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New Moon's success means women hate sex. Obviously.

OK, I'll be the first to admit that the whole Twilight phenomenon is interesting. Here at Bitch we've written about the movies, the books, the parody videos, and tons of other sparkly vampire stuff over the past year. People are obsessed! It's compelling! However, lately it seems like every single teenage behavior is being connected to the franchise in some way, from negotiating gender identity to interacting with parents. Could it be that Twilight is the compass with which we can navigate the state of Young People Today? Do we never have to think about the nuances and complications of human existence again because Stephenie Meyer has done that dirty work for us? Well, Jonathan Zimmerman at the Chicago Tribune certainly thinks so.

According to Zimmerman's article "Hooking up's gender gap," the number of young women who saw Twilight Saga: New Moon (which was a lot) tells us that, "Girls want love, not just sex." And he got this from New Moon how, exactly?

To be fair, Zimmerman is citing a University of Missouri study that polled 4,000 Twilight fans of all ages on why they liked the franchise. I was unable to locate the original study, but reports of the results state that "many teen girls — who make up the core of Twilight's audience, along with a few moms — are drawn to the story about love beyond the physical." No statistics were given in anything I could find, but apparently lots of young teens like the love story that's present in Twilight. No surprise there, since it's a romance (even if it is a creepy one).

The surprise is that writers like Zimmerman would take an anecdotal bit of research like that and turn it into a story about how teenage girls don't like sex. Apparently, since the dawn of time, men have wanted sex and women have just put up with it in order to get boyfriends/husbands (this is something we've all heard before I'm sure). The Tribune article goes on to say that not only do women hate sex, but that men hate relationships (oh the clichés!) and just want to "hook up" with no strings attached. This is undoubtedly true of some men, but it is undoubtedly true of some women also, just as the reverse is true for men and women (and trans, queer, otherwise gendered individuals, though of course they were not mentioned in the article).

The article goes on to talk about the "good old days" when people had to date or even get married before they could get it on. I guess those days are over, and now teens have to fellate one another before they can even shake hands. Newsflash, Zimmerman: Some people still choose to go the old-fashioned route and get to know one another before sex. Some people don't. Though I am not denying that many teenagers feel pressured to engage in sex before they're ready, I am also not willing to deny that many young people just want to get laid, and they have the agency to make their own choices. Male, female, or in between.

Regardless of how you feel about teenage sexual norms, what on earth does this have to with Twilight? Well, lots of women saw the movie, and the movie is about a young woman who can't have sex with either of her suitors because of their supernatural powers, so that means that young female audiences also want to be in relationships with supernatural beings because they don't want to have sex. It makes sense, right? Um, not really. Lots of women, including me, saw this movie, and to a lot of them (including me) it looked like one big beefcake sex party. I think the popularity of New Moon, if it signifies anything, tells us that young women WANT sex. What was all the shirtlessness about, if not that?

Zimmerman's article lost me in a lot of places (don't worry he even lumps feminism in there with the rest of society's woes!) but what irked me the most was this notion that teen girls would only see this movie because of the lack of onscreen sex. Maybe they like vampire stories, or female protagonists, or (gasp!) shirtless hunks. Maybe their friends are talking about the movie and they wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Maybe they really do feel too young to have sex and the movie helped them feel better about that, and that's perfectly fine. There are tons of reasons why they might see the film. But don't put all of the millions of women who saw this movie into the "women hate sex" box just because it makes a good story, or because it's convenient since our culture loooves to make women feel bad about their sexuality. After all, the film is problematic enough (you know, with the stalking and the unhealthy relationships) without making it about women and their darned frigidity, or men and their darned horniness.

Think what you will about Twilight, and about teenage sexual behavior, and about the "good old days" when men were men and women held out for a ring. But let's not use the popularity of a teen movie to further vilify the public perception of female sexuality – that's scary enough as it is.

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Comments

28 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I disagree.

The women that woo over Twilight don't hate sex - they fear it.

