Girls and Guys, Getting [It] Together; Some Observations on Double Standards

(Surprise, surprise, Intern 2 has a bone to pick with cultural attitudes on sexuality and the sexes)

Recently my friend Barnabas mentioned that another (male) acquaintance of ours had once written a story whose implausible content “revealed his virginity.” The tone was not complimentary.

Due to the setting we were in, I chose not to mention that I too was wrestling with a scene in my own work-in-progress, one key to the characters’ emotional trajectory, that suffered from my lack of firsthand experience. But if I had, I know my friend would have vocally distinguished my situation from our classmate’s. There were other reasons (my actual presence, for one) that my lack of experience could be denoted the more respectable, but I’ve long suspected that chief among them would be the fact that I was a girl.

Say what we will about the pervasively decadent quality of popular and academic culture, but the secular world is still remarkably kind to female virgins. We have our detractors, (Jessica Valenti comes first to my mind), but they are generally not disdainers. It is frequently argued that women are harmed or restricted by abstinence, but not that there’s something innately wrong with a woman who abstains. The prevailing mindset does not suggest that a woman who has not engaged in sexual conduct is any less of a woman for it. (If your evidence or experience says otherwise, by all means post a link/tell us your story, and join the conversation.)

This is not the case for abstinent men, and men and women alike bear the responsibility to face the injustice.

Surely it is a point of agreement for all reasonable people that men’s promiscuity ought not to be excused and even praised while the same behavior is denigrated in women. I do not believe that this, which many feminists hold as the capital-D-S Double Standard (see also; “Stud/Slut Dichotomy”), is nearly so prevalent now as it was many decades ago, but this new double standard that excuses women’s virginity while denigrating men’s (we can call it the “Nice Girl/Nice Guy Dichotomy”) seems to have sprouted from the same root. The difference might have come with the shift of mainstream sexual mores. As pre-marital abstinence, rather than sexual activity, becomes the frowned-upon behavior, so do men, rather than women, become the chiefly frowned-upon participants.

This is not progressive thinking. This merely inverts our old thinking. The new double standard operates from the same false premises as the old. It still presupposes that men are passive victims to their all-consuming sexual desires (so, if a man has not had sex by a certain age, he must be either completely undesirable to women or otherwise suspect in his manliness). It still presupposes that women do not struggle with sexual desire at all, or only to a degree that is easily controlled (so, if a woman has not had sex by a certain age, that is an understandable decision on her part.) Just like the old double standard, this discredits both men’s and women’s capacity for strength in virtue.

It may be easier in this cultural climate for me, as a woman, to openly discuss my moral choices than it is for my male friends and counterparts. But I propose that even so, in such contexts that are appropriate and in such terms that are constructive, we all put these choices into open discussion. We, men and women together, bolstering the required courage, should calmly explain ourselves and defend each other.

Had it come to that, I could have reminded Barnabas, who does know better, that being male or female was not really a relevant factor in the conversation about twenty-something virgins trying to write what they don’t know. He would have listened. So would many others.

As we strive together toward the same fixed and unchanging standards, let us be confident, assured, and transparent* in our striving. Let us strive together so that others may see and understand, and may begin to strive alongside us.

I remain, sincerely yours,
Intern 2

*But tactful, and not obnoxious or boastful. Discretion, valor, better part, etc.

Some Girls, Part 2: What Words Mean

Continuing from Part 1, Intern 2 extrapolates on the consequences of vagueness in rhetoric

It is a little alarming that the following assertion should need to be made. It would be a relief it turned out to be unnecessary. But please bear with me a moment, as I’ll breathe easier knowing these words are out.

Women, like men, are creatures of God, and therefore are possessed of individual souls and unique vocations. Please trust me when I say that women do not function together as a vast hive intelligence. Women are not only not a vast hive intelligence, we are more specifically not a vast hive intelligence that, created for the sole or main purpose of serving the needs of men, was corrupted by the Fall into a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to drive men to sin. (Just like men do not and never have existed as a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to make women miserable, a viewpoint comfortingly less common than its vocal espousers make it appear.)

There is a distinction between what some women do as individuals and what all women do as a sex. There is also a distinction in how to approach the determination of what some individual women do and what women as a sex tend toward.

There is a distinction between making a statement about “some women” or “that woman who” and making a statement about, plainly, “women.”

One is an observation of something that individuals or an individual did or does.

The other is an observation of something that a whole half of the living population of humanity did or does.

Clearly these types of observation are not equivalent.

It is not accurate to state that “Women have been indoctrinated by feminism to think they enjoy working fourteen hours a day,” or “Women are naturally overjoyed to spend the whole of each day in their homes with three toddlers, two of whom are in diapers,” or “Women like to drive trucks” or “Men like to get exfoliation treatments” or “Ladies prefer salad” or “Gentlemen prefer steak.” While in some contexts the statement is clearly a generalization and not actually applicable to an entire sex, the actual meaning doesn’t change and the ambiguity can turn off-putting. And worse than off-putting, when discussing divorce, abortion, or abuse (or, as described in Part 1, false allegations thereof), this vague rhetoric becomes unjustly accusatory.

