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June 15, 2006

The Charge Of The Tight Brigade

Jill at Feministe made some interesting observations about Dawn Eden's upcoming book, "The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On." Lesson Number One - Do not extrapolate your own personal views and expand them to apply to all women.

A big hint regarding where Eden's book is going was some foreshadowing in these paragraphs:

I now notice things about the men in my life that I never noticed before, like their thoughtfulness, their love of family, their integrity, even their vulnerability. These are intangible qualities that don’t jump out at you when you’re in a frame of mind where you’re viewing men only as potential dates. Put together, they add up to character. It’s the most important quality to seek in a husband, and the one that’s least discussed in this day and age.

Likewise, when you become chaste, you’ll notice for the first time that women who have sex outside of marriage don’t really appreciate men. You can’t see this when you’re having nonmarital sex, because you don’t realize how much there really is about men to appreciate. You think the mere fact that you’re attracted to them and that they seem to wield such power over you shows you appreciate them for what they really are. From there, it’s a short step to the cynical stereotype we all know from popular culture—the worldly wise, “been there, done that” single woman who doesn’t trust men any farther than she can throw them.

I strongly suspect that Eden's second paragraph is not based on any research she has done on the views of women who have nonmarital sex. I think those are her own opinions of how she felt about men when she was having nonmarital sex. Turns out I was right. Here's more from her, further down on her blog post:

When I had nonmarital sex, I became accustomed to seeing myself as a commodity - a varied collection of looks, wit, intellect, and je ne sais quois. I looked for men whose commodities were worth as much as my own.

Most of all, I looked for men whose commodities were readily apparent. The singles scene isnít known for its subtlety. Men who were reserved or modest, who didnít flirt readily, who werenít attuned to my single-gal vibeóthe nature of my casual-sex mind-set forced them all out of the running.

Is it any surprise, then, that I tended to date narcissists? And that I believed, if I let them reach me emotionally, they would hurt me? So, I built up walls of protection. I thought I was ìguarding my heart.

Today, I see those walls for what they really are — and they look like poorly installed weather insulation. They donít do anything they're supposed to do. The chill winds of rejection seep through, while the warm breezes of love are muffled.

I don't have any problem with what she is admitting. I'm glad that she has changed her view of herself and that of men. The problem I have is the way she assumes that all women who have nonmarital sex don't appreciate men. That is definitely not true. I can point to many women who have nonmarital sex who do take into consideration a man's thoughtfulness, his love of family, his integrity, and his vulnerability. It's called being human.

The other problem I have with what she has written is that she believes that if women would stop having nonmarital sex, they would better appreciate men. How on earth did she get from Suggestion A to Outcome C? A woman who keeps her legs closed won't automatically begin to appreciate men better, and a woman who does have an active sex life outside of marriage isn't a man-hater. Where on earth does she come up with these baseless opinions?

She also mentioned television shows where she claims that the only sensitive male characters tend to be the gay ones. She says that straight men are depicted as Neanderthal lunkheads.

On television and in movies, if a single woman is friends with a man, the pal's more often than not a homosexual. The message is that heterosexual men aren't capable of friendship or even worthy of it. In contrast, gay men are depicted as safe and nonthreatening, trustworthy, and having more to give than straight men.

Imagine if the tables were turned. Imagine watching a TV sitcom where all the gay men are Neanderthal lunkheads, while the kind, thoughtful straight men are always ready to help their female friends without asking sexual favors in return.

We obviously don't watch the same television shows. When it comes to gay male characters, I think one show she is referring to is "Will and Grace". I can't comment on that one because I've never seen it. I don't have any interest in it. However, I do know that there are lots of television shows that show friendships between men and women. Their sexuality has not been discussed in all of these shows, but I'm going to assume that they are straight. The new "Doctor Who" is one of them. Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor had a great friendship with Rose, at least until he died and changed form. The new Doctor just picked up where he left off. I can't wait to see the new season. Another good show with a main straight male character who has good friendships and working relationships with women is "John Doe". Doe is straight. He had a young woman who had worked for him, and their friendship was quite good. A woman he works with is getting to know him better, and they are developing a very good working relationship and friendship. He treats all the women he works with with respect, and he doesn't view any of them as sex objects. I wasn't even aware of this show until it started playing on the Sci-Fi channel. It was cancelled a few years ago. Another good one which is sadly no longer on the air was "Relic Hunter". Tia Carrere, as an ancient studies professor, had a great relationship with Nigel, her male colleague. Nigel was straight. They were both friends and colleagues. Carrere decided to stop filming the show because she wanted a better home life. She couldn't have a more balanced life with an exhausting television filming schedule and traveling around the world to film episodes. I own the first season of this show on DVD. One of the best male/female relationships was between Mulder and Scully on "The X Files". Yes, there was sexual tension between the two, but their relationship was built on mutual respect and friendship. There was an ongoing joke that those two could not find good dates to save their lives, but their friendship was a very good one. All of these men are straight, as far as I can tell, and they are not Neanderthal lunkheads. Maybe Eden needs to watch more science fiction and fantasy shows.

It's one thing to admit that you had previously held rather horrendous views of men, and that you later matured. You now not only appreciate yourself better, you better appreciate men. That's all well and good, and I'm happy that Dawn Eden has reached that stage in her life. The problem is when you take your own experiences, and proceed to say that all women who have nonmarital sex look down on men. That's simply not true. Eden needs to distinguish the difference between a valid point of view and projection. There is more to relationships than either nonmarital sex or marriage. Such an either-or view goes a long way to reduce relationships to the commodity that Eden supposedly disagrees with.

Posted on June 15, 2006 at 02:49 PM | Permalink


I now notice things about the men in my life that I never noticed before, like their thoughtfulness, their love of family, their integrity, even their vulnerability. These are intangible qualities that don’t jump out at you when you’re in a frame of mind where you’re viewing men only as potential dates.

I notice those things too - when I'm getting plenty of sex.

Posted by: stef at Jun 15, 2006 6:58:43 PM

I've noticed those things in men whether or not I had sex with them. All you have to do is look. It's not that hard. I don't know why Dawn Eden had such a hard time finding men with those qualities.

Posted by: The Countess at Jun 16, 2006 7:20:52 AM

More tv shows with good hetero male role models include The West Wing and Gilmore Girls.

Posted by: Kai Jones at Jun 16, 2006 1:52:18 PM

Wow, another idiot girl trying to sell us the benefits of chastity. The trouble is in the long term, evidence suggests, chastity is near enough impossible. We have these urges (well I do, is it just me nurse?) and needs *needs*. So if we can't, between men and women, learn to respect each other while having sex with each other, then we'll never achieve it. And that would be a shame wouldn't it?

Posted by: Cruella at Jun 17, 2006 4:45:24 PM