Patriarchal (esp. religious) ideologies utilize fear-mongering to make women afraid of sex. Christianity, for example, tells women to avoid sex until marriage or else face condemnation. What Twilight does, is capitalize on the women that have been exposed to this type of fear-mongering. Edward gives women a reason to fear sex - because he might hurt them, or because they will get pregnant.

I agree, however, that these women WANT sex. This is quite apparent when the girls scream lustily whenever the men in the movies show off their sexuality (i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1AIsFMMlBI)

BUT, and this is a big but, the desire for sex is part of their subconscious, or else deliberately suppressed so as to conform to their church's or their community's social expectations.

How is it sexist to make this assertion? It merely points out the fact that women remain victims of sexist ideologies.

That's still a damaging generalization.

What she's saying is that this is a huge generalization. You've modified the generalization, and given it some context, but its still a generalization. As a young person reading this books and watching the movies, I refuse the idea of being defined by my interest in the consumption of the Twilight narrative. I agree with all of the criticisms against it, just as I agree with all of the feminist and cinematic criticisms against awfully formulaic romantic comedies. But it's still entertaining escapism for me, as I am sure it is for many people who have read the books or watched the movies.

When I was fourteen, I personally wasn't really experienced enough to understand the intricacies of sex, and I didn't need it to complete a satisfying romantic narrative. That being said, I do not fear sex. I am well aware of societies sexual expectations for me, and I battle them and my own personal sense of sexual identity every day. This has no bearing on my leisurely enjoyment of the series. I like romance. The series has obvious shortcomings (where are your hobbies and girlfriends, bella? Where's your LIFE?), but I still enjoy it. AND I still want sex. I desire sex. I enjoy sex, both in and out of relationships. I desire it CONSCIOUSLY. I'm sure I am not alone.
Be aware of generalizations.

actually, Christianity (if

actually, Christianity (if one can assume by Christianity, you mean what the Bible says, which unfortunately is not always one and the same) says that male and females alike should restrain from sexual activity before marriage because it's sinful. just wanted to clear that up.

True, but the way society

True, but the way society treats women who have had sex before marriage is different than the way men are treated.

Society treats men worse

Society treats the mean worse. If a man hasn't had sex before marriage, he's seen as though something must be wrong with him, whereas for a woman it's seen as a type of empowerment. And nobody cares anymore that a woman has had sex before marriage. That's a very old concept no longer applicable today. In fact, even the stud versus slut distinction is incorrect. People call a guy a stud when he attracts women, not because he has lots of sex. The proof is that a man can be a stud without having sex at all, while a man who has lots of sexual partners can be considered a scum and not a stud at all. And even if society calls women "sluts" for sleeping around alot (more often women say that than men, IMO), society calls men "womanizer" (or sleeze, etc.) for sleeping with lots of women, and that word is even worse because it means he's somehow "victimizing" the women which isn't necessarily true.

There are more double standards against men than against women. Far more. Men get higher criminal sentences for the same crime. Drunk drivers who kill a female get a 3 year higher sentence than those who kill a male. Men are still expected to pay for dates and initiate and risk rejection etc. etc. Their bodies are objectified at least as much as women's if not more but they're not allowed to complain about it or they're considered insecure. Their lives are devalued and they're treated as the disposable sex when it comes to war, dangerous "death jobs" (94% of job deaths happen to men), and family courts and child custody. Men make 80-95% of homeless adults, occupational deaths, incarcerated persons, suicide deaths, combat deaths, and have higher death rate for 13 of the 15 leading causes of deaths, and are more likely to drop out, skip a grade, be placed in special ed, and more likely to have mental illnesses but less likely to be treated for it.

It's a problem society still doesn't want to address. The ONE government entity that dares to acknowledge this is the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Men. That's it.

Poor men

I think your point of view is quite interesting but apart from that,
I completely disagree with most of what you said.

