Lena Chen’s “The Abstinence Mystique” article

Lena Chen’s article is more civil than last week’s Crimson fail.

But she takes it upon herself to declare a “logical inconsistency” every other sentence. So what’s really inconsistent? My abbreviated response (I could really one-for-one her on calling out logical inconsistencies, but I refrain because one girl can only respond to Crimson editorials so many times each week):

Miss Lena Chen’s October 27th article in the Crimson is an interesting attempt at trying to understand True Love Revolution’s new platform. While I appreciate Miss Chen’s feminist expertise, much of her article misinterprets TLR and feminism and misconstrues my statements.

First of all, I find it ironic that Miss Chen brings up “Muslim countries” and other non-Western societies in effort to prove that TLR arises out of an exclusively Western, Judeo-Christian philosophy. Miss Chen contends that the Muslim practice of polygamy validates her claim that TLR’s arguments are based on Western, Judeo-Christian perspective, and thus inherently lacking. Ignoring the fact that most mosques discourage polygamous practices and that we’ll be hard-pressed to find a polygamous Muslim couple, Islam, Hinduism, and every major world religion explicitly condemn premarital sex, demand fidelity, and enforce gender roles (and does not recognize same-sex marriage for that matter). If anything, the “Western, Judeo-Christian” perspective is the weakest when it comes to promoting or enforcing abstinence, lasting marriages, gender roles, and sexual ethics.

“Female Chauvinist Pigs” by Ariel Levy is an excellent read, and hardly a conservative one (for that, I would recommend “Girls Gone Mild” by Wendy Shalit), but it does condemn the culture that makes rampant sexuality normal and thus harder not to choose. I wish the article cited the book itself, rather than a blog. True Love Revolution discourages rampant sexuality and points out consequences that are harmful regardless of whether girls or guys “choose” to participate. Even if someone chooses to live promiscuously, TLR argues that this is not the best choice. Other groups may contend that “empowerment” is making any choice. We do not regard premarital sex as increasing the real strength of an individual, thus not falling under the “empowerment” category.

True Love Revolution is notably not restricting anyone from making choices, but we are certainly saying that not all choices are beneficial. Most of Harvard’s student body would agree, as evidenced by The Independent’s spring sex survey that revealed a huge campus majority not partaking in the hook-up culture. While radical feminists love the word “choice,” equity feminists (or TLR feminists, if you refuse us any other title) and many other Harvard students appreciate that some choices are good and some are harmful, thus not appreciating all choices equally. However, encouraging people to make certain life decisions is not restriction.

While Miss Chen did not attend the RUS meeting she mentions*, any TLR dinner discussion, ask me about my view of feminist history or theory, or contact anyone from the organization, she did take advantage of google. Miss Chen is concerned that TLR conceals a political agenda and she googled my name to find incriminating evidence, so I find it remarkable that the only dirt she could dig up was a sentence stating my interest in social policy. On google, she discovered that I wrote about my Heritage Foundation internship, saying, “After heading up a few social policy initiatives that are often unpopular among the liberal Harvard community through the Harvard Republican Club, Salient, Campus Crusade, and True Love Revolution, I jumped at the chance to be surrounded by conservatives for a summer.” She also noted a blog post that gave information about an abstinence education hearing in Boston. Miss Chen writes that these two instances confirm that TLR is not transparent because I once wrote in an email that TLR does not seek to legally restrict sexual behavior. Informing interested group members about an abstinence education event cannot be equated with legally restricting sexual behavior. Arguments like these insult the intelligence of Crimson readers.

Miss Chen brings up fatherhood and parenting. I am pleased that she uses the term fatherhood in her article’s addendum. Fatherhood and motherhood imply that children need both a father and a mother. A culture saving sex for marriage solidifies the creation of cohesive, committed family units.

Fortunately, Miss Chen agrees that raunch culture has negative consequences for women. In the search for equality, women try to become like men, implying that the home – or women’s work – is less worthy than men’s work. But the pursuit to be on par with men means women surrender special characteristics unique to women in order to become exactly like men. Ariel Levy writes about a Great Britain website for women that counted down the number of days before Daniel Radcliffe became “legal.” Society might expect (though hardly endorse) this vulgar behavior from men, but once women adopt vulgarity in attempts to achieve equality, we must question if equality means erasing natural differences. Lowering sexual standards or considering it a punishment to maintain proper sexual ethics in society is the real demeaning aspect of feminism. Miss Chen cites the “right to live without being subject to gendered expectations,” as “feminism’s foundation.” A nonbiased historical approach reveals that feminism’s foundation had to do with women who wanted to achieve a greater quality of life for themselves and their families by gaining equal social, political, and economic status. This worthy pursuit had nothing to do with erasing gender roles.

