Anti-feminist, anti-sex bloggers do not speak for me or my generation

Well, that pesky feminist-antagonizer is at it again. Susan Walsh, who only recently became “known” to the internet world for her vicious and nonsensical attack on Jaclyn Friedman, is now arguing against sex-positivism with another attack that specifically mentions Jacyln and Amanda Marcotte in the title, which is not surprising since that strategy paid off so well for her last time. Her post really doesn’t say much we don’t already know about her beliefs, but some of the arguments she is throwing out in the comments are so bizarre that they are hard to ignore.

Susan Walsh says:  I have no interest in where JF has sex, with how many people, or anything else. What I am interested in is her idea, that this model can work. If more than a few outliers were to actually adopt such a model, the economy, then society, would collapse. For this reason, it will always be the talk of the fringe.

I would love to see some data (from a credible source, mind you) that proves that “if the world were having casual sex” the economy, and then society, would collapse. Also, it would be great if you could show me some data proving that it’s only a few “outliers” who have embraced casual sex and sex-positivism. Consider it a challenge – anyone who can do it gets a cookie. (Hint: you’re never getting that cookie.)

The second thing that caught my attention was this:

Hooking Up says:

Both Friedman and Marcotte are middle-aged so I imagine that aging, along with drinking the sex-positive kool aid for so many years, frees them to be detached. But it’s not a prescription for your average 20 something who still wants to experience “true love” and “bonding” – which comes with a bit of possessiveness as it’s territory.

Susan Walsh says:

@Hooking Up

Welcome, thanks for leaving a comment! It’s interesting that you raise the question of age. I’m finding that nearly all of the women I’m in opposition to on this issue are in their late 30s or 40s. I suspect they don’t want to know what is really going on for women on campus, or women in their 20s looking for “true love.” The truth is that when Marcotte and Friedman graduated from college, hookup culture was just taking hold. They’re a generation to old to be promoting no-strings sex to students.
I’m older still – but I don’t speak for myself, I speak for the women who come to me for support in a culture that is fairly hostile to relationships. We need to be objective and familiarize ourselves with the research, whether or not it fits with our political objectives. Failure to acknowledge failed policy continually puts a new generation of women at risk.

So apparently, women who are “middle-aged” (I’m not exactly sure when 30’s became middle aged) might be able to practice casual sex without emotional devastation, but only because they have, er, numbed to the pain or something? So apparently Jaclyn Friedman and Amanda Marcotte are “too old” to speak for young women. Susan Walsh, who is older still, however, claims that she can – and does – speak for young women.

The thing is, Jaclyn and Amanda never claimed to speak for young women. Jaclyn’s piece, My Sluthood, Myself, was so powerful in part because she spoke only for herself and was very careful to point out that sex and relationships are different for EVERYBODY and cannot be generalized. In fact, that is the basis of the idea of “sex-positivism” that Walsh thinks will destroy society.

Susan Walsh, however, does claim to speak for young women and that offends me. As a young woman. It’s easy to speak for the handful of young women you socialize with, and maybe even the ones who read your blog. Susan Walsh says she speaks for the young women that come to her, and that would be fine if she recognized the fact that she’s not speaking for ALL young women – just some. And that is why in my response, I would love to be able to say that I speak for my entire generation, but obviously I cannot.

But I can say that I personally disagree with Susan Walsh just about as vehemently as possible. I can also say that the young people I associate with and the young people who comment on my blog also disagree with Susan Walsh.

I believe that casual sex can be a healthy and fulfilling experience. I believe that women are no more likely than men to “get attached” to a sexual partner during a hookup, despite Walsh’s claims about oxytocin, which Heather Corinna does an excellent job of dismantling using actual research at Scarleteen. I believe that people can enjoy periods of causal sex and then still have perfectly healthy monogamous relationships down the road if that is what they so desire. I believe that people can have sex, casual or otherwise, with any number of partners without destroying their chances at “finding love.”

Oh, and I don’t believe that if the world embraced sex-positivism, the economy, and then society, would collapse.

I am 24 years old. It was my generation that all those New York Times articles referred to when they wrote about “hook up culture.” Hell, they were referring to me. During my college years, I was a sex educator and sex counselor for my fellow classmates. I wrote a sex column for the school newspaper. And if, for some reason, being 3 years out of college disqualifies me from being considered a “young woman,” I would like to share an excerpt from a piece I published in my school newspaper in 2006, when I was 20 years old.

I wrote this BEFORE I identified as a feminist, before I began reading sites like Feministing, before I had ever heard of Jaclyn Friedman, Amanda Marcotte, or  Jessica Valenti. These were the conclusions I came to as a young woman in college based on my own experiences, the experiences of my friends, and the experiences of those I counseled, not to mention the courses on sexuality and gender theory that I took.

From “Meditations on Hooking Up”

Even Sex and the City did an episode on women having sex like men where they posed the question: Is it even possible for women to have sex without emotional attachment? I think it is definitely possible. I think it is possible for the women to have sex without attachment, just as I also think women can get attached after having sex. Same goes for everyone else, of any gender. I also think the same person can have sex with one person and feel nothing, then have sex with another person and be unable to keep emotions out of it.

But having sex without emotion is not having sex like a man. And having sex with attachment is not having sex like a woman. Its having sex like a human, and we are all capable of an entire spectrum of emotional responses, or lack thereof.

But Walsh would like you to believe that her cohort is the mainstream and all us sex positive people are on the fringe. She included a poll on her blog post, the results of which I’m sure she’ll include in her follow-up post. How much do you want to bet the results back up her position?

