Dawn Eden: Nasty Little Piece of Work

Ooh, Christmas comes early this year! Amanda mentions this interview with Dawn Eden in Salon, in which Rebecca Traister forces our favorite little judgmental godbag to admit that she’s been nasty and ungenerous — unChristian, in other words — on her blog and in the interview itself.

It’s a doozy.

Dawn on Why Your Friendships Aren’t Any Good, Either, You Hussy (Traister’s questions in bold):

But the important thing in life is not sex per se but relationships. Not just with someone you’re having sex with. The message of “Thrill of the Chaste” is about making love to the world, so to speak, so you can be in love with one person. It’s about having substance as a person, seeking out friends who have depth and substance.

Do you believe that people who aren’t chaste can have those same kinds of deep friendships?

No, I don’t believe they can. I know that sounds painful and judgmental. But the nature of sex is it’s a physically sacrificing act: I give myself entirely to you. If you’re giving your entire body to a person without giving yourself emotionally, you’re creating a dichotomy. You’re setting yourself up to compartmentalize all your relationships into transactions.

Look at “Sex and the City.” There was the artistic friend, the sex kitten friend, the flaky friend. It’s about, what does she get psychologically from each one? rather than experiencing each person for who they are.

But “Sex and the City” was fiction, and those are stock characters — the flaky friend and the smart friend and the sexy friend — found in everything from “The Group” to “The Golden Girls.”

Sure. And it’s true that I have artistic friends and quiet friends. But when I was having casual sex, I would look at my friends and think, “Kate is the friend who I can go to concerts with” and “Janet is the friend I can talk to about boys.” I’d look at friends in terms of what they were giving me rather than what I am giving them and sharing with them.

So you’re saying that now that you’re chaste, you don’t have certain friends who enjoy going to concerts with you more than others?

I do. But I have a circle of friends who I enjoy on every level, because I sought people of substance who share my values, though some may like concerts more than others. I’m not saying that my old friends weren’t nice people, weren’t giving people. But when you’re not chaste, at base your friendships are transactional, and there may be sparks of real give-and-take, but never like the kinds of friendships you can have when you’re taking the focus off the superficial.

But if you’d found something else in your life besides chastity that was important to you and made new friends who shared your passion for it, wouldn’t you also have more intense friendships with them?

No, it’s really not possible. When I was listening to music and just sought out friends who shared my musical passions, I didn’t really feel on a deep level that they were friends who were going to be there for me no matter what. I felt that they were friends with me because I did things that interested them. But interests don’t make a friendship. I think that it’s shared values. And the deeper your values get, the deeper friendships you are going to have, and the more your physical acts are united with emotions, the more everything you do in your life is going to be infused with an emotional depth that will enrich you spiritually.

OK, but I don’t feel like I have any friends with whom I have those transactional relationships you describe.

I think I was too judgmental earlier by implying that people who are unchaste can’t have deep friendships. If it were possible for me to take a red pen to this interview I’d put a red line through that. That’s one of those bold generalizations that should never come out of my mouth. And I apologize. What I’m trying to say is that whatever you’re doing in your sex life is going to impact your ability to give emotionally in other areas. And if you have a sex life where you’re married and you don’t have the hangups that come from having sex outside of marriage, you will be able to give more fully in your friendships. This is one of the few things that might only be true for me personally and might not be true for other people. For me personally, I did not understand friendship until I became chaste, because it was only then that I personally understood how to give and to seek out people who are real givers.

I feel bad that I rambled when I was talking about my friends Janet and Kate. I made it sound like they’re not good friends to me and that I’m above them because I somehow know how to be friends, and that’s just so wrong. Literally when I go into the confessional today I’m going to confess puffing myself up and pretending that I’m a better friend than my friends. Because these are friends who probably would have put themselves on the line for me much more than I would have for them. The real quote is that I am simply better capable of being a friend now. But not that they weren’t good friends.

Dawn’s going to have some ‘splaining to do to Janet and Kate when they read this interview, I’m sure. Just like she has some ‘splaining to do about a certain pejorative she threw at (IIRC) Amanda:

As someone who says she doesn’t want to have children, I find it odd that you have felt comfortable tossing the word “childless” around as an epithet at some of your on-line feminist blogging adversaries.

