A Texas high school junior who’s biologically female takes testosterone to “transition” to the other sex, and wins the state’s wrestling championship for girls—even though other female players are not allowed to use performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone. A secret Facebook group of some 30,000 active and retired Marines posts nude photos of dozens of female Marines—with the result that many men now face criminal charges. A new promotional poster for The Vagina Monologues at Marquette declares that “the presence of an anatomical feature, such as a vagina, does not a woman make.” What do these news stories from the past few weeks—and plenty of others these days—have in common? All are examples of a critical phenomenon nailed admirably in Ashley McGuire’s important new book, and aptly captured by its subtitle: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female.
The boutique ideology of “gender equity,” born and nursed in the most recondite of academic quarters, has made a great escape and rampages today down Main Street. The result is the lengthening list of logical and moral chimeras that make up the pages of Sex Scandal—among them, “a new world in which a short white man is a tall Chinese elementary-aged girl [because he says he is], in which performing as a victim of male violence in porn is empowering, in which prostituting oneself to a Wall Street banker is not a win for the patriarchy, but a perfectly fine way to pay for college.” And that’s just for starters.
McGuire is an adroit and entertaining writer, so despite its intrinsically depressing subject, Sex Scandal is an engaging read. Other narrators might have contented themselves with producing a limited (albeit useful) devil’s dictionary of numbing absurdities brought on by contemporary gendermania. But Sex Scandal delivers something more: a moral indictment of where the denial of essential reality has led.
It is not only that today’s blind drive toward androgyny crashes everywhere into culs-de-sac. More urgent is the matter of the wounded—some walking, some not—who are victims of today’s refusal to agree on first facts: that men and women differ; and that denying their difference isn’t merely an academic trope. “The willful blindness to basic biological difference under the mantra of equality,” McGuire shows, “ultimately disempowers women.” That’s why this book should be required reading not only for those who have kept their minds during the new gender tempest and are now being blamed for it; but also, and even more, for those welcoming the storm much as the hapless rooftop enthusiasts welcome the spaceship in Independence Day. Every progressive now agitating for men bounding into ladies’ rooms, or for women in combat, or for any of the other desiderata of the sexual revolution at its most crepuscular, should reckon with McGuire’s message.
For example, thanks to the abolition of sex-segregated areas on campus in the name of ideological purity, predatory men have easier access to women on the quad (and elsewhere) than ever before. The mania to admit biological men into bathrooms made for biological women has led to a proliferation of male voyeurs in female spaces; it would take a gender-studies Ph.D. not to have seen that one coming. Even more damning, because underreported elsewhere, progressive zeal to define human trafficking down into an imaginary consensual “sex trade” risks indifference to the plight of women and girls caught up in, and exploited by, modern slavery. As the author notes, “Human trafficking is overwhelmingly a female struggle,” and much of it in the United States involves girls who are started on such supposedly equitable “transactions” when they are 12-14 years old. Yet political standard-bearers such as Amnesty International, ThinkProgress, and a daft raft of theorists continue to insist that trading sex for money is “empowering” to women—thereby tacitly obscuring the reality of all those who are drugged, raped, kidnapped, and otherwise manhandled and victimized while apologists of the left look the other way and pretend that sexual difference is nothing to see here.
The message of Sex Scandal should also be amplified widely as so-called women’s marches and other late-feminist theater continue to follow a script inimical to, well, women. Who, for example, “is doing an awesome job of promoting the objectification of the female body for profit”? Not “heteropatriarchy,” McGuire observes, but “Women’s Studies departments.” She cites the example of Miriam Weeks, aka Belle Knox, the Duke porn star who, like other salacious sisters these days, defends “submission,” “degradation,” “rough scenes,” and “kink” as the quintessence of what’s good for the XXers among us. Fifty Shades of Grey, female celebrities in bondage gear, self-described “feminist” singers who study pole-dancing to make their videos: Yeats observed a while back that women must labor to be beautiful. Some tastemakers today just seem to want women to suffer, period.
The author brings a cool eye to her few personal reflections. Tufts, her alma mater, “was a debaucherous hookup hell.” Sex Fairs on campus co-hosted by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Center sported sex toys—but not “so much as a pamphlet about sexual assault.” One particular chapter—”Passed-out Girls in Shopping Carts”—could haunt the nights of any parent with a daughter on campus. As is demonstrated, the connections among assaults and date rape and the feminist-applauded, 24/7 sexualization of the world couldn’t be more umbilical. As to the question why so many people want so badly to believe something manifestly false, McGuire wisely avoids drilling deeper. The dual accomplishments of Sex Scandal—its rendering of what’s out there now, combined with truth about who wins and loses from the upended bedrock—are enough for one book.
Since the middle of the 20th century, the sexual revolution has detonated across the world with such force as to render parts of the resulting moral and cultural terrain unrecognizable. With Sex Scandal, Ashley McGuire joins other cartographers struggling to map the new ground. Like George Gilder’s Sexual Suicide, Lionel Tiger’s The Decline of Males, the collected works of Midge Decter, and a handful of other entries, Sex Scandal reveals and illuminates a hitherto-unseen corner of the blasted landscape.
Mary Eberstadt is a senior research fellow with the Faith and Reason Institute and the author, most recently, of It’s Dangerous to Believe.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard