A recent spate of pop culture depictions of vapid, loveless sex has some convinced feminism has failed.
William Bennett, a CNN contributor and the author of “The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood” has decided he is an authority on women.
On the “disheartening and dismal” portraits of “liberated sex” offered up by popular culture nowadays he wonders: “[H]ow could women be happy with what is described in “Fifty Shades of Grey” and [Lena Dunham’s HBO series] “Girls”?
“Girls” paints a grim portrait of general ennui and loveless sex, but as Porochista Khakpour points out, what’s appealing is that it’s real.
[W]hat is most delightful about “Girls” is not the premise, but rather, the smart writing and the surface details. Behold the spectacle of everyday pimples and bad tattoos and unshaven skin and some fat and really awkward sex — what you see in your real life but rarely mirrored back in any pop cultural depiction.
She knocks “Sex and the City” for imposing layers upon layers of aesthetic flourishes on its women, a resentment not quite tied to envy but exhaustion. Who should want to dress to the nines just to go to Whole Foods? But you must look your best in case he might be there. Dunham’s “Girls” are too bored with their wussy boyfriends to bother.
“And so the world discovers the big secret, that we women are funny and smart and, without a ton of makeup and couture, we actually have appeal.”
We actually have appeal!
But all Bennett sees is the vapid, demoralizing sex and it’s enough to convince him that feminism has failed. If only we skipped “Sex in the City” and read real literature like “Middlemarch,” then we’d learn, home is where the heart is.
Consider one of the most well regarded writers of the Victorian era, Mary Ann Evans, better known to us by her pen name, George Eliot. In her novel, “Daniel Deronda,” she says of love, “For what is love itself, for the one we love best?—an enfolding of immeasurable cares which yet are better than any joys outside our love.” In an enfoldment of immeasurable cares in a real and true love, there is immeasurable intimacy too, including a richly satisfying sexual intimacy that finds no equal or parallel in a callous and casual hookup culture.
It is worth pointing out that this desideratum—deep sexual satisfaction—is found most often, as has been empirically verified over and over again, in what is often called, derisively, traditional marriage.
I agree with Eliot; not with Bennett. Because while the best love is the truly, madly, deeply committed kind, anyone who’s ever been hurt knows a casual encounter can go a long way in helping heal a broken heart.