Can I apologize for that? It’s Christmastime and it’s a good time to apologize. I really am sorry because it’s not right to toss that as an epithet. If I wanted to make a comment, I could say that it’s easy for someone who doesn’t have kids to make generalizations about people who have kids. But to just toss around “childless” like it’s some kind of pejorative is wrong.

Aw, how nice of her. Too bad it comes a year and a half after she tossed it around, and only because she was called out on it. Her good will is pretty damn grudging. Not much different than the nasty, smarmy video she made wishing Jill, Amanda and Jessica Merry Christmas (well, Jessica and Jill, anyway) and “forgiving” them. So nasty and smarmy, in fact, that she wound up taking it down.

Someone has a little trouble with the concept of “forgiveness,” it seems.

But wait! What was that about not wanting children?

Do you want children?

I’ve never really wanted children. With my parents having divorced when I was a kid, I never had a fervent desire to have children. I was afraid of not being a good mother. I have to say now because of my faith — and you can hear me swallowing here — I don’t believe in using contraception. What I would hope is if I do marry someone I love, that in being loved by him I will feel more confident in my abilities to be a good mom. I’m certainly better mother material now than I was five or 10 years ago. God willing, my heart will change more, and I’ll want kids more, when opportunity comes.

See, Dawn’s got herself a little problem here. She’s chosen to be Catholic, and she claims to want to be married more than anything else. Trouble is, one of the vows you take during the Catholic marriage rite is to welcome children into the marriage, and Dawn has thoroughly bought into the Church’s prohibition on all forms of contraception other than the rather ineffective Vatican Roulette method. Sounds like Dawn’s backed herself into a corner.

Well, no problem, I’m sure — she could just convert again before her wedding. Why not? It’s not like she hasn’t gone through a daisy chain of conversions, each more extreme than the next (though a couple of letter writers point out that Dawn’s statement that she had been raised a “Reformed Jew” is rather laughable, seeing as how there ain’t no such animal. They’re REFORM Jews).

Or maybe she could just delay marriage for a few more years, until she’s no longer fertile (she’s 38). If she’s been through menopause by her wedding day, she won’t have to worry about having a contraceptive mentality or accidental pregnancy — it’ll all be moot by then! And then she can work the “isn’t it tragic that I wasted so many fertile years that when Twoo Wuv came along, it was too late for me to be blessed with children?” angle, since she won’t be able to work the chastity angle anymore.

I’ve long thought that Dawn doesn’t really want to get married, and knowing that she doesn’t want children just clinches it for me. Her whole rationale for becoming chaste was that she wasn’t getting what she wanted — marriage — out of fucking drummers and hoping that her technique would result in a ring. But she’s been chaste since 2003, and no ring yet (though she mentions she’s seeing someone, and if it’s not the Raving Atheist, I’ll eat my hat). At what point does she admit that either she really doesn’t want to get married, or that this chastity thing isn’t the magic key to marriage after all?

Dawn’s problem, as ever, is that she’s universalizing her own neuroses and damage and prescribing rules for everyone else based on what didn’t work for her — but without ever really examining why it didn’t work. So — her friendships were unsatisfying when she was desperately trying to get the men she fucked to love her, and it means that nobody can have satisfying friendships unless they’re chaste. Her desperately trying to get the men she fucked to love her and marry her didn’t result in a ring, so nobody can possibly find love and marriage if they’re not chaste (and if they do, they’re fooling themselves, dammit!).

But what Dawn misses — but Traister picks up — is that while Dawn thinks that she’s changed, she really hasn’t. She’s doing the same thing from the other extreme:

It seems that a lot of your ideas — about denying a man — put a lot of focus on pleasing a guy, getting him to stay with you. How much are you focused on pleasing the man and how much are you focused on pleasing yourself?

I would say that chastity is really about pleasing the other person and yourself at the same time. I was, as you say, focused on pleasing men, but I was also very narcissistic — I had simply tied sex up with my self-image and thought, “If a man is not going to necessarily stay with me, then at least he can show me I am valuable in some sense by having sex with me.” I was confused and sought the advice of people and magazines and television shows and movies that said, when in doubt, just put yourself out there, make yourself sexually available, and if someone you find attractive thinks you’re attractive, then go for it and hope that love comes.

You write about lots of plans to get yourself married, including taking the advice of television shows and movies. Since you see chastity as a way to meet your soul mate, isn’t it possible that this just another in your long line of schemes to get hitched?

