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I thought this was an interesting interview, most especially Erika’s response to the last question on whether the feminist project should expect men to fully curb their sexual aggression. It was an interesting read today paired with Mary Harrington’s latest piece at Unherd (https://unherd.com/2023/09/why-we-sacrifice-young-girls/), which I read as coming tentatively on the side of “No,” or at least no insofar as she believes we won’t curb assaults without more sexed social norms. She’s frustratingly taciturn on what sorts of social norms she means by this, and that’s a great weakness of the piece and her work in general--I wish she would be more specific about her ideas so that we can honestly debate them on their merits!

But I do think her work highlights a tension among the three principles that Erika returns to throughout her work on men and women: that we are rational creatures with individual capacities, sexually asymmetric, and all called to the same virtues. In situations where the vast majority of sex offenders and child sexual abusers are men, there is a tension between recognizing sexual asymmetry and treating each person as an individual. A parent can’t act as if the women in a child’s life are as much of a risk to them as the men, or that their daughters are not uniquely vulnerable to sexual assault in ways that their sons are not. I don’t know how to get around this. I think I agree with Mary that at some level you just cannot. And I am also incredibly sympathetic to the need for more male teachers, nurses, and childcare workers in particular for the benefit of boys and men. But let’s put it this way: if I had to leave a child in the care of a random woman or a random man, without additional information I would choose the woman. This is not treating people as individuals with individual talents, which is something I deeply want to do! But it’s a tension I’m not sure how to resolve.

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I need to re-reread this because my mind is swirling! OMG, I’m 66 yrs old and no one in my entire life has EVER suggested before that men could learn chastity!!! What a concept , how miraculous and lovely that would be; AND they could be innately virtuous as opposed to only “doing what they are told”. Died and gone to heaven!

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What a fascinating conversation! This is exactly my kind of feminism - and of sexual morality, and social justice, and virtuous conservatism. Namely, one in which all these things dovetail. And they do this so much more naturally than today's facile political ideologies of left and right do.

It seems to me that your pro-choice professor, whose assertion that "men are not capable of sexual integrity and commitment" sounds pretty defeatist on its face, is grasping tenaciously to the premise that the only corrective to the gender double standards that exist in society is to lower the standards expected of women to the low standards expected of men, rather than to raise standards for men.

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