Friday, March 28, 2008

Decidedly Not Revolutionary

Another thought-provoking, article from the New York Times:

Sex, an always controversial practice, is the topic, as the author highlights the growing number of abstinence clubs on elite college campuses. Harvard has its own, secular club, "True Love Revolution," led by Janie Fredell; the club's goal is to spread the message of abstinence and convince students' to opt out of the "hookup culture."

Now, from a feminist perspective, I have no qualms against saying no to sex. Pressure, whether individual or societal, is damaging. Women (and men) should have total autonomy in their sexual decisions.

However, I take issue with the implications of the message, and the way it has been presented to Harvard students.

Firstly, the club promotes abstinence until marriage. Yet, many lifestyles do not have the option of marriage, marriage, itself, is a flawed institution, and is not the only way to declare love for a partner. However, it is the life goal of most members of the organization: "Finding true love for me is the point of life,” said Fredell.

I agree that finding someone you are compatible with, care for, and want to spend time with is an important aspect of life. I disagree that it should be the point of one's life. Marriages end in divorce, more often than they don't, and when life has become simply a search for that "true love" which has gone awry, pain is more acute and, often, women how have not had steady careers due to raising children and caring for their partner are left in financial ruin. One of the reasons that many members promote abstinence is based on the hormone Oxycontin, which heightens a sense of connection to one's sexual partner, and if the relationship is not stable, one will feel that instability more acutely and feel much more pain upon its end. However, I believe that to experience the break-up of a marriage, without having had relationships with any other partner would lead to an even more acute sense of loss and perhaps fear to now be living in a world where one knows so little.

My bigger issue with this club is the way it frames masculinity. The clubs other leader, Leo Keliher, said that masculinity was “being able to deny yourself for the sake of the woman.” “To have that kind of self-control is really what it means to be a man."

To define masculinity in direct opposition to femininity is troublesome. It reinforces stereotypical gender roles and norms. By framing masculinity as denial for the sake of women, is to basically claim that women must be protected by men, that women are weaker, more innocent and pure, and that men must deny their urges in order to keep women pure. It is to deny that women also enjoy engaging in sex, and it equates virginity with innocence, both very outdated and disproved concepts.

Again, I truly support people's decisions to abstain from sex. However, I believe that the approach taken by groups like True Love Revolution is faulty. It reverts back to gender roles and traditional marriages and calls for ignorance of one's own body.

Also, what's with the rose? Does it remind anyone else of Georgia O'Keffe's paintings, which were definately NOT flowers? Just wondering. Ha.


Amelia said...

Kinda reminds me of that one article posted on Feministing, where women over 30 should just marry whoever is willing to have them. Which is really lame.

Finding love and getting married should not be the point of someone's life. I totally agree with you, Kate, that it is unfair because of all the people who cannot be married (GLBTQ people). It kind of sounds like they are promoting the idea that if people are not "in love" with someone else, and are not married, they are somehow unworthy?

Not everyone finds love. That doesn't make them bad people. Hmmm...

Amelia said...

I also wanted to add something about the rose: Notice how it is largely closed. Just like a lady's legs should be...until marriage!

Right? hahaa....ugh...

Colt said...

Sex is a private matter. End of story.