November 29, 2007

Girls Gone Wild, Boys Gone Mild

2007 1531 page33 capn the wake of Madonna, Paris Hilton, and countless other “role models” encouraging young women to “express their sexuality” and drink deeply from the pool of promiscuity there comes a rare and refreshing voice of reason. 
At twenty-three, Wendy Shalit challenged conventional wisdom with her 1999 book A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. Despite the fact that porn is mainstream, and despite the fact that those who to choose to delay sex are labeled “prudes,” Wendy Shalit argues that “a youth-led rebellion is challenging the status quo.”
In her latest book, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good, we hear from the voices at the frontlines of this emerging new movement, from someone who has been talking to these “rebellious good girls” for almost ten years. Some of them, Shalit reports, are “pressured by their own mothers to lose their virginity, and come to resent it; others just don’t think they need to be ‘bad’ to be liberated in the first place.”
One reviewer writes: “Drawing on numerous studies and interviews around the nation, Shalit’s findings are at once shocking and encouraging. Nowadays, as even the youngest teenage girls feel the pressure to become cold sex sirens, put their bodies on public display, and suppress their feelings in order to feel accepted and (temporarily) loved, many young women are realizing that ‘friends with benefits’ are often anything but. And as these girls speak for themselves, we see that what is expected of them turns out to be very different from what is in their own hearts.” Shalit reveals how the media, one’s peers, and even parents can undermine girls’ quests for their authentic selves, details the problems of sex without intimacy, and explains what it means to break from the herd mentality and choose integrity over popularity.
2007 1531 page33Shalit writes, “This book is about my search for an alternative to our Girls Gone Wild culture. It’s about finding a way to acknowledge sexuality without having to share it with strangers. It’s about rediscovering our capacity for innocence, for wonder, and for being touched profoundly by others. My goal is not to attack those who want to be ‘wild,’ but rather to expand the range of options for young people, who I believe are suffering because of the limited choices available to them.”
I don’t know if this “backlash” against the sexualized culture will succeed but Ms. Shalit is addressing the most important segment of society able to determine our direction: women. As history shows, it is the sexual opportunity afforded to women that determines a society’s sexual ethic. Joseph Daniel Unwin, the noted British anthropologist was the first to confirm this point in his monumental work, Sex and Culture in 1934. Unwin studied over 80 civilizations spanning more than 5000 years of human history proving conclusively that a strong sexual ethic, which restrained sex to the exclusive relationship of legal marriage, was directly related to the health and prosperity of a given civilization. Regarding the relationship of women to determining this ethic Unwin wrote:
In all cases the opportunity afforded to the female seems a more important factor than that of the male, whose opportunity, of course, is in many ways a reflection of hers.
This is rather self-evident. In societies where sexual opportunity is restricted to marriage and where absolute monogamy is the socially reinforced standard, chastity becomes desirable for its own sake. Women accept, as a point of honor, the restraints imposed by society. In so doing, sexual opportunity is limited to marriage and promiscuity is condemned. For men, whose sexual desire remains relatively the same regardless of the surrounding culture, Unwin makes the point that the limitation of sexual opportunity to marriage provides a powerful incentive to marry and “settle down.”
Rutgers University confirmed this same conclusion following one of the most comprehensive studies on the state of marriage: The State of Our Unions, The Social Health of Marriage in America, 2002. According to researchers, the top reason given by men for their unwillingness to commit to marriage is “They can get sex without marriage more easily than in times past.”  You can begin to see how sexual promiscuity directly undermines the social commitment to marriage as an essential institution.
2007 1531 page33Granted, there has often been a double standard relative to men and women. Women have frequently suffered condemnation and even death for their sexual transgressions, as in the case of Muslim societies, while men often received unspoken admiration or, at most, indifference. Wendy Shalit advocates “returning to a single high standard for women and for men, instead of letting men off the hook or pressuring young women to imitate the most adolescent males in order to be ‘empowered.’” This is the same standard given in Scripture—there is no double sexual standard for men and women.
This is not to say that men do not play any role in the preservation and promotion of a virtuous sexual ethic—they certainly do. While men, generally speaking, do not control “opportunity,” they can and do influence the public attitude in support of or opposition to chastity. Men also must therefore do their part to promote and protect virtue.
Unfortunately, in a culture that seems to produce more and more men who are either wimps or barbarians—the support for female virtue is either flaccid or ridiculed. Couple this with the sexualized messages of the culture, the fallacy of feminist ideology that promotes “sex as power,” and single women find little or no support for modesty and sexual purity. 
If we want to recover a sane and moral sexual ethic, which is essential to the health and longevity of society, we must, once again, teach our young women to honor modesty and chastity and teach our young men to defend and preserve the honor of our young women.
© 2007 by S. Michael Craven. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
S. Michael Craven is the President of the Center for Christ & Culture. Michael is considered a leading “cultural apologist” offering a relevant biblical response to the various cultural forces that seek to reshape the moral and philosophical consensus in America.