An Interview With Carol Platt Liebau About Her Book, Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too)

Earlier this week, I did a phone interview with Carol Platt Liebau about her book, Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too)!

What follows is a slightly edited transcript of my interview with Carol:

There was a time when feminism actually discouraged marriage and called all sex “rape,” but today the feminist blogs are actually run by people so promiscuous that they complain when they think someone is quote, quote “slut shaming.” Do you think modern feminism has played a role in coarsening our culture and damaging the lives of women in this country?

Well, you know, John, in my view, there has been a strand of feminism that has been very destructive to young girls and even to women of slightly older ages and I talk about them in Prude and I call it “do me feminism.”

This idea that they try to propagate, that somehow it’s empowering and liberating for young girls to act in conformity with the stereotypes for the worst types of men when it comes to sex and the more promiscuous you are, the more you’re striking a great blow for the feminist cause — this whole behavior, at least in my view, is symptomatic of one of the problems that a lot of feminists have. That is this whole idea that women will not be equal to men until they behave the same way in every situation.

…Do you think the oversexualization of our culture is one of the reasons for the declining marriage rate and prevalence of divorce?

Yes. Because, again, little girls are being taught that there is no value to saving sex for an exclusive, monogamous, long-term committed relationship. Because of the constant devaluing of marriage and this whole idea that everyone is afraid to say that it is wrong to have children outside of wedlock, the social mores that gently pushed women to wait to have (sex) inside of marriage have eroded. You end up having people, a lot of the time, deciding that there is moral neutrality between a decision to have a child inside of wedlock and a child outside of wedlock.

So, when you have this overall devaluing of marriage, you have more people who are willing to move in together. The problem is that studies show that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce than couples that never live together before marriage. …It’s the whole idea that there is no reason not to have sex any time, anywhere, and with anyone that it strikes you to do it with.

A lot of people think the only downside for premarital sex is STDs and pregnancy and if you avoid those problems by wearing a condom, then you might as well enjoy yourself. Let’s say a person isn’t religious and they don’t get STDs or get pregnant; why shouldn’t they have sex before marriage?

That’s the key question that I was trying to strike at the heart of Prude.

You know what? You may avoid an STD, you may never confront an unwedded pregnancy, but even so, giving too much, too soon, to too many people is still a terrible idea. It’s terrible idea because there are many, many, emotional and psychological consequences that often these little girls are never told about.

Like what?

They include regret, anxiety, shame, the inability to trust men, and trouble forming permanent committed relationships later. You know, John, it all makes sense. If you’re the kind of young woman who doesn’t understand why it’s important not just to have sex with any guy that wants you to, you’re probably going to be prone to seeing some of the less attractive sides of male behavior. If you see that over and over again…it’s going to be difficult to learn how to trust men because you’ve never gotten to see the finer or noble side of men. Of course, it’s going to be difficult to forge long term relationships later, because if you don’t trust men, then on what basis are you building when you finally find a man you’d like to spend your life with?

What would you say to a young woman who said to you, “Carol, I’m a Christian and I’m inclined not to have premarital sex, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep a boyfriend or even eventually get married unless I do have sex before marriage.”

…That’s a fair question, but obviously, if someone’s a Christian, they already have a certain basis why it’s not always right to do everything we want to do at the moment we want to do it.

The thing I would also say to that young woman is that I think she is underestimating men. Because, of course, you have a lot of men out there who are looking for nothing more than a little quick action. But, there are also a lot of very fine men who are looking for a woman they can respect and are looking for a woman who has loved them enough, even before she met them — to want to save a very precious and important part of herself, the sort of deep intimacy that comes with having sex with someone you love and who is committed to you — for him. So, my thought would be, any man who doesn’t want to be with you unless he is getting something out of it in terms of having sex with you is perhaps someone who doesn’t love you the way that you want to be loved in order to spend your life with him. In other words, a man who really loves you, body, soul, mind, the whole nine yards, is going to respect and understand why you want to wait until you are in a committed, long-term relationship with him before you decide that you are going to have sex.

Now, Let me quote something you said in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez,

“Cultural change can happen — without the heavy hand of government. Whether one agrees with it or not, think of how completely smoking has been stigmatized, even in places where it’s still legal. MADD swayed public opinion on the acceptability of drunk driving very quickly. And nowadays, environmentalists have successfully convinced companies that it makes sense from a PR standpoint to market themselves as green..”

Would you like to see the same sort of thing done with premarital sex in our country and what do you think the upside would be if that were to happen?

Well, you know, John, the book itself didn’t focus on premarital sex as it focused on the sexualizing of girls from 12-17. …I think it’s a very good way for someone to become marginalized if they insist that certain behavioral standards be held and imposed through social stigma on 30-35 year old men and women.

My thought was to talk about this issue in a way everyone can agree on. I know a lot of people have different ideas about when it’s appropriate for young people to begin having sex…and obviously, I have my opinion on that. But, I do believe that people of good conscience…can disagree. What I did think that everyone should be able to agree on is the fact that girls 17 and younger have no business having sex. …We should be, as a society, very comfortable sending a strong and unified message to those…girls that, that kind of behavior is quite simple wrong.

Carol, to finish up, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your book, Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too)?

…What I wanted to do in the book was give people a wake-up call…about how sexualized the culture has become. It’s for anyone who has a young girl in their life that they love and want to help understand the dangers of giving too much, too soon. Prude is designed in a fun and readable way, to put all the facts at their fingertips. There are pages of endnotes in the book and I document every claim I make. So, it’s designed to help them put their finger on why they instinctively know that kind of behavior is wrong and destructive for girls. Finally, for anyone who cares about America’s economic and social life, who believes that it is possible to create a more wholesome teen culture, Prude is designed to be a call to arms….

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