Hookup Culture Rightly Laid at Feminism’s Feet

December 19, 2011

The Good Men Project has been a real sh*tshow lately. The site’s founder, Tom Matlack, found himself labeled an ALLY FAIL by radical feminists the other day. They’ve been feasting at his blog for months, but they didn’t hesitate to devour the hand that feeds them …I imagine that by now Matlack looks like he submerged his arms in a tank of piranhas. 

Interesting “feedback.” I really thought the MRA guys were crazy until I engaged the wrath of the feminists. Insane.

Tom Matlack

I’ll dish up the dirt at the end of the post, but first I want to call your attention to Is Feminism to Blame for Hookup Culture?just published there by Neely Steinberg. It came out of this whole kerfuffle, and in it she offers a contrast of her views with the views of feminist Hugo Schwyzer.

I mentioned to Hugo that I was intrigued by our contrasting positions—his steadfast defense of feminism and critiquing of men versus my critiquing of feminism and steadfast defense of men—not because we disagree in the ideological sense, but because of our tendency to stray from defending our own gender. 
Hugo went first. Choice bits:
 …My views about pleasure-centered sex education are very much rooted in what I’ve lived through and what I’ve seen.
I’ve been married to four women, been “in love” with twice that many, and for a brief but intense period in my 20s and early 30s, I was very promiscuous. I now live very happily in a monogamous marriage. I’m not haunted by what I did, nor did the tremendous variety of experiences I had when I was younger spoil any opportunity for fulfillment with just one partner in an enduring relationship. Without compromising her privacy, I can say that my current (and last) wife’s life prior to our marriage was not dissimilar to my own. The intimacy we have today is at least partly a consequence of our experiences with other people, not in spite of them.
…Women in particular need reassurance that their worth is not linked to their number of sexual partners. They need to hear that pursuing pleasure for its own sake when they’re young will not make it more difficult to form enduring monogamous relationships (if they want them) when they’re older.
…I do regret the pain I caused other people. Rightly so. But what my life has taught me is that insight and compassion are rooted in experience; you can’t advise about what you don’t understand. My own ability to be a patient father, a faithful husband, a decent teacher and mentor isn’t in spite of my wild sexual choices when I was younger—it’s in large part because of them, and the lessons I learned.
…I want to equip young people to discover their own sexuality and to make informed, pleasure-centered, empathy-centered decisions based on what they discover. I want them to know that they have the inner resilience to recover from the “silly” and “vapid” decisions they may make.
Here’s Neely:
I happen to think most women aren’t all that interested in having a lot of [casual sex] for purely sexual reasons, with multiple partners no less. And I’ve come to believe that feminism’s inability, and at times refusal, to acknowledge differences between the sexes has been disingenuous and has gravely backfired on women, leaving them ill-equipped to discover what really feels good and right to them.
…I was told, by the 10% of women who are capable of effectively and consistently compartmentalizing their emotions when it comes to no-strings attached sex, that emotions were overrated, anathema even, and could easily be separated from sexual acts with another human being, to unapologetically unleash my inner slut (there’s that word again). It was our right (rite?) as women, our responsibility as sexual creatures, to show the world we can fuck like men do, have instantaneous orgasms, and feel faaaabulous while doing it in our 4-inch Manolo Blahniks. Countless women bought into this lie, only to realize years later that it doesn’t, in fact, feel so great most of the time, and that actually, there’s nothing all that empowering and liberating about spreading your legs with wild abandon.
On her years in the hook-up scene:
It’s as if I needed the crutch of Vodka to tell me what I was doing was an awesome idea, because without it I’d know better. I wasn’t alone. It was happening all around me. My friends, female acquaintances, countless women I’d met briefly over the years—we were all in the same boat. Post-college, we could pursue our careers and hobbies and passions full-force but were unable to form lasting attachments, to believe that a man wanted us for anything more than a quick hook-up, to understand what real intimacy was about.
…If feminism’s goal was to eradicate the falsehood that a woman’s worth is tied to her sexuality, it has failed on many accounts. All I learned from drunken, fleeting hook-ups over the course of a decade was how much I was being viewed as a sexual object by men, as a vagina who happens to think and feel, rather than a thinking, feeling human being who also happens to have a vagina.
And finally on the feminist movement itself:
I understand everyone’s journey is unique, but I think young women today are looking for different, more tempered voices other than the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar variety, for tangible, strategic dating advice (such as, if you want a relationship try developing emotional, spiritual, and mental bonds with a man you like or just started dating by delaying sexual gratification—yours and his).
The always insightful Stuart Schneiderman had this to say about the article:
Very few men openly identify themselves as feminists. Still, many men happily mouth the basic tenets of the feminist credo. They may not understand what they are saying, but they support the cause because they feel grateful for what feminism has done for them.
Take Hugo Schwyzer. He has been married four times. He has had countless casual sexual encounters and no small number of relationships. Manifestly, he feels grateful and perhaps endebted to feminism for having provided him with so much free love.
So, he defends the feminist party line.
In debating Neely Steinberg Schwyzer does not dispute that feminism, especially sex-positive feminism, has helped create the hookup culture.
Yet, Schwyzer thinks it’s a good thing, for him, for his fourth wife, and for everyone who wants to learn from experience. Being anything but a gentleman Schwyzer lets on that his fourth wife can match him hookup for hookup.
 …As it happens, Steinberg is far more cogent and thoughtful than Schwyzer. In truth, Schwyzer doesn’t seem to be thinking at all.
He wants young women to see their hookups as learning experiences. It’s amusing to see an ideological zealot defending the value of experience. What would Schwyzer say if experience taught people that feminism is exploiting young women to advance its ideological agenda?

I thank Neely for bringing these opposing views into the open where they may be examined and discussed. Neely’s post came out of a furious Twitter squabble when Tom Matlack pissed off the radfems by objecting to Schwyzer’s post In Rape Culture, All Men Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent, and then by daring to suggest this:

Men and women are different. Quite different in fact. But women would really like men to be more like them.

I can’t imagine Neely’s article is going to help Matlack get back into the Piranhas’ good graces, but if he continues to speak out against man hating and female supremacy the Good Men Project will be a much better blog. Voices like Neely Steinberg’s need and deserve to be heard.

By the way, for my view on whether feminism is to blame for hookup culture, see How Feminism Got Drunk and Hooked Up With a Loser. Shoot, does the title give it away?