Another Slate WTF.

Are we still asking this question? Really? Because we all know the answer is NO.

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  • Aspasia

    The title is a rhetorical question. In the article, O’Rourke discusses the ridiculousness of this supposition and the underlying fears about female sexuality that it reveals. I know this isn’t a new issue for feministing, but it might be new to some Slate readers.

  • sgzax

    Grrrr. Everything about Slate’s sex issue is pissing me off. This article goes toe to toe with another one asking whether the age of consent should be lowered.
    My (least) favorite part of the age of consent article is this quote:
    “The lowest standard is whether the partner you’re targeting is sexually developed as an object. If her body is childlike, you’re seriously twisted. But if it’s womanly, and you’re too young to think straight, maybe we’ll cut you some slack.”
    When I combine the age of consent article with the ‘slutty HPV vixen’ article, the message I get is, “Men should be able to press more for sex, and women should be solely responsible for saying no. And they’re sluts if they don’t.” Anybody else get that?

  • Aspasia

    And I know I posted this on the original Sex Issue post, but because I posted so late, I think it might have gotten lost in the shuffle. So here it is:
    At the risk of provoking some unpleasant reactions, I would like to speak in defense of Slate’s Sex Issue.
    As a committed sex-positive feminist and a historian of gender and sexuality, I see no need for such outrage over the Sex Issue. I agree that there are some problems with it. Many of the points that all of you have made about the butt slide show are very valid. While I understand the logic behind including only women’s asses in the slide show (the male butt has not been the center of such an interesting trajectory of ideas of fashion and physical beauty in the way that the female butt demonstrably has), I agree that they made a bad choice there. By including slides on male ass-fashion (i.e. the “short shortsâ€? of the 70s, Speedos, and low slung jeans) the slide show would have been more interesting and provoked fewer outcries. I was also disappointed that they did not mention racism or imperialism in connection with the “Hottentot Venus.â€? Perhaps they thought that that point could make itself, at least for most readers.
    All of those complaints aside, I think that the Sex Issue raises some very interesting issues that are not often talked about in a more general audience. I do not find the picture of Coco on yesterday’s front page to be offensive. While it is “headless porned out [and] asscracked,� as Jessica pointed out, I think that we should keep the context in mind. Slate isn’t using this image to sell a product, as many similar images often are, but to provoke reactions, thought, and discussion. I do not think that their intent was to say “Who doesn’t love a naked chick?� but to incite discussion about conceptions of physical beauty, female sexuality, and the ubiquitousness of sex in our culture.
    If we could all stop wringing our hands and crying foul for a minute, we could have a much better, but still critical, discussion about the Sex Issue.

  • sgzax

    I can give O’Rourke the benefit of the doubt on her article, but the framework is a problem. Asking the question legitimizes the question, and she doesn’t get around to addressing it until about halfway through. A better headline? HPV Vaccine Does Not Promote Promiscuity.
    After all, aren’t you supposed to lead with your big facts? Either she’s such a bad writer that she buried her lead or that isn’t actually her lead after all.

  • marle

    This article isn’t bad. The author clearly disagrees that Gardasil causes promiscuity (calling that belief “bizarrely simplistic”) and points out that even if it did that doesn’t mean women should have to die of cancer.
    In contrast the age of consent article is disturbing. If she looks womanly it’s ok, if you’re too young to think straight? So, it’s ok to molest children if the puberty fairy gave them boobs way too young? Eesh. I also like how they don’t even try to do gender parity by saying if the younger looks “manly”, because a 20 year old man getting with a 12 year old girl is ok, but a 20 year old woman with a 12 year old boy is just disturbing. As is gay sex. Or whatever. [/sarcasm]

  • wretchederin

    Actually I thought it was a very well written article that definitively answered the question with “no”. The rhetorical question was well chosen because thats what many parents are typing in their search engines right now and an article like this is exactly what they need to see.

