Cover image for Sex matters : how modern feminism lost touch with science, love, and common sense
Sex matters : how modern feminism lost touch with science, love, and common sense
Charen, Mona, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Forum, [2018]

Physical Description:
xxiii, 295 pages ; 24 cm
Introduction: At what price? -- The feminist mistake. The first wave you've never heard of ; The second wave's historical revisionism ; The first feminist blockbuster ; The sexual revolutionaries ; Pre- and extramarital sex goes mainstream ; The dead hands of Marx and Freud ; Schisms ; Regrets -- Vive la difference. Sugar and spice ; Gender -- Severing bonds -- Hookup culture. Booze ; Bring back the date -- The campus rape mess. The campus rape industrial complex ; Star chambers ; Victim blaming ; The elusive numbers ; Crimes ; Sexual assault is not a myth ; Believing victims ; Something is very wrong: it must be men -- Family. Toxic masculinity ; A nostalgia trap? ; The ghost of the Moynihan report ; A happiness gap ; Sex wars ; Baby carriage before marriage ; Lost men ; How do you know it's marriage? ; About that clock -- Having it all. Motherhood is not oppression ; Social engineers strike out ; The mommy track ; Human flourishing.
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HQ1155 .C4186 2018 Adult Non-Fiction-New Popular Materials-New Non-Fiction
HQ1155 .C4186 2018 Adult Non-Fiction New Materials
HQ1155 .C4186 2018 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In this smart, deeply necessary critique, Mona Charen unpacks the ways feminism fails us at home, in the workplace, and in our personal relationships--by promising that we can have it all, do it all, and be it all. Here, she upends the feminist agenda and the liberal conversation surrounding women's issues by asking tough and crucial questions, such as-
* Did women's full equality require the total destruction of the nuclear family?
* Did it require a sexual revolution that would dismantle traditions of modesty, courtship, and fidelity that had characterized relations between the sexes for centuries?
* Did it cause the broken dating culture and the rape crisis on our college campuses?
* Did it require war between the sexes that would deem men the "enemy" of women?
* Have the strides of feminism made women happier in their home and work life. (The answer is No.)

Sex Matters tracks the price we have paid for denying sex differences and stoking the war of the sexes--family breakdown, declining female happiness, aimlessness among men, and increasing inequality. Marshaling copious social science research as well as her own experience as a professional as well as a wife and mother, Mona Charen calls for a sexual ceasefire for the sake of women, men, and children.

Author Notes

Mona Charen , one of the most prominent conservative writers in the country, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Useful Idiots . She writes a critically acclaimed syndicated column that appears in more than 200 newspapers and is a former writer for National Review . She appears regularly on radio and television news shows and is a former panelist of CNN's Capital Gang.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Radio and TV show pundit Charen (Useful Idiots) delivers a scathing critique of modern feminism in this brash treatise. Each chapter focuses on a different issue plaguing women today-campus sexual assault, divorce rates, and so on-that, Charen argues, has been exacerbated by the gains of feminism. According to Charen, women are less happy today than men are, which she says is due to the mid-20th-century sexual revolution framing marriage and motherhood as prisons for women. She blames feminism for a decline in "family values" and uses her own experience as a highly educated, ambitious woman interested in child-rearing to argue that motherhood is, but should not be, diminished as an important choice in our society. Charen argues in favor of "traditional" gender roles, which she feels have been denied to women today because of feminist values, and asserts (without providing supporting evidence) that "sex differences are real [and] rather than attempting the Sisyphean task of reforming society to meet an androgynous ideal, we are happier when we accept our natures and play to our strengths." She also ignores class differences and how they have influenced feminist movements. Feminists will find her arguments problematic, but those who espouse a more conservative philosophy will enjoy her paean to complementarian gender roles. Agent: Glen Hartley, Writers' Representatives. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



Chapter 1 The Feminist Mistake   If ever wife was happy in a man, Compare with me, ye women, if you can. I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold, Or all the riches that the East doth hold. --Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), "To My Dear and Loving Husband"   Relations between the sexes are ailing in our time. Hundreds of prominent men in fields from entertainment to sports to business to politics have been credibly accused of gross sexual harassment and other forms of boorishness. The louts span the political spectrum, from Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes on the right, to Al Franken and John Conyers Jr. on the left. And the toll continues to mount. Young people hardly date much, but they feel pressured into hooking up. Some millennials are giving up on sex altogether. Eighteen-year-old Noah Patterson, a