Are You Taking a Feminist Stand if You Want a Boyfriend?

Do you think that the young American girls who love the Twilight books, Glee, and High School Musical are part of a "cultural insurrection?" Are they fighting back against the hook-up culture? Are females who want boyfriends taking a feminist stand?

This is the argument Caitlin Flanagan seems to be making in "Love, Actually," her new piece for The Atlantic Monthly. In the first paragraph of her piece, she says: "What do these girls ... demand right now? The old story, the one they were forced to abandon for a while, but will be denied no longer: the Boyfriend Story." In other words, young female consumers are hungry for fictional stories about cute couples, about crushes and courtships.

As her article goes on, she seems to argue that by demanding books, TV shows, and movies that feature old-fashioned, slow-moving romances, "the 14- and 15-year-old girls of the nation [are making] one of the last, great stands for human dignity." Sounds a bit hysterical, if you ask me. It also implies that these girls are far more conscious of what they're doing than I imagine they are.

What's more, I think most girls of most generations and most cultures dream of boyfriends and true love. It's just that the adults who run Hollywood don't always provide them with glorified big- or small-screen representations of their fantasies. I'm not sure that whatever we're seeing right now is so much a reaction of the youth culture as much as it's a reaction by the entertainment industry. The cynical Hollywood gurus saw that vampire books with innocent love stories were selling in huge numbers, so they sought to replicate that formula in different ways — by sticking vampires into every kind of medium they could think of, but also (and more successfully) by making movies and shows that emphasized old-fashioned crushes and courtships.

Nonetheless, I agree with Flanagan when she says that it's no wonder "many girls are binge-drinking and reporting, quite candidly, that this kind of drinking is a necessary part of their preparation for sexual activity." It seems sad but true when she says today's girls "are preparing themselves for acts and experiences that are frightening, embarrassing, uncomfortable at best, painful at worst."

And yet I don't think what Flanagan is describing is all that new — I imagine that plenty of teenage girls since about the '70s (if not the '60s) have been drinking to prepare for sex and feeling frightened about it. I also don't think teenagers have suddenly taken some new stand against it. It's just that the entertainment industry is cashing in on enduring fantasies.

However, I do think there's a group that's capable of taking a conscientious, informed stand against the hook-up culture: us! Single women (and men), particularly those of us in our 20s and 30s, even 40s.

It's my feeling that if you're sick of hook-ups — sick of casual sex or friendships-with-benefits or whatever — you need to stop telling yourself "everyone else is doing it," because they're not. And because it doesn't matter what everyone else is doing if you're not comfortable with it. You should stop telling yourself it's all you're going to get, because really, nothing good is going to come of it if you think that way. You should stop thinking that the physical pleasure is worth the emotional hangover. Because it's not.

As I've said before, spend quality time with your vibrator if you really need to get off. If you really want to feel good about yourself — and really want to find a deeper long-term satisfaction with life — casual sexual encounters aren't going to help. They're just going to hurt.

Just last year, I was thinking that I needed to get better at having casual sex — read about it here. But I recently decided, "Eh, you know what? I don't like casual sex! I can't do it." So I talked about the nine reasons why I've decided I'm going to wait a full two months — at least — from now on, before I have sex with anyone. Check that out here.

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