Home / Women as Tropes

Women as Tropes


The NY Times is a repeat competitor in the let’s shove women into boxes olympics. This week’s entry: the Magazine’s article about people who remain abstinent into their teens…people at Harvard (gasp!).

Melinda Henneberger* gets to the heart of my complaints on XX factor. In the Times’s oh-so-clever way, they are able to stereotype subliminally. But we are on to you, gray lady.

* surprisingly, this is about the fourth time in a row that I have agreed with her.

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  • T. Paine

    It’s an interesting article. And I agree that the women are reduced to tropes. I’d respectfully suggest that the men are as well.
    Oddly, the True Love Revolution folks apparently do it to themselves (auto-tropism?), with the interviewed man feeling himself and others gripped by a lust like an “untamed beast,” the interviewed woman thinking that being appreciated for “who she really is” means disassociating from her inconvenient physical body, and the group telling other women wait to have sex because they’re “worth it.”
    The article may traffic in tropes, but it seems that the author simply followed his subjects into those weeds.
    And the references to oxytocin were such bog-standard bullshit abstinence-only talking points that I was enraged; these are supposed to be among the most intelligent students in America, making the best arguments for abstinence, and they can’t even pull their heads out of their arses enough to acknowledge that their “evidence” is complete and utter bollocks.
    Why is it that it’s never enough for people like this to live their lives? Why do they expect the rest of us applaud their eccentricities? Why must they solicit us to join their personal Jonestown? They are hectoring narcissists and deserve whatever ridicule they receive.

  • Mike Schilling

    people who remain abstinent into their teens
    I think you mean “through their teens” or “into the late teens”; otherwise, the article is also about abstinent 13 and 14-year olds.

  • Yes, Mike. Exactly.

  • HumboldtBlue

    Yeah, she’s not dumb, she just can’t understand why her “lifestyle” is under attack.
    Maybe she should ask the folks at the next GLBT meeting what they think about their “lifestyle” being under attack.
    Willful ignorance is a far more accurate word than “dumb.”
    What strength is involved in not having sex? I don’t consider my Monk friends strong for practicing celibacy, I consider them to be misguided in their understanding of human nature — in other words, sexually frustrated.
    They disagree with me.
    I’ve never quite figured out what is so virtuous about not having sex.

  • It goes waaaaaay back, to the Catholics fighting the Pagans.
    Pagans were all about Teh Sex. And why not?
    It took ascetism, bitter rivalry, and a lot of death and destruction to give us the Proudly Puritans of today.
    At base, I think it’s an upbringing thing. Get them into a mindset that says, “Everything I want to do is wrong” and they are more obedient.
    If that’s all you are after, it works.

  • lemuel pitkin

    Why is it that it’s never enough for people like this to live their lives?
    Well, I agree. And a good first step would be for us to stop reading about it in the newspapers.
    They are hectoring narcissists and deserve whatever ridicule they receive.
    This, on the other hand, is unnecessary. Anybody posting on a blog comments section presumably suffers from a personality disorder of some kind, so best not to start throwing stones.
    So Janie Fredell doesn’t want to have sex, thinks that this makes her healthier and happier, and wants to share this belief with others? Puts her in the exact same category as lots of vegetarians, gym-goers, non-TV-owners, Atkins dieters, yoga practitioners, and lots of other people who think they’ve found the key to improving their lives. The problem is that her particular choice is subjected to this obsessive scrutiny in a way none of the others are.
    If I knew Fredell personally — which is the only way her opinions on sex would matter to me — I would argue with her that the importance she attached to (not having) sex was unwarranted. But let’s be clear, the problem here is the Times. Young people have *always* had strong ideas about sex, morality, and the intersection of the two; we don’t need to have a national debate about it.

  • ThresherK

    Re Janie Fredell: In the original article she said that everyone wore chastity rings and therefore nobody was having sex.
    Is it too hackneyed to think that, a la Peyton Place or (Colorado Springs’ own) Ted Haggard, there were lots of things going on there she didn’t seem to notice?

