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Role reversal

The Washington Times, By Amy Doolittle, January 6, 2005

It's the classic fairy tale: The boy gets the girl, and they live happily ever after. But modern society has offered a new twist on the story: The girl is expected to play the aggressor, "hook up" and move on.

Movies such as "Mean Girls," TV shows such as "Desperate Housewives," women's magazines and pop music all celebrate female romantic aggression as "girl power," but critics say these portrayals fail to show what such power leaves behind: physically and emotionally scarred women.

"Girls are expected to be identical to boys in all respects, including sexual aggressiveness," says Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute. "What the feminists aren't telling girls is that girls are more vunlnerable when things go wrong and are putting themselves at risk for not only physical harm but emotional harm as well by being aggressive."

Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, agrees.

"The feminist movement certainly set off the thinking that this sexual liberation is good for women," Mrs. LaRue says. "The problem is that feminism doesn't admit to the devastating effects sexual freedom has had on girls and women, such as increases in sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and being subjected to sex crimes."

The primary concern, says Laura Schlessinger, radio talk-show host and best-selling author of several books on relationships, is that when women are sexually aggressive, they end up less liberated and Read More ..pressed - the opposite of feminism's goal.

Feminists argue that "women are entitled to their sexuality and that the expression of that sexuality should not be constrained by morals, which are simply a cultural decision to limit the freedom ... of women," Mrs. Schlessinger says. "The irony about the feminist movement's part of this is that feminism began with the attitude that women should not be sexual objects; well, that is exactly what they have become."

With women embracing their sexual freedom, many are left wondering how men will react to this reversal of traditional roles.

A GQ magazine survey reported that 83 percent of men said they feel like Read More .. a man when a woman makes the move on them, and 50 percent said they feel "turned on" by sexually aggressive women.

That is not surprising, Mrs. LaRue says.

"I think it's perfectly natural for men ... to feel good when someone else indicates that they find them attractive," Mrs. LaRue says.

But she cautions, "As men are less and less the initiator of a relationship, women will become ... more vulnerable to negative and harmful responses."

The shift toward women becoming more romantically assertive might be one reason for a shift away from marriage among twentysomethings, Mrs. Schlessinger suggests.

Census Bureau figures show both women and men are waiting longer to marry. In 1970, 36 percent of women and 55 percent of men ages 20 to 24 had never been married. Today, the numbers have increased to 75 percent of women and 86 percent of men.

"Young people - damaged, insecure and lacking confidence in the value of family and the longevity of 'commitment' due to their own parents' behaviors such as ... divorces, shack-ups, dramatic, serial love experiments - are focusing in on casual sex, shacking up without a commitment and the avoidance of marriage," Mrs. Schlessinger says. "As they experience more and more experiments,' they become more crass and cynical about love and marriage."

But if women's blatant sexual aggression results in delaying commitment, what is the end result for men?

"The consequence is that young men have no respect for women. They see them as pigs and skanks - they'll have sex with them, but they don't really want to marry them," Mrs. Schlessinger says. "It's, of course, flattering to have a woman want you, bed you and require nothing more of you. It is prostitution without the money. It is variety without effort. But the better question is this: Do these men look at these women as the potential mother of their children? I think not."