Has anyone been listening to the lyrics of Eminem lately? The man is obsessed about the sexual morays of his lady friends. And women just can’t win with this guy. First he tells them that if they don’t put out, he’s going to “put them out,” while in the next breath he’s dismissing them as beneath contempt for sleeping with him on the same day they met. The rap superstar is also pretty direct about his lack of respect for women who offer to worship at his altar (if you get my drift) when all they know about him is that he’s a lead singer of a band.
It sort of reminds me of the excuses being made for the male athletes accused of sexual assault: that when women keep throwing themselves at them, what can you expect such virile blokes to do?
It’s happening again. In the media and across popular entertainment, young women are being informed – in ways subtle and not so – that they’re acting like sluts. They are being told in no uncertain terms that if they “give” sex to a guy just because he’s the lead cock in the coop, they’re “dissing” themselves. And if women lack respect for themselves, how can they expect men will respect them?
The message seems to be that if young women are going to stay out late with their skirts up to pussy’s bow and their tongues hanging out, they shouldn’t be surprised when all they find is trouble.
How fair is the slut charge? It’s certainly accurate to say that some young women engage in casual sex with high status men. I’ve got male friends who are or have been musicians. The stories they tell about their female fans make Eminem’s tales seem tame.
But if women cheapen themselves by having brief and loveless encounters with men they don’t know but are attracted to for superficial reasons, then so do men. What’s the difference between a woman who “gets with” a guy because he’s high status, and a bloke bedding a woman because he likes her breasts, her long legs or the winning way she laughs at his unfunny jokes? The bottom line, in other words, is that if young women are acting like sluts, then young men are too.
The real question is whether both sexes ought to be condemned for sluttish behaviour, whether as a society we ought to condemn as possibly risky but certainly unwise sex between young people that is devoid of emotional intimacy, trust, responsibility, mutuality and respect? Should we say loudly and clearly to young people (or perhaps all people) that it is foolhardy to engage in one of the most physically intimate acts of which humans are capable with people we don’t know well, or to whom we are attracted for the shallowest of reasons?
I’m in two minds about this. On one hand, I feel sure there are some young people, as well as older ones, who can not only handle the costs but truly enjoy the benefits of what Erica Jong famously referred to as the "zipless f***". Why should people be made to feel bad if all they want at a particular time of their life is casual sex, as long as they are ruthlessly honest about this with their partners and make sure a condom is at hand?
On the other hand, I remain sceptical about the idea that for most people, most of the time, sex is ever that easy. There is good evidence that human beings are hard-wired to connect physical and emotional intimacy or, to use common parlance, to find that sex brings them closer. Avoiding such intimacy demands an emotional distancing and mental compartmentalisation - a cutting off of body from mind and from feeling - that not only undermines the self but dehumanises the living, breathing, dreaming person beside you. As Jong herself put it, “The zipless f*** is … rarer than the unicorn. And I have never had one.”
Perhaps the bottom line is that while women have the same right as men to act like sluts, this may not always be the right thing for either sex to do.
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