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Cross Talk: A Heated Convo on Feminism and Sexuality

Do feminism and sexual empowerment look the same for boomers and millennials? Find out...

Feminism and Sexuality

What’s garters got to do with today’s feminism? How about — everything. —Getty Images

I got into a heated conversation at a bar recently with a random woman (about a generation older than I am) who overheard me talking favorably about feminism, bondage and porn. (That's the kind of chitchat that happens after a few Old Fashioned cocktails!)

"So you're not a feminist?" the curious stranger asked me.

"Of course I am! Why?" I replied.

"How can you be a feminist and like porn?" she pressed.            

Hmmm. I had to wonder: Can a feminist like things that don't typically depict women in the best light? Are my feminist ways at odds with my sexuality? Or is this a generational thing?

I — of Generation X — got together with a boomer and a millennial to pick their brains on these contentious topics.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Millennial: I've always thought of myself as a feminist. My generation grew up with a wider variety of different types of women as role models. You had the grungy girls, the girlie girls like Britney Spears and the tomboy type like Gwen Stefani. There wasn't a wrong way to be a woman or a feminist.

Boomer: I actually never used that word until the last year. The present state of the union has brought out the feminist in me. When I was growing up, I thought a feminist was a radical cult of women who hated men and didn't shave their legs. Wrong!

We seem to be in a new sexual revolution. Feminist sex shops are everywhere and the concept of the zipless f--- is back! Does sexuality fuel the new feminism?

Millennial: Wait. What's a zipless f---?

Gen Xer: It's from Erica Jong's 1973 book, Fear of Flying, and essentially means casual sex.

Millennial: Oh, yeah. It does and it’s back. [Laughs] I think for my generation of women, there's this reclaiming of your sex life. We're the ones hooking up and not calling him back. I feel empowered. I feel in charge.

Boomer: I lived through that. When I started taking the pill around age 19, I slept with everybody. I was like I'm going to do this and this is how I rebel against the repression of my parents.

Gen Xer: I think my generation got more conservative with sex because we're coming out of the '80s AIDS era and living in fear. I made guys wait a long time.

"I think, for my generation, there’s this reclaiming of your sex life. I feel in charge." — Millennial

Can you like strip clubs, bondage and porn and still be a feminist?

Millennial: I think that you can be submissive in a dom/sub relationship and be a feminist. If you choose, you are in charge.

Boomer: If it was considered anti-feminist once, I don't think it is anymore.

Bondage back in my day was more like a romantic encounter. Silk scarves to tie your wrists, but not, like, hog-tie you.

Gen Xer: Well good, because I don't mind being hog-tied once in a while! [Laughs]

Millennial: I think we're less judge-y about that stuff now. You see it all over TV, movies, all kinds of media. It makes it less taboo. So, yes, you can be a feminist and like strip clubs, bondage and porn!

Where do you stand on gender roles in a relationship? Does he still pay?

Millennial: I'm actually old-fashioned and like him to pay on the first date. But I went through a Tinder phase for dinners.

Gen Xer: Wait, what?

Millennial: Think about it — guys go on Tinder for sex. Why can't women go on Tinder for dinner?

Boomer: That's very resourceful of you.

Millennial: Thank you.

Gen Xer: But is it very feminist of you?

Millennial: Once there is equality in our paychecks, there can be equality at the restaurant. If a guy asked me to pay, I'd say, "OK. I'll pay you 79 cents on the dollar for this dinner because that is what I'm making in the workplace compared to you!"

Boomer: Wow. I take back every negative thing I said about millennials. You're smart as a whip!

Gen Xer: Ditto!

Millennial: What's ditto?

Baby Boomer and Gen Xer: [Laughs]

Carrie Borzillo is an award-winning Los Angeles journalist and author who writes for SELF, Men's Health and more.


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