After my last exchange with Walsh, I swore to myself that I would not let myself get baited and that I would take the high road. Or, that if I was going to be snarky, I would at least do it in a mature fashion. I admit that a previous dig at her for being afraid sluts were coming to steal her husband was a tad immature – and sadly, I’m the one she’s referring to when she wrote: “Until now, sex pos fems have portrayed dissenters primarily as women who are afraid that the ‘sluts are stealing all the menz.’ A favorite theme in their attacks on me was that I fear losing my husband to a woman like Friedman.” But at least I know when I’m being immature. It’s ironic – as it turns out – that it was me, a 24 year old, who stooped to her level, rather than the other way around.

Unlike Walsh, I do not claim to be able to speak for entire generations or entire genders. I do not claim to know what kind of sex is best for everybody else. I do not make wild, outlandish statements without data to back them up. I have respect for scholarly research, and take the time to evaluate a source’s credibility and bias. I do not respond to reasoned criticism by saying “nah, nah, I got more comments than you.” And I do not presume to believe that polling my own blog audience would give me a representative sampling of public opinion.

So no, I cannot speak for all young women and disprove Walsh’s ideas about my generation’s beliefs about sex and relationships. But I can add my own voice to the mix, and invite others to as well.

The reality is that people of all generations and of all genders have a diverse array of beliefs about sex and relationships. And that, in a nutshell, is why I believe in a sex positive model that validates that diversity of belief.

But if I were hard-pressed to make a generalization, I would argue that there is one thing MOST of us can agree on: that “If more than a few outliers were to actually adopt such a model, the economy, then society, would collapse…” is a load of crap.

7 Assumptions That Are Stupid

You know what I forgot was so fun, frustrating and distracting all at the same time? Fighting with strangers on the internet!

It seems that some anti-sex, anti-feminist woman named Susan Walsh quoted my piece in a piece attacking Jaclyn’ Friedman and her awesomely brave essay My Sluthood, Myself. Not having been involved in this kind of thing for quite some time, I read her piece (er, attempted to wade through its nonsensical and repetitive idiocy…) and let myself get baited. I commented. I deconstructed one of her more annoying paragraphs and hit “add” without thinking about what I was doing: giving her followers a platform to attack me. Doh! This was my favorite response:

I have already let use a +5 fire blast against the river troll known as Leah. See below. I see major exp points and perhaps a level up for defeating this under-boss. I’m hoping for some major loot against to use against the uber-feminists I feel might come from every cravice [sic] of forest treet they are crying in for miss jaclyn. Perhaps even a jaclyn battle herself.
Helmet of shaming deflection. Check.
Sword of Bullshit slice, upgrade +3 truth sting. Check.
Now for Boots of empathizing SMP ignorance. Sorry cannot eqiup.

LOL! (That was written by an “aspiring filmmaker.” Want his email address? He might be interested in some newsletters from oh, I don’t know, everywhere!)

Anyway, this type of thing is silly. I realized right away that commenting there was a rookie mistake and left it at that. Then I learned that Amanda Marcotte ripped her piece apart on Pandagon and had started a Twitter war. Fun! I left another comment. This time I didn’t even bother trying to deconstruct her illogical arguments, but just let myself enjoy the fun and be totally immature. For example:

Oh, and you’re right that I didn’t bother reading your bio. Why should I? I don’t know who you are – why would I? Are you under some sort of delusion that you’re famous? You being married doesn’t really have a bearing on what I said either. Married women can just as easily be afraid of the scary sluts coming to steal their husbands.


Haha, I kid. I have no interest in stealing this idiot’s husband. I’m only interested in stealing men who marry women who can construct logical arguments, sorry.

Okay, I promise I have a point and here it is: Fighting on the internet is dumb. People who are set in their beliefs aren’t going to change their thinking because of a well-constructed argument in a comment left on their blog. Whatever. As I said on Pandagon, the only thing I have to say to this woman is an old Yiddish curse that translates roughly to: “You should grow like an onion with your head in the ground.” Because looking through a narrow lens at a few “studies” that support your worldview to the exclusion of all other evidence or logic is just that.

What I will speak to is the number of assumptions and opinions that this woman spews as if they were fact, or in any way related to her “studies,” which they aren’t. She cites these “ideas” as if she were referring to common wisdom we all know and agree with, when in fact, it’s just wrong, wrong, wrong. (Nevermind offensive to many.) In my friend Jenn’s words, here are 6 major “assumptions that are stupid” made in Susan Walsh’s piece:

  1. Men don’t pay attention to women who want relationships because they only want casual sex.
  2. It’s the slutty women’s fault that men wont pay attention to women who aren’t slutty.
  3. Women should not support other women who are slutty because they are “wreaking havoc on the supply side” (aka stealing our menz!)
  4. “Relationship science is hard science.”
  5. Using Craigslist for dating or sex is a death sentence.
  6. One would only seek casual sex (via CL or otherwise) because they have suffered some sort of trauma or are in other ways emotionally unbalanced or unstable.
  7. “Men are usually spouting complete BS when they throw around phrases like male hegemony, patriarchy and heteronormative.”

Which one is your favorite? Feel encouraged to pick one and debunk away in the comments! (NOMAS, I’m looking at you for #7!)

The point is that these assumptions Walsh stands on are pervasive among the conservative set. So long as sex is moralized, we will suffer under these oppressive social tropes. I know I’m going to keep working to change consciousness and promote sex-positive views — just, you know, maybe not in the comments section of Susan Walsh’s blog.