  • Aspasia

    I agree, marle. While age of consent issues do need to be talked about, I would MUCH PREFER to discuss them without the sexist, heterosexist, and, frankly, “creepy old man” undertones of Saletan’s article.

  • Anonymous

    Well I, for one, definitely find the question to be obnoxious. I don’t think that you have to closely follow feminist news in order to have heard all this crap before– it took up media headlines for weeks, and less dense coverage actually went on for months. I understand that not everyone follows the news, and I don’t think that Slate is the most sophisticated media source out there, but its readers would have to have a decent grip of current events to process or even care about most of their stories. So yeah. Stupid and pointless.

  • sophia86

    the author probably didn’t choose the headline – slate editors knew it would grab people’s attention. and yes, the article is extremely well-written and, for anyone who bothers to read it, does a great job of refuting the argument that hpv=promiscuity.

  • Aspasia

    Good point about the headline, Sophia. I agree with you about the quality of the article.

  • Shells

    Is the article perfect? No. But we have to understand she isn’t exactly preaching to the choir over there. We might see the question she posses in the title as extremely offensive, but the frightening reality is that there are people who actually ask themselves that question, and if that title is what it takes to get them to start reading this pro-HPV vaccine article in the first place, I don’t take issue with it. My mother refuses to vaccinate my two little sisters because of, she claims, her distrust for pharmaceutical companies, but I suspect there are more complex hidden motives. I wouldn’t hesitate to show her this article.

  • Lisa27

    On Gardasil but not really on promiscuity:
    Today I had my second cervical biopsy for monitoring low-to-moderate dysplasia, and the nurse and doctor (both new to me) both suggested that I should look into getting the vaccine – while the dysplasia signals that I’ve already been exposed to HPV, they think it will be beneficial in my future sex life. I’m 26, and was told before I knew I had dysplasia that the vaccine wouldn’t do me much good at this age. So while I’m not too concerned about promiscuity (I’m 26, after all, not 12), I am concerned about the other arguments against the vaccine, most broadly that we don’t know the long-term effects. Can anyone point me at some reliable resources for this? The pro-vaccine things all seem to come from the medical community, and the anti-vaccine things I’ve found seem to be against it for reasons like the promiscuity question. What about those of us on the other end of the age spectrum?

  • Geek

    Another disturbing thing about the way the age of consent article is framed is that it is made a question of limits to men’s entitlement to women’s bodies. It’s not about the real reason we need consent laws, to protect minors from coersion by adults who have authority and experience.
    The point that I agree with, that predators and older teens who are having sex with younger girlfriend/boyfriends should be treated differently, is totally overwhelmed by the framing (like the HPV article): when is a man entitled to have sex with a young woman/girl he’s attracted to.

  • Beppie

    Boggles the mind. Here in Australia, where we have a very right wing government, it’s already free for all women aged 26 or younger. Might have something to do with the fact that John Howard’s wife had cervical cancer at one stage…
    Oh, by the way, the vaccine is still effective if you have it at 26. It’s optimum efficiency occurs when you’re 11 or 12, but it’s something like a difference between 99.8% efficiency and 96% efficiency: still well worth getting. Of course, if you’ve already been exposed to the virus, that’s different, but if you haven’t, then there are PLENTY of reasons for 26 year olds (and older women) to get it.

