashed by 13, lap dancer is by then considered a more desirable profession than teacher, as one British survey of 1,000 teenage girls found to be the case by a 7-1 ratio.

We’ve all seen countless variations on the theme, but these particular examples came from Torontonian Wendy Shalit’s new book, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good.

Shalit’s 1999 book, A Return to Modesty, acknowledged feminism’s legitimate triumphs, but deplored its obsession with girls’ right (turned obligation) to boundaryless sexual exploration. She identifies the pressure on girls to experience early, frequent and emotionally detached sex as the primary cause of cynicism in both sexes, resulting in a systematic atrophy both of appetite for deep love and aptitude for long-term attachment. Shalit holds that voluntary sexual modesty throughout adolescence with a view to eventual loving monogamy more accurately dovetails with women’s basic nature, and therefore results in their greatest emotional fulfillment. A solid researcher, citing wide-ranging statistical, professional and anecdotal testimony, Shalit builds a persuasive case for promiscuity’s harsher toll on women than men.

Radical feminists despise this precocious, politically incorrect “modestynik” who herself remained cheerfully chaste until marriage. For her apostasy against the “bad is good” orthodoxy, Playboy scornfully dubbed her “A Man’s Worst Nightmare,” and The New York Observer caricatured her as an SS officer. Shalit has even received death threats simply “because being a romantic is nowadays an unpardonable sin.”

Girls Gone Mild throws into detailed, sickening relief the actual content the average girl in North America is subjected to from birth onwards in the determination to make her “bad.” By their early teens, girls’ resistance to bad-girl brainwashing is ground down and they are ill-equipped to resist the paradigm of sexual largesse promoted by educational and celebrity authority figures. Last year, actress Sharon Stone, offering characteristically voguish “advice” to young teens, suggested, “If you’re in a situation where you cannot get out of sex, offer a blow job.” Cannot? Why not just say “no”? Ah, but that would make her appear “good,” the one forbidden sexual choice.

Shalit offers quite hopeful evidence, through personal testimonies of the 100 girls she interviewed and examples from thousands of e-mails to her Web site,, that a—well, modest—but real counter-revolution is under way amongst young women and girls. She adduces the cases of sexually disciplined daughters rebelling against permissive mothers (notably Molly Jong-Fast, daughter of famously promiscuous, four-times-married novelist Erica Jong,) and the spontaneous 2005 “girlcotters” who challenged Abercrombie & Fitch on their degrading T-shirts (such as “Who needs brains when you have these?”) and succeeded in having them withdrawn from inventory.

In Canada, a similar phenomenon is taking shape with TRENDS: Teens Reacting Effectively ‘NDiscovering Style. Conceived by four Toronto teenage girls in 2004 who were fed up with the unremitting sexualization of girls in the media and the fashion world, TRENDS is now active in six Canadian cities. These girls understand that the medium—clothes—are the sexual message. Girls are lured to TRENDS by the promise of involvement in fashion shows, but they stay for the group validation of sexual virtue. Canadian girls who are sick of “bad girl” culture should check it out (

The girls in TRENDS and the “girlcotters” Shalit describes as bellwethers in the pendulum swing back to a more natural restraint aren’t sexually modest to please the patriarchy or the matriarchy, but to please themselves. Free will choosing principled modesty because it confers self-esteem? Now that’s true sexual liberation.

Barbara Kay
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Joel Johannesen
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