Feminism, Frat Girls & Slut Culture: Who’s the Real Feminist?

In an article posted on Salon.com titled: I am Done Writing About My Sex Life, Anna Davies explores the way female sexuality and professional success are linked in society and, subsequently, in the minds of young females.

We got the message: Sleep around, write about it, become someone. I spent every creative writing workshop chronicling the conquests I’d made at the dive bar down the block and wrote an American studies paper about the observations I’d made at a swingers club. I was quite literally embedding myself in self-exploration, hoping that coupling up would lead less to romantic connection than to crafting a cool, confident girl-about-town persona that would help me stand out in a city of strivers.

Anna Davies is pointing out the obvious: we live in a society that encourages young females to be sluts, through rewards of financial and celebrity status. Hello, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, sex tapes, etc.
Davies herself is one of those females who created a name for herself by writing about her sexual exploits:

And the comments I got from editors — “good, but needs to be dirtier,” “more details!” “really make the power dynamics stand out” — started to seep into my dating life, where I began suggesting sex in bar bathrooms or sex while his roommate watched. The promise of publication was like a drug, and the more attention I got, the more I wanted.

She has declared she will no longer do this:

But I do want a break from the cheapened feeling that it’s all I have to offer. It was a crutch I used while I was still scrambling to figure out who I was and what I wanted to say. And maybe, if I stop performing for a while, I’ll finally figure that out.

I have spent much of the last few years pondering what [modern] feminism means and whether or not I want anything to do with it. The general conclusion is that I do not…not anymore. It used to be that I was the girl in high school who declared herself a feminist at the drop of a hat, even when a friend of mine told me she didn’t want to sit with me because she wanted a boyfriend. I didn’t care. I was a feminist. Now, I don’t think I can stomach feminism anymore; not because I am against the key aspects of the movement: abortion rights, equality, etc, but because I don’t know what modern feminism stands for anymore.

Before I accuse feminism of a crime, I have to wonder if it’s feminism that is to be blamed, or the confusion or misinterpretation of it. Feminism, like many social trends and movements, is subject to exploitation by corporate society for the sole purpose of making a profit. Using an example. I remember watching a documentary about the Grunge movement of the early to mid-1990s (Kurt Cobain, Sound Garden, Hole, etc), in which the movement, believed to be anti-establishment/corporate movement for disenchanted youth (“Smells like teen spirit”), was quickly incorporated into the fashion industry and capitalized on by corporate culture (the same culture it was designed to shun).

Likewise, I think feminism, at some point, perhaps the late 1980s and during the era of Madonna, quickly got gobbled up by mainstream society as a ploy to market products to young females (Spice Girls, etc). A seemingly anti-feminist sexual exploitative culture now sells itself as feminist. For example, Hugh Hefner and Playboy proclaim themselves ‘feminist.’ As a consequence, there is confusion about what feminism is.

Today, many young females are under the impression that acting like Frat boys is proof of their empowerment as females. So, getting drunk, passing out and having sex with an endless, indiscriminate array of men, and then bragging about it is accepted as empowering. Case in point: the Duke college graduate who created this presentation that is the inspiration for Davies’ article. Karen Owens created a PowerPoint presentation (as a thesis) documenting her sexual exploits (well over ten) during her college years. The presentation leaked to the Internet quickly, and the result is that she is being offered five-figure deals from publishers, talent agencies and other media powerhouses for the rights to her story. For example:

Ari Golds at William Morris Endeavor:

“This article that you’ve written is captivating! There are many people at our agency that would be interested in speaking with [the student]. Do you have any contact info for her by any chance? Thanks so much ahead of time for any help you can provide!”

Meanwhile, from an editor at HarperCollins:

“I’m an editor at HarperCollins publishers, where I specialize in pop culture and entertainment books. I’m intrigued and entertained by [the writer]’s PowerPoint “f*ck list,” which is making the rounds online and am wondering if you could give me her email address or forward my note of interest to her. Even though I’m sure she’s horrified that her, uh, presentation, which was intended for a small group of friends, has gone viral, she’s a very good, funny writer, and I’m wondering if she has any interest in writing a book. She’s like the female equivalent of Tucker Max, and I admire his sense of self-empowerment!”

Says Jezebel, the website which first broke Owens’ story:

But you know what? Here’s another reminder that women can be as flip, aggressive, or acquisitive about sex as men can. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as all parties are consenting.

So, the student has proven a feminist? point. This is despite the fact that the student was drunk and fully wasted during most of the encounters, and despite the fact she even admitted that she couldn’t remember many of the encounters.

Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth is a book that discusses the connection between feminism and sex. At the end of the book, I found that I agreed with her main point: let’s not reduce young females to their sexuality. However, I also find it harder than her to accept the Frat girls, their culture and sex workers without passing judgment.

Western culture celebrates and promotes the exploration or exploitation of female sexuality so publicly that asking people not to pass judgment seems hypocritical. It’s one thing when these females are doing these things in the privacy of their homes, but it’s another thing when they post them on the Internet, write about them in books, movies and go on speaking engagements about their sexual exploits. Then, their sexuality becomes property of the public, subject to criticism and exploitation.

I don’t agree with this Slut/ ‘Sex and the City’ culture, but I am being asked to accept these [Frat girls] females, for the sake of feminism. Even more than this, I am being asked to side with them, stand by them, and if I don’t, then I am archaic and prudish, or even jealous of their sex lives. After all, to be a modern feminist is to be sexually promiscuous. I once heard a so-called modern feminist say “at least the sluts are honest about the fact that they like sex.” So, honesty trumps sexual promiscuity, and the problems that come with it: the range of STDs, pregnancy and emotional distress.

Moreover, the bigger, yet underlying issue seem to be the steady and gradual erasure of the lines between sluts, whores and everyone else. We’re expected to stand united under the banner of femaleness and womanhood, regardless of our respective beliefs.

The irony is that Jessica Valenti herself recently wrote an article in Washington Post criticizing this very “women united” principle, in regards to Sarah Palin and the females of the American right wing. She doesn’t believe they are feminists.

So, the debate continues over who and what is a feminist, and the meaning of feminism, if it has any. Is Hugh Hefner or the Playboy Playmates? Sarah Palin, Duke student Karen Owens, and her fellow Frat girls? How about Paris Hilton, since there’s really no difference between Owens and Paris Hilton? This is why I can’t really call myself a feminist. I don’t know what it means to be one anymore; and, if all the aforementioned people are feminists, then what am I if I despise what they represent?
 

About TCDH

Blogger with an opinion.
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