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Is our generation “correcting” sexual freedom?

May 29th, 2010 · 3 Comments

After you read this trio of articles by Slate/Double X editor Jessica Grose, it’s clear that at least some millenials are. Grose posits that there’s a “shame cycle,” that each generation tries to correct. She says that our generation is more judgmental and wary of “sluttification,” and more likely to regret sexual experiences.

From her article “The Shame Cycle”:

The current raft of regret seems to be a response to the Girls Gone Wild archetype of the late ’90s and early aughts. Ariel Levy described the new era’s version of sex positive in Female Chauvinist Pigs, “a tawdry, tarty, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular.” We were supposed to dance on tables like Paris Hilton and wear ass-baring chaps and hump the floor like 22-year-old Christina Aguilera did in her “Dirrrty” video, or at least find that sort of thing appealing, otherwise we were marmish prudes. We were supposed to go to strip clubs and wear Playboy necklaces around our necks—as Sex and the City star Carrie Bradshaw did.

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.

… [But] 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.

Go read the whole thing; Grose doesn’t explicitly dig for solutions, but the idea of trying to find a sexual medium rather than violently swinging back and forth within a generation is something I’ve been contemplating for years.

UPDATE: Lena Chen responds to Grose’s “Rethinking Virginity” piece at the DoubleX blog, calling the article a “huge misrepresentation.” After reading both, I do agree that her personal position is different (and that, judging by posts like these, the ‘Rethinking Virginity’ conference was not exactly chaste). But I do think the Grose article contains an invaluable account of our generation’s chastising reactions to promiscuity and “oversharing.” This latest piece begs the question more than any: can we finally throw out these damaging virgin-whore complexes and move toward nuanced, constructive convos about sex?

Tags: Generations

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Does anyone know a lot about the Generation Girl dolls? | dress up bolg // May 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    [...] Is our generation “correcting” sexual freedom? [...]

  • 2 Susan // May 20, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Sigh. Riot Grrrl, the movement of the 1990s, was supposed to have bridged the gap between slutification and sexual freedom by owning the right to be beautiful AND safe, a true virgin back when it meant “whole unto oneself” rather than a test to see if a newlywed bled on the white sheets after The First Time.

    How sad is it that we have a hard time owning our sexuality – living it fully and enjoying ourselves – without corporate co-opting or else falling into the trap of the other side of the equation, which is abstinance “education” and early pregnancy.

    I’m SO glad I had the Riot Grrrl ethos to guide me. I never went to a single meeting, but the ideology has lived peacefully in my soul fr nearly 20 years. I’m proud to be a Gen Xer.

  • 3 How To Lose Your Virginity // Jun 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    [...] know how feminists, including yours truly, have been begging for that nuanced convo about sex, for that place between “virgin” [...]

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