  • tostartarevolution

    I think some readers are being very hard on this article. If you read the whole thing, you would have seen this statement; “The same standards apply, in reverse, if you’re a woman.” I think it is very smart that someone is looking at how the legal age of consent tries to contain the idea of sexual maturation in one small stereotypical box. “I wish our sexual, cognitive, and emotional maturation converged in a magic moment we could call the age of consent. But they don’t.”
    I will concede however that the author used language too simplistic and conversational for such a serious topic. If this sentence ” If her body is childlike, you’re seriously twisted. But if it’s womanly, and you’re too young to think straight, maybe we’ll cut you some slack.” was phrased more like “If a young person has not reached an age that science finds his or her reasoning skills to be fully developed, there has to be some interpretation regarding how to punish this person for having sex with a person who seems to be sexually ready in his or her eyes. However, this does not mean that there are instances that are always one hundred percent black and white,” perhaps we wouldn’t doubt this person’s credibility so much.
    I also like this point: And if I ran a college, I’d discipline professors for sleeping with freshmen. When you’re 35, “she’s legal” isn’t good enough.
    What he seems to be doing is looking at both sides of the argument – does the age of consent mean this person is old enough to have sex with anyone else over the age of consent and does being under the age of consent mean the other party is a pedophile?
    Perhaps if this article had been written more professionally, it would be getting less heat.

  • Aspasia

    I’m with you on this one, tostartarevolution.
    The article raises some good questions about age of consent laws. Questions that we need to be asking. The problem with it is Saletan’s conversational and creepy tone. If he didn’t frame so much of it in terms of being attracted to “womanly” 12 year olds, I think he would get his point across much more affectively.

  • Lauren

    I’m going to say I don’t think it’s fair to judge an article by its title. The HPV article is resoundingly against the concept that the vaccine leads to promiscuity. The author doesn’t waver on this point at all. What’s wrong with putting that question as the title of the article, as long as the content is good? It’s a question that tons of people are actually asking, and she is giving the right answer, uncompromisingly. Why are we criticizing her for this?
    As for the age of consent article…it’s pretty creepy. But not 100% creepy, and makes some interesting points, or at least, I think it does.
    I don’t know. I rather like Slate, overall.

  • marle

    If this sentence ” If her body is childlike, you’re seriously twisted. But if it’s womanly, and you’re too young to think straight, maybe we’ll cut you some slack.” was phrased more like “If a young person has not reached an age that science finds his or her reasoning skills to be fully developed, there has to be some interpretation regarding how to punish this person for having sex with a person who seems to be sexually ready in his or her eyes. However, this does not mean that there are instances that are always one hundred percent black and white,” perhaps we wouldn’t doubt this person’s credibility so much.

    Maybe, but that’s because those sentences say completely different things.
    Sexual readiness usually refers to an emotional or mental state. A “womanly body” refers to a physical state. If the article was more focused on how mentally developed some teens are and how to tell if they’re really into it or just being pressured as opposed to how much the teens look like adults then it would have been a better article. I would also have been a completely different one.

  • Tasha

    The article wasnt that bad.
    But being if a victim of molestation I do take offense to the age of consent pieces. I had “womanly parts” by the age of ten needless to say I lived in hell soon after. Thoses days are not that long behind me but it hurts when ppl write stuff like that

  • UCLAbodyimage

    Well, I definitely don’t think that wide access to HPV vaccines would promote “promiscuity”, whatever the hell that means.
    I do think it might have a measurable impact on sexual behavior, however.
    I think people are less likely to have casual sex when they perceive that there are increased risks to having casual sex. The most dramatic example was the changes in sexual behavior in the gay community in response to AIDS, at least for a time.
    Since HPV isn’t perceived as serious as AIDS, fears of HPV certainly don’t dissuade sex behavior as much as AIDs. But for a minority of women, HPV fears probably do play a role in sexual choices.
    So I would predict that there is a small effect of widespread HPV vaccine on sex behavior. But that is a far cry from the masses of rampant sluttery envisioned by opponents of the vaccine.

  • aspendarlin

    Ann, did you read the article before you posted it? Not to sound like I’m attacking you, but it seems like the author did a pretty decent job of clarifying that “no” was the answer to a question. It seems she was trying to target an audience that would ask this kind of question — which probably doesn’t include we feminists who have already decided the answer. But I hope that parents who google the topics of the HPV vaccine and promiscuity would come across this article and re-think the issue. The article title is more eye-catching and interesting than “HPV Vaccine Does Not Promote Promiscuity.” You don’t get people who are undecided about issues (ex. swing voters) by telling them outright how to think, but by posing a question and following it to a semi-logical conclusion. We may not agree with everyone’s version of “logic,” but this author does a decent job of arguing her point, which happens to coincide with ours. So why are you attacking Slate on this one? Can’t we congradulate this author on giving a reasonable arguement (which appeals to those we truly want to hear the message) that the HPV vaccine would be beneficial to their daughters?

