Male fantasy has finally become the female nightmare. For centuries it was men's great wish that the day would come when women cast off all prudish restraints. Rather than dressing modestly, they would dress provocatively. Rather than protecting their virtue, they would jump into bed with the first guy that came along. And rather than carrying themselves with feminine dignity, they would behave with the same vulgarity as one of the boys. No guy actually believed that any of this would ever happen. Rather, it was the stuff of male fantasy. Then one day it happened. Women cast off any last vestige of restraint. Teen girls began wearing thongs to school and started sleeping around from age of 14. College girls started ripping off their shirts for Girls Gone Wild videos and proved to the guys that they too could live in an alcohol-induced fog for their four years on campus. Finally, Sex and the City-molded professional women ceased demanding commitment from men and proved that they could hop from bed to bed with the best of them. Well, for the guys this was amazing. Sex without commitment, emotion or foreplay. Yipeekayay! Hookups where you don't even have to buy the girl dinner. Hurrah! And everywhere the male eye wandered, an ocean of provocatively-dressed women. Damn, it's good to be a guy! But what of the women? Were they enjoying the party as much? THE CURRENT state of today's women is perhaps best gleaned from the downward spiral of the trend-setting celebrities who have done so much to fuel the new standard of feminine conduct. Remember the days when it was male celebrities whose lives were in crisis, riddled with drugs, alcohol and early death (think Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis)? Well, that's the distant past. It's female celebrities who have now become standard-bearers of dysfunction. Just a few years ago Britney Spears was one of the world's biggest stars, her naked midriff inspiring millions of teenage girls to dress like her. Around the world Britney was a deity. I remember walking through Tokyo and seeing a skyscraper covered with a giant likeness of her near-naked image. She was only 20. Now, six years later, she is divorced, drunk, depressed and bald. Her existence is in freefall and there is no telling where her unraveling will end. Anna Nicole Smith is already in the ground, as is her son. Lindsay Lohan is in rehab. Then there is Paris Hilton, whose life is proof positive that money, pedigree and entitlement affords absolutely no immunity to the descent into trailer trash. So there it is. A whole generation of young, female American celebrities whose lives are in ruins and whose actions embarrass themselves, their families and their country. But should we really be surprised? In my 2003 book Hating Women I argued that the sexual exploitation of women in our culture has led to an epidemic of misogyny. To portray oneself, or to allow oneself to be portrayed, as the male sex slave is to invite male derision and contempt. Such debasement is the lowest form of self-abuse. With women having transformed themselves into the ultimate male sexual fantasy they have simultaneously bred a degree of self-loathing that is truly frightening. No group in America hates itself as much as women. A FEW DECADES ago African-Americans were subconsciously taught to despise their ethnic features. Some tragically responded by bleaching their skin and straightening their hair to look white. It took a whole movement of black pride for self-respect to be restored. But women have gone much further. They will do anything to become the male fantasy, including injecting poison into their brows to get rid of lines, placing foreign implants in their chests (even though they can die doing it), and going under the knife to stretch their faces in an effort to maintain eternal youth. Imagine how much you have to hate yourself to mask the fact that you have simply lived. Our society needs healing. If the sexual exploitation does not end, many more girls will grow up despising themselves. Here are some initial steps for society to start respecting women again:
Get rid of cheerleading. Women shouldn't jump up and down in their underwear while the guys score a touchdown.
Get rid of the porn-like antics of the female recording industry. The Beatles didn't have to show cleavage in order to get a record deal.
Launch an education campaign on college campuses to encourage men to behave like gentlemen around women by not manipulating them into bed, and encourage women to say no to men who want something casual in place of commitment.
Promote female role models who are dignified and keep their clothes on. Get women like Katie Couric, Condoleezza Rice and Norah Jones to speak out against those who use their sexuality to get ahead, saying it's unfair to women who want to advance based on talent.
Ultimately, redemption must come from within. And it is women who need to speak out against the modern female tragedy of insufferable self-exploitation.
The writer, a rabbi, hosts the program Shalom in the Home on The Learning Channel and is author of a new book by the same title (www.shmuley.com).