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What #MeToo and Hooking Up Teach Us About The Meaning of Sex

The #MeToo movement provides a sobering opportunity for deeper reflection on the meaning of sex and the nature of the sexual revolution. A core question is this: Do the experiences underlying #MeToo reveal the need to carry the sexual revolution still further, or do they reveal fundamental flaws in that revolution? 

Some are treating the movement with suspicion, worrying that it is a pretext for promoting identity politics. Others, predictably, are doubling down on the logic of the sexual revolution, rushing to assure us that #MeToo is merely a correction toward kinder, more equitable, more explicitly consensual sexual milieu. But recent efforts by #MeToo activists to take on pornography and shut down brothels in Nevada suggest that both of these approaches are missing what is really going on.  

A growing number of people sense, often from painful personal experience, that “something is rotten” in the sexual revolution—something that no regime of affirmative consent codes is likely to fix. And although there have been compelling arguments challenging the basic claims of the sexual revolution, experience may be the most powerful argument of all.  

The Personal Experience of Sex 

Sometimes the things we most take for granted escape our notice precisely because they lie in plain sight. Start with the experience underlying the #MeToo movement. Large numbers of people, mostly women, report traumatic experiences of being coerced to engage in sexual activity with men.  

Although Americans today are deeply divided about many things, the wrongfulness of sexual assault is not one of them. This is encouraging, but there is also something mysterious about it. Why do we treat sexual assault differently from other forms of assault, giving it a special and more serious legal classification? Why is it that some people can require years of therapy after being touched on their genitals without their consent but can quickly forget a much more painful punch to the face? Why is it that if someone touches any other part of our body without our consent it is not usually traumatic, but if they touch our genitals without our consent we feel personally violated?  

Read more at The Public Discourse. 

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