Prudery, Virginity and Do-Me Feminism

John Hawkins is featuring an interview with Carol Platt Liebau wherein she discusses her new book, Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!)

The cover-design is awful; it reminds me of one of Anne Rice’s Vampire tomes, but the book itself sounds interesting. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

CPL: …in my view, there has been a strand of feminism that has been very destructive to young girls and even to women of slightly older ages and I talk about them in Prude and I call it “do me feminism.”

Q: A lot of people think the only downside for premarital sex is STDs and pregnancy and if you avoid those problems by wearing a condom, then you might as well enjoy yourself. Let’s say a person isn’t religious and they don’t get STDs or get pregnant; why shouldn’t they have sex before marriage?

That’s the key question that I was trying to strike at the heart of Prude.

You know what? You may avoid an STD, you may never confront an unwedded pregnancy, but even so, giving too much, too soon, to too many people is still a terrible idea. It’s terrible idea because there are many, many, emotional and psychological consequences that often these little girls are never told about.

Q: Like what?

They include regret, anxiety, shame, the inability to trust men, and trouble forming permanent committed relationships later. You know, John, it all makes sense. If you’re the kind of young woman who doesn’t understand why it’s important not just to have sex with any guy that wants you to, you’re probably going to be prone to seeing some of the less attractive sides of male behavior. If you see that over and over again…it’s going to be difficult to learn how to trust men…

Q: What would you say to a young woman who said to you, “Carol, I’m a Christian and I’m inclined not to have premarital sex, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep a boyfriend or even eventually get married unless I do have sex before marriage.”

…That’s a fair question, but obviously, if someone’s a Christian, they already have a certain basis why it’s not always right to do everything we want to do at the moment we want to do it.

The thing I would also say to that young woman is that I think she is underestimating men. Because, of course, you have a lot of men out there who are looking for nothing more than a little quick action. But, there are also a lot of very fine men who are looking for a woman they can respect and are looking for a woman who has loved them enough, even before she met them — to want to save a very precious and important part of herself, the sort of deep intimacy that comes with having sex with someone you love and who is committed to you — for him…

I do like that Liebau has taken head-on the notion that if one does not subscribe to the idea that our orgasms were meant to be the alphas and omegas of our lives, one is quickly labeled a “prude.” This name-calling and spiteful mockery is par-for-the-course with those who have decided that the world is a schoolyard and they are forever 14 years old. Go against the conventional wisdom and try to live with a little discipline and self-restraint, and you are derided as uptight, repressed, frigid…you know…you “have issues.” No one ever wonders if the people who cannot bear to consider self-restraint don’t have some issues of their own.

I think Liebau makes an important point about how feminism has evolved into something that encourages being used by men because the woman is “using him back.” Using each other is close to regarding each other as “things,” and we’ve talked before about where that leads. It is how we stop seeing each other as human beings, at all.

In this blog I’ve touched on the old canard that “Catholics believe every sperm is sacred,” in a way that I think (I hope) makes sense to a reader who actually has an open mind, but it doesn’t get read too often, (although this guy seems to get it.)

Likewise I’ve spent some time wondering about the whole point and meaning of virginity (and circumcision). These subjects don’t get spoken about too often – quite possibly because people are so afraid of the social pressure to conform to the age and to get with the program.

The age is so fast and noisy that – as Pope Benedict said last week – it doesn’t allow us much time to think and to process or to wonder. But these are important, really basic and essential issues that have for too long been relegated into the “uncool” pile. I’m glad to see Liebau’s book, and I hope it furthers the discussion.

Related: Who Told You that You Were Naked?
They Eat Up My People
Every Sperm is Sacred?
Self-respect is not prudery

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • simplycatholic

    The whole concept of using each other to find fulfillment for one’s self is what drives so many of our relationship problems. You see it in “toothache”‘s little screed too.

    When we loose sight of the dignity inherent in ourselves and in others we inevitably become commodities only existing for the most base and momentary gratifications. Real love, just like good sex, is based on trust, love and openness to the humanity of the other. It really is all about love.

    [Edited to admit link -admin]

  • Pastor_Jeff

    In addition to the concerns you point out, there are studies which show that 1) married women are more sexually satisfied than single, sexually-active women; and 2) couples who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce.

    The ability to exercise self-control in the short-term for long-term gain is a mark of adulthood, and brings numerous physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual benefits.

  • Ruth Anne

    Carol Platt Liebau also has the distinction of being the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. She served during Obama’s presidency [on the Law Review]. She also wrestles with the nagging Obama question: Evasive or Empty Suit?

    She’s an accomplished woman and as nice as can be to little bloggers like me.

  • Lynne

    The hook-up culture is damaging to young men too. I wish someone would write about that. When the goal of a young man is as low as “friends with benefits” he never learns about trust either. My daughter just broke up with a nice (really!) young man who is settling for hook-ups and the like. I wish his parents, who monitor his chats and text messages, felt that this was something they should talk to him about. Luckily, my daughter had been steeped in the benefits of remaining a virgin till marriage, thanks to Jason Evert and his talk, “Romance Without Regrets”. It gave her the ammunition she needed to dissuade her beau from doing things she wasn’t ready for. She came out of the romance hurt but not ashamed. I’m very proud of her.

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