If a woman hasn't had sex before marriage it's seen as a type of empowerment?
Absolute nonsense. In some societies women are punished for having sex before marriage.
In what way exactly is it empowerment for a woman to be forced not to have sex?
Of course, this is not the case everywhere but it happens and in these cultures men are definitely in the higher position, they can basically do what they want and they will not be punished for anything.
Hard to deny that, huh?
I am from Europe and here, it's quite unusual for women and men equally not to have sex before marriage.
To be honest, it's even more than unusual. And in no way an empowerment.
Furthermore, the word womanizer mostly isn't used in a negative context as far as I know. The word slut is.
Sleeping with lots of women is considered a bad thing by men? Since when? Honestly, who told you that?

Men's bodies are objectified at least as much as women's?? If not more??? Riiiighhhtt.
Twilight caused quite a stir internationally BECAUSE men were shirtless in there.
Have you heard about a movie with half-naked women in it that was extraordinary because of this? I didn't.

Women are more objectified in the media than men. Female politicians are much more likely to be judged on how they look and what they are wearing than male ones - it's basically normal to judge a woman by looks. And just look at all those young female models - there are much more of them than male ones - and if their bodies are not objectified then what else is? Last but not least, there are FAR more anorexic women than men and if something is caused by the objectification of the body, it's a self-destructive disease like anorexia.

I don't know where you've got all these figures from, so I cannot answer to them.
It may be that in some areas men are discriminated, but I can give you 10 examples for discriminated women for each one of yours, I'm sure.

That was the most blatantly inaccurate thing I've read @bitch.

I tried to copy quotes, but there were simply too many.....yeah, I don't know where your ideas have come from, maybe you've had waaay different life experiences then the rest of us, but I disagree completely with the vast majority of what you said. Not trying to be a bitch, I seriously don't understand...women who have sex before marriage are empowered, men who don't are ridiculed?...there are more double standards for men than for women?....sorry but I'm a woman who has lived in America my entire life and I've experienced the direct opposite of what you just said 100% of the time.

Um, can we also discuss the

Um, can we also discuss the fact that Zimmerman clearly didn't read the books? Because throughout the series, Bella is the one clamoring for sex and her boyfriend is the one saying no. Have we all forgotten that piece? It was the one part of the series that wasn't totally stereotypical and sexist.

I'm re-reading the series now (well, I might not make it through the first book again, because it is pretty bad), and am applying a feminist close reading of the text, which makes me shocked that I didn't pick up on just how messed up the Edward/Bella relationship is the first time I read it. First time through I was just into the story and enjoying it for all its glorious trashiness. And while I still find it harmless fun, I'm a little dismayed to think that most of the girls and women reading this stuff aren't going to be analytical about the really sexist crap in it. But I digress from my point, which is that Myers makes the female in her book the one who wants all the sexing.

This:

"Um, can we also discuss the fact that Zimmerman clearly didn't read the books? Because throughout the series, Bella is the one clamoring for sex and her boyfriend is the one saying no. Have we all forgotten that piece? It was the one part of the series that wasn't totally stereotypical and sexist."

Yeah. So then I guess if I wanted to be like Zimmerman, then I would conclude that men don't like sex. And all women are whores and sluts for wanting it all of the time. Which is, you know, TOTALLY true.

"I'm re-reading the series now (well, I might not make it through the first book again, because it is pretty bad)"

I tried to (for the third time, the first time I liked it, the second time I was like "I liked this shit?") and I ended up throwing the book across the room because it was just too much for me. I wish you good luck!

Beefcake Sex Party

Yeah, this is ridiculous. He is not only making super not-nuanced and cliche points about women and sexuality, but making way too big a leap from Twilight to broad trends in teen relationships.

When getting pregnant with cannabilistic vampire babies start becoming a trend, then Jonathan Zimmerman can come talk to me.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

While I do agree that most

While I do agree that most of what he said was just... stupid, he did make a very good point.

"No matter what you call it, though, many women feel that they must engage in a certain degree of sexual activity to have any hope of finding a boyfriend -- or, down the road, a husband. They well understand that most hookups will not lead to the type of relationship that they really want. But they just don't see any other way to get there."

