Why are millions of twenty-first century women drawn to a story about a rich man wooing, oppressing and humiliating a young, vulnerable woman? Don’t we live in a day in which sexual assault on college campuses and domestic abuse by professional football players fills us with indignation? Ross Douthat explain this mystery:
Viewed from one angle, the sexual revolution looks obviously egalitarian. It’s about extending to everyone the liberties–the freedom to be promiscuous, to pursue sexual fulfillment without guilt–that were once available only to privileged cisgendered heterosexual males. It’s about ushering in a society where everyone can freely love and take pleasure in anyone and anything they want.
But viewed from another angle, that same revolution looks more like a permission slip for the strong and privileged to prey upon the weak and easily exploited. This is the sexual revolution of Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt and Joe Francis and roughly 98 percent of the online pornography consumed by young men. It’s the revolution that’s been better for fraternity brothers than their female guests, better for the rich than the poor, better for the beautiful than the plain, better for liberated adults than fatherless children…and so on, down a long, depressing list.