  • lamplight

    “Cancer Sluts”? I know the article is clear on its position but I have got to say – what are they thinking by coining this sort of phrase? I have recently had treatment for CIN3 which is a high grade lesion of the cervix and will shortly undergo DNA testing to see whether I have one of the strains of HPV which are most associated with the development of cervical cancer. I have previously posted about this but it seems relevant to raise again. When I told a (female) colleague about it, she told me that she had undergone a cervical biopsy in the past and said something about it being the price of having too much fun in college. I don’t know about you but before this, it hadn’t occured to me that people would make judgements and assumptions about my sexual decisions and the implication that a woman deserves what she gets for this – cancer slut … this one will stick in my throat for a long time.

  • mirm

    We should all know that the real information in news is at or near the bottom of most articles, while the hook and the headlines are usually aimed at the lowest common denominator (the right). It sells papers and it keeps people stupid because most do not read whole articles. That dishonest behavior is how the media is complicit in misognyny and all other forms of evil. Even if they reverse themselves later in the article we still need to call them on it because most people don’t read more than the first few sentences (and they KNOW IT).

  • Geek

    tostartarevolution, I have to disagree. The problem is not that the writing isn’t professional enough. It’s that the author is suggesting we look primarily at the mindset of the perpetrator rather than the effect on the victim when determining appropriate punishment.

  • Cruella

    The HPV vaccine DOESN’T promote promiscuity? Really? Cos just thinking about it has got me all wet… [pant, pant, pant].

  • hallwell

    It’s really bothering me that so much is being taken out of context with this whole Slate thing. It seems like plenty of people are getting really upset without even reading the articles, which is bad form.
    Even the other article about the history of butts got a lot of commenters upset and they were saying things like, ‘why don’t they have pictures of men’s buts’ or ‘how about some realistic butts’ and that’s not what the slide show article was about; it was about the history of butt inhancements and innovations and as far as I know men haven’t done a whole lot with that over the years, and it’s not talking about ‘normal’ butts.
    I think it’s really important, as feminists, to monitor the media like this; of integral importance really. I’m really glad feministing exists for this reason because I couldn’t do all of this myself. But I do think it’s always important, as with any type of research to comment on the actual content of an article and to keep the integrity of in tact.

  • mirm

    frances – the actual content matters a little less than the headline and the first few sentences as I outlined above. Newspapers use the “opposite” tactic on purpose to reinforce bad ideas to people who won’t read and to get out of being accused of doing such by people who do read.
    I *did* read the article

  • the_becca

    I still don’t see how anyone could possibly see the age of consent article as anything but reprehensible. This has nothing to do with whether the current age of consent laws or problematic or not, it’s about the way he refers to women (and young girls) and sex. It’s an entire article about consent that says pretty much nothing (beyond some token talk about “intellectual maturity”) about actual ability to consent and instead reframes consent as whether or not “the target” (*shudder*) has boobs. It’s not about consent, it’s about how much we should or should not hate someone for having sex with a kid, dependent upon whether it’s “understandable” that they’d be attracted to said kid because of her “womanly” body. It’s a stone’s throw away from saying that someone isn’t really A Rapist if the woman he rapes is just so attractive that it’s somehow “understandable” that a man wouldn’t be able to control himself.
    For anyone who missed the link to this particular article, here it is:

  • kissmypineapple

    the_becca, I absolutely agree. And, the fact that he took issue with a 35 year old having sex with an 18 year old, but not with a 20 year old having sex with a 12 year old blows my mind. An 18 year old is absolutely able to decide whether or not she wants to have sex with an older man, (of course, it’s unethical for a professor to sleep with a student regardless of age) a twenty year old has no business having sex with someone who is 12. That’s fucking disgusting.