But put a “some” or a “many” in front of the sentence? Or the number from a reliably obtained statistic? Then it becomes true, if not empirically proven, and we can acknowledge that women, and men, are possessed of unique souls, and that no sin or virtue or struggle or preference can necessarily be attributed across the board.

Our nature as God’s image remains fundamentally the same; the good things we strive toward for joy and salvation are simple, few, and alike; but the details, and the means of striving, are richly varied.

We are given the means to express this in language, in rhetoric. Let’s use language carefully, for the fullness of truth.

(If you see an instance where this blog hasn’t used language carefully for the fullness of truth, please speak up.)

Sincerely yours,

Intern 2

Some Girls, Part 1: Use Your Words


(In which Intern 2 raises the major moral implications of a minor rhetorical imprecision.)

The first time I heard the problematic phrasing was in a high school class. We were being educated about date rape.

A boy in my year, an athlete, commented, “Girls sleep with you at parties and then lie and say you raped them.”

We were very young, and most of us only beginning to consider the issues of sex and its abuse in much depth. The boy was expressing what was likely a very present and legitimate fear among his teammates. He’d probably picked it up from older boys on the team, and they’d have all been aware of the relevant stories of accused college and professional athletes. The boy was just relaying this fear to our class, in such words that occurred to him to use.

This was understandable. I understand it now. But all those years ago I didn’t think it through. All those years ago the comment was absolutely infuriating.

And it wasn’t so much the comment itself that was infuriating, though I did unjustly fail to what its context or cause or intended meaning might be (I was very young).

What got me, and what I got hung up on, was the phrasing.

Because the boy, who was very young as well and hadn’t thought this through, didn’t say, “Some girls sleep with you and then lie.”

And he didn’t say, “There’re girls who’ll sleep with you at parties and then lie.”

He said, in effect, “Girls sleep with you and then lie.”

Which my very young, very reactionary, very dramatic self interpreted as his saying, “All girls can and will sleep with athletes and then lie that they were raped, so they can get money or look innocent. All girls believe that gain for oneself is worth a lie that could destroy someone else. All girls, inlcuding Intern 2 and all her female friends and loved ones and all the girls and women she knows and has heard of, are capable of monstrous dishonesty. All girls are liars who hurt guys.” Which implied, conversely, (thought my brain that had only recently grasped the proof processes of logic), “Rape is not real. Girls, all girls, are just making it up.”

This cannot be what the boy wanted to say. One word, one “some,” would have made his real meaning clear. But he was a young boy making an impulsive comment in a high school class. I acknowledge that now: now I would like to discuss the same issue in a different context.

There is a tendency now, in the online conversation about the impact of feminism on our contemporary culture, to use such phrasing as the boy used. The discourse at hand happens occur mostly in written form, mostly among adults. “Rhetoric” is a more fitting term here than “phrasing,” because “rhetoric” implies the careful consideration of the meaning of words we choose and how they’re arranged.

This is not high school: this is the Internet.* We are not young teens grappling with the world’s troubles for the first time: we are maturing and continuing to gain degrees of perspective, experience, and understanding. We have the outward and inward resources to shape and perceive what our writing means to readers.

In short, we have no excuse not to try our hardest to say what we mean. Which includes employing the vital word “some” when we talk about women and feminism and all the ensuing issues we find relevant.

I forgive my classmate his statement, such as may be necessary to forgive. But I call us now to do better by our language.

Please see Part 2 for why.

Sincerely yours,

Intern 2

*Which, as a free public forum, is as good or bad as we make it.

Save the Males!

Forget about saving the whales: it’s the males we are in danger of losing.

At least, that is what Kathleen Parker argues in her book Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care.

Combining humorous anecdotes with scholarly research, Parker makes a convincing case that the men of our society are in danger, not so much of becoming extinct, but of ceasing to be men in the fullest sense.

Here is what Publisher Weekly had to say about the book:

According to columnist Parker, men are an endangered species struggling against everything from mere hostility to literal emasculation. Starting in elementary school, where a teacher most likely a feminist will demand that boys sit still and listen and continuing through college, where freshmen must endure rape awareness workshops, men are besieged by disrespect. Belittled by bumbling portrayals in sitcoms, their importance as fathers is so devalued that they are perceived as little more than sperm and a wallet. Parker trots out the usual suspects—mass culture, unspecified feminists, The Vagina Monologues, Murphy Brown, metrosexuals and girlymen—to propose that a feminist campaign is afoot and eager to effeminize, denigrate and destroy American men.

I think Parker is onto something, not least because the feminization of men is something that we have covered here at Salvo. (See S. T. Karnick’s article ‘Girly Men: The Media’s Attack on Masculinity’ for starters.)

Further Resources: