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.