PUAs, Kim Gordon and the Narrative of the Scorned Woman

Kim Gordon’s husband left her for a younger woman. Literally nothing could be more boring. This is the way of things, the most normal, mundane, expected story that has ever or could ever play out. He left her for a younger woman because he could. Because he’s rich and she has nothing on him. Because she dared to get old, and lose all her value. Because he doesn’t have the integrity to keep to his commitments. And commitment is the only thing reason men with options keep old women around.

Her story is interesting because she’s Kim Gordon, and he’s Thurston Moore, and they were Sonic Youth. “The couple everyone believed was golden and normal and eternally intact, who gave younger musicians hope they could outlast a crazy rock-and-roll world.”

Her story is also interesting because even the fantastically talented, still beautiful, paradigm-shifting, rock-and-roll changing Kim Gordon is, at the end of the day, just like everyone else. “Just another cliché of middle-aged relationship failure — a male midlife crisis, another woman, a double life.”

What a terrifying fate. Cast aside, just when no one else wants you. Lied to and betrayed, then left alone to die. Used up and then discarded, never to be touched again. The prevailing narrative of what it is to grow old as a woman is designed to put women in their place. Make no mistake, it’s a warning to us: Find a good man while you still can. Ensnare someone who will love you even after it’s a sacrifice for him to do so, or else.

But back up for a second. This narrative rests on some assumptions. Mainly, on the assumption that women get less valuable as they get older. It’s a biological reality that women lose their fertility before men do. It’s a social reality that reproduction is only a small part of what makes a woman valuable.

Which is not to say this is a reality that all people will grasp. For some, a woman’s value beyond reproduction is too frightening a thing to fully appreciate. Some people cling to ordered views of the world where people have their place, men before women, young women before old ones. More subtle differences, characteristics, traits, and contributions are lost on some people, either because they are too dull to pick up on them, or too afraid to acknowledge them.

A woman is made valuable, by and large, by the same things that makes a man valuable. Most men and women acquire these as they age. Wisdom, virtue, work ethic, patience, kindness, self-control are learned habits, honed over a lifetime.

It is difficult, though, to appreciate wisdom without a modicum of wisdom, virtue without a modicum of virtue, etc. As a sex-positive feminist, I’ve often been asked about my feelings about Pick-Up Artistry. The truth is that it saddens me deeply that there exist so many men whose ability to appreciate women goes only as far as sleeping with them once. I can think of little sadder than trying desperately to get into the kiddie pool when the ocean awaits. Whether they are too stupid to fully appreciate a woman or too afraid to try varies from man to man. Regardless, I find myself too wrapped up in pitying the lack of ambition in their goals to worry much about their tactics.

It’s like, with our acceptance of the scorned woman stereotype as representative of women’s fate, we’ve replaced critical thinking with a PUA view of women. To limit women’s contributions to fertility or signs thereof is to swim in the kiddie pool of one half of humanity.

The narrative is wrong. In fact, women initiate more than half of divorces. In fact, most splits are over money, not sex. In fact, women get better as they age, just like men do. And there exist, in this world, despite the narratives, despite the PUAs, despite people who need to enforce rigid roles for men and women because to do otherwise scares them, men and women who understand this. Who value what women gain as they age more than what they lose.

More than that, the narrative is deleterious. And we’re fools if we believe it. I’ve got a new warning to us: Be a good woman because you can. Only tolerate someone who will love you because they know they’re lucky to be able to do so.

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