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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]

Hardly a “Cut” Above
Feminism and the Sexualization of American Culture

[Carol Platt Liebau] 8/23/04

It wasn’t so long ago that most women aspired to be virgins on their wedding day. Those who weren’t kept it to themselves, donned their white bridal gowns, and headed down the aisle, often with a huge sigh of relief. Our culture, as a whole, put a premium on female chastity, and disdained women who deviated from the ideal.

Well, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Today, the culture still looks down on those who fail to conform; now, however, it’s the women who remain virgins until marriage who are the oddballs, the “prisses,” the “prudes.” Sexually experienced girls are portrayed as the flower of women’s liberation, the sophisticated apotheosis of “girl power,” and the last word in all things hip – witness the immense popularity and influence of Sex and the City.

Last weekend’s Washington Post contributes to the trend with a largely favorable piece about Jessica Cutler, the erstwhile Capitol Hill mail clerk who has achieved notoriety through her weblog. The blog detailed her sexual exploits with six different men – some of whom had sexual proclivities decidedly outside the mainstream. Cutler wrote about receiving money from some of these men, and referred with airy insouciance to being “pimped out” by others of her acquaintance.

According to the Post, after being fired from her job as a result of the publicity surrounding her blog, Ms. Cutler’s profile has risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes of her Capitol Hill career. She will soon appear in the pages of Playboy magazine, is writing a book, and apparently enjoys the perks of recognition, including corner tables at trendy Washington nightclubs.

To question the wholesomeness of the mindset that celebrates female sexual promiscuity is to invite condemnation. With it comes the risk of being labeled “insensitive” or even (Heaven forbid!) “judgmental.” But it’s high time that someone exercised a little judgment, because it seems that those who have cheered on this “liberation” are pretty hard to find when it comes time to pick up the pieces of the lives shattered by a misplaced confidence in the benefits of sexual license. Samantha Jones, the most forthrightly promiscuous of the Sex and the City quartet, may be an inspiration in good times, but she isn’t going to be around to comfort a young girl when her weekend one-night stand ignores her the next Monday at school.

It’s worth remembering that far more young women find themselves in the position of Monica Lewinsky – spurned, humiliated and heartbroken – after sexual affairs than in Jessica Cutler’s quasi-celebrity shoes. Even Monica could be considered lucky – her family had the financial resources to help her, she hadn’t contracted a social disease, and she didn’t face the dilemma of having to decide either to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term or to set herself up for years of guilt by aborting her unborn child.

Consider Amber Frey – whose past reads like a collision between Sex and the City and real life. We’ve learned that she engaged in unprotected sex with Scott Peterson on the night she met him, she’s been involved with yet another married man in the past, and she’s mother to two babies by two different men who were never her husband. Amber may, in fact, be a kind, well-meaning person, but the question remains: Is she really the kind of sexually liberated woman that young women today are supposed to emulate?

The irony is breathtaking. With the complicity of the elite culture, feminists, who have told women that they are being oppressed if they serve their husbands a home-cooked meal, have simultaneously encouraged them to become men’s sexual playthings without expecting any love, support, commitment or even respect in return. And although sexual experimentation may look pretty cool on the screen or seem pretty neat in the paper, life has a way of teaching real lessons. It will be interesting to see whether this generation of sexually experienced women will one day counsel their own daughters to follow the trail they have blazed in search of “sexual pleasure” and “personal satisfaction.”

Women can pretend that they like no-strings sex just as much as men do, but saying it doesn’t make it so. After all, in the series finale, even the writers of Sex and the City acknowledged what its legions of female fans would consider the only truly “happy ending.” Of the four protagonists, two ended up married, with another obviously heading to the altar, and the last finding contentment in the first stable, committed and long-term relationship she had ever known.

In an age when Jessica Cutler merits in depth coverage in The Washington Post, the only deviant approach to premarital sex seems to be abstinence. If our culture cannot learn to handle sexual matters with polite discretion, it’s at least worth hoping that soon it becomes safe again for those who are virgins – or who remained so until marriage – to step forward, too, without being considered some kind of “freak” or “holy roller.” When it becomes as acceptable to be sexually chaste as it is to be sexually experienced, well, that’s when women will finally be liberated from the oppression of the sexual revolution.CRO

Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.

copyright 2004


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