In a 1995 article for 'In These Times', David Futrelle made the extraordinary claim that Victorian feminists used 'coercive strategies to control the sexual behaviour of young girls'.

What on Earth could he have meant by such a statement?

His article consists of a review of a book that explores the infamously hypocritical sexuality of the Victorians - 'When Passion Reigned'.  Much of the article is given over to discussion of the Social Purity Movements of the era - the forerunners of feminism - led in particular by Josephine Butler and her 'Butlerite' followers. The main goals of the Victorian Purity Movements were to criminalize prostitution and raise the age of consent from 12 to 16, which they succeeded in doing so in 1885 (in a bill which also criminalized homosexuality in the UK).

Once their goals had been achieved, mainly through the generation of tabloid hysteria over 'child sex slavery', Josephine Butler and her followers formed the National Vigilance Association. Mobs of feminists would break into brothels and 'rescue' the young girls and adult women found working within them - whether or not the girls wanted to be rescued, which in nearly every instance, they didn't.  In one famous case, a brothel was raided by the feminists and 400 young girls found to be working there.  Each of them was offered work and accomodation - only 6 of the 400 accepted, the rest steadfastly insisting that they were working in the brothel of their own free will.

Before Futrelle's statement regarding 'co-ercive strategies', he refers to such a case in which a girl is 'rescued' but 'obstinately reiterated her wish to live the life she'd chosen "of my own free will"'.

He then notes that even Josephine Butler made a famous speech attacking such raids, warning feminists to 'Beware the Purity Societies', who mistakenly believed that you could 'oblige humans to be moral by force'.

It is at this point that Futrelle makes his controversial quote :

But even the Butlerites couldn't always heed their own advice, at times falling back on coercive strategies to control the sexual behaviour of young girls


So what could David Futrelle have intended his liberal sex positive readers to understand by his statement?  As mentioned above, with regards to the 'sexual behaviour of young girls', the Butlerites are famous only for raising the age of consent to 16 with the aim of ending child prostitution (and then raiding brothels and rescuing young girls found to be working there).

According to the Wikipedia entry on Josephine Butler :

In 1885 she was drawn into another related campaign led by the campaigning editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, William Thomas Stead. He had published a series of articles entitled The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon exposing the extent of child prostitution in London. As a result of this campaign, the age of consent in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was raised from 13 to 16 that same year.




The following passage is from Houellebecq's novel 'The Possiblity of an Island'. The main character is recounting the gradual break-up of his marriage, due largely to declining sexual attraction. His wife is the editor of a women's fashion magazine entitled 'Lolita' - ostensibly aimed at teenage girls but read mostly by women in their 30's and older :

"A few months passed. Summer returned then autumn; Isabelle didn't seem unhappy. She played with Fox, and tended the azaleas; I devoted myself to swimming and re-reading Balzac. One evening, while the sun fell behind the residence, she looked me straight in the eye and told me softly: 'You are going to ditch me for someone younger...'
I protested that I had never been unfaithful.
'I know...' she replied. 'At one moment I thought you were going to be: that you'd shag one of the sluts that hung around the magazine, then come back to me, then shag another slut, and so on. I would have suffered greatly, but perhaps it would have been better like that, at the end of the day.'
'I tried once: the girl turned me down'. I remembered passing the morning in front of the Lycee Fenelon. It was between classes, the girls were fourteen, fifteen and all of them more beautiful and desirable than Isabelle, simply because they were younger. No doubt they themselves were engaged in a ferocious narcissistic competition - between those considered cute by boys their age, and those considered insignificant, or frankly, ugly; all the same, for any one of those young bodies a fifty-something would have been ready to risk his reputation, his freedom, and even his life. How simple, indeed, existance was! And how devoid it was of any way out! Once, on passing by the magazine's offices to pick up Isabelle, I had chatted up a sort of Belorussian, who was waiting to pose on page eight. The girl had accepted my invitation for a drink, but had asked for five hundred euros for a blowjob; I had declined. At that time, the judicial arsenal aimed at repressing sexual relations with minors was getting tougher; crusades for chemical castration were multiplying. To increase desires to an unbearable level whilst making the fulfilment of them more and more inaccessible: this was the single principle upon which Western society was based. I knew all this, I knew it inside out, in fact I had used it as material for many a sketch; this did not stop me from succumbing to the same process. I woke up in the middle of the night and downed three glasses of water. I imagined the humiliations I would have to endure to seduce any teenage girl; the painfully extracted consent, the girl's shame as we went out together in the street, her hesitation to introduce me to her friends, the carefree way she would ditch me for a boy of her own age. I imagined all this, over and over again, and I understood that I could not survive it. In no way did I pretend to escape from the laws of nature: the inevitable decrease of the erectile capacities of the penis, the necessity of finding young bodies to jam that mechanism....I opened a packed of salami and a bottle of wine. Oh well, I told myself, I will pay; when I reach that point, when I need tight little asses to keep up my erection, then I'll pay. I'll pay the market price. Five hundred euros for a blowjob, who did that Slav girl think she was? It was worth fifty, no more. In the vegetable drawer, I discovered an opened chestnut mousse. What seemed shocking to me, at this stage in my reflection, was not that there were young girls available for money, but that there are some who are not available, or only at prohibitive prices; in short, I wanted a regulation of the market."


