Slut Pride, Same-Sex Marriage, and Teenagers In Love (Or Not)


Jaclyn Friedman explains slut pride and the controversies it can cause. Also, Prop 8 is overturned in court and the Bristol Palin saga is yet another reminder of why conservative sexual mores don’t work.

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Links in this episode:

  London anti-domestic violence ad

Pat Buchanan attacks Judge Walker for being gay

Colbert on gay marriage

Limbaugh loses it

Newt Gingrich’s sanctimonious nonsense

Gingrich admits to cheating

Gingrich claims his personal adultery is irrelevant

The gushing Bristol Palin/Levi Johnston engagement announcement

Elizabeth Hasselbeck questions the engagement

And it’s off!

Levi Johnston for mayor 

The most poorly researched “brilliant” idea of the week

On this episode of Reality Cast, Jaclyn Friedman will be on to talk about slut pride vs. slut-shaming. A look at the Prop 8 overturn and the right wing reaction, and a review of the debacle known as the Bristol Palin/Levi Johnston show.

The London’s Metropolitan Police have put out an ad addressing the problem of people not calling the police when they hear a domestic violence incident.  The ad shows an ordinary living room, and the sounds of the fight are beyond the wall.

  • violence *

The caption reads, “Nearly 1 in 5 murders in London are the result of domestic violence.  So if you hear domestic violence, call 999.  You make the call.  We’ll make it stop.”  It’s an extremely effective ad, and I think even American audiences could get something out of it.

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It was the news that blew a hole in the current state of the culture wars.

  • marriage 1 *

This is a really big deal, because Judge Vaughn Walker wrote a decision that’s both hard to argue with and is nearly guaranteed to roll up to the Supreme Court.  Prop 8’s defenders failed to make the case in any way.  Their  argument that same-sex marriage somehow hurts straight marriage was decisively disproved, and some of their side arguments claiming gay rights are bad for the family similarly turned up no real proof.  Walker reserved special choice words for the Prop 8 defenders for trying to pass know-nothing bigots off as experts on homosexuality.

  • marriage 2 *

From an intellectually honest point of view, there’s basically no argument against Walker’s decision.  Anti-gay people have failed to make a cohesive, coherent argument for  a long time now.  Their argument that marriage is inherently gendered falls apart when they admit that legally speaking, marriage is egalitarian nowadays and women have full human rights even if married.  The argument that giving gay people rights detracts from straight marriages or harms children have been found groundless not just on common sense grounds, but also in all the fact-finding that Walker helpfully provided in his decision.  That said, I’m sure the more conservative justices on the court will ignore logic and evidence and vote against legal gay marriage.  But the hopes lay with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is conservative but has a surprisingly pro-gay voting record in recent years, including the decision he wrote for Lawrence v Texas, which made sodomy laws targeting gay people  illegal.

Without logic or evidence on their side, then, conservatives have been left with freaking out.  And the target of the freak out has been, unsurprisingly, Judge Walker himself.  Conservatives are claiming he didn’t have a right to make this decision.

  • marriage 3 *

This idea spread rapidly on the right, that gay judges can’t rule on gay rights because well, it doesn’t make sense.  Straight people shouldn’t be able to rule on gay rights, either, by their logic, since they argue gay rights are an assault on straight people.  Clearly, only bisexuals can be judges, at least when it comes to these kinds of issues.  Stephen Colbert took on this silliness.

  • marriage 4 *

But the best part, for my money, is the usual crew of people swearing they only oppose gay marriage because of their stalwart commitment to traditional family values.  People like Rush Limbaugh. 

  • marriage 5 *

The way Limbaugh carries on, you would honestly think the judge is forcing him to marry a dude. Frankly, it might be better for Limbaugh.  After all, all on his own this supposed defender of family values can’t hold a marriage together any more than he can juggle Jello.  He just got married for the 4th time this summer.

Then you have Newt Gingrich.

  • marriage 6 *

Gingrich loves traditional marriage so much he has a long history of cheating on one wife in order to line up the next.  Which leaves him on marriage number 3.  Gingrich is such an obnoxious hypocrite that even he can’t deny it.  He admits openly that he cheated on his first two wives.  His second wife has come out and said that Gingrich used to brag that what he personally did wasn’t relevant as long as he was mouthing the right sentiments in public.  The problem is that he’s one of those people out there claiming that gay people can’t have basic rights because it’ll hurt straight marriages.  If he’s so concerned about the health of straight marriages, perhaps he should start looking to himself before making evidence-free assertions about others.

