March 21 2011
Culture of Casual Sex Leaves One Mom Feeling Empty
Over the weekend, Jennifer Moses wrote in the Wall Street Journal, Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That? - an attempt at self-reflection about why so many mothers allow their tween and teen daughters to dress like, well, sluts.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, it's hard to miss the fact that young girls seem to be wearing less and flaunting more - day and night. And given the ages of some of these young girls, it's hard not to ask who's buying them this clothing?
Moses points the finger not at individual parents but at a generation of women conflicted about their own past - and their own sexual experiences:
We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn't have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret-I know women of my generation who waited until marriage-but that's certainly the norm among my peers.
So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We're embarrassed, and we don't want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.
Moses is on to something, but her analysis falls flat. Encouraging your daughter to be attractive and popular is nothing new - women have been doing that for generations. What's different today is the lack of defined gender roles, romance and courting expectations that once helped young men and women navigate relationships.
In a society in which gender roles have largely dissolved and romantic relationships are a thing of the past, more and more girls are encouraged to reject traditional dating practices and instead act like "one of the guys." While women are outperforming men educationally, succeeding in athletics, and ultimately achieving great success in the workplace, there have also been negative consequences to this gender "equality."
Moses acknowledges that easy-access to birth control was supposed to empower women; instead, it left many women of her generation feeling powerless. The fact is men are often the biggest benefactors of the Pill, which has encouraged a culture of casual sex and provocatively dressed girls.
And it's this flippant attitude toward sex that leaves so many moms like Moses unsure of how to parent. On one hand, Moses recognizes the freedom she and her female peers had as young adults has, at times, left them feeling empty; still, she admits, she doesn't want to seem out-of-touch with today's styles and culture and enjoys seeing her daughters turn heads. But it's this attitude that men and women are the same that often leaves women - and young girls - in a bad place physically and emotionally.
Young women today still view marriage as a positive institution. But in a society in which we heavily discount differences between men and women, it can be easy to lose perspective of healthy sexuality and relationships.