How feminism undermined itself, gave way to the hook-up culture

It happened again. A guy told me he just didn’t know what women expected from him anymore. He was almost paralyzed by fear, wondering if he should do something that he thought would be gentlemanly but which he feared might actually offend the fairer sex. Oh, we women have so much to answer for.

Feminists sounded the battle call for a cultural change, and they certainly got that.

In the traditional world, women brought out the best in their men, who subsumed their more base instincts as they fought hard to earn and win the respect of the women they loved.

Before the sexual revolution, the woman was put on a pedestal, and both sexes expected the man to court her, woo her, fight for her hand, solicit her hard-won affection. Oh, of course there was premarital sex, but it wasn’t as prevalent, and if a girl got pregnant the guy was expected to marry her.

Today, men and women can both sleep around with little consequence — at least looking at things from an emotional distance. If she is on the pill and it fails, there is always an abortion (which is the greatest war against women, if we figure 50 percent of babies aborted are girls and if a baby is aborted for sex selection, it will almost always be a female). Of course, feminists have told us that we women hold all the cards, and we have the “choice,” so one of two things happens to the father: Either his responsibility is eliminated or, if he wants the baby, the heck with what the father wants.

Talk about irony: Men have taken advantage of casual sex on demand and ended up with even more power as they asked themselves, “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” and wriggled out of monogamous dating, commitment, marriage and responsibility. Women are left without an emotionally engaged long-term partner and asking themselves in slack-jawed disbelief, “What happened?”

Poor Gen Y. The whole dating thing has got to be confusing for both sides. A New York Times article asserted, “Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other ‘non-dates’ that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.” Meeting up at the last minute is typical (no thrill of anticipation there), as is “hooking up,” which entails no-commitment sex. Hey, who cares about the consequences? If it feels good, do it.

By advocating “sexual empowerment,” feminists have sold yet another bill of goods to women, telling them to enjoy a carefree, commitment-free sexual lifestyle which actually results in the denigration of women. Now the men get that, while women are left desperately longing for more.

Consider this: According to the Pew Research Center, the share of women ages 18 to 34 who say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives has jumped 9 percentage points since 1997 — from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

The author Suzanne Venker spent years exploring the intersection of the American family and pop culture. Asking men why they didn’t want to marry, they told her that women aren’t, well, women anymore. While we are off beating our chests and celebrating our supposedly vaunted and empowered status, we are perceived as angry, defensive and treating men as the enemy.

Susan Dench

About Susan Dench

Susan Dench is the founder and president of the fast-growing non-profit, non-partisan Informed Women's Network. Recognizing that many women are tired of "politics as usual," Susan decided to take action and develop strategies that are innovating the way women and politics intersect, nurturing and encouraging women in fun, energetic gatherings where views can be expressed in a supportive environment and then translated into practical solutions that produce results.