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In Defense of Sexual Freedom

Posted on March 5 2010 11:49 pm
Jenn escaped blue state academia for redder pastures in the South. Follow her on Twitter and read more of her work at
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Dirrrty girl Christina Aguilera has given up half-naked floor humping and even the fictional Carrie Bradshaw recently traded in her Sex and the City escapades for marital bliss. Apparently, there’s something terribly wrong with these developments.  There’s a “new backlash against casual sex,” says Jessica Grose in her latest piece for Slate, a “new wave of anti-orgasmic sexual conservatism that makes you hate yourself for what you did last night.”

Grose blames cultural conservatism and neo-Victorian morality for the latest iteration of what she calls “the shame cycle,” an era of sexual regret among women who participate in casual flings. Internalized conservative values, it seems, are forcing women to end their delightfully liberating one-night stands with the dreaded walk of shame, causing many to consider more chaste lifestyles.

The five or six celebrities and authors Grose says have jumped on the chastity bandwagon are hardly evidence of a cyclical phenomenon. But even if we are entering a period in which women are rejecting their inner Girls Gone Wild, why the blame game?

Shouldn’t genuine feminists celebrate women seizing their sexual destinies? Or is embracing your inner hoochie the only path to sexual freedom?

Grose answers that question by linking approvingly to a quote from it is a “feminist duty to 1) seek pleasure and feel entitled to it and 2) to make the world a more orgasmic place for other women.”

Got that, ladies? If you’re not out there hooking up with every passing fancy, you’re shirking your feminist responsibilities.  You owe it to your comrades!  Is it any wonder that Feministing founder Jessica Valenti made an abstinent college student cry during a lecture on the myth of purity?

The problem with viewing sex as a “feminist duty” is that it muddies the waters between the personal and political in a way that is ultimately damaging to men and women alike. When casual sex is a feminist act, it’s a political act, not a personal, sensual one. And having sex out of a sense of political duty is disturbingly antithetical to the notion of sexual freedom.

I was born in 1975. There’s never been any doubt in my mind that I can pursue the same opportunities as men, including promiscuous sex if that’s what rings my bell.  But it’s not my political responsibility to demonstrate that women can do anything men can do.

Who really gains when the personal and interpersonal get lost in the political? Instead of individuals examining our desires and weighing them against potential consequences, the “feminist” Left encourages women to measure desires against how well their fulfillment would exemplify sexual liberation as a political ideal.

At some point, feminism shackled us to a single interpretation of sexual freedom.  But “girl power” doesn’t come packaged in last night’s dress with a monster hangover and a DNA stain of indeterminate origin.

Sexual freedom is about self-discovery and self-determination, not eyebrow-raising political statements. It’s about real choice, not a sanitized list of acceptable options.  And it’s about finding a morally comfortable place between promiscuous and puritanical without the pressure of a hook-up culture that devalues and derides courtship, dating, and emotional attachment.

Jessica Grose says that part of the “backlash against casual sex” comes from the “73 percent of women born between 1977 and 1989 [who] place a high priority on marriage.” I guess their version of sexual freedom is the wrong kind.

Watch out for those marriage fetishists! They’re bound to leave Western civilization in ruins.


Follow Jenn Q. Public on Twitter and read more of her work at

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