Liz Crocker’s article at The Daily Beast decries Piedmont High’s Fantasy Slut League as “the newest callous form of misogyny.” The one sentence excerpted from the article and set aside in huge print reads, “The sexual braggadocio inherent in the league is more common than the media are reporting.”
All true, and all good and well. But the real news in the article comes in its last paragraph, hidden away from all but the most determined readers:
– Many students on the “fantasy slut league” list, while not necessarily approving of the name, did not mind being placed on a list of sexually desirable dates. (See this articulate and nuanced letter by a female PHS senior on why the “moral panic” response is not constructive.) This doesn’t make things okay for those who were not okay with it, but it does mean the league was far from a unilateral imposition on a populace that uniformly resented it. In short, FSL was not tyranny; it was fashion.
– Gossip, while it can be used to destroy people via perceived social value, is hardly the exclusive purview of men. Considering the FSL a gossip aggregator (as the female student urges) rather than a command-and-control center greatly alters the paradigm in which all this sex is happening. (One might argue the real problem here is the obsession with what other people think about your own life, sexual or otherwise, but that is a topic for another post.)
– Karen Owen’s “thesis” equally treated men like disposable sex objects. It, too, got a tremendous amount of attention, both negative and positive. Some argued that if this was how she discovered and explored her own sexuality, who were we to judge her for it? By and large, the media have not given similarly balanced coverage of the boys who attempted to “gamify” human sexuality in order to better make sense of it. If the spirit in which she made the document matters, then so too should the spirit in which the boys made their document, and recognition of that that is precisely why the PHS senior goes into such an explanation of the intended use of Fantasy Slut League. I would not be surprised if, from their perspective, it was a clumsy attempt to combine two things they love (gaming and sex.) While that does not make it a great thing, it also does not make it a twisted conspiracy to sexually enslave women.
– Modern women typically have a high degree of control over their own sexuality (at least, modern women with the status of PHS students or Duke students – the story is different for women in a place like rural India) and attempts to paint them all as the hapless victims of male lust are arguably as divorced from reality as the idea of a male-run Fantasy Sex League itself. Insisting that a woman is a victim despite her knowing otherwise is incredibly disenfranchising.
I take issue with the way the email attempts to speak for girls just like me. I know that my name has been mentioned on the FSL page. It makes me uncomfortable, but it does not make me a “victim,” as the email labels me. I am not a victim because I know what FSL truly is. It is not a rape group, as the email, perhaps inadvertently, implies; it is a gossip page where Varsity Footballers talk about what happened last weekend and “who got with who.” I do not appreciate being labeled a “victim” by an administration that is not in possession or understanding of the facts.
All this, and reporters everywhere still took it upon themselves to speak for girls just like her.
To me, the takeaway is that the situation for women continues to improve. Fifty years ago, while gaming culture did not exist, men bragging about their sexual exploits was so common and accepted that it did not occasion comment. Five hundred years ago, men taking sexual advantage of the women associated with defeated armies was similarly common and accepted (rape was, literally, part of the spoils of war.) Now, in 2012-2013, women are able to calmly make decisions about their sexual future and intelligently use their status to their advantage. It would be unmistakably a step backwards to say the only legitimate response they can have to boys making lists is moral outrage, and it is heartening to see that the women of PHS, if one is any indication, know better.