But sex positivity now seems to be fading from fashion among younger people, failing to speak to their longings and frustrations just as anti-porn feminism failed to speak to those of an earlier generation. It’s no longer radical, or even really necessary, to proclaim that women take pleasure in sex. If anything, taking pleasure in sex seems, to some, vaguely obligatory. In a July BuzzFeed News article headlined, “These Gen Z Women Think Sex Positivity Is Overrated,” one 23-year-old woman said, “It feels like we were tricked into exploiting ourselves.”…
In March, Vox’s Rebecca Jennings reported on the spread of the “Cancel Porn” movement on TikTok. “It’s just one facet of a conservatism, for lack of a better term, that’s proliferating on TikTok from rather unlikely sources,” she wrote. “Young, presumably progressive women (for the most part)” who think that what’s sometimes called “choice feminism” caters to “patriarchy and the male gaze.” Jennings quoted the caption to one video: “Liberal feminism telling young girls that hookup culture is liberating, conditioning them to think that if you don’t have extreme kinks at a young age then they’re boring and vanilla, and encouraging them to get into sex work the minute they turn 18.”
Feminism is supposed to ease some of the dissonance between what women want and what they feel they’re supposed to want. Sex-positive feminism was able to do that for women who felt hemmed in by sexual taboos and pressured to deny their own turn-ons. But today it seems less relevant to women who feel brutalized by the expectation that they’ll be open to anything.
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