Schaeffer and Weiner: Are Feminists Causing Sex Scandals?

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I wasn’t going to write about Anthony Weiner. Truly I wasn’t. How many times can you be outraged about male politicians and their bizarre, self-destructive issues around sex? Or what passes for sex these days. Talk about having a headache. Who's next? The happily married, church-going Joe Biden? But then I read something that got me all riled up again.

In a post on CBSnews, a writer named Sabrina L. Schaeffer asked, in relation to Weiner's considerable problems, the question, "What's the matter with men today?" She then ticked off a list of the usual sex scandal suspects: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, David Vitter, Mark Ensign, John Edwards and the like.

Well, let me just say that I have no idea what's the matter with men today. It seems to me men in power are acting pretty much the way they always have, only now they're employing fancier toys like the Twitter and the picture phone to do icky things. Which if you're the kind of guy who thinks with his "deal," as David Letterman so charmingly put it, or has insecurities about women in general, is eventually going to bite you.

Here I've been scolding the teenagers not to send lewd photos of themselves around the Internet when I really should have been lecturing middle-aged men.

But back to the column. Schaeffer thinks she knows exactly what's wrong with men today. And you are probably going to be as surprised as I was to hear what it is. The women's movement! Apparently it's feminists, with their unreasonable demands to have the same opportunities and freedoms as men, their loose sexual ways, that has driven great men to have sex with their interns and maids, or to post crotch shots on Twitter. But let her explain it:

For decades, modern feminists have undermined the idea of marriage, discouraged romance and courtship, encouraged a laissez-faire sexual culture, and done everything in their power to eliminate gender roles. Add to this the academic and professional opportunities available to women today, and the access to affordable birth control, and it's clear that it's much easier for women to participate in our "no strings attached" sexual culture than ever before.

First off, I thought it was the '70s when we were having all that wild, uncommitted sex? But I prefer to say that her argument just won't wash.

The idea that feminists are to blame for the problematic sexual behavior of men is not just insulting to women and flat-out wrong. It also diminishes men to adolescent boys who can't control their sexual impulses. Also, were men not having affairs in the pre-feminist era of the 1950s? The "Mad Men" era of the early 1960s, when women had yet to enter college and the workforce in great numbers? Who were married men fooling around with then? Were there not political sex scandals in the '60s? Can you say John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe?

The invention of the Pill gave women more sexual freedom, but it's hardly led to the massive rejection of romance and marriage that Schaeffer frets about. Schaeffer doesn't offer a single study or statistic to back up her claim. In fact, using my own informal survey, I'd argue the opposite. Except for two friends who are happily single, nearly every woman I know is either married or would like to be. And this, I would add, is in Los Angeles, a town widely derided for its craven morals.

More importantly, what the Pill also did was give women for the first time control over pregnancy--or if they wanted to have children at all. Yet in Schaeffer's view, the advent of birth control was the demise of women and relations between the sexes. Would she really prefer we go back to a time when girls who got pregnant were sent away to "homes" to have their babies, or to live with a relative? Or when men were absolved of responsibility for the children they helped create? Would she really prefer that women be uneducated and unable to support themselves or their children? Or, for that matter, that men be consigned to their own narrow gender roles?

Sure, there are women involved in our recent crop of sex scandals. It takes two to tango, and all that. But it has nothing to do with feminism. I wouldn't exactly call Callista Gingrich, who hooked up with Newt during his second marriage, a feminist. Or, for the matter, the high-priced call girls David Vitter was phoning from the floor of the Senate. Or the ditzy Rielle Hunter who lured John Edwards with the improbably successful come-on, "You're so hot!"

Yet, it's these kind of stereotypes about the horrors of feminism that are being peddled not just on right-wing websites, but in the mainstream media now. And in that sense, they are more dangerous to women than ever.

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