That’s a great question. The real elephant in the middle of room with regard to my book is the fact that I never discuss what is going to become of me if I don’t get married. The reason why is because as I was writing, I didn’t want to think of what would become of me if I didn’t get married. It was too frightening to imagine.

All she’s done is change her methods, not herself.

_____________________

In letters to the interview, Susan Edelman sets the record straight about why Dawn got fired from the New York Post — and it had nothing to do with her ideology. But she wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much martyr mileage out of the truth.


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43 comments for “Dawn Eden: Nasty Little Piece of Work

  1. December 23, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    A Dawn Eden Christmas video?! Wait, tell me SOMEONE managed to lift it before she took it down, PLEASE!

  2. ellenbrenna
    December 23, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    She has always struck me as a profoundly unhappy person when I read her blog and this interview clinched it. It’s more sad than anything and she comes off as a real jackass.

    Not really selling the chastity leads to generosity of spirit angle if you ask me.

  3. piny
    December 23, 2006 at 7:43 pm

    But “Sex and the City” was fiction, and those are stock characters — the flaky friend and the smart friend and the sexy friend — found in everything from “The Group” to “The Golden Girls.”

    *Snort*

    And how ’bout that slutty virago, Murphy Brown?

  4. Kim
    December 23, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    Dawn has some pretty weird logic going on.

    I got into my 20s, past the age when most people got married, and my dating life had not resulted in marriage. So I became cynical. I thought, “If I’m not able to get what I really want, which is marriage, I should get whatever pleasure I can.”

    She seems to live in a weird world where sex is *deep sigh* just what us single gals have to settle for, rather than an end unto itself. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that SOME people are having sex for the very mundane horniness-related reasons.

    Jesus… there’s just so much wrong with her logic. She can’t fantasize because if the sex sucks, she’ll be disappointed? Wouldn’t you be disappointed either way? My head is exploding.

  5. Gabriel Malor
    December 23, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    Someone has a little trouble with the concept of “forgiveness,” it seems.

    And she’s not the only one.

  6. zuzu
    December 23, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    I’ll pray for you, Gabriel.

  7. December 23, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    I’ll pray for you, Gabriel.

    Is that what you kids are callin’ it these days?

  8. December 23, 2006 at 11:16 pm

    Mostly Dawn Eden makes me feel sad. I’m glad she’s found a belief and way of live that is working better for her; I wish she would let the rest of us do the same. Her actual self-examination that might lead to deeper insight into the general human condition, including her own, is frequently lacking, or simply absent. Instead she thrashes around on the behavior/belief issues, making absurd generalizations about the way things are for everybody, even when there are genuine people telling her plainly that’s not how it is for us.

    I actually do pray for her – but I’d never be rude enough to say it to her face.

  9. Broce
    December 23, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    If she’s waiting for time induced infertility, she could be single a *loong* time. I’m 48, and according to my doctor no where *near* menopause or infertility.

    I frankly think Dawn doesn’t much like sex to begin with (and of course one has to wonder if she’s ever actually had *good* sex), and her “perfect man” would be one who wants to remain celibate right alongside her. Maybe she should marry her priest.

  10. December 23, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    She seems to live in a weird world where sex is *deep sigh* just what us single gals have to settle for, rather than an end unto itself.

    No, that part’s not weird. She’s just describing her experience of having expectations for how the person she’d be having sex with would treat her, and then giving up those expectations and settling for less because she had low self-esteem. And that’s lots of women’s experience, though ones who hadn’t, like Dawn Eden, converted to Catholicism might describe that experience in different terms.

    She can’t fantasize because if the sex sucks, she’ll be disappointed?

    That part, on the other hand, I found weird. If I fantasize about doing something with my husband, and then he winds up not doing what I fantasized him doing, and I’d really like him to fulfill that fantasy, what’s the problem with telling him the fantasy?

  11. piny
    December 23, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    I think the real problem is not getting over the fact that, yes, reality frequently isn’t quite as unremittingly awesome as your fantasy life. Don’t most people figure that out at least a few years ahead of Dawn?

  12. lt
    December 24, 2006 at 7:37 am

    The real problem is that this woman got a book contract. I mean, if I lacked the craft and/or compelling story to write a memoir and the patience to do actual reporting research, but nonetheless were paid money to make sloppy generalizations from my own experience gussied up as a social trend/daring ‘polemic’ it would be tempting, no?