***********

insert interview

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Recently, Americans hopefully learned a very valuable lesson in why it’s foolish to romanticize teen pregnancies, teen romance, and especially teen marriage.  It’s a little surprising that we as a nation had to learn this lesson.  Most people frown on teens growing up a little too fast in polls.  When it comes to the teenagers we know, we assume they’re too immature to get married and have babies.  Even if they’re especially mature, we’d like them to wait on the general grounds that there’s plenty of time and there’s so much growing up to do between high school and your mid-20s, and it’s just not a good time to make lifelong commitments you probably won’t want to keep.  But somehow, none of this common sense seems to be in play when it comes to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston.  After Johnston conducted a media war with the Palin family, people still snapped to when this announcement was made.

  • palin 1*

The gushing tabloid media couldn’t get enough of the young lovers, or acting like this one is a romance for the ages.  For instance, US Weekly induced the cuddling young couple to gush about how romantic the proposal was. 

  • palin 2 *

What’s interesting is that when Bristol’s pregnancy was announced during the campaign, there was a full court press to make it clear to the public that Bristol and Levi were totally going to get married.  For those of us who battle the anti-choice right on a daily basis, this was just another example of how Christian conservatives are less interested in what’s good and healthy for teenagers and more interested in making sure that their patriarchal rules about sex and marriage are followed to the letter.  A shotgun teenage marriage is an acceptable outcome from the Christian right point of view. But when Bristol and Levi broke up the first time, the battle that ensued between Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston caused many on the right to start siding against this young marriage not because young marriage is generally a bad idea, but because they didn’t like Levi Johnston in particular.  Take Elizabeth Hasselbeck for instance. 

  • palin 3 *

I was amused, because while this is a lot about Sarah Palin being thin-skinned and also about small town politics, there’s also a reality biting the Christian right on the ass.  And that reality is that no matter how much they think the best solution for sexually curious teenagers is abstinence, or in lieu of that, marriage and babies, in the real world it’s better to be a little more flexible about sex.  And Sarah Palin may talk a mean game about being hardline about this stuff, but when it comes to her own family, all of a sudden she’s beginning to live in the world of nuance.  A world where maybe it’s not such a great idea for her 19-year-old to get married, because both parties involved show routinely that they’re a tad immature.  And that relationships aren’t always for the ages just because someone got pregnant. 

And let’s just say the skeptics were right on this one.

  • palin 4 *

When feminists frown on abstinence-only messages and say that it’s better to take a flexible attitude towards young people experimenting sexually, this is what we’re talking about.  When we say that the youthful missteps and learning process are best kept with consequences like pregnancy and STDs to a minimum, this is what we mean.  Teenagers are very rarely all the way there yet when it comes to conducting mature relationships. But here you have the right wing demanding that young people show a level of assurance in relationships and the maturity that even some adults can’t muster.  It’s not acceptable to push early marriage and child-bearing on kids through abstinence-only and disdaining contraception use.  What you end up with is a mess like the Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin situation.

I expect the sudden realization that these two are too young for all this will factor into the reaction to this announcement:

  • palin 5 *

************

And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, research fail edition.  You’ve probably heard about a bunch of wingnuts flipping out because a Muslim community center is opening two blocks from the World Trade Center.  Greg Gutfeld went on Glen Beck’s show to gloat about his supposedly brilliant idea to stick it to liberal defenders of the center.

  • fail *

A bunch of right wing bloggers immediately started touting this as the greatest idea ever.  We’ll show them intolerance, they thought!  Except not a one of them thought to do the obvious, which was to see if there were already any gay bars in the area.  This being New York, at least five in the immediate vicinity have been counted, and of course they’re not going to discriminate against gay Muslims. Contrary to wingnuts’ greatest hopes, it doesn’t seem that the folks at the community center seem to care.  The lesson for us all is, if you don’t want to look like a moron when promoting a supposedly brilliant idea, do your research first.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on Twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • kmiriam

    re: Jaqueline Friedman’s commentary: she just replays the same old dichotomy between liberal/libertarian sexual liberation and right-wing sexual repression. Can we NOT think of anything NEW??? Why is “sexual promiscuity” let alone “sluttiness” of any more value than monogomous heterosexuality or serial monogomy? You can re-claim “slut” as much as you want but the terms are still within most banal yet damaging terms of pornography. Yes we need a new way to affirm female sexual pleasure and agency, but it will take a lot more than affirming the women’s rights to have casual sex with men. That’s just plain silly, and superficial. You can’t “reclaim” slut by simply affirming it in a culture saturated with hypersexualized images of girls and women, not when sluttiness remains solidly within male-defined terms. Is there anything particularly feminist about Friedman’s “sluttiness” or about the way she construes her ability to have casual sex? What is it?

    Although girls get vilified as sluts, being slutty is also enforced as an ideal without which girls fail to get male approval. This is the main double bind facing the majority of girls in this still-patriarchal culture. You can’t get out of a double bind by putting a happy face on one of its dead-end terms.