The other night, after a long hard day of creep shamings and rejections, I sat down exhausted, ready to eat my veggie burger consolation meal, in a McDonalds restaurant. A Spanish woman was sitting opposite me, and as I sat down at my table, she immediately looked over at me with obvious admiration and smiled eagerly. There was nothing particularly unattractive about her apart from the fact that the Mediterranean sun had taking a painfully heavy toll on her skin, and whatever her chronological age was, she had now clearly crossed the demarcation line seperating young women from hags - to the point where you could no longer even picture her as a young woman, let alone as a girl. I was exhausted, and any good will to the opposite sex, nevermind moral sensitivity, had departed from my soul over the course of a day spent suffering some particularly cruel looks for not averting my eyes when passing privileged young women with sexual power. But this woman had none, and when she smiled at me, I decided to give her the most withering look of contempt I could muster. Then I stuck my teeth into my veggie burger, and she no longer existed.

However, I happened to look over at her again, and saw a human being utterly deflated, as though I had stuck a pin in her and all her will to live had escaped into the ether. Worse though, I could see tears clearly welling up in her eyes. She appeared to be fighting back the urge to sob uncontrollably. I suddenly became a compassionate animal again, and tried smiling at her to let her know that she shouldn't take me so seriously. However, she steadfastly refused to look at me, no doubt aware that she was crying and wishing not to let me derive pleasure from the fact.

The next moment, a beautiful young girl came to her table, about 14 or 15 - obviously her daughter - and the two got up and left, the woman still proudly fighting back the tears. I realised then just how painful it must be for the mother, or for any woman, to decline into a hag, if she had once looked anything at all like that girl.

I'm not inhuman, and I felt bad for the rest of the night, and it nagged on my conscience for much of the next day, and even now. Should it? She would likely have enjoyed seeing me be anally raped to the end of my days in a prison cell if I had so much as given an admiring glance to her daughter (or any teenage girl). Then again, she might have been a decent woman, the type who believe in free hugs for all, although such women are extremely rare.

And then again, men suffer such withering looks from women constantly, as I had that day on a number of occasions, and yet we are expected to be able to take it on the chin brutishly without complaint or resentment (else we are 'misogynists').

As a woman ages, she becomes invisible. This is cruel, it is true, especially for those who were once attractive and were accustomed to turning the heads of men. But for women it is simply a matter of fading into the background. And at least these women can no longer complain that they are the subject of the 'objectifying male gaze'.

However, for men there is no hiding place. Even if we choose to no longer chase the beautiful young women and suffer the inevitable indignities of cruel and humiliating rejection (or worse), few of us can resist the consolation of resting our tired old eyes on beauty and youth when it passes before us. But even here we are now subjected to the reminder that we are old and unwanted, with the looks of disgust, revulsion, and of course, constant self-righteous creep shaming.

I truly believe that the average woman would not be able to survive one day in the body of a man in the 21st century. If a woman can be reduced to tears by one unexpected look of disgust from the opposite sex, she would soon be consuming a bottle of sleeping pills if she had to endure the daily torment of casual sadism that it is a woman's right to inflict upon men who have no sexual value to them.