  13. December 24, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    It’s really so sad. Her entire sex life (and now her non-sex life) was based on how much or if a man liked her. Even when she’s asked directly if she ever enjoyed herself, her answer is “why yes, I imagined men thought I was hot.” She never seems to experience direct personal pleasure as something she can own, it’s only about how men view her.

    No wonder she has such hateful views, coming as they do from this deep well of self-hatred.

  14. Em
    December 24, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you for deconstructing this. She is a sad person, in ways that I will probably blog about if I have the time later today.

  15. December 24, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Ugh, it’s so hard to read that “theology of the body” crap. It reminds me too much of my theology courses in college (taught by a conservative Catholic).

  16. December 24, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    Ye gods, that Sex and the City line was funny.

  17. December 24, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    I think the real problem is not getting over the fact that, yes, reality frequently isn’t quite as unremittingly awesome as your fantasy life. Don’t most people figure that out at least a few years ahead of Dawn?

    Absolutely. Why d’ya think my head is nearly always in the clouds/outer solar system/Orion belt?

  18. December 24, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    What is her deal with Sex and the City?

    I can’t think of a single television show or movie ever that typifies my life, but she and a hundred other conservative writers think they can throw out the name Carrie Bradshow like it encapsulates who we are. Truly lazy thinking.

  19. December 24, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    I can’t think of a single television show or movie ever that typifies my life

    Oh, but Aliens 3 so thoroughly nailed my life.

  20. piny
    December 24, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    I can’t think of a single television show or movie ever that typifies my life, but she and a hundred other conservative writers think they can throw out the name Carrie Bradshow like it encapsulates who we are. Truly lazy thinking.

    Excuse me, but who said you got to be the Carrie?

    What amazes me is that there isn’t even an attempt to correct for fiction as opposed than real life. So now we don’t need to look at statistics about abortion, just that episode of Six Feet Under? No need to read about Los Angeles current events so long as everyone’s seen Crash? No need to know anything about the White House beyond what The West Wing tells us?

  21. December 24, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Piny, it’s not about whether your ideas are right- it’s about filling column inches and selling books. Statistics about abortion are too difficult for the market that Dawn Eden is looking for.

  22. December 24, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    Dawn’s 38? Oh, she has to be older than that, there’s no way she’s 11 years younger than me. When I knew her (i.e., when she was still nominally Dawn Goldstein) I was in my mid-20s and she was at least 18.

  23. zuzu
    December 24, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    I can’t think of a single television show or movie ever that typifies my life, but she and a hundred other conservative writers think they can throw out the name Carrie Bradshow like it encapsulates who we are. Truly lazy thinking.

    I am SO Miranda.

  24. prefer not to say
    December 24, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    What Deborah says about Dawn Eden’s failure to understand sex as pleasurable seems pretty astute. And what would have a feminist told her ? Probably something like “Gee, you probably should step back and stop having sex with men while you sort that out.”

    So — chastity is probably exactly right for her. It’s just disappointing to hear her spout the “only chastity leads to marriage” and “fantasizing will ruin your future marital sex life” fallacies. Surely there are more intellectually compelling cases for chastity out there.

  25. December 24, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Fine then. I get to be Dexter.

  26. Sniper
    December 24, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    I want to be Dexter also, but the one with the laboratory.

  27. evil fizz
    December 24, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    I am SO Miranda.

    Damnit, I wanted to be Miranda! Okay, fine, I’ll take Samantha. I can give every conservative commentator the vapors just by saying my name.

  28. zuzu
    December 24, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    Honey, I got the law degree and the red hair and the cynicism already! And I already live in Brooklyn.

    And you know what’s funny? The conservatives never bitch about either Miranda or Charlotte.

  29. December 25, 2006 at 1:19 am

    I am SO Miranda.

    Oh, I’m Charlotte. I express all the good girl aspirations, and then go and have sex with just as many people as everyone else.

    (Just kidding. I’ve only ever seen one Sex and the City episode, and, if anything, I was most like Samantha’s lesbian lover, who probably only lasted that episode.)

  30. car
    December 25, 2006 at 9:12 am

    I wanna be Mandark.

  31. December 25, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Wow… I don’t even know what I could say to that woman.