    Can we go deeper PLEASE.

  • mmackin

    I want to like Friedman. Her ‘yes means yes’ concept and her awareness that ours is a rape culture are such good beginnings.  If only she could back them up with some real feminism.  As kmiriam said, it’s not about liberalism vs. repression.  There’s a depth where patriarchy is discussable — challengeable, and where women’s oppression is not something that ‘modern people’ have moved beyond.  No one’s going to obliterate patriarchy by having casual sex — young women casually coupling with men is the male elite’s wet dream, and the stuff of basic pornography everywhere.  Yes, deeper and smarter, and with an awareness of where we’ve already been, starting with Sheila Jeffreys (_The Spinster and Her Enemies_ is historical enough).  Please.  Clearly women want this conversation, so let’s have it with actual feminist politics intact!

  • crowepps

     No one’s going to obliterate patriarchy by having casual sex — young women casually coupling with men is the male elite’s wet dream, and the stuff of basic pornography everywhere. 

    The purpose of “casual coupling” isn’t to obliterate patriarchy, and whether or not it is the male elite’s wet dream should be irrelevant, since obliterating patriarchy means nobody cares what the male elite’s wet dream is.

     

    I understand where you’re coming from, I too think this behavior is unwise and risky, but feminism is supposed to focus on what WOMEN want.  I do not KNOW if ‘casual coupling’ is actually what young women want, but the way to find out is to ask THEM if and why this meets their needs, not oppose it reflexively because the male elite might have wet dreams about it.  ‘Real feminist politics’ is not by definition necessarily anti-men/anything men might like.

  • kmiriam

    “The purpose of “casual coupling” isn’t to obliterate patriarchy, and whether or not it is the male elite’s wet dream should be irrelevant, since obliterating patriarchy means nobody cares what the male elite’s wet dream is.”

     

    I’m not following your logic. Patriarchy means everybody *has* to care what the male elite’s wet dream is. Just turn on your TV or watch a movie, or look at advertisements.

    Of course the purpose of “casual coupling” has no impact on patriarchy. That’s why some of us are asking what it has to do with feminism. This is a feminist web-site and blog isn’t it? Or am i confused?

    I don’t agree with you: Feminism isn’t about what women want. That’s liberalism. Liberalism assumes taht all “wants” are neutral as long as we “choose” them.  However, because all our “wants” and “choices” are deeply structured and influenced by the surrounding culture they are not intrinsically neutral, good, or progressive.

    Wanting to be a “slut” is very conveniently in line with masculine “wants” so some questioning and thinking needs to be applied to an essay about claiming slut-hood in a patriarchal culture. c’mon. I’m not against casual sex per se (no more than I’m also against sexual repression that is double standard for men and women) but where’s the beef? I challenge anyone to explain what it has to do with feminism.

    And yes, if we we do live in a male-dominant culture than feminism as a critique of male domination (did I lose something here?) should very much be involved in critiquing female desires that are in sync with male fantasies, since male fantasies and male desires are very much at the center of things that harm women (pornography, sexual harassment, “date rape,” etc). This doesn’t mean that we stop asking women what they want, but asking it in a critical fashion, that leads us all to question and THINK, not to simply mirror the stale truisms on every t.v screen.

  • pilar608

    Friedman isn’t saying that casual sex is better or worse than monogamy.  Actually, if you read her article or listened to her interview, she explicitly states that she wants to be in a monogamous relationship again, with the right person.  I don’t think she’s playing into a dichotomy at all–I think she’s saying that women should be free to do what’s best for them.  And what she has found to work best for herself, and what other women have told her works for them, is to have casual sex while searching for the right person to be in a relationship with.  Having that sexual release, having that physical closeness with casual partners seems to help Friedman avoid making relationship decisions based on desperation and loneliness.  She’s doing what works for her.  I don’t know if that satisfies your definition of feminist or not.

     

    You also can’t get out of the double-bind by refusing to talk about the ways that some women enjoy casual sex.  I don’t care about the reclamation of the word “slut” itself; I do care about women being free to talk about and experience sex on their own terms–whether that’s within committed relationships (which has worked for me) or with casual partners or with combinations and stretches of both.  You’re right that there is a lot of pressure on young women to be “slutty” to gain male approval.  There’s a lot of quasi-feminist BS about how casual sex is empowerful for women.  I think Friedman showed how it can actually be powerful for women to take control of their own sex lives and not just wait for some dude to want them.    

     

    It’s such a highly personal article, though, that my take on it is probably just that–my take.

  • invalid-0

    There is nothing romantic about a confused teen who does not know who to turn to when they are in a desperate situation.  Hollywood really needs to stop romanticizing  these teen errors.  Also flashy magazine spreads romanticizing teen pregnancy also does not help the situation.