There is a pressure for women (and men) to be sexually active even if that is not what they want themselves. Some people still try to go the old fashioned route and get to know each other before they have sex, but I think that is getting harder to do.

Word

I agree with this point also. Being someone who has vestibulitis & many sex-related problems, I've pretty much lost all interest in the subject. But I am deeply aware that I may never be in a relationship again unless I'm sexually active again. Feeling like I don't have a choice whether to be or not to be sexually active is part of the problem.

I don't like Twilight, but the idea of having a "love beyond the physical" relationship appeals to me & gives me hope, even though I know it's not realistic.

nothing to do with Twilight but...

While I do agree that women often have to compromise sexual pleasure for relationships (though this is based on other people's anecdotes and my own experience as a cis woman; i have had my share of unpleasant and unpleasurable sex), I don't think that you should feel so hopeless. There are many people out there like you who are not interested in sex when it comes to relationships. I am certain that you can find a partner who does not consider sex that gateway to a relationship, and I'm not just being Dan Savage-y, I have met and dated these people!

thanx :) i only wish i could

thanx :) i only wish i could meet those people. it seems everyone but me does ;)

HUH?!

"Girls want love, not just sex." And he got this from New Moon how, exactly?

You know what's ridiculous? He's assuming that
entire Twilight audience = entire teen girl population in America

OF COURSE the people who read Twilight will disproportionately be in favor of "traditional romance", etc. because THATS WHAT THE BOOKS ARE ABOUT!! If they didn't like that stuff, they wouldn't read the books, and wouldn't be included in the poll!! If I polled 4000 teen Star Wars fans, chances are that most of them will enjoy sci fi. From those results can I generalize that the teens of this generation love sci fi? NO!

I assure you, there is a SIZEABLE AMOUNT of teenage girls who don't like Twilight and everything it stands for. Can we stop reducing teenage girls to their leisure reading?

Beefcafe sex party

I agree that both Twilight and New Moon are very lusty films. It's all in the build up of tension. I'd like to do a survey on how many girls watched New Moon, bathed in all of that unfulfilled sexual tension, and then went home and fantasized a more climactic ending themselves. You can choose your own ending...and that might be different depending on whether you are 12 or 30.

Confused

I recently saw New Moon and I am a bit confused about this post. The leading female character, Bella, is hardly a role model for young girls today. She is inexorably attached to both men she "falls in love" with. When Edward initially breaks up with her she falls on the ground crying. Then she goes straight for Jacob, almost immediately asking him to run away with her. It seems to me that this character relies completely on her male counterparts for self-worth and comfort. There is one scene in which Jacob tells Bella that he has a tendency to get violent when he gets angry and asks her (paraphrasing) "What if I got angry at you Bella?" and she replies "I wont let you, I will tell you how much you mean to me." This, to me, is a sort of beauty-and-the-beast moment in which the woman is expected to be responsible to tame the man. It also suggests that the woman might come back to him if he did hurt her. I think the message of this Book/film is pretty disturbing.

You're right!

The Twilight franchise is problematic in many ways, not least of which the ones you mentioned like featuring a weak female protagonist and glamorizing a relationship (Bella and Edward's, or Bella and Jacob's even) that is potentially scary and violent. For more on our thoughts on New Moon the film, check out our latest Popaganda episode: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/bitch-popaganda-new-moon.

This post was not meant to be a critique of New Moon, but rather a critique of Zimmerman's argument that by attending New Moon young women are saying that they don't want sex. While I disagree with Zimmerman on that front, I most certainly agree with you that Twlight is troubling in many other ways.