virgin, told the Washington Post that he preferred online porn to having a girlfriend. "For an average date, you're going to spend at least two hours, and in that two hours I won't be doing something I enjoy."1 Teenagers and even some preteens "sext" one another, and sometimes find themselves facing child pornography charges.2 The percentage of adults who have never been married is at a historic high (30 percent), and fewer than one-third of millennials say that having a successful marriage is "one of the most important things in life."3 While many women proclaim themselves "single by choice," others express frustration with the lack of marriageable men. In 2011, Kate Bolick described the proliferation of commitment-phobic men, which she believed had created a new "dating gap." Marriage-minded women, she wrote, "are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players."4 The so-called men's rights movement thrives online, encouraging men to see themselves as victims of the sex wars and to luxuriate in misogyny. The most talked about cultural products of the past few years only occasionally offer models of nobility or even basic integrity between men and women. They range from rampant adultery (Madmen) to incest and sex slavery (Game of Thrones). In HBO's Girls, the protagonist's "boyfriend" in the first few episodes is really not a boyfriend at all but a sex partner--and not a very nice one at that. Hannah drops by Adam's apartment and is ordered to remove her clothes, to get on all fours, to stop talking, and to perform a variety of sex acts while he indulges the fantasy that she is a child with a "Cabbage Patch lunchbox." How did we become so estranged--and so strange? How did love and sex become battlegrounds where feminists decry "rape culture" while the "manosphere" hurls vicious insults at women in general? Modern feminism, I submit, must take at least some of the blame. Feminism deserves credit for helping women get the vote, securing equal pay, and obtaining full civil and political rights. Those are unmixed blessings. No reasonable person questions whether women should be treated as full legal equals to men--that is beyond debate. But did that full equality require the denigration of the nuclear family? Did it require the eager embrace of a sexual revolution that would dismantle the traditions of modesty, courtship, and fidelity that have protected women for centuries? Was it essential to declare a war between the sexes, and to deem men the "enemy" of women? Was it necessary to seed our culture with bitterness that continues to this day? Let's start at the beginning. It is moving to read the pleas for women's equality from Mary Wollstonecraft, the eighteenth-century protofeminist, who argued that women could be rational creatures and deserved to be educated. In A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), Wollstonecraft wrote, "Let woman share the rights, and she will emulate the virtues of man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated."5 The great British philosopher John Stuart Mill declared in the 1869 that "the legal subordination of one sex to the other--is wrong itself, and is now one of the chief obstacles to human improvement; and it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality that doesn't allow any power or privilege on one side or disability on the other."6 In his treatise "The Subjection of Women" (1869), Mill scoffed at the notion that women were less intelligent than men (a widely held view at the time) and rebutted those who protested that women had achieved little in the arts and sciences. Mill was scornful: "Our best novelists have mostly been women," he wrote, mentioning in particular Madame de Staël and George Sand. Of the latter, he wrote that it would be impossible to find "[a] finer specimen of purely artistic excellence than the prose of Madame Sand, whose style acts on the nervous system like a symphony of Haydn or Mozart."7 It was fully understandable that women had not achieved excellence in other fields, Mill noted, since they were denied the education men received, and he added that women had original ideas all the time but, lacking the wherewithal to publish or publicly demonstrate their insights, often passed along these ideas to husbands or other male relatives.8 Mill freely acknowledged that "a very large proportion indeed" of his ideas originated with the women in his life. He also explained women's comparatively less prodigious production of original works of art by noting that "very few women have time for them. . . . ​Even when the superintending of a household isn't laborious in other ways, it's a very heavy burden on the thoughts; it requires incessant vigilance, an eye that catches every detail, and it constantly presents inescapable problems to be solved."9 Bravo, Mr. Mill. Too few men appreciate this core female competency. In the intervening centuries, women's roles have changed dramatically. In our own time, we've been encouraged to believe that women's history is one long tale of exploitation and denigration, oppressions that lifted only when feminism arrived to free us. But this narrative always seemed forced to me. Of course, some men have treated some women badly throughout human history. But declaring that all women have been oppressed by all men seems overly simplistic. Relations between the sexes, starting in families, are too complex to reduce to oppressors and victims.   