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Among the walking wounded of the sexual revolution
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Among the walking wounded of the sexual revolution

“I don’t want to believe that [Andrea] Dworkin was right about men, but when even this website’s most wonderbread boomercons are happy to act like a bunch of godforsaken hyenas given the chance, it makes you second guess.”

So began a small thread I posted last week on X (formerly Twitter), one that predictably ended up attracting the kind of interlocutors who took their chance to call me a fat, stupid whore, not only politically illiterate but personally defective! Surely, the late Andrea Dworkin, notorious for writing that men despise women in general and entertain violent fantasies against those who defy them, would be shocked — shocked! — by this upstanding demonstration of civil disagreement. (Sarcasm over.)

I’ll confess to my own venom and hyperbole. Yes, I used a generational slur. No, Dworkin wasn’t right about everything. But the interaction to which I responded betrays a growing anti-female, not just anti-feminist, disposition on the right. The response to anyone who pointed that out confirms it, and I stand by my claim.

The inciting incident went like this: Bridget Phetasy, a squishy centrist with a large following of similarly squishy centrist (but conservative-curious) women, posted that the Republicans’ problem attracting young women will worsen if “all they can offer is shame.” Kurt Schlichter, the aforementioned “boomercon” in question, quote-tweeted her thus:

Scott Greer insightfully pointed out (and here I paraphrase for a family audience) that Phetasy confused online red-pill influencers for rank-and-file Republicans. That was a subtlety ignored by most and especially by Schlichter, who instead of taking the point seriously enough to parse any confusion, passive-aggressively referred to Phetasy’s past with plausible deniability (“ladies” in the abstract).

But we know, and Schlichter surely knows, about Phetasy’s most notorious intersection with the conservative movement: a viral essay she published in 2022 titled “I Regret Being a Slut.”

That piece was a uniquely vulnerable moment in which she said the unsayable:

There was my first love in high school. And my first husband. But if I’m honest with myself, of the dozens of men I’ve been with (at least the ones I remember), I can only think of a handful I don’t regret. The rest I would put in the category of “casual,” which I would define as sex that is either meaningless or mediocre (or both). If I get really honest with myself, I’d say most of these usually drunken encounters left me feeling empty and demoralized. And worthless.

The essay attracted positive attention from the Daily Wire, as well as a resounding “thank you” from many men and women alike who, no matter their “body count,” appreciated a piece that invited others to contend with the idea that casual sex just might be emotionally traumatizing.

So, for a personal acquaintance to take such a sensitive and difficult (let alone culturally effective) admission of guilt and use it as an ad hominem attack on her still uncontested point that conservatives have a woman problem is embarrassing at best. However imperfect she may be, Phetasy, unlike anyone part of the conservative establishment, made herself utterly vulnerable in order to draw into question the very culture that conservatives claim to abhor. It was more effective than any of the usual didacticism and certainly more effective than the current conversations circulating about how a woman’s “value” in life is in her purity and fertility to the exclusion of all other virtues.

Now that Phetasy has said something that rubs some very online people the wrong way, Pharisees stab her in the soft underbelly she once showed in good faith.

The social media site formerly known as Twitter has a way of bringing out the worst in all of us, myself included. In this instance, I was more acerbic than I should have been. Most who responded to my post imagined I was “defending promiscuity,” even after my years of work promoting the precise opposite and even after I took care to spell it out.

Perhaps it is difficult to handle the idea that a person could reject Schlichter’s immediately antisocial behavior without accepting Phetasy’s prior antisocial behavior. Perhaps it is difficult to grasp that there are ways to meme one’s ideals into reality without resorting to cruelty.

Soft power is wildly underrated. I’m not even saying brutality doesn’t have a place in politics; wherever that place is, it’s not beating someone up for something she already openly regrets, certainly not as a cheap shot in an unrelated political discussion. We do not have the luxury of living in an era untouched by the excesses of the sexual revolution. As such, we are surrounded by wounded people. I’ve never known a wounded person or animal to respond well to aggression.

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