    She’s viewing sex itself as transactional. She’s viewing as something you USE to GET something from a man–chaste or otherwise–and therein, I think, lies one of her biggest fallacies. Sex, written in the biological language of desire and pheromone, TRANSCENDS transaction. It’s a dance, rather than a purchase, and with a view of sexuality that confines it to a commodity that is simply bought and sold–rather than shared–she is missing out on a big part of the laws of human bonding that, I think, BEGET the marriage symbol of bonding she so desperately craves. She betrays herself here.

    The human pair-bond isn’t even relevant to her; rather, her focus is on the symbol that marriage provides as a token of that bond. The only thing being bought and sold here is her own self-respect.

  32. Linnaeus
    December 25, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Hm. I don’t feel like I’m any of the Sex and the City characters.

    Shocking. :)

  33. Neil C.
    December 25, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Personally I’ve believed in living my life by Freaks and Geeks rather than Sex in the City. :P

  34. Lorelei
    December 25, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    I frankly think Dawn doesn’t much like sex to begin with (and of course one has to wonder if she’s ever actually had *good* sex)

    Hell, sex bores me to tears on a lot of levels, but I’m not as fucked in the head as Dawn Eden.

    She’s really just an asshole. :\

  35. Lorelei
    December 25, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    I think Dawn Eden’s biggest mistake in all this is thinking that sex is ‘special.’ That’s where most people like her get it wrong.

  36. December 25, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    I think Dawn Eden’s biggest mistake in all this is thinking that sex is ’special.’

    I wouldn’t put it that way. That makes it sound as if having lots of emotions tied to sex, and preferring it with someone you know and trust and care about, is in itself sex-negative, or somehow overly restricting yourself and denying yourself the real pleasures of sex. And it’s not, really; sex as tied to special relationships is a normal, natural, and even hot and fun approach to sex. Just because someone finds sex special doesn’t mean she has to feel that fantasizing about having sex with that special guy is somehow inherently worse than fantasizing about marrying him. Or that she’d see sex with that special guy as something she gives him in return for commitment (any more than you’re giving sex in return for good looks if you prefer sex only with someone you find sufficiently physically attractive). Finding sex special is entirely compatible with enjoying sex and owning your own sex drive, IMHO.

  37. Lorelei
    December 26, 2006 at 4:13 am

    Lynn, you are right — what I was trying more to say is that she seems to think that sex is INHERENTLY special, as if it’s an intrinsic quality about the activity or something.

    I should try the whole ‘articulate’ thing. :P

  38. December 26, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Okay, I say we take up a collection and purchase Ms. Eden a good-quality vibrator. She doesn’t sound like she’s had much GOOD sex with other people (possibly not surprising, given the probability of drummers being drunk or not very worried about their casual sex partner’s pleasure). She needs to have some good sex with herself, and maybe she won’t be so miserable. And hey, she’ll still count as chaste. There’s nobody else in the bed (bathtub?) with her, after all. And the lack of a partner means she doesn’t have to worry about a guy using her for sex or her using the sex to convince herself she’s attractive to men, as opposed to just because she’s horny. An orgasm a day keeps the life-altering insecurity away. Maybe. Hey, it’s worth a shot. Even a top-of-the-line vibrator is less expensive than therapy.

  39. Em
    December 27, 2006 at 11:43 am

    No, no, no, raincitygirl. Dawn claims to be chaste, which within the Catholic Church means that she does not masturbate. The Catechism calls masturbation self-abuse. It is wasting your gift of sexuality (read: fertility) in a situation that does not have the potential for procreation. Although, to be fair, since female masturbation does not spill any eggs, I am unable to reconcile the Church’s position against it other than through prohibitions on sexual fantasies and a general but nondogmatic distaste for sexually-connected physical pleasure.

  40. December 27, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    Wait, what happened to the post?

  41. December 27, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    Nevermind. It’s my problem.

  42. OldBag
    December 28, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Someone needs to tell this silly Dawn creature that when she gets hitched, her memories of boinking rockstars might end up being the only thing that gets her off after few years of basking in a “moral” marriage.

  43. December 28, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    ::eyeroll::

    The more I hear about this chick, the more I have to restrain myself from even talking to her. (I’m friendly with people in one of her social circles.)

    And Zuzu, if Raving Atheist is who I think it is, I can say for certain she’s not seeing him.

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