Why Are Jaclyn Friedman and Amanda Marcotte Terrified of Hooking Up Smart?
by Don Polsy
Just when I thought it was safe to go back to my regular gig writing this cozy little blog, documentary filmmaker Denice Ann Evans tipped me off to more Slutty Shenanigans by Amanda Marcotte and Jaclyn Friedman. I’m disappointed, because today I had a fun post about everyone’s favorite topic – grooming “down there.” That will have to wait, though, because I’ve been described as holding views that are downright terrifying! Call the feminist police! Wayward XX on the loose! Stop her!
In a recent interview on Reality Check, an online forum “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Marcotte interviewed Friedman and I was the primary topic of conversation (blush). Not surprisingly, there was considerable discussion about my recent post Deconstructing the Sluthood of Jaclyn Friedman, but what was new, and far more noteworthy, was a very straightforward defining of the Sex Positive Feminist agenda. More on that in a minute.
What I find most compelling about the interview is the marked shift in strategy. Until now, sex pos fems have portrayed dissenters primarily as women who are afraid that the “sluts are stealing all the menz.” A favorite theme in their attacks on me was that I fear losing my husband to a woman like Friedman. (Ahem, let’s just say this isn’t what keeps me up at night.) Indeed, this meme – that women who feel that hookup culture serves women poorly are in fact, terrified of losing their own men, is a common one among women like Marcotte. For example, here’s a tweet by Marcotte from last April slamming Tina Fey for daring to question the sex positive agenda:
When I hear a married woman rant about the evils of sluts out there, I tend to wonder who her husband’s been dicking.
Here though, we see a carefully crafted new marketing strategy, a move away from shaming women who don’t buy into the feminist agenda, to portraying them as frightening, a stand-in for Evil Patriarchy. Ironically, Friedman accused me of being a man-hater, which I confess I found hilarious.
Here are the interesting bits:
Marcotte: Things got ugly when a woman I think none of us had ever heard of before? named Susan Walsh? thought she’d make an example out of you. She has a blog called, what? “Hooking Up Smart?” Where she basically, sort of, promotes the same reactionary theories that the so-called hook-up culture is bad for women and something men imposed on women… What the hell is up with her?
Friedman: Well, I think it’s incredibly – well, I think there’s a lot of reasons she did that. One is for attention, because, as you said, I’d never heard of her! And now she has a post up sort of bragging about all the responses to her and how she’s so tickled by them, and so mission accomplished by her. Congrats, I guess… I didn’t want to say, for a woman that going out and pursuing casual sex is simple, because it’s not. Because the culture makes it very difficult. And sometimes very scary.
…You know, she just sort of totally misconstrued the whole thing, I think quite deliberately, because otherwise it’s a real threat to her thesis for me to be out there saying, “Look. This is complicated. It’s difficult because the culture makes it difficult. It’s not without risk. But it actually has a lot of power and what I’m advocating for is a culture that makes it less difficult, and for a culture that allows there to be less risk associated with it.”
But the other reason I think she wrote the post is to scare off other women from talking about it the way I did.
Marcotte: Let’s talk about gender. Because Walsh is promoting a theory that is incredibly tired and it’s surprising that anyone can make money off of it anymore. [Forced Derisive Feminist Laughter] It’s just this notion that men are all perverted dogs and women are all vanilla monogamists and dating is warfare where only one side can win.
It’s funny, though, I think people like her still have their hooks in us because they give us this nagging feeling that casual sex is still a sham that men push on women. And I think there’s enough of a feeling now out there that women are getting the shorter shrift; that these theories still hold…
**(Note: Here Marcotte reveals her soft underbelly of doubt. She knows that the voices against anonymous, casual sex are growing, reaching new audiences. She’s terrified of being silenced by her own fellow feminists, something that has already begun.)
Friedman: I think you’re right. I think it’s a really cynical, horrible, insulting way to look at people in general. I think it’s very insulting to men, right? That men aren’t capable of love, that we have to trick them into loving us by withholding sex, and of course it’s insulting to women as well, but I think in ways that we’ve elaborated. But I think that – I think that the world is still scary. And I think that the world of sexuality and dating is still scary for a lot of reasons that we probably don’t have time to get into in this format, and I think she plays on that fear.
So, it’s a question of whether or not you can see that you’re living in a framework. So, she’s living in a framework. She’s very explicitly living in a commodity framework of sex. And she says phrases like “the sexual marketplace” all the time… She likes to think of this as an economic exchange with incentives and things like that… She has this economic model, but she doesn’t understand that another model is possible.
Get ready, here it comes! The sexual model promoted by sex positive feminists throughout the blogosphere has finally been defined! It looks like this:
So, there is an entirely other way to look at sex that I think more and more people are turning on to and understanding, which is that it really is just a collaborative performance between two or more people.
And it doesn’t matter what your gender is.
It doesn’t matter how many people are there.
It doesn’t matter if it’s anonymous.
What matters is: are you both having a good time? Are you both getting something positive out of it?
And is there good, healthy communication?
Is everybody being safe? All those basic things.
But outside of it: is everyone having a great time? Then there’s nothing wrong with it. As long as everybody’s on the same page; nobody’s lying, everybody’s playing safe about disease and pregnancy, that we can consider it more, like, you know, a collaborative jam session…
But she – that’s a terrifying frameshift for someone who’s built their whole self-worth on being able to play the economic model game, I think.
OK, let’s discuss. Some questions to think about:
- Is there a place in our society for two people who wish to express love through sex?
- What are the implications of defining sex as a performance?
- Is sex between two people materially different than sex among n partners? How so?
- Is it possible to know during anonymous sex if your partner is having a good time? How?
- Is it possible to judge during anonymous sex if either or both parties will experience negative feelings after the fact?
- Between strangers, what does good, healthy communication look like? Can it occur without trust? Is trust possible between strangers?
- Is it possible to know in group or anonymous sex if everyone is being safe? How does one “play safe” about disease and pregnancy? Are medical reports produced? Or does one trust one’s life to a stranger in good faith?
- Is this model an evolution away from sex as an expression of love, and the means of procreating, toward an orgiastic pleasure principle?
- Does this model reflect a stunted maturation process? According to Freud, “an individual’s id follows the pleasure principle and rules in early life, but, as one matures, one learns the need to endure pain and defer gratification.”
- Is this model viable? What percentage of women would embrace it? Men?