A 19-year-old virgin walks into a bar. He’s got his lucky cross in his pocket and his best jersey on. Please God, he says to himself, let this be the night. He spies a girl sitting at a table—blonde, wholesome-looking, just his type. He sidles up closer to the girl, who is chatting with some friends. Over the din, he can make out snippets of her conversation: at Bible study the other night … Pastor Ted says … saving it for marriage. Discouraged, he walks away in search of a more promising target.
Did he make the correct decision? Or did he make a hasty judgment and miss a chance for a possible love connection? The answer to such a question can be found in Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers by Mark Regnerus, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. The book is a serious work of sociology based on several comprehensive surveys of young adults, coupled with in-depth interviews. But it could also double as a guide for teenage boys on the prowl (who’s easier, a Catholic girl or a Jew?)…
I find it sad when 19-year-old men are spoken of as being on the prowl and in search of a promising target. It isn’t that I discount the very real biological underpinnings of sexual behavior; I can spout the basic tenets of evolutionary biology just as well as the next guy. Sure, young men have “evolved” to seek out sexual variety. But so what? I think I speak for more than myself when I say that on the prowl is not how a lot of young men actually feel when they are seeking out women with whom to explore their sexuality, and it’s profoundly alienating for a lot of young men when on the prowl is the major cultural model they have for their own sexuality. And what’s all the more insidious is that the predatory model of male sexuality is often reinforced and promoted, as Hanna Rosen did, in a humorous tone of voice that seems to say we love our men anyway. Thus the predatory model is reinforced in a voice that implies acceptance and understanding of men’s foibles, but the message itself is actually very alienating for many young men.
Which brings me back to Bob, of the Vagina Monologues vignette Because He Liked to Look At It. Bob is supposed to be a “good man” in this story. (I was encouraged when one of my commenters saw through this canard and stated bluntly that “Bob sounds like an asshole.”) Now, whether Bob is in fact an asshole or a just a good man who happens to be a little pushy is something I don’t know from reading the short vignette. But what’s troubling about the story is that it’s essentially a re-telling of the most hackneyed and stereotypical re-enactment of rigid sex roles that I could possibly imagine. Bob is in control. Bob has it handled. Bob knows what he’s doing. Consent? That’s for the little men. Bob doesn’t need to ask because he just gets it. And what about the narrator? She’s flighty. Doesn’t communicate directly. Can’t stand to look at her own body. She’s neurotic. (Read, human.) The narrator is allowed to be scared, to freak out, and to have weaknesses, and still have amazing sex. Bob, on the other hand, seems to take advice from the following:
She will rain and thunder all around you and you will shelter her until her storm passes. She will not drag you into her chaos or uproot you. When you have mastery over yourself, you will have mastery over her.
I suspect that fans of The Vagina Monologues would find Roissy’s Citizen Renegade website somewhat less than charming, and I would tend to agree. Yet all too often the feminist model for the “good man” promotes nothing more than – pardon the unfortunate metaphor – machismo in drag.