The First Wave You've Never Heard Of Feminism's "first wave" is usually dated to the late nineteenth century's suffrage movement, though some people agitated for equal rights before then. The suffragists are now included in the feminist pantheon. On the evening before the 2016 presidential election, feminists gathered at Susan B. Anthony's grave, assuming that Hillary Clinton would become the first woman elected president. Anthony has been honored on the U.S. currency, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's home is a National Park Service site. In April 2016, the Treasury Department announced that Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, and Alice Paul will be featured on the ten-dollar bill to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which enfranchised women coast to coast. These women may be the ones most often cited in textbooks, but as the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Sommers has pointed out, Frances Willard and Hannah More were far more influential and popular with women during the nineteenth century. More (1745-1833), an English novelist, poet, political reformer, and pamphleteer, championed what Sommers calls "maternal feminism." She didn't deny differences between the sexes but urged women to use their special abilities to improve the world. Religiously inspired, she founded Sunday schools that taught poor children their ABCs, but also instilled thrift, sobriety, and piety. Her novels and pamphlets excoriated the rich for their amorality, for their hedonism, and for ignoring the needs of the poor.10 Frances Willard, who founded the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, spoke for many more women than the suffragists. We look back on Prohibition as an idealistic blunder, but women's intensity about the question indicated that they were more concerned about what excessive drinking was doing to families than they were about the right to vote. As Sommers notes, the National American Woman Suffrage Association had only about seven thousand members, though the WCTU could boast one hundred fifty thousand. The women's suffrage movement needed help from the WCTU before it could begin scoring political victories. Like More, Willard embraced women's "separate sphere" while also believing that women had a duty to improve the world. In addition to temperance, the WCTU lobbied for prison reform, child welfare, and care for the disabled.11 The women reformers of that time, unlike those who would lead second-wave feminism some decades later, avoided grievance mongering. They saw women's issues as being linked to men's and children's. Though the temperance movement highlighted the damage excessive alcohol use did to wives and children, it also focused on husbands and sons who drank. Second-wave feminists, by contrast, would explicitly link women's struggles with the cause of civil rights for African Americans. In 1963's The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan declared that "What we need is a political movement, a social movement like that of blacks."12 In a 1969 piece for New York magazine titled "After Black Power, Women's Liberation," Gloria Steinem wrote, "Finally, women [recognized] their essential second-classness, forming women's caucuses inside the Movement in much the same way Black Power groups had done. And once together[,] they made a lot of discoveries: that they shared more problems with women of different classes, for instance, than they did with men of their own."13 This is overwrought, particularly when compared to the approach taken by the women leaders of the first wave. The women's suffrage movement did share roots with the movement for abolition. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Angelina Emily Grimké, and Sarah Moore Grimké were prominent abolitionists who also campaigned for women's rights. But suggesting that the condition of women could be compared to that of black slaves or black citizens is a huge leap. It has become fashionable for various interest groups to hijack the vocabulary and moral standing of the civil rights movement. Women, Latinos, the handicapped, homosexuals, transgender individuals--all have sought to compare their situations with that of blacks. But no group in American history has suffered the kind of dehumanization, persecution, exclusion, terror, and discrimination that blacks were subjected to for more than three hundred years. Even leaving aside slavery, with its incalculable suffering, African Americans were the victims of thousands of lynchings, systematic torture, discrimination, and abuse. In the years between 1883 and 1927, more than three thousand blacks were lynched.14 As historians Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom note, these crimes were designed to terrorize all African Americans. "They were not usually the furtive work of masked men wearing sheets, as is sometimes thought. Rather they were highly public events; the perpetrators were not only known to the community but sometimes even posed for 'before' and 'after' photographs in the local paper first with their victim and then with their victim's corpse!"15 Now consider how Steinem described the "oppression" of women in her 1969 article: "[M]ore backstage work, more mimeographing, more secondary role playing around the revolutionary cells and apartment communes. And to be honest, more reluctance to leave the secondary role and lose male approval."16 Steinem believed women deserved a revolution because "subtler, psychological punishments for stepping out of women's traditional 'service' roles were considerable. (Being called 