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“If women indulged their innate feminine virtue and refused to sleep with men on dates, men would be forced to treat women with greater respect, and to marry them before bedding them.”-Shmuley Boteach, Rabbi and Author

Classic television has never interested much of Generation Next. The idealistic community of Pleasantville has come to fruition and passed with the span of an eye blink. Women of the last twenty or thirty years cannot relate or identify with women of the classic television era. Young girls are no longer squealing with delight over winning the heart of the quarterback and wearing his letterman’s jacket, or aimlessly plugging product placements in thirty minute family sitcoms with a wink and a gun. The role of the wife has exploded from its humble shell of homemaker and subservience; it has skyrocketed miles high from the ‘seen but not heard’ lifestyle of 1950’s icons of June Cleaver and Harriet Nelson alike. No more are women chained to a stove in high heels and poodle skirts, and no more are they expected to behave as flies on a wall. American women of the millennium are far evolved from the prototypical image of what a woman should be, as is evidenced by America’s ever-changing image as the world’s foremost super power. Of these highly evolved feminine characteristics is a well developed sense of sexuality and empowerment, and the ability to chose for oneself how to proactively live life and fulfill the needs and desires that are of priority. What Shmuley Boteach seems to miss about these characteristics is the fine line between the ideal image of women, and the reality of women and relationships as a whole.

In a society where abstinence is merely a word, the sexual prowess of women is often looked at as only one of two mediums: promiscuous, or pious. While an overtly sexual woman is often perceived as promiscuous, the lack of an active sex life is viewed as prude-like behavior which is excusable only under the most religious or political beliefs. There seems to be a fallout of any amenable middle ground, a middle ground which is rarely touched upon in American culture. With all of the positivity in the world, it is quite plain to assert that there are hundreds of thousands of promiscuous women living in the United States today. As Boteach describes, they are willing to engage in a sexual relationship with multiple partners and as frequently and casually as a hiccup. Adversely, those women who choose to remain abstinent or refrain from engaging in frequent sexual encounters are prudish. The middle ground is a women who is in control of her liaisons who chooses her partners wisely, and uses protection when doing so. There is no fault in being a sexual person, especially if that person is a male, however when the sexual appetite of a woman is discussed, there is more than enough stigma to go around. Boteach says that women should embrace their feminine virtue, and thus earn the respect of their male counterparts. However, whose definition of virtue is he using? He wastes no time referencing his strong Judaic beliefs, and allows it to cloud his vision of what is ideal in comparison to what reality truly is.

Sex in today’s American culture is no longer reserved for perpetuating the human race or propagating the species. In the 1960’s, it became about individuality and refuting sexual repression; about embracing the act of sex as a form of expression of love, passion, and sensuality. It is no longer considered taboo to talk about it, read about it, or learn about it in schools. In 2001, more than 3 million pregnancies were unplanned, and of those, almost half ended in abortion. Of those unplanned pregnancies, half of those women were also unmarried, although some were in a situation of cohabitation. It is possible that Boteach is referencing these statistics when he considers what is proper and what will help women overcome adversity, yet his solution involves a far less collective effort to educate and empower.

What Boteach would like women to do is simply stop having sexual relations with men who are not their husbands, which will in turn “force” them to respect us, and therefore pique their interest in finding women as marriage material. According to his views on female abstinence prior to marriage, men would be “forced to win over their wives and the divorce rate would plummet.” In retrospect, it is as if he is saying that before purchasing a vehicle, one must not drive it so it is not tarnished and has no miles on it, and then deal with any problems that arise or dislikes that occur once one is contractually obligated to the car. In a society where sex plays such an active role in a marriage and its cohesive bond, this seems more detrimental than helpful. Each person is different, as are their expectations of those who wish to earn their respect. Men would simply find other ways to procure what it is that they desire, which would then turn that cure into the cause of another conflict of conscience that would undoubtedly be just as pertinent as sexual abstinence.

Abstinence, even until marriage, is ineffective at teaching men and women how to properly behave sexually when the time is appropos; how would people know the use protection, and take advantage of available health specialists, or deal with sexually transmitted diseases? Should people, and in particular women, be sexually repressed, unprepared, and uneducated in order to salvage their image, and for the purpose of finding a respectable suitor? And what would happen to these married couples who are not sexually compatible and have to sleep next to one another, fighting primal urges based on dissatisfaction, for the rest of their lives? The President of The United States disagrees. President Obama’s multi-trillion dollar budget plan promotes sexual education, and eliminates unrealistic plans set aside to teach abstinence in public schools. Boteach finds the conservative and pre-Enlightenment Elizabethan concept of women in their subservient, silent, beckoned-call status and men to be the triumphant heroes to be a “virtue” that will solve women’s image issues for the better (“Feminine Virtues,” 2009). While he presents valid grievances against women and the image they project themselves, his vastly conservative and medieval view of gender roles overshadows any resolution he wants to offer American women to strive above them.

References:

(2009). The DCR Report; The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved from http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/DCR/default.aspx

(2009). Feminine Virtues in Elizabethan England. Retrieved from http://www.geocities.com/dianalaulainen/Women/virtue.htm
Boteach, S. (2005). Hating Women: America’s Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex. New York: Regan Books.

Jake Tapper (2009, May 08). President Obama vs. Bristol Palin on Abstinence-Only Education. Retrieved from http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/05/president-oba-3.html

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