JENNI MURRAY: One recalls allowing a man she’d just met to ‘do a line of cocaine’ off her breasts; another writes of pursuing a chap down the street for sex; yet another brags of getting ‘so wasted’ that she woke up remembering nothing of the night before.
You’d be forgiven for thinking these were the secret confessions of women down on their luck, lamenting lives woefully misspent, or perhaps a cathartic unburdening. If only.
These lurid and squalid tales come from some of the most successful women in the country: wealthy newspaper columnists and middle-class pop stars, mothers and wives with supposedly glamorous lives whom young people look up to and strive to emulate. Yet they are willing to shout such things from the rooftops without a scintilla of shame. In fact, they seem proud of them.
Over the past few weeks it feels as if there has been a competition to shock.
First there was the columnist Caitlin Moran’s new novel, How To Build A Girl, in which she writes about sex, sex and more sex. The thinly veiled fiction is closely based on her own life – leaving home in Wolverhampton for London, a career in music journalism and a catalogue of drink, drugs, self-harm, masturbation and the kind of sex she describes as ‘super bad’.
Then there was recently published memoir The Wrong Knickers, in which columnist Bryony Gordon revealed her ‘decade of chaos’ in eye-popping detail: how she was the ‘office scrubber’ and believed that the more men she slept with, the more attractive she must be.
This hyper-confessional trend is not confined to the written word. The pop star Lily Allen made no attempt to conceal her chequered history of ‘getting wasted’ on drugs during a recent appearance on Desert Island Discs.
Once there were some things a woman would take with her to the grave. Now even the most embarrassing exploits are worn as badges of honour in the name of ‘honesty’ and being ‘real’. I suppose the resulting sales spike is just an added bonus.
This abandoning of dignity and self-respect is not confined to gilded metropolitan types, of course. One need only read about the young woman performing a sex act on 24 men in a Magaluf bar, supposedly in return for a free drink, to know that.
The idea of sex for one’s own pleasure, rather than for the sole purpose of pleasing a man, seems to have bypassed them entirely…
Yet while she was vilifed for her behaviour, the likes of Caitlin Moran and Bryony Gordon are lauded and rewarded handsomely for theirs. Confused? I am, so I can’t imagine how baffled young women must be.
All teenagers become obsessed with finding out about the opposite sex
So it’s not surprising that experimentation is a part of their stories (although it is somewhat alarming that Moran opens her novel with details of the character masturbating in the same room as as her younger brother). But it’s when Moran embarks on descriptions of her alter ego’s ‘Lady Sex Adventures’ that the book becomes truly distressing. ‘What I always do during sex,’ she says, ‘is concentrate on how much he is enjoying it.’
When she dreams of having met her ideal man, she finds he has a girlfriend but contemplates a threesome – pandering, it seems, to his fantasies.
It’s only when she realises that he has been treating her as his ‘bit of rough’ that she finds the strength to walk away, telling herself that she was objectifying him rather than the other way around.
Her justification is unconvincing. ‘I never ask myself “do you actually want him?”‘ is the saddest line in her book.
Why did this generation of clever, ambitious young women so lose the plot? Why did they seek oblivion in a bottle and believe the only way to prove they were attractive was to go bed indiscriminately?
The confidence and devil-may-care attitude of these high achievers may make it feel as if we’ve been here before
First, with my generation, who were at the forefront of the sexual revolution in the late Sixties and Seventies, then with the ladettes of the Nineties, who behaved as cockily and noisily as any man and matched them drink for drink.
But there was a crucial difference: my generation, and even the ladettes who followed us, were empowered, while these women positively revel in their disempowerment, in subjugating themselves to men sexually and taking part in borderline pornographic practices.
Yes, we shortened our skirts, went out together, were a bit noisy and probably drank a little more than we should. Of course, the Pill allowed us a sexual freedom impossible for our mothers and grandmothers.
But we were full of the advice of role models such as Germaine Greer, who told us that we should never be in thrall to any man. If we wanted to be as free to enjoy a sexual relationship as men, we should stick with what felt comfortable and only go as far as we chose. We did not exist purely to please a man but to indulge with agreed consent in mutual pleasure. We were not sexual objects but equal participants. If we didn’t like it, we didn’t go there, and if the man was disappointed, tough.
The current generation of young women are, it seems to me, rather badly served by their role models. Gone are the references to self-respect or 1990s ‘girl power’, replaced by over-sharers bragging about getting blind drunk and sleeping with men even though they didn’t really want to. They seem to think that as long as they are admitting their fallibility and being ‘open’, it’s all fine.
But surely what they are really saying is that promiscuity and reckless sex with strangers are normal, part of life’s rich tapestry. That you can get ‘wasted’, do drugs and sleep with any man who whistles in your teens and 20s and still find your happy ending.
The sad reality is that the sexualisation of young women and girls is everywhere now – in pop music, magazines, on television, in films
Most pernicious of all, in pornography. We know that boys and young men are getting their information about sex from images in which women are objects to be used in whatever way a man pleases.
No wonder young women are suffering as a result.
This article was written by Jenni Murray for the Daily Mail. You can find the original article in full here. original article here.