Thanks for your comment!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Predator & Prey vs. Abuse

I see how the message of "don't get your man mad or he might hurt you" can come through in the Twilight series, but I don't think that that was intended. Edward is concerned that he'll eat her because she is the vampire equivalent of chocolate cake, not because he eats anything that makes him mad (and he's not the only vampire who wants to eat her). As for Jacob, he literally becomes dangerous when angry and has great difficulty controlling this, so he tries to get her to stay away. In both cases, Bella being around them is like swimming in shark-infested waters. If a shark bites someone, the shark is not being abusive, it is being a predator and trying to eat something lower on the food chain. The difference is that sharks and people do not usually have steamy romances, so this 'circle of life' vs. 'intimate partner violence' problem does not come up.

why it's abusive

"There is one scene in which Jacob tells Bella that he has a tendency to get violent when he gets angry and asks her (paraphrasing) "What if I got angry at you Bella?" and she replies "I wont let you, I will tell you how much you mean to me." This, to me, is a sort of beauty-and-the-beast moment in which the woman is expected to be responsible to tame the man. It also suggests that the woman might come back to him if he did hurt her. I think the message of this Book/film is pretty disturbing"

Isn't that a mark of an abusive relationship? I know it's Jacob who is talking, but that just says to me that it would be HER fault if he got angry, and thus it wouldn't be HIS fault if HE hurt HER. It's that whole "justification" that abusers use, the whole "She (or he) made me angry and I couldn't control myself, if they never got me angry in the first place, I wouldn't have hit her (or him)!" I know he's a werewolf and anger triggers his phasing, but it's still a message of "Don't piss off your guy because he might get angry and hit you."

Regarding Bella's attachment issues, I mean, I know she's supposed to only be 18, but seriously, get some help. that's the one thing that really pissed me off more than the other issues is because she always relied on men to make her happy. I think you make a really excellent point that sometimes goes missed or overlooked.

Another Thought

Something that I wonder about is how much Twilight is not merely about love or sex, but desire, and the longing young women (well, anyone really) have to BE desired on a sexual and romantic level. As I read about the Twilight phenomenon, this is what I get out of it more than anything else. And it makes sense. The girls who run to Twilight are at an age and time in their life that our culture has branded as being particularly vulnerable. Women feel weak, ugly, unwanted at all stages of life (as do men, although that' s a different discussion), but I think it is most expected that they'll feel this way in their teens and pre-teens (the very age bracket that this movie seems to really appeal to). The idea of a good-looking, mysterious man who wants you so badly that he has to watch himself, may, with the right disguise, seems ultra appealing to anyone who longs to be desired.

Throw in this discussion of love versus sex in there and whoa!

Soooo not romantic

Hate to say it, but Twilight and the series is not romantic. Having your boyfriend sneak into your room at night and watch you sleep is not romantic. Saying that if you died, they will kill themselves is not romantic. Breaking up with you because they don't want to physically hurt you is not romantic. Saying how fragile and breakable you are is not romantic. Wanting to kill you and eat you at first sight is not romantic.

I think what girls want isn't love, but romance, or rather, a very distorted version of what romance is supposed to be.

That aside, i agree, his analysis is skewed. Of course teen girls want love AND sex, hell, I did when I was 16 (although it's just my personal belief that everyone should wait to have sex until they're older and actually in love and not lust, based on my own experiences having sex with boys I lusted after vs having sex with the man I currently love, but that's another discussion for another time). I think the main attraction isn't the lack of sex, although as described in the article Bite Me!, it sure makes it more exciting (will they finally have sex? is also a main theme in many romance/porn novels).

I honesty consider the notion that women don't like sex and men don't like relationships to be one of the most offensive things I've ever read. It harkens back to the old notion of "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." I'd like to say that both of those ideas are actually the total opposite: Women actually do love sex (generally speaking, I'm sure there are women [and men] who just don't like it]), and men (generally) thrive in healthy relationships. I know my fiance is a stronger person because of our relationship, as am I.

I think part of the reason why so many teen girls love Twilight is because of the "romance" involved, how "mature" and "old-fashioned" Edward is, because let's face it, not many teen boys are romantic or even consider it, it just doesn't occur to most boys that age.

"Lots of women, including me, saw this movie, and to a lot of them (including me) it looked like one big beefcake sex party. I think the popularity of New Moon, if it signifies anything, tells us that young women WANT sex. What was all the shirtlessness about, if not that?"

