But it is up to the girl, and we are meant to think that this is a good thing, because that proves she’s confident and empowered. It seems to me that these children are so aggressive not because they are confident but because they despair. “All kids are scared of long-term relationships now,” he said. “Our parents are all divorced, and we have never seen a successful long-term relationship. Girls don’t want to think of sex as something which is about love because that will just come back and bite them later. The sex thing is just the most visible sign of disconnectedness we feel.”
Young people are taught from an early age that sex is inevitable but also that it is finally unsatisfying and leads eventually, inevitably to pain. They learn the first from MTV, talk shows, the internet, and magazines like CosmoGirl. They learn the second from their parents’ divorces, their and their friends’ break-ups, their venereal diseases and abortions.
They feel that it is not “up to the girl.” They may say that, because authorities keep telling them that, but they don’t feel it. It is easier, and seems safer, to try to make the affair “meaningless” or to pretend that you’re in control. If it does not have meaning it cannot hurt you, they think. If you’re in control, you cannot be hurt, they think.
The Times story quotes an eighteen-year-old girl who says that “I think with feminist thought being pushed upon girls from a young age, that some people put a premium on girls’ dominating different areas of life. So girls may now feel that it is also important to dominate in a sexual relationship. This allows the girl to have more control, e.g. ‘I wanted him to do that’ versus `He sort of made me do something.’”
I may be wrong, but I hear in her last sentence the voice of a young woman, speaking for her peers, who is trying to avoid despair by claiming that she is the agent of her own actions, the one who decides her own destiny. Notice how passive she is even while claiming to have “control”: “I wanted him to do that,” not “I wanted to do that.” And notice that even while claiming to have control, she can only say “more control,” which in context does not seem to mean that she really has all that much control over what the boy does. The sentence does not suggest confidence. It suggests what in adults we would call “damage control” or “spin.”
It is the wording of one who has done something she wishes she had not done but feels she had to do. It is the voice of despair, familiar to us through the comic figure of the man who yells “You can’t fire me, I quit!” and storms from his boss’s office, having salvaged his pride a little bit though he is still ruined.
It is not in any way comical in the mouths of children, who ought to have been free from the dangers and the suffering of CosmoGirl sexuality, and the need to cope by being aggressive, who ought to have grown up free to choose what they would do without even thinking of what boys wanted, till someday they found men who would love them, lay down their lives for them, live with them till death did them part, to whom they could offer their sexuality freely and without fear, whose children they would bear.
The odd thing is that such young women would have more control over their lives than the macho young women the Times described with approval. Chastity empowers. The control of the appetites makes you free. The chaste young woman is the only one of whom it can truly be said, “It is up to the girl.”