As the widespread coverage of Tiger Woods’ affairs has demonstrated, we have a double standard when it comes to extramarital affairs between married men and young, single women.
It’s hard to avoid news about it. Even Rush Limbaugh has talked about Tiger Woods’ “conquests.” Some black media commentators have criticized Woods for excluding black women.
Woods’ mistresses and flings, ranging from cocktail waitresses to porn stars, are being made into minor celebrities. They share attention with the prostitute, Ashley Dupre, who brought down Governor Eliot Spitzer.
But rarely are these women the objects of opprobrium. When one TV commentator called these women “bimbos,” he was shot down by the host for his lack of respect. A magazine called Jezebel proudly takes the name of the queen of the Old Testament who leads the Israelites into paganism and sexual immorality as a badge of honor. CNBC repeatedly airs the series Porn: The Business of Pleasure and The Business of High-End Prostitution, presenting such “entrepreneurs” as the girl next door. And ever since the sixties we’ve had magazines like Cosmopolitan, founded by Helen Gurley Brown, who gave suggestions for working your way up the corporate ladder with sexual favors. This magazine and others like it offer “sex tips” for your “guy” of the moment. The television show and movie Sex and the City celebrated female promiscuity, nymphomania, and even a phenomenon called cougarism.
Today the woman gets a pass.
That’s because feminists have worked hard to reverse the traditional double standard, i.e., the one that had presumably given the man a wink-wink for “conquests,” while sending the woman to the hall of shame. Now sexual freedom — and even predation — on the part of females is seen as empowerment. My college students have had this idea drummed into their heads in women’s studies classes and insist on equality even in this arena.
Even if they don’t take a women’s studies class, female teenagers get the message from the culture around them. When even Carrie Prejean, a 22-year-old beauty pageant winner lauded for her traditional values and courage in speaking up against gay marriage, has sent sexually explicit videos to an ex-boyfriend and has subjected her young body to surgical enhancement, we know there is something wrong with the culture. The teenager sees her cohorts baring their breasts on Girls Gone Wild, watches scantily clad women begging for a man on various reality dating shows, and sees her friends “sexting” young men. In an age of sexual openness and celebrity, one of the quickest ways to jump from Facebook to cable news is to have an affair with a celebrity, politician, or sports star.
Her college campus will certainly not provide anything in the form of in loco parentis. In addition to coed dorms and accessibility to advice about “safe sex” from the health department, she will be learning about “sex workers” in various classes, including classes in the English department. Her campus may even get a visit from the “Sex Workers Art Tour.” Pornography and prostitution are now presented as forms of “sex work,” a legitimate line of work, with its own code of ethics. I saw this argument advanced in feminist scholarly writing in the 1990s; now it has become accepted in liberal circles.
At one time prostitutes and loose women would have been condemned. And so would the cheating man, especially by members of his community and church.
But now, in the court of public opinion, the fault seems to be cast almost exclusively at Woods. In the meantime, one of his mistresses runs for help to famed feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, who specializes in helping such scandal-ridden women.
Tiger Woods was able to find many willing participants. That there are women willing to overlook a man’s marital status — especially when he is rich, popular, or powerful — is nothing new, of course. What is new is a celebrity-infatuated culture that encourages such behavior through the promotion of female promiscuity as empowerment.
But while these women will enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame, they will feel a sense of emptiness inside. As these women slip into middle age they will find that their false sense of empowerment has faded, with the men now able to pick and choose. The tables will be turned and many will end up alone, in a “sisterhood” not by choice.
But a man-less future is what the radical feminists wanted all along. That’s why “home-wrecker” holds no currency anymore.