  • CJJ

    I will be using Meghan O’Rourke’s excellent article to convince people of what is at stake. I am a (male) cancer survivor and in the course of my treatment met several women with uterine or cervical cancer.
    The title, while shocking, is precisely the point. Smart women I know take the HPV vaccine to mean: “They want it OK for a 12-year-old to have sex.” (In fact one such woman worked in public health.)
    There is “ick factor” in many minds about innoculating 12-year-olds against an STI.
    So the point is clear: which is worse – your “icky” feeligs about your daughter having sex too young or your kid as an adult with real cancer.
    Because as Ms O’Rourke points out, there is no relation between actual teenage sex practices and HPV vaccine.

  • elderberryjam

    I didn’t read the article and I’m not going to read it, because the headline was stupid. HPV vaccine is for cancer, and has nothing to do with promiscuity. I don’t care that the article said “no.” I have the same reaction as the blog post – WHY is anyone EVEN discussing this??? I don’t even have patience for considering the relationship between those two topics. I read the comments on the thread because it shocked me that feminists would actually discuss this, and I wanted to see if they were really that dumb. I was somewhat relieved to find the conversation about the headline being inappropriate. But then, who even needs to mention that? Does it need mentioned?
    This headline tells me clearly that maybe “Slate” is not something I want to read regularly.
    I also disagree with mandatory vaccinations for cancer prevention. Next thing you know, it will be mandatory to do other simple health-prevention procedures. No, no, no. Not my body; not my daughter’s body. This should be a CHOICE. And they’re talking about promiscuity? Neandearthals! Hey, if you guys want to discuss whether HPV has anything to do with promiscuity, that is your problem. The people pushing the promiscuity issue are the people to whom it is an issue, and those people are not in my life. If they are in yours, I feel for you. Just don’t talk that way around me.
    There is plenty of other stuff to read about, like uh, cancer.

  • piotrek

    I think that Saletanwas too vague, but not all that creepy.
    Remember the context: a young man is serving 10 year sentence for receiving oral sex from a 15 year old girl when he was 17.
    Saletan did alude the the need of some graduated approach, which is actually the case in many jurisdiction, with some examples of threshold ages. To wit, the earliest threshold for legal sex with limited age difference, without specifying it (I guess it can be something between 2 and 4 years). Then the age of unlimited consent. The dilemma is that while the concept of statutory rape is useful, throwing the book at teenagers seems crazy, or it should have different legal categories (serving alcohol to 15-year old should be a misdemeanor even if you are 12-year old, but do we want such fooolish kids in the slammer?)
    Lastly, sex with people who are in the state of institutional dependence of some sort can be criminal or subject of professional sanctions without any age limit (although he did not say that; 50 year old secretary may be more dependent than a freshman student).
    The question remains what is the good framework for discussing legal permissibility of sex. Religion? Ickiness? Saletan settled on the latter.
    I guess that a “feminist” approach seems most philosophical: nothing wrong with sex per se, but exercising power relationship to get sex is wrong. But in every relationship there is some inequality. So there should be a balancing principle: we should be reluctant to unleash the power of the state. If sex between 13 and 11 year olds is illegal, you will have crazy prosecutors interrogating 13 year old suspects and 11 year old witnesses, breaking them, sending to prisons or detension (for resisting witnesses) etc. At some point I would abhor the power imbalance between sexual partners more than the creepy power of the state.
    And when we explain the rules to children (it would be silly to keep such laws secret), we can also explain why there are things that we definitely do not approve of (as parents or teachers) but which are not criminal. And this point could be perhaps explained to less moronic lawmakers.

  • GamesOnline

    Not a bad article. games