Oh No, I Think I Have A Crush On Heather Wilhelm

I had a visceral reaction to Heather Wilhelm’s article about Caitlyn Jenner and the multiple-quotation-mark “””War on Facts“”” that the existence of transgender people supposedly constitutes when it was published in June. It’s gross. It’s a really gross line of thinking. It’s terrifically misinformed; it doesn’t exhibit an understanding of the difference between sex and gender, it doesn’t demonstrate knowledge about intersex individuals or the fact that transgender and androgynous people have been acknowledged to exist in cultures worldwide since basically forever, and it supposes that all trans* people are liars. I called Wilhelm the new George Will for it on Twitter, and she thanked me, because apparently being compared to someone who thinks that rape victims have it easy is a compliment – although yes, I understand how widely George Will is respected among conservatives. Potayto-potahto, I guess.

But this morning, the Chicago Tribune published one of her recent op-eds from RealClearPolitics, about the brush-up between Tinder and Vanity Fair, and the whole idea of hookup culture. Wilhelm asks, “Why were the women in the article continuing to go back to Tinder, even when they admitted they got literally nothing—not even physical satisfaction—out of it? What were they looking for? Why were they hanging out with jerks?”

The answer, she supposes, is that feminist politics pressures women into hookup culture as a means of asserting their independence:

“If a woman publicly expresses any discomfort about the hookup culture, a young woman named Amanda tells Vanity Fair, ‘it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism.’ That memo has been well articulated over the years, from 1970’s feminist trailblazers to today. It comes down to the following thesis: Sex is meaningless, and there is no difference between women and men, even when it’s obvious that there is.”

Wilhelm doesn’t explore why there’s a difference between women and men (and both of those categories and trans* and non-binary individuals, ahem), but she’s right, there is a difference. There’s a biological difference – a uterus – that carries serious financial risks and responsibilities for women. There’s often (but by no means always or in every case) a physiological difference – musculature, ability to metabolize alcohol – that can put women at a disadvantage in terms of their physical safety during a potential hook-up. There’s a sociological difference – workplace inequality, under-representation in politics, gender roles and norms especially as they relate to sex – that puts women at a disadvantage in terms of power dynamics during hook-ups. In hetero hookups, women have a burden of worry that men don’t have, but they’re supposed to be able to hook up as if they don’t have to think at least a little bit about pregnancy, their physical safety, their autonomy, or the possibility of being raped.

Beyond that, it just got me to thinking – what did I get out of it in the brief time that I was hooking up? Personally, I had two very considerate male sexual partners with whom I had very good experiences. The rest? Eh. Most of them were self-absorbed and really pretty bad in bed. I wound up feeling like the effort it took to hook up wasn’t worth it.

More specifically, I felt like I was giving a lot of myself to people who hadn’t earned my vulnerability or trust. Even the two guys who were considerate lovers weren’t exactly considerate people. After about five months of hooking up, I was burnt out on sex, and burnt out on usually bad sex, at that. It wasn’t exactly what it had cracked up to be. This is why I have said repeatedly (and will always say) that Tinder sounds like a nightmare. As a woman or a person with a vagina, hooking up heterosexually in a culture that doesn’t teach most men to be considerate sexual partners sucks. That’s not a sex-negative statement, it’s a statement about what we teach guys about sex.

What I’m saying is, Heather Wilhelm is right about hooking up, at least in my experience. (If hooking up has gone well for you, congrats! I’m glad you’re having a good time.) She’s also right about the fact that some feminists, at least, will shut you down if you try to say that a lifestyle of casual sex is really not your bag. I’ve been told by feminists on more than one occasion that the fact that I’ve had “only” 10<X<20 sexual partners means I haven’t had enough sex to viably comment on sexuality or even to know myself as a sexual being, which was tremendously condescending. And remember when white feminists got all up on Beyoncé’s jock for releasing an album about being a feminist and having amazing sex in the context of a monogamous marriage?

But that’s not the only thing – the woman also has an anti-paleo diet rant called “Carbohydrates: A Love Letter,” in which she laments the loss of bread from Jeb Bush’s diet and suggests that the paleo diet loses sight of the wisdom that anything should be fine for you in moderation, that the best way to lose weight is by slowly tapering down on calories. This is a woman after my own heart, clearly. Heather Wilhelm, are you trying to seduce me?

Probably not, based on her apparent disagreement with gay marriage (inasmuch as you can disagree with a legal institution) – I’m assuming she’s straight, anyway. But even there, we come to a point of agreement! Here’s what she had to say on the subject:

I’ve long thought the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. A policy of civil unions for gay and straight couples—leaving religious marriage to churches—would go a long way towards preserving both equal rights and religious freedom in America.”

Heather. Girl. Stop. I really think you’re flirting with me. We come at this one from different angles but wind up intersecting in the exact same place – she wants a small government in the Libertarian sense, and in my heart of hearts, my ideal, admittedly unreachable political utopia would be self-sufficient anarchist communities with little to no government whatsoever.

This all begs the question: How much can I disagree with someone and still respect them? Unfortunately, I do think that leftist and progressive politics tend to have an attitude of just shutting a conversation down rather than taking what leftists and progressives see as a step backward, a regression into conservatism. In a country that’s letting private corporations profit tremendously from prison slave labor, jailing innocent pregnant women for making autonomous decisions about their own uteruses, and for Pete’s sake, polling Donald fucking Trump as the most viable GOP candidate, I 100 percent understand why we’re so scared. But it seems an awful lot like conservative and liberal politics are just mirrors of each other. Show me someone who says that the last four Presidents have been drastically dissimilar to one another in terms of their actual policy actions, and I’ll show you a liar.

I think it’s settled: I have a self-defeating crush on Heather Wilhelm. It’s always the brown-haired, straight, conservative women that get me.

[RealClearPolitics (1), (2)]

[The Federalist (1), (2)]

[The Gloss]
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