  • lemeul, I couldn’t agree more. I more or less argued the same point over at tbogg. The poor kid–she wants to try to live her life, as she sees it, deliberately and without succumbing to pressure to do things or to do things with other people, that she’s not ready for. The times turns it into a crusade but its not, really, any different than any other act that a kid makes at college to choose or not to choose any other organization: chorus, d and d (my example at tbogg), the jocks, nerds, etc…

  • Barbar

    iWe found a huge body of scholarship that suggested conclusions that nobody on our campus was making,i he says. They posted the conclusions on their Web site o the belief that i esafe sexi is not safei; that even the most effective methods of birth control can fail; that early sexual activity is strongly associated with all manner of terrible outcomes, from increased risk of depression to greater likelihood of marital infidelity, divorce and maternal poverty. Premarital abstinence, on the other hand, is held up by True Love Revolution as improving health, promoting better relationships and, best of all, enabling ibetter sex in your future marriage.i
    Are these people religious nuts? Please — they’re the real feminists, truly concerned with the well-being of women (and men).
    Compare them with a shockingly misogynist blogger I found here:
    “We need to stop living in a la-la-land where teenagers’ hormones can be tamed (or should be tamed) and get back to reality. Sex isn’t bad. Kids need to know how to have sex safely. Because teens are going to have sex. As much as they can.”
    The contrast couldn’t be clearer.

  • DivGuy

    It goes waaaaaay back, to the Catholics fighting the Pagans.
    Pagans were all about Teh Sex. And why not?
    For what it’s worth, this is incorrect historically. By the first couple centuries of the common era, Greco-Roman culture had embraced a wide array of ideals of virginity, and ideals of sexual morality in which the best path is either virginity or sex only within marriage only for procreation. These weren’t universally held by any means, but neither were the early Christians universally practicing ascetics.
    See, for instance, Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol 3: The Care of the Self
    Paul Veyne, Sexe et pouvoir à Rome
    Kate Cooper, The Virgin and the Bride and Jennifer Knust, Abandoned to Lust have good takes on this looking more at Christian literature.
    It’s a common misreading of antiquity to suggest that the pre-Christian pagans were sex-mad hedonists, or well-balanced pro-sex liberals, but this is not the case.
    It makes sense from a historical perspective – early Christian culture was not a sudden sui generis event unrelated to Greco-Roman culture, but a development internal to that Greco-Roman culture which shared many of its norms and ideals.
    A change does occur in the sexing of the body, but it’s not one that provides a more “healthy” attitude toward sex.

  • I just don’t see how people not having sex at Harvard is new or noteworthy.

  • I can sorta relate to the poor Harvard girl.
    I don’t have sex. I don’t think it worth my time and effort. The whole bunch of things like sex, boyfriends, children, mortgages and such just don’t belong to my life. That’s it.
    Yet, I feel annoyed by people who ask me when I’ll get married and/or have kids, I’m the last from my generation in the wide family who is single and childless and there certainly is quite a lot of social pressure. And trying to explain my voluntary choice is next to impossible because all I get are responses along the lines that I’ll be sorry one day when I’ll find myself wanting to be pregnant at 45 or so. Or there are folks who want to be nice and therefore they try to make me meet their single friends. And they don’t take a No for an answer. Neither No-and-go-fuck-yourself. It’s all irritating and all I want from the world is to let me be and pursue my own goals. I can understand that someone starts being political about it.
    True, being a virgin doesn’t make anyone better person. Nor having lots of sex, though. I consider both a personal choice that could be pretty please respected.
    Respect is the keyword, I suppose. Although any decent constitution guarantees the right for free will and its expressions, no less than once a week I’m asked for an explanation why I don’t drink beer (tastes yucky), don’t eat this or that (contains allergens or tastes yucky)… and the explanations in parentheses are not respected anyway. I wonder, has the society become so unified that choosing something just a slightly different from average is considered punishable at least by stupid talks? This is a point where to become political.

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