If you cast an eye back over history you’ll see that what most societies have actually come up with is the social equivalent of a cartel: if you want the sex, you’re going to first have to invest in some sort of relationship, because it’s not (readily) available any other way. Those regimes, of course, were often quite punishing to women, but then, that’s how cartels often work; when a cartel member cheats by selling below the fixed price, it is the member, not their customer, who suffers retaliation from the rest of the cartel.No one, of course, lets the cat out of the bag. Cats hate being in bags and fight hard to get out. What people do is fail to keep the cat trapped in the bag. The cat in this case is that, in order to succeed, feminism requires women to change as much as it needs men to change.
Which suggests an uncomfortable possibility. No, not a neo-Victorian morals police to force morally loose women out of town. But a decision by women to force better behavior from the men who offend them, and even to browbeat other women into going along.
The problem McArdle is attempting to solve is the unhappiness many women feel about sex. An unhappiness that runs so deep they are attempting to criminalize bad sex. We saw it most recently in the case of "Alias Grace" and Aziz Ansari. Grace flirted with the much-more-famous Ansari after meeting him at an event. She went on a date with him, went back to his apartment, willingly got naked and willingly performed oral sex on him and then got uncomfortable about sex. She then sent some, decidedly ambiguous signals that she thinks implied a lack of consent. I don't think she's lying about that. Nor is she lying about his response: he missed them entirely. I suspect he missed them for the simple reason that he wasn't looking for them. It's like seeing motorcycles on the road, you have to train yourself to see when a woman is uncomfortable with sex and then stop and ask her if something is the matter.
As I say, this is all true. Trust me on this one: women will go along with sex they don't really want. That's always been the case and it always will be. A tiny number of exceptions aside, relationships between men and women involve the man having a lot less sex than would be the case if it was only up to him and the woman having a lot more sex than would be the case if it were only up to her. It's a difficult challenge but most of us find a way to make it work because we want very much to be in a relationship of some sort.
Things have been stirred up lately by a situation that has cropped up on university campuses. I'll let McArdle explain.
In part because casual sex was so risky, there was still a robust dating culture, which gave women alternatives to the nightly chase. Most of us chose those alternatives, which in turn limited the ability of heterosexual men to choose the nightly chase over dating.If you're a female college student, men have much more power because there are fewer of them. If you don't give him sex on terms he likes, he can go out with someone else. Women no longer have a choice between being in some sort of relationship with one guy as opposed to another, they now have to choose between giving a guy sex on his terms or staying home and studying for four years. Let's go back to Alias Grace a moment. Ansari is a celebrity. It's not at all unusual for a woman a decade younger than him to offer him sex. He may or may not be looking for a girlfriend but, even if he is, he isn't going to be looking among star-struck 23-year-olds for one. Alias Grace could be with him on one condition and one condition only: if she was willing to settle for sex with very little in return. I suspect she started to send ambiguous signals about whether she wanted sex right around te time the awful truth finally struck home. On a modern university campus there are a lot of women in Grace's position. Understandably, they are very unhappy with this. And feminists, always desperate to remain relevant, are listening to these women.
This does seem to be different now. AIDS is no longer invariably fatal; apps like Tinder have made it easy for men to pursue frictionless hookups; colleges have shifted from majority-men to majority-women, which plausibly would lead the college culture to revolve more and more around the casual sex that the scarce men seem to prefer.
The problem, the cat McArdle lets out of the bag, is that some women are not unhappy with this situation. For them college is just a four year adventure prior to settling down. They easily accommodate themselves to the prevailing morality because most people easily accommodate themselves to the prevailing morality. They spend three or four years giving men sex on the terms those men like. It probably never even occurs to them to question the situation. They easily adapt their expectations to deal with the situation. They have a few great years and then move on to something else. If anything, they cherish the memory. There are lot of women who see things this way.