Yesterday I finally got round to starting to read Living Dolls by Natasha Walter. I have been very impressed with it thus far, her insights into 'Lads mag culture' and the pressures on young women to be sex objects has been truly enjoyable and enlightening to read. I am personally planning on buying my younger sister a copy of it for christmas, even if I have to resort to Clockwork Orange-style tactics to get her to read it.
However, I feel very let down by Chapter Four. This chapter is about young women's attitudes towards casual sex. Walter discusses a modern promiscuity, but during doing this, she seems to descend into some sort of 'slut-shaming' attitude, which left me totally cold. The chapter features interviews with several women around my age - half of them are interested in, and have, casual sex, and the other half seek more emotional bonds with the people they wish to copulate with. Instead of using this divide to acknowledge that everyone's sexual experience is different and that people should do what makes them happy (obviously with regard to the fact that choice does not exist in a vacuum and so on), Walter dismisses the opinions and experiences of the self-confessed 'promiscuous' ones with a kind of "well it's what they think they want, but I know better" attitude. She only considers that the opinion of the 'chaste' girls (that sex should only come about as a result of a strong emotional tie) to be valid, using Anais Nin's diaries to back up her viewpoint.
Well, I'm sorry, but no. Without going into too much detail (hi mum!), by patriarchal standards, I am a slut. I've had long-term monogamous relationships (five years), I've had short term flings, I've had sex with friends, I've had one-night stands and pretty much everything in between. I'm not ashamed, and although I am currently in a monogamous relationship, there is nothing to say that I wouldn't do it all again. I only tell you this to assure you that I know what I'm talking about.
I firmly believe that while sex with someone who you are emotionally bonded with can be great, it is not the be-all and end all, and saying that it is is not a message we should be sending to women. What are we, Ann Widdecombe?
I believe that Walter makes this distinction because she sees the promiscuity of some of the girls to be a symptom of the 'hypersexual' culture she (brilliantly) rails against, and seems to think that the reason they are promiscuous is because they are willing participants in said hypersexual culture. What she fails to realise is that correlation does not equal causation. I identified with a lot of what the interviewed girls said ("I met this guy in a pub the other night. We had sex once and... he says, are you going to sleep with other people? I thought, who are you? Why are you asking me this? Of course I'm having sex with other people."), but I do not consider myself to be part of the 'Living Doll' culture. I don't shave, I'm usually to be found wearing bovver boots, I don't wear make up and I dye and cut my own hair. My promiscuity is to do with a liking for sex, not a search for an emotional connection. It's because putting other people's bits in your bits feels good. If you can have strong emotional connections without sex, why can't you have sex without strong emotional connections?
I think a much more positive message to send to young women should be "Do what makes you happy. Take pleasure in pleasure and don't feel you have to justify your sexuality. Just always be safe, and don't let yourself be pushed into anything you don't want to do".
Sometimes, people just want to fuck because it feels good. We should not add any caveats to that.
I will review the rest of the book when I have finished it, I just had to get this little rant off my chest.