Miss Chen is fond of calling everything TLR promotes a “logical inconsistency” but fails to identify one. Miss Chen commented on her own article, writing that she does not want to get married and asks if she therefore is supposed to never have sex? She writes that not everyone can be abstinent until marriage. Take note: we are not sexual animals and we are blessed with the capacity for self-control. Perhaps Miss Chen’s concerns warrant insightful questions, but they do not reveal any logical inconsistency.

As for recognizing the profit agenda behind porn, I just so happened to write three research papers for my sociological theory class last spring on that very topic. I would love to co-sponsor an event calling for the end of porn with any group on campus.

I appreciate Miss Chen’s inquiry into the motives and theory of True Love Revolution and encourage all future discussion to mirror her largely respectful and honest intellectual inquiry.

In True Love,
Rachel

*It has been brought to my attention that Miss Chen did attend the RUS meeting. My apologies; she did not introduce herself.

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4 thoughts on “Lena Chen’s “The Abstinence Mystique” article

  1. Erin says:

    Considering that Ms. is the professional honorific for women today, I am wondering why Miss was used in this post. Feminists fought for a marriage-neutral title, and I was curious how the use of Miss fits with TRL’s brand of feminism. It seems to me that using Miss instead of Ms. will further increase hostility towards TRL’s mission because it is an outdated and potentially stigmatizing practice.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I’m a Harvard graduate who is 31 years old and still a virgin. I couldn’t have had premarital sex, or got married and had marital sex, even if I wanted to. Most likely I’ll never be able to marry because at the rate my life is going no man will want to marry me (even men who do want virgin brides still find some virgins unattractive for other reasons).

    “In the search for equality, women try to become like men, implying that the home – or women’s work – is less worthy than men’s work.”

    First, you say “the home – or women’s work” as if it’s available to all women. To be more accurate, you should have said “the home – or sexually active women’s work” (remember, marital sex is still sex).

    Some so-called “women’s work” is actually far less available to those of us women who actually use abstinence. Women who aren’t sexy enough for anyone to want to marry can’t be wives, so we can’t be housewives. Women who aren’t sexy enough to attract any sex partners – or who could only attract short-term sex partners but won’t lower our standards enough to actually have sex with them – can’t get pregnant, so we can’t even be single stay-at-home mothers (unless we happen to get raped and impregnated that way, or we pay out the nose for IVF or adoption).

    Second, the real implication is recognizing that often trades and careers which got labeled “women’s work” paid less (and still pay less!) than trades and careers which got labeled “men’s work.” It’s recognizing that the 1950s “spinster” stigma is harmful for women, especially us older virgin women.

    That’s the real reason it’s so important to not label higher-paying jobs “men’s work”! When employers discriminate, labeling a large number of trades and careers that pay a living wage “men’s work” and a smaller number of trades and careers that merely pay enough for pin money “women’s work,” it’s harder for women who use abstinence (and who may use abstinence our entire lives – remember wallflowers?) to survive.

    “Most of Harvard’s student body would agree, as evidenced by The Independent’s spring sex survey that revealed a huge campus majority not partaking in the hook-up culture.”

    Some of us women not participating in the hook-up culture *also* don’t prefer to spend our careers in the home – we know we’re not sexually attractive enough to even have the option of either. I for one plan to get on with my virgin life and try to have a professional career that pays at least a living wage. That will let me contribute more to society than I could if I scrape by on secretarial temp-job wages while waiting (a wait that’s likely to take years, decades, maybe even my entire life) for a man to find me sexually attractive, propose, and support a staying-at-home role for me.

    “feminism’s foundation had to do with women who wanted to achieve a greater quality of life for themselves and their families by gaining equal social, political, and economic status. This worthy pursuit had nothing to do with erasing gender roles.”

    It’s a worthy pursuit that has everything to do with erasing those gender roles that made women’s social, political, and economic status lower than men’s. For one example, “voter in a federal election” was a men’s gender role in the U.S. until

    1920. Gaining equal political status for women has something to do with erasing that gender role. For another example, earning a high income has been a men’s gender role in many societies (like the way “scribe” was considered men’s work in ancient Egypt where literacy was low and so the few qualified people could command high wages for the work, and the same job was relabeled “secretary” and considered women’s work in the 1930s U.S. where literacy was high and so the employers could pay low wages since so many qualified people competed for the work). Gaining equal economic status for women (and especially for lifelong-virgin women) has something to do with erasing that gender role.

  3. Liz says:

    “As for recognizing the profit agenda behind porn, I just so happened to write three research papers for my sociological theory class last spring on that very topic.”

    I would be very interested in reading these papers. Could you make them available?

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