This is a great post, and succinctly summarizes many of the topics I’ve been discussing in less inflammatory terms. I will quote a lot of it in full as it’s so good.
Today, the notion that sexual contact is degrading to women has become wrapped up in the contemporary progressive language of trauma and consent. The damage in question is emotional, not material, but the paternalistic message is the same: innocent women must be protected.
Consent is sexy, we are told, as sex-education pamphlets primly instruct us in the essentials of mid-coital conversation. Do you like it when I touch you there? What do you want me to do to you? Never mind that said literature studiously ignores the fact that for the young, inexperienced people at whom such instructions are directed, dirty talk by administrative mandate just adds a whole new layer of pressure to an already awkward situation: For all its protestations about how hot consent can be, the progressive discourse surrounding sex is markedly unsexy. Amid the obsession with power, oppression and the ever present threat of harm, the notion of desire (or, heaven forbid, fun) all but disappears. Even the most pornographic consent-is-sexy script is about risk mitigation, not titillation, an insurance waiver with a side of heavy breathing.
This laser-focus on consent effectively recasts sex itself as a dangerous act, to be undertaken with extreme caution and only if absolutely necessary. And if relationships are mainly about power and the threat of abuse, those who pursue them too enthusiastically must be viewed with suspicion. More old-school gender stereotypes crop up here: men are increasingly seen as predators almost by default, while women are cast as helpless, even infantile. (Witness the rise of the word “grooming,” previously reserved for sexual predation of children, as something done to women in their twenties.) As a breathtaking range of disappointing male behavior gets swept under the umbrella of MeToo, the line between pursuing a woman and preying on her has become blurred.
Convincing people they’ve been horribly abused when all they’ve experienced is a relationship that didn’t work out is an abhorrent thing to do, and it’s enraging that “grooming” is now often used for any male pursuing any woman at all. We live in crazy times with crazy people.
Being disappointed is not abuse. Someone not liking you as much or in the way that you like them is not abuse. Someone wanting to sleep with you or not wanting to sleep with you (looking at you, Fat Acceptance people) is not abuse. And dating someone younger or older than you is also not abuse, as long as both of you are above the age of majority.
Relationships have always been risky endeavors, but, ironically, this hypervigilance has made them seem outright terrifying. Every new romance is treated like a scavenger hunt for “red flags” that forewarn abuse, and every breakup is subject to adjudication via the #MeToo framework. Unhappy exes hash out their grievances on social media in a way that used to be reserved for divorced celebrities wrangling for the sympathy of the press. Private affairs are dragged into the spotlight for public reckoning and reparations. Men, already saddled with the pressure of making the first move, have to calculate the additional risk that an awkward overture or misread signal will result not just in rejection, but public humiliation and ruination.
Most of modern life seems to be about the illusion of risk removal. But as any trader knows, risk cannot be removed — it can just be shifted elsewhere. That’s how it ever has been and how it ever shall be, the ministrations of the micro-minds aside.