Women and the sexual revolution
As noted in a recent article by the wall street journal, the “sex market, which was once tightly regulated…is now largely free”. Going further, journalist Louise Perry observes that, “In the West, hookup culture is normative among teenagers and young adults.” She adds:
“Today’s sex culture…prefers to understand people as free-wheeling, atomized individuals, all looking for number one and all out to have a good time. It assumes that if all sexual taboos were removed, we would all be liberated and able to make completely free choices regarding our sex lives, sampling from a menu of delicious options made newly available by the sexual revolution.
So how is it for women?
A growing number of articles, based on belief and research, are coming out with extremely counter-cultural titles, such as “How the Sexual Revolution Hurt Women” and “Porn Framed Our Lives and Normalized Sexual Abuse” .
Perry notes that studies consistently find that after dating, “women are more likely than men to experience regret, low self-esteem, and mental distress.” Soma Sara writes about a growing “rape culture” that encompasses
“the derogatory ways in which boys spoke about women and girls, the bragging about sexual conquest, the objectifying comments about women’s bodies, the jokes about sexual harassment and sexual assault [and] slut shame.
Sara argues that this array of behaviors and attitudes has “the cumulative effect of making sexual harassment, assault, and actual rape permissible.”
To prove her point, in 2020 she created the “Everyone’s Invited” website as a platform for survivors to share their own experiences anonymously. It has already received more than 50,000 submissions. One post begins with “I was 12 when I was raped…”, another “I was sexually assaulted by a boy… after school”. The cumulative weight of reading the stories is heartbreaking.
There is no doubt what drives this. Sara, who is 23, writes:
“Growing up, misogyny, sexual harassment, and online sexual abuse became the norm among my peers; libraries of nudes of underage girls were shared on google drives, being groped and grabbed at a party was normal, as were unwanted advances, rape jokes, sexual bullying and d** choices *unsolicited…. There was exorbitant pressure on young girls to do hotness online.
His conclusion? “Porn was the wallpaper that framed our lives, normalizing everything.” She adds that hers was a generation of guinea pigs, the first to grow up online.
Yes, but the larger context is that hers was the first generation to be raised in a fully “sexually liberated” culture that being online facilitated and exacerbated. As Perry writes:
“We can see this rapid change in social mores through pop culture. In the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause”, teenage protagonist Judy is called a “dirty tramp” by her father for wearing lipstick. Contrast that with the current TV hit “Euphoria,” in which teenage girls sell nudes online, are choked during sex, and suffer the humiliation of seeing revenge porn shared around school. “Euphoria” is meant to be bold, pushing the boundaries of acceptability, but so was “Rebel Without a Cause.”
Of course, the sexual revolution has hurt men as well as women, but there is no doubt that women have suffered the most. Perry writes that while it is possible for young women to opt out, research suggests that only a small minority do so: “Absent some sort of religious commitment, this is now the ‘normal’ route. “introduced to girls when they become sexually active”.
Perhaps we should do a little more to help them make this “religious commitment”.
James Emery White
Louise Perry, “How the Sexual Revolution Hurt Women”, The Wall Street JournalAugust 19, 2022, read online.
“Everyone’s Invited” created by Soma Sara, online here.
Rosa Silverman, “Soma Sara, Founder Guest of All: ‘Porn Has Framed Our Lives and Normalized Sexual Abuse'”, The TelegraphAugust 26, 2022, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To take advantage of a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, go to churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church and Culture podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and instagram to @JamesEmeryWhite.