After a good long week of hard-work there is almost nothing I enjoy more than kicking back with a bowl of cheese-flavored popcorn and a guilty pleasure like Sex and the City. The outfits look cool, the show demands little intelligence and attention so it’s an easy watch, and the four girls are always eating tasty things.
The first time I ever tried pistachio ice cream was after the craving I got from watching Charlotte and Carrie strolling down a sidewalk, discussing their love life, and eating all that lovely green ice cream. And when Steve took Miranda out to his favorite pizza place? Gawd! That’s on my bucket list now! Before I die, I want to eat pizza in New York.
Yet despite the material eye candy and the light-hearted tone of the show, it has its moments which really strikes a chord in its viewers. Fatty Dumpling’s favorite moment was when Samantha apologizes to Smith after realizing being with Richard left her unsatisfied and guilty of the hurt she can cause. Today my favorite bit was when Miranda gets fed up with the lot: All we talk about anymore is Big, or balls, or small dicks. How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It’s like seventh grade with bank accounts!
Another older favorite guilty pleasure is Cosmopolitan magazines with a bowl of cheese-flavored popcorn. It’s just like Sex and the City! The outfits look cool, it demands little intelligence and attention so it’s an easy read, and to compensate for its lack of food imagery there are those fun, informative articles like 8 Things Guys Notice About You Instantly, 10 Things That Make A Woman Undateable, 4 PDA Moves He’s Actually Okay With, and What He’s Secretly Thinking On Your First Date.
I’m sorry, but what girl WOULDN’T want to read this GOLD?
Ya I don’t read that stuff anymore.
It’s not that I’ve matured, really (Ask Fatty Dumpling how many times a day I make that’s-what-s/he-said jokes). But after reading into it a little and reading other articles it makes me remember what Miranda said and what an old Post Secret declared: women magazines seem to be more about the men than the women, lately.
I’m all for learning about the male mind but a quick look at a lot of magazines for young women can illustrate the staggering abundance of similar-titled articles. Kate Harding even reports on the detriment which this focus on men in these kinds of articles can promote (Harding 2010).
There’s no denying that come fall tons of new freshmen will enter campuses and learn of the hook-up culture and its strong and ubiquitous presence. Some will embrace this new independence in an era of social and sexual liberation. The luxury of being single, after all, is the wonderful feeling of not quite knowing what’s going to happen next, the feeling of endless possibility –and sometimes that can include a good healthy hook-up or two.
The liberating atmosphere and the high frequency of casual sex on campus were brought to the forefront last year when Karen Owen’s PowerPoint presentation unintentionally went viral. Owen rated in descriptive detail all the men she had slept with from her sophomore year onwards while at Duke University in a spoof thesis. Many applaud Karen Owen for shattering the glass ceiling, for being able to have sex like a man, and for bringing gender equality into the here and now. After all, it takes a strong woman to affirm female dominance, to embrace her own sexuality, to sleep with highly-rated males with an admirable ease, and then later approach it with such casual humor. Whilst unfairly, she does have her collection of slut-shaming, many feel she sets an example of female empowerment. A Facebook group has been made entitled, “I love Karen Owen for her Duke PowerPoint”. Applauded by sex-positive feminists, all young women are eventually encouraged to enjoy the hook-up culture, to have “sex like men”, and to enjoy the freedoms which a modern woman has (Walsh 2010).
“But maybe”, Wendy Shalit writes, “this liberation doesn’t extend as far as we imagine”. As her writing reports, the hook-up culture does not seem as care-free as some might make it to be. And it even extends to the high-school-aged. In June 2006, The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine performed a study of 279 females, aged 14-17, and found that 41% of them experienced ‘unwanted sex’, with a majority of the females said they feared their partners would become angry if denied sex (Shalit 2008). A 2003 study found both (albeit not all) men and women students join the hook-up culture more out of peer pressure rather than of personal choice, believing that others are having a great time while they are alone in their difference in attitudes towards it (Shalit 2008).
What is even worse is that those who do not wish to participate in the hook-up culture are often taught by their peers, by the media, even by some adults, that there is something wrong with them and whatever it is, they need to change (Harding 2010). Although hooking-up seems to be the norm, The Rutgers University National Marriage Project states 94% of 20-somethings desire a soul mate (Vuleta 2010). As well, an Oxygen/TRU study reports 50% of 20-somethings declare marriage a priority (Vuleta 2010). Not fitting in with the mainstream, these 20-somethings are told to change their priorities and desires. Jeanette May of the Coalition of Positive Sex informs them that they are “better served by having sex for their pleasure without a lot of emotional attachment” (Shalit 2008).
