However, as an NYC- based psychotherapist specializing in sexuality issues, I was not too surprised. The stories and concerns I hear from my clients do not necessarily match up with the narratives promoted by mainstream media. I’ll get to that in a moment, but to me, these news items most powerfully brought to sharp relief the wide disparity between media representations and the true, real-life stories I am privileged to hear in my office.
I am often called upon by the media to provide my commentary and opinions when a note-worthy sex issue hits the news, and this was no exception. I had a camera crew come to my office in August and recorded me for over an hour. In March, Reuters reached out to me about the most recent study and my quotes were picked up by numerous other media sources. The camera crew wanted me to identify some reasons why I thought Millennials might be choosing to have less sex. I immediately thought of my clients, three young men who each separately had told me earlier in the year that they were terrified of casually hooking up due to fears of false rape accusations and confusion regarding policies such as affirmative consent.
Men can be risk takers; yet they very often balance risk and reward. The way that the situation on campus has evolved, there often is lots of risk (e.g. their entire future) for just a few seconds of reward.
From the reactions of the crew, I could tell right away that I was telling them something they didn’t want to hear. They all looked at each other anxiously and the producer continuously tried to steer me away from the perspective I was sharing of my clients’ experiences and onto some vague narrative about technology, video games, and porn. But unfortunately, the lived experiences of my clients don’t necessarily easily match up with forced narratives created in some media news room.
But of course. The important aspect is the narrative, the attempt to explain a situation in the desired manner irrespective of the facts. Only rich societies can afford such luxuries.
As for technology, video games and porn; does anybody really believe that the real thing would be avoided so readily if it was not so fraught with risk? Anyone? Bueller?
As made clear by this paragraph
One of my clients shared with me that he did spend more time playing video games, but that was more due to trying to avoid unnecessary “dangerous” (in his words) interactions with women. And what was so dangerous, according to him? He believed that the current climate on his campus was so toxic between the sexes, that he was already suspiciously viewed as a potential predator, and so he didn’t stand a chance to have a fair shot if things turned sour and a false accusation was leveled upon him. In other words, he felt disempowered, and fully responsible for anything that happened, including the choices of his partner, ranging from the amount of alcohol she decided to drink to whether she later decided to change her mind, even after the fact. Video games or porn weren’t preferable, they were safer. Obviously, most women would never imagine making such unsubstantiated accusations, but as my clients believed, why even take the risk?
When the video was released online, all comments I had made about the effects of rape culture hysteria on actual hookups were removed, and instead it appeared like I was mindlessly chiming in with all the experts about all the horrible dangers of being “addicted” to Facebook likes. No substantive discussion about the real worries and concerns that young people actually have about hooking up. Only bewildered head shakes about why on earth young people would not want to socialize with their peers in real life. Must be the technology. Rape culture hysteria, well that’s only something actual rapists would be concerned about. Any large-scale trend typically has many contributing factors, so I’m not advocating for a reductionist position, but why not include these concerns as part of the discussion?
Why yes, the narrative must be maintained at all cost. Obviously there is much pressure to do so. People pick up on what the correct narrative is, and they make it happen without even thinking why. But what is the why in this case?
At one level of analysis, sexuality is all about power. A more thorough exploration of this is beyond the scope of this essay, but think about how many behaviors in life are driven by the pursuit and desire for sex and sexual currency. And the rape culture hysteria perhaps clearly brings to sharp relief the ultimate aims of third-wave feminism. While first and second wave feminists were primarily concerned with equality, I do wonder if power is the primary objective of (at least some) third-wave feminists, not so much the students but the thought-leaders and activists that set and create the platform. Power doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and I would argue that it is never absent. But true equality is not about the absence of power, but rather the sharing of power. Third-wave feminism, as evidenced by the relentless promotion of rape culture discourse, and turning a blind eye to its repercussions, isn’t really aiming for shared power, but rather a monopoly on power—sexual power, to be specific. And in the case of gender relations, sexual power allows for the dictation of all gender relations.
Mao said that power flows from the barrel of a gun. In some places this is true. In the western world, it flows from the cavity of the V, and men’s voracious thirst for it. From a sheer play for power sense, it makes sense to maximize the power that one can derive from it.
What feminists saw was that obviously their built-in power was strong; why not continually enhance it by changing the rules such that they derived more power? Tweaks here and there would do the trick, and everything else would remain the same. Or so they thought.
The increased porn and the video game consumption are partially a reaction to the rule changes. They are effectively disengaging from women. It is better to blame these causes than women themselves, but still, feminists don’t really want to blame porn and video games. They really want to blame the men. They are weak. They are not men. They are screwing things up. They are shameful.
What feminists really want is for men to engage women on the new terms. Many men do. But many do not. Women now have the power (or do they?), but are left naked, fending for themselves (with government help).