Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sorta Political: Girls defend their right to dess sluttily. Again!

There is a fair amount of chatter going on about the students of the upscale Stuyvesant High School who protested against their school's dress code by dressing sluttily. Some are calling it "Slutty Wednesday" and perhaps that will catch on the way Slutwalk did (the students themselves went with the more prosaic "Redress the Dress Code").

But I think there is something far more important happening here; something we might miss because it is right on the surface. For whatever reason, we have a generation of girls who have a strong need to dress (which often means "undress") sexually. And, as I said in response to Slutwalk, they are terrified that some mean old busybodies are going to come along and stop them:
But let me suggest that there is one thing that really drives this: girls and young women in their teens and early twenties really, really, really love dressing like sluts. They love the feeling of sexual power it gives them and they love it a whole lot. And they look around and see nothing but what appear to them to be scolds and busybodies trying to stop them. There is a huge amount of defensive anger out there in girlie-land and that defensive anger has been like a dirigible full of hydrogen looking for a spark for a long time now.
And it's not just that young women protest against anyone who tries to take away their right to dress sexually. They also turn any protest at all into a chance to present themselves sexually by getting naked or nearly naked as happened at the Occupy and Quebec protests.

Here is why I think it's happening. We live in an era that has denied women and men their identity as women and men. We have done this quite openly and cheerfully in the name of liberation. We tell them that they can be whatever they want and that they don't have to accept their sexual role as given by biology or fate or the culture. We thought we were going to make girls lives easier by removing these things from their lives. This freedom to be what they were "inside" instead of accepting what  things "outside" told them they had to be was supposed to be comforting and reassuring to them. To our surprise, they have fought back with a vengeance. Young women see their public sexuality not as an imposition but as a comfort and they see sexual attention not as something to be avoided but as something to be pursued.

These young women aren't arriving at this view through analysis. Nobody does that. When I want honey, I don't think, "What nutritional needs do I have and which food best satisfies those needs". No, I just have a craving for honey. Likewise, young women today aren't carefully thinking through their emotional needs as women. They just have a craving to assert their sexual identity and so they are doing so.

And I'd also point out that there is no evidence—despite a lot of wishful thinking from the intellectual elite—that young women are have a whole lot more sex or having sex much more casually than used to be the case. (If anything, they have been less promiscuous than the 1980s generation were.) Girls may be dressing like sluts but they don't want to be sluts; they want to be pursued and loved by boys just like every other generation of girls in history.

It is especially interesting that young women are doing the exact opposite of what was expected of them. The expectation was that the sexual revolution would lead women to present themselves less sexually but actually be more sexual by treating sex as a recreational activity. If it were up to the intellectual elite, girls would act like the characters on Girls even though that show presents girls as unhappy failures in their sexuality. Real girls, meanwhile,  are reverting to something else.

Reverting is very much a part of it by the way. For all the brazen quality that slutwear has, it is also very nostalgia driven. It's not driven by any particular era; we have touches of 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, 20s and even the 19th century driving this clothing. But whatever it is, nostalgia has a lot to do with it.

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