Um, this times a thousand. Why else would Bella talk about how gorgeous Edward and Jacob are? She's obviously attracted to them, as they are to her, and it was obviously Meyer's intent to describe how incredibly gorgeous these boys (erm, werewolves and vampires) are. (I myself had to keep saying to myself "He's 17, he's 17, he's 17")

Yeah, if teen girls didn't want sex, then there would be no shirtlessness or gorgeous guys.

While I understand why he thinks that they see the movie because of the lack of sex, it's not because of that, it's because it's a fantasy of romance and a love triangle and a new love and a lost love and DRAMA. It's pure drama, and that's what teenagers love. As much as I dislike the books, it's a good story, and it's intriguing.

I think you really hit the nail on the head.

Three notes on this

When the third book came out, my teenage friend called me and told me, "You HAVE to read it. There are tons of so hot not sex scenes. It's amazing!" Teenage girls crave this. I know I continued to read the series to find out if they ended up doing it in the end. Zimmerman obviously hadn't looked into the books or he would have realized that these books and/or series in general are about pure lusty romance at it's best. Meyer, whose writing is not the greatest, gives the teenage girl population a dimmed down version of romance novels with a good twist.
As for the movies, how can girls not want to get any with all those hot guys with there shirts off? I know plenty of teenage girls who wanted to get there hands all over Edward or Jacob. Zimmerman doesn't know what he's talking about.
Another note with some of these comments is the idea that Bella isn't a role model. I never thought that's what she was. I don't think that they over did it though with her screaming or losing it when Edward left. It was what almost anyone under that situation of infatuation probably would have done. I know I have. If anything, Bella is more of a real character that Meyer tries to hard to have people relate with.

Basically, it's a set of

Basically, it's a set of romance novels without numerous references to penises and erections and "blushing bosoms" and people getting naked and *almost* doing it. They're no better.

Regarding Bella's reaction.... it's severe, and psychotic almost. She goes into a catatonic state and should have been committed. I just think that's just incredibly weak to let another person control you like that. I've gotten my heart broken before, but I didn't go psychotic over it. That kind of reaction isn't normal and isn't healthy. I don't know, I like seeing a strong woman in literature, and she's just weak and has to rely on others for her happiness. She can't be happy on her own. I don't dig that. I don't doubt it actually happens to real people, but I'm not sure if it's a positive message for teenage girls. I think a more positive one would be for her to actually get over Edward, and actually date Jacob and be in a relationship with him. That's what a lot of people do after a break-up, they mourn and then move on. I would have liked to see her actually move on. But maybe that's because I like Jacob so much more than Edward, despite Meyer totally butchering his character in the next two books.

My Boyfriend the Vampire

I actually dated a vampire and it was one of the scariest, sexiest affairs ever! Being with him made clear what the appeal of these dangerous characters are to us gals. The culture is romanticizing this Twilight craze - women dig vampires because they want deep, penetrating love and raucous sex. That's what I got with my vampire.

Check out my blog post, “My Boyfriend the Vampire.”

http://tartandsoul.com/2009/11/29/my-boyfriend-the-vampire/

As a vampire myself, I find

As a vampire myself, I find the sexual fetishization of our species to be one of the most egregious combinations of sexism and racism prevalent today. We have just as varied sexual attitudes as the general population. We aren't all brooding and intense. In fact, many vampires find sex to be overrated, and are more concerned with their careers or the consumption of blood.

Agreed

I fully agree with the above article. I read the first Twilight book when I was fifteen and I am now twenty years old. I can honestly say that when I read first read the book, despite my young age and my sexual innocence, I was absolutely dying for Edward and Bella to get their game on. The majority of my friends at that age were as well. To make a generalization and say young women who like the series don't want to have sex is absurd.

I would say that the best

I would say that the best thing about this book and film series is that it contains a pretty realistic portrayal of teenage female desire and depression.
It's obviously a series that still speaks to something about women's sexuality--or else you simply wouldn't see so many women of all ages, mothers as well as daughters, involved in it. For me, I think it's a fantasy of being desired.