Regardless of the advice, Wendy Shalit, author of The Good Girl Revolution, for seven years and counting, receives letter from thousands of young women who are unhappy with the hook-up scene and thank her for her work (Shalit 2008) . Rachel J Simmons, advice columnist at Teen Vogue, also gets letters from young women all the time who are miserable participating in the hook-up culture (Harding 2010).
“The girls describe themselves as ‘kind of’ with a guy, ‘sort of’ seeing him, or ‘hanging out’ with him. The guy may be noncommittal, or worse, in another no-strings relationship. In the meantime, the girls have ‘fallen’ for him or plead with me for advice on how to make him come around and be a real boyfriend.
These letters worry me. They signify a growing trend in girls’ sexual lives where they are giving themselves to guys on guys’ terms. They hook up first and ask later. The girls are expected to “be cool” about not formalizing the relationship. They repress their needs and feelings in order to maintain the connection. And they’re letting guys call the shots about when it gets serious. (Simmons 2010)”
As Kate Harding puts forth, it is not casual sex that is the problem. In her article she includes a study proving that casual sex does not ruin lives, in terms of statistics (Harding 2010). Harding suggests the problem lies in the attitude that women should conform to become what men want. It is confusing sexual sameness with sexual equality.
It generally never seems to be the boys who have to change to promote equality (Shalit 2008), unless in extreme cases such as abuse, but that is not the focus here. While women are encouraged and even applauded for having sex like men there is very little encouragement for men to have sex like women. A common phenomenon with women is using sexual favors to eventually lure a guy into a relationship only to have it fail miserably most of the time, a familiar pattern in the letters which Rachel Simmons receives (Harding 2010).
And even if young women do find themselves in a relationship, the titles of the magazines, of which these women find themselves the target audience, promote the idea that if the relationship fails it is their fault (Harding 2010). If they are single it is because you have done one of the 23 Things Guys Hate, or you probably did something that was included in their biggest turn offs, or told your boyfriend one or more of the 10 Things Your Man Never Needs to Know, or you broke one of the 15 Love Rules for Single Women (Harding 2010) . There are, of course, 10 Things That Make A Woman Undateable. Or maybe you did not stick to the list of 4 PDA Moves He’s Actually Okay With.
Again, Miranda’s quote rings true here, (What about what WE think, what WE feel, what WE know. Christ! Does it always have to be about them?) with the general majority of articles being about men, as well as Samantha’s statement, Is a relationship saying his name fifty times more a day than my own? Although she was referring to her PR work with her boyfriend, it was clear she became unhappy that most of the time she put her boyfriend’s priorities over hers and for that reason ended the relationship, declaring that she loved him but that she loved herself even more.
Even with these rare examples of this certain kind of female authority in a relationship, these women are taught wanting a serious relationship is ‘so not what guys want!’ (Harding 2010). They are then persuaded to change themselves and to devalue their own needs rather than believing in the stark reality that true compatibility is sadly rare and that guys have their share of mistakes too (Harding 2010). Instead, these women need to be taught that if their needs and priorities do have worth and if they are not going to be met then they are in the wrong relationship, they are not ‘wrong’ as a person.
As for female empowerment through casual sex, of course it can happen, it exists, and is even something praise-worthy but people often forget that there are plenty of other forms of female empowerment. Too much emphasis seems to be placed on a woman’s sexual prowess and appearance. At times, it can even come with the best of intentions. The actress who plays the character Joan in Mad Men is often praised for defying the stereotypes of the thin beautiful woman with her voluptuous figure that her acting seems to fail to make it to the vanguard. She seems to be beautifully voluptuous first and a great actress second. It is possible for women to be sexy without being an easy lay. People can be attractive in so many other ways aside from being ‘easy-going’ about sex.
Walsh states that the hook-up culture often causes women to forget that they have power in their relationships and in their interactions with men and that includes the power to walk away (Walsh 2010).
This blog post was made possible by the work and research of the authors listed below. These notions are old yet the concepts are new to far too many. Links are included for further reading.
Harding, Kate. Friday, February 26th, 2010. Hook-up culture’s” bad rap: It isn’t casual sex that’s damaging young women’s lives. It’s insisting they become exactly What Men Want. Salon, Broadsheet.
Article link: http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/feature/2010/02/26/hook_up_culture/index.html?source=rss&aim=/mwt/broadsheet/feature
Shalit, Wendy. 2008. The Good Girl Revolution: Young Rebels with Self-Esteem and High Standards. Published previously as, “Girls Gone Mild”. New York: Ballantine Books. pp 1-18.
Simmons, Rachel. February 25th, 2010. Is Hooking Up Good for Girls? Rachel’s Blog.
Vuleta, Christina. November 29, 2010. Can All 20-Something Women Have Sex Like a Guy? Huffington Post.
Walsh, Susan. March 1st, 2010. How Feminism Got Drunk and Hooked Up With A Loser. Hooking Up Smart.