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The great girl-shaping institutions, significantly the magazines and advice books and novels that I devoured, were decades away from being handed over to actual girls and young women to write and edit, and they were still filled with the cautionary advice and moralistic codes of the ’50s.
With the exception of the explicit physical details, stories like Grace’s—which usually appeared in the form of “as told to,” and which were probably the invention of editors and the work product of middle-aged women writers—were so common as to be almost regular features of these cultural products.
But in one essential aspect they reminded us that we were strong in a way that so many modern girls are weak.
They told us over and over again that if a man tried to push you into anything you didn’t want, even just a kiss, you told him flat out you weren’t doing it. You were always to have “mad money” with you: cab fare in case he got “fresh” and then refused to drive you home.
Here’s how the story goes: A young woman, who is given the identity-protecting name “Grace” in the story, was excited to encounter Ansari at a party in Los Angeles, and even though he initially brushed her off, when he saw that they both had the same kind of old-fashioned camera, he paid attention to her and got her number.
He texted her when they both got back to New York, asking whether she wanted to go out, and she was so excited, she spent a lot of time choosing her outfit and texting pictures of it to friends.
In so many ways, compared with today’s young women, we were weak; we were being prepared for being wives and mothers, not occupants of the C-Suite. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and that she was trying to figure out how to get it. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. What she felt afterward—rejected yet another time, by yet another man—was regret.
But as far as getting away from a man who was trying to pressure us into sex we didn’t want, we were strong. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn.
It is therefore worth reading and, in its way, is an important contribution to the present conversation.
Drinking, we were told, could lead to a girl’s getting “carried away,” which was the way female sexual desire was always characterized in these things—as in, “She got carried away the night of the prom.” As for what happened sexually, the writers would have blamed her completely: What was she thinking, getting drunk with an older man she hardly knew, after revealing her eagerness to get close to him?
The signal rule about dating, from its inception in the 1920s to right around the time of the Falklands War, was that if anything bad happened to a girl on a date, it was her huge careers; the kind of world-conquering, taking-numbers strength that is the common language of the most-middle-of-the road cultural products aimed at today’s girls was totally absent.
Now he has been—in a professional sense—assassinated, on the basis of one woman’s anonymous account.
Many of the college-educated white women who so vocally support this movement are entirely on her side.