British author Sofka Zinovieff, 58, has written a book set in the 70s about a relationship between a child and an adult who is twenty-five years older. It has been called “a Lolita for the era of #MeToo.” In The Guardian this month, she writes about how her daughter’s generation think they have this morality thing all figured out.
When I asked my 23-year-old daughter whether there was sometimes too much emphasis on consent, she retorted: “You can’t debate the importance of consent when rape is still such a big issue. It’s confusing priorities.”
I tried again with my 26-year-old daughter. “It must sometimes be hard these days for sensitive, intelligent, young men,” I said. “They have to be so careful about what they can say and do.”
“It’s only about not being an ****##$*,” she replied curtly. “That’s not so difficult. It’s just speaking and behaving with respect.”
Zinovieff doesn’t spell out exactly what she’s defending. Perhaps we’d have to read her book to get a better idea. But I wonder if both she and her daughters are saying the same thing: whatever happens in a physical relationship, if everyone continues to say her or she approves of it, then it’s good or at least difficult to oppose; only when someone says he or she has been hurt does the relationship become a problem.
Perhaps it’s how they would handle that problem that distinguishes the author from her children. The older woman might say people have relationships, have sex, and get hurt. It’s all normal life. The younger women might say that many of the circumstances that led to getting hurt could be a problem we, as a society, need to overcome.
I assume both sides would say that keeping sex within the bounds of marriage is simply ridiculous, and yet it solve most of these problems. By recognizing fornication as an actual thing and that calling sexual acts “an affair” is a gross understatement, we can rewrite some of the rules of respect into our society. What if feminists argued that raising our respect for women required healthy, loving marriages as the only place sex can be free?
No, freedom of this type has always been about abuse; who abuses whom changes with each generation.