As we approach the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan's feminist magnum opus, "The Feminine Mystique," we can have a perspective on feminism that was largely unavailable heretofore.
And that perspective doesn't make feminism look good. Yes, women have more opportunities to achieve career success; they are now members of most Jewish and Christian clergy; women's college sports teams are given huge amounts of money; and there are far more women in political positions of power. But the prices paid for these changes -- four in particular -- have been great, and they outweigh the gains for women, let alone for men and for society.
The first was the feminist message to young women to have sex just like men do. There's no reason for young women to lead a different sexual life than men, they were told. Just as men can have sex with any woman solely for the sake of physical pleasure, women ought to be able to enjoy sex with any man just for the fun of it. The notion that the nature of a woman is to hope for at least the possibility of a long-term commitment from a man she sleeps with has been dismissed as sexist nonsense.
As a result, vast numbers of young American women had and continue to have what are called hook-ups, and for some of them it's quite possible that no psychological or emotional price has been paid. But the majority of women who are promiscuous do pay prices. One is depression. New York Times columnist Roos Douthat recently summarized an academic study on the subject: "A young woman's likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished."
Long before this study, I had learned from women callers to my radio show (an hour each week -- "The Male-Female Hour" -- is devoted to very honest discussion of sexual and other man-woman issues) that not only did female promiscuity coincide with depression, it also often had lasting effects on women's ability to enjoy sex. Many married women told me that in order to have a normal sexual relationship with their husbands, they had to work through the negative aftereffects of early promiscuity -- not trusting men, feeling used, seeing sex as unrelated to love and disdaining their husband's sexual overtures. And many said they still couldn't have a normal sex life with their husbands.