'unfeminine,' 'a bad mother,' 'a castrating bitch,' to name a traditional few.)"17 Or, as one New York woman complained during a consciousness-raising session in 1969, "I have to keep reminding myself that there's nothing wrong with body hair, and no reason for one sex to scrape a razor over their legs."18 Comparing women's "plight" to what blacks experienced trivialized the true suffering of African Americans, yet feminist-influenced textbooks increasingly stressed this, maintaining that women have been ignored by a "patriarchal," man-centered history. One widely used women's studies textbook argued for "radical reconceptualizations" that would "overcome the bias that has been built into what has come to be known as 'knowledge.' " Another insisted that "traditional systems of knowledge have ignored women altogether or frequently portrayed them in stereotypical or demeaning ways."19 I was educated before this victim narrative took hold, and accordingly, I learned that American history (and world history, for that matter) is brimming with stories of women who were brilliant, brave, righteous, inventive, and worthy of emulation--as well as treacherous, greedy, cruel, lazy, and insipid. I could never escape the suspicion that women were human beings, with all the virtues and vices of the human condition. But cringing victims bent under the weight of patriarchy? I don't think so. American women have been at the forefront of many of our country's most momentous reform movements. Anne Hutchinson, a charismatic preacher (and mother of fifteen), provoked a schism among Puritans in seventeenth-century Boston. Harriet Beecher Stowe gave abolitionism its greatest weapon in Uncle Tom's Cabin, while Harriet Tubman helped to run the Underground Railroad. As I've noted, the temperance movement and Prohibition were primarily the work of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, led by Frances Willard. Dorothea Dix successfully campaigned to reform the treatment of the mentally ill. Mother Jones was an influential labor activist. Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science church, and Ida Tarbell was a crusading Progressive Era journalist. Jane Addams was a pioneer of urban reform. Rosa Parks helped ignite the struggle for civil rights, and Dorothy Day was a leader of the Catholic Worker Movement. Additionally, millions upon millions of unsung women married, bore children (without anesthesia until quite recently), kept households running, ran businesses, took in boarders, and were the anchors of stable and fulfilling family lives. And every one of the male oppressors who are said to be women's enemies had a mother, usually a wife, and often sisters and daughters and cousins and aunts and nieces and friends. Those women sometimes made the lives of their men miserable, but more often they made life worth living.   1. Tara Bahrampour, " 'There really isn't anything magical about it.' Why More Millennials Are Avoiding Sex," Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2016. 2. Brian Alseth, "Sexting and the Law--Press Send to Turn Teenagers into Registered Sex Offenders," ACLU-Washington, Sept. 24, 2010, 3. Stephanie Hanes, "Singles Nation: Why So Many Americans Are Unmarried," Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2015, 4. Kate Bolick, "All the Single Ladies," The Atlantic, Nov. 2011. 5. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (CITY: PUBLISHER, YEAR), 103. 6. John Stuart Mill, "The Subjugation of Women," 1869, 7. Ibid., 41. 8. Ibid., 42. 9. Ibid., 44. 10. Christina Hoff Sommers, Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2013), 20. 11. Ibid., 28. 12. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963), 461. 13. Gloria Steinem, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation," New York magazine, April 4, 1969. 14. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 44. 15. Ibid., 45. 16. Steinem, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation." 17. Ibid. 18. Sara Davidson, "An Oppressed Majority Demands Its Rights," Life, Dec. 12, 1969. 19. Quoted in Christine Stolba, Lying in a Room of One's Own (Arlington, VA: Independent Women's Forum, 2002), 16. Excerpted from Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense by Mona Charen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: At What Price?p. ix
Chapter 1 The Feminist Mistakep. 1
The First Wave You've Never Heard Ofp. 4
The Second Wave's Historical Revisionismp. 8
The First Feminist Blockbusterp. 12
The Sexual Revolutionariesp. 28
Pre- and Extramarital Sex Goes Mainstreamp. 30
The Dead Hands of Marx and Frendp. 32
Schismsp. 42
Regretsp. 51
Chapter 2 Vive La Differencep. 55
Sugar and Spicep. 69
Genderp. 77
Chapter 3 Severing Bondsp. 92
Chapter 4 Hookup Culturep. 106
Boozep. 115
Bring Back the Datep. 117
Chapter 5 The Campus Rape Messp. 126
The Campus Rape Industrial Complexp. 129
Star Chambersp. 134
Victim Blamingp. 137
The Elusive Numbersp. 142
Crimesp. 145
Sexual Assault Is Not a Mythp. 147
Believing Victimsp. 151
Something Is Very Wrong: It Must Be Menp. 156
Chapter 6 Familyp. 161
Toxic Masculinityp. 164
A Nostalgia Trap?p. 173
The Ghost of the Moynihan Reportp. 177
A Happiness Gapp. 179
Sex Warsp. 182
Baby Carriage Before Marriagep. 191
Lost Menp. 195
How Do You Know It's Marriage?p. 202
About That Clockp. 203
Chapter 7 Haviing It Allp. 207
Motherhood Is Not Oppressionp. 212
Social Engineers Strike Outp. 219
The Mommy Trackp. 222
Human Flourishingp. 233
Acknowledgmentsp. 239
Notesp. 241
Select Bibliographyp. 277
Indexp. 283