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OPINION

The New Brainwashing: Women Like Hookups

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Noting the comeback campaigns of Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner in New York, feminist author Hanna Rosin wonders why "50 years into the sexual revolution" women politicians lag so far behind men in the sex scandal tally. She notes biological and evolutionary explanations only to reject them in favor of the idea that women are just too unused to power to abuse it in that way. She's cheered though by surveys showing that younger women are cheating on their spouses almost as much as men and confidently looks forward to the not-too-distant day when we'll "find ourselves willing to look past the indiscretions" of women philanderers, too.

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Welcome to the feminist paradise, where the ideal is for women to model themselves not just on men but on the worst men.

Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan, a restless Marxist, published The Feminine Mystique. Its premise was that women were miserable in the "comfortable concentration camp" of domestic life but were too brainwashed to know it. The job of feminism was to "raise the consciousness" of these benighted dupes.

Friedan's timing was felicitous. The U.S. economy was expanding dramatically, laborsaving devices had made housework much less time-consuming, and technological progress was making brainwork more valuable than physical strength in the marketplace. Freidan and her many acolytes were pushing on an open door.

But they pushed in the wrong direction. Not satisfied with encouraging women to pursue careers and correcting legal barriers to women's equality, feminists sought nothing less than the obliteration of family life and traditional sexual mores. The "double standard" in matters of sex, they taught, favored men. The solution was promiscuity for everyone (enabled by unrestricted abortion).

It was a foolish and self-defeating wrong turn.

Fifty years on, we have this dispatch from the University of Pennsylvania: "Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game Too," a New York Times account of the way women at one Ivy League school are supposedly "hooking up" in preference to having relationships. It's not that the sexual revolution actually favored men, the Times reassures its readers, it's just that women are too focused on careers to make time for men. They pursue sex with "hookup buddies" without a flicker of regret.

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This is the new brainwashing. Women have been sold (and sold and sold) on the notion that happiness and fulfillment are to be found in careers. Marriage and children are items to be calendared after the MBA, J.D., or Ph.D. Sex is recreation. Getting attached to the human being behind the sex organ can limit your internship options.

Cheerleading articles like Hanna Rosin's 2012 Atlantic piece, "Boys on the Side," argue that far from enduring the "hook-up culture," women are enjoying their promiscuous freedom. The New York Times piece is in that mold.

I don't believe it for a second. Neither article bothers to deny what all of the research shows, namely that women get themselves sloppy drunk before they engage in "hookups." If casual, anonymous sex is so enjoyable for women, why the need to anesthetize themselves first? And if women are calling the shots, why do men get oral sex in hook ups far more often than the reverse?

The Times piece notes that the hookup culture isn't as widespread as media treatment would suggest. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of college seniors are either virgins or have had sex with only one person. Some student groups, like the Love and Fidelity Network, are self-consciously countercultural. Still, most students must deal with the sexual degradation that is a feature of most campuses. Several women students confessed to the Times that they engaged in hookups only after concluding that waiting for a relationship was unrealistic. Here is one student's account of a typical freshman fraternity party: "You go in, and they take you down to a dark basement," Haley, a blond, pink-cheeked senior, recalled of her first frat parties in freshman year. "There's girls dancing in the middle, and there's guys lurking on the sides and then coming and basically pressing their genitals up against you and trying to dance."

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Charming. Another girl explained why her encounters in her first two years of college "usually ended with fellatio." Early in the evening, she'd get very drunk.

"By the time she got back to a guy's room, she was starting to sober up and didn't want to be there anymore, and giving the guy oral sex was an easy way to wrap things up and leave."

It takes a lot of spin to call that liberation.

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