by Mary Harrington
Wednesday, 29
January 2020
Idea
07:00

Memo to the heterosexual heterophobe: why not try chastity?

The Slate letter suggests a heterosexual woman, attracted to men but repelled by contemporary sexual politics

Slate yesterday published one of the saddest articles I have seen for a long time. A letter to Slate magazine’s dating advice column How To Do It, it outlines the dilemma of a woman who is attracted to males but politically opposed to heterosexuality. As she puts it: “I’m really repelled by heterosexuality politically and personally, but I’m also really into dick.”

This heterophobic heterosexual woman wonders whether the solution might be to seek out gay or bisexual male partners. Could men who have the morally correct ‘queer politics’ be the escape she needs from the moral squalor of heterosexuality? Would gay men, she wonders, be offended if she were to create a profile on Grindr?

Meanwhile, one of the most profoundly countercultural pieces I have read recently on women and sexuality is Subversive Virginity (1998), published by the US Christian First Things. The author, Sarah Hinlickey, argues that contemporary culture views sexual encounters as a zero-sum power game:

According to received feminist wisdom, sexuality is to be understood through the twin concepts of power and choice. […] Sometimes it seems like sex isn’t even supposed to be fun. The purpose of female sexuality is to assert power over hapless men, for control, revenge, self-centered pleasure, or forcing a commitment. 
- Sarah Hinlickey, First Things

This, though, has led to a situation in which women are perpetually at a disadvantage:

That kind of gender-war sexuality results only in pyrrhic victories. It’s a set-up for disaster, especially for women. Men aren’t the ones who get pregnant… The pretense that aggression and power-mongering are the only options for female sexual success has opened the door to predatory men.
- Sarah Hinlickey, First Things

The Slate letter suggests a heterosexual woman, attracted to men but repelled by contemporary sexual politics. If Hinlickey’s analysis is accurate (and countless articles like this one about dating in the Tinder age do little to contradict it) then this perspective is both understandable and tragic.

The only way out of the mutually assured destruction of antagonistic dating culture, Hinlickey argues, is virginity: “a refusal to exploit or be exploited.” Far from being a state of oppression or repression, she argues, “That is real, and responsible, power.”

The Slate columnist’s response did not suggest celibacy. Chastity is perhaps the last remaining corner of countercultural taboo in the well-churned mud of the sexual revolution. But it may be gaining traction: a Guardian article published this week profiles women who found their lives improved after giving up sex. And Hinlickey’s piece, written by a Christian 20 years ago, finds a contemporary echo in the 4chan ‘coomer’ meme, which depicts porn-addicted ‘coomers’ as dissolute, mindless drone-slave consumers.

The ‘coomer’ meme evolved into an annual ‘#nofap’ challenge, in which participants take a pledge to avoid orgasm for an entire month. Meanwhile, in the mainstream, sexual self-control appears to be so offensive to moral orthodoxy that both Vice and Rolling Stone magazine have published articles claiming that #nofap evidences (in the words of Vice) “a connection between abstinence and fascism”.

The Slate advice columnist suggested the lonely heterophobe might try pansexual websites or group sex parties. She should ‘have fun’, he says, in the expectation that sooner or later the solution would appear in the form of “some big-dicked puppy dog of a straight guy who’s read some theory”. Opting out meanwhile did not seem to be an option. Whether on Tinder or Grindr, it seems only fascists refuse to put out.

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