My wife’s grandmother, who grew up around the turn of the last century, would tell my wife, “Never be afraid to slap ‘em and walk home” in reference to predatory young men. And evidently such men have existed for a long time. In old movies, before about 1960 or so, you often see a woman slap the face of a predatory or even ‘fresh’ male and then bustle out of the room. It was still part of the culture in my childhood. Women today do not seem to think themselves empowered to do this. They need the protection of some kind of authority. Did something happen?
I have some theories — I can assure you they have not been tested by research — but the recent death of Hugh Hefner and the near simultaneous exposure and conviction of Harvey Weinstein have highlighted a real problem. I think there was not one sexual revolution, but two. You have to remember that Playboy magazine first came out in 1953. The feminist movement did not start becoming a household word until 1970 or so. Ross Douthat and John Podhoretz confirm that there were indeed two sexual revolutions, one for men, one for women. I wonder if, in between those times, there arose a generation of males who came to believe that sex was an entitlement. The Church tried to tell them otherwise, but they weren’t listening. Then, feminists found a different way, more purely based on the ‘reality of consent,’ to explain it to them.
According to the codes that Hefner was trying to liberate men from, marital status made the difference between right and wrong sexuality. According to the feminists, consent did, and marital status was irrelevant. But I still see a reluctance among the new feminists and young women to ‘slap ‘em and walk home’; rather, they believe they need the protection of a higher authority at the university or the law. Well, universities used to offer that. The ‘parietal’ rules, the no boys in the dorm after 10 p.m. rule, the campusing, all that worked. And they didn’t like that.
A related factor is that more people have moved into the Bling sector of the Michael Adams diagram. I described the work of Canadian author Michael Adams in an earlier post.
Yes, I suppose a young lady has a right to drink too much, go upstairs to a boy’s room, get naked, and then say, “No.” I also have a right to drive into a crime-ridden ghetto in a convertible, park, and leave my purse and a lot of expensive objects in the back seat with the top down. But it would be profoundly stupid; an ‘epic fail’ as they say on the Internet. If I don’t want my stuff stolen, I have to take some precautions.
But how did the sort of grabby behavior that Harvey Weinstein exemplified become ‘acceptable’ in some subcultures? I was not raised that way. And my high school and college contemporaries were as horny as any male, and they weren’t like that. Of course, maybe it’s Hollywood, and they’ve had the ‘casting couch’ for a hundred years most likely. But was it really that common in other parts of the business world? I don’t know. I remember the old movies; as I said above, a common scene was that a man would try to get ‘fresh’ with a woman, and she would slap him and bustle out. Why do you not see many of these scenes today on the college campus, or in office?
My wife suggests that the slapping women of the older generation were refusing what the culture believed they should refuse, not merely acting according to choice and consent. Since Hefner, we have not necessarily believed that they should refuse. I don’t expect that the secular culture will return to the older ideal of premarital celibacy, but I do expect that the idea of ‘consent’ will be modified so that if there is a noticeable difference in power, authority, or age between the participants, the reality of ‘consensuality’ will be increasingly called into question. And that situation would be a moral improvement.