THE DEBRIEF: What’s wrong with casual sex?


Is Jenni Murray a feminist? A journalist? Or a slut-shaming misogynist who thinks yin is better than telling the truth?

If you’re under 30 you probably don’t even know who she is. Murray is a presenter on Radio 4’s supposedly feminist Women’s Hour, who has launched an attack on modern female role models: namely Lily Allen, Bryony Gordon and Caitlin Moran. Slamming them in a Daily Mail article for ‘over-sharing’, accusing them of ‘boasting’ and ‘bragging’ ‘without a scintilla of shame’. Their crimes? Daring to speak honestly about their experiences of taking drugs or having sex.

Murray attacks these modern female role models for wearing their ‘embarrassing exploits’ as ‘badges of honour’ (which sounds like an AMAZING idea to me. Mine, would be awarded for being sick into my handbag on the tube).



‘She clearly hasn’t read my book,’ Bryony Gordon tells me. ‘It is basically DRIPPING in shame. It would probably have been more helpful if instead she had asked “why is it that when a woman writes a book about casual sex in the year 2014, she has to feel ashamed?”’.

But is it more worrying that Murray, who says ‘most women would find it pretty difficult to bounce back from dark days of drug use and promiscuity’, is a Patron of The Family Planning Association, whose whole purpose I assumed was to give women unjudgemental advise about their sex lives? And that she claims to be a feminist (FFS).

Instead, in her criticism of Caitlin, Bryony and Lily, Murray slut-shames a whole generation of women who dare to talk openly about sex. She claims the difference between her generation’s sexual freedom or that enjoyed by 90s ladettes, and us, is that these generations were empowered by their sexual freedom and we are not. Is she mad? Has she forgotten her generation invented rape porn, with Lovelace? That the sexual revolution she’s nostalgic for led to The Family and P.I.E? Does she really think sex has changed that much since the sixties? Or that everyone back then was only doing it for love?

Murray says, unlike us, her generation of women were empowered by reading Germaine Greer. Is she kidding? We’ve had 44 years of gender theory and sexual empowerment since then. We’ve studied Judith Butler, Wendy McElroy, Candida Royalle and Beyoncé. And anyway Jenni, Greer was an over sharer way before us – you might want to look up that picture of her posing naked with her feet behind her head.

Besides, you might want to read Caitlin Moran’s book How To Build A Girl a bit more closely and notice the whole point of her novel isn’t bragging about shagging around but encouraging girls to think about their sexual pleasure, and not subsume their sexuality to men. (Caitlin specifically does a whole page on this). The reoccurring theme of the book is that no one but the heroine Johanna can make herself come. ‘I am the best lover of me,’ as she says.

Not that Caitlin cares Murray missed the point. As she tells me: ‘Every time someone wilfully misunderstands something I write, I have a shot, so I’m up on the deal here.’

After baiting women who talk about their sex lives, Murray launches into Lily Allen for daring to speak openly about having taken drugs. Has Jenni read Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook? Does she realise these girls look angels beside him?

But the main crime Murray seems to think these ‘bad girl confessionals’ have committed isn’t their fun loving lifestyles – it’s daring to tell the truth about them.

‘Once there were some things a woman would take with her to the grave,’ flaps Murray. Bless her. She is 64, she can’t get out much. She seems to have missed THE INTERNET. Social media. The incredible power millennials have found in sharing their experiences (presumably that’s why the whole ‘slut-shaming’ debate passed her by).

While historically woman were so shamed by their ‘promiscuity’ that unmarried mothers and their babies were sent to homes like Tuam, now we value open-ness. We respect the bravery it takes to tell the truth, and admire women who talk in a real, raw, way about their lives.

Bryony and Caitlin are role models precisely because by sharing their experiences they have inspired other women to learn from them.


‘My book is really a cautionary tale, and I hope the young woman who have read it feel better about themselves, less guilty and awful because they slept with someone who didn’t go on to be their boyfriend,’ Bryony tells me. ‘I feel Jenni Murray should be supporting women rather than shaming them.’

If Murray’s moaning seems symptomatic of a generation of older women who feel alienated and annoyed by the freedom young women enjoy then actually that’s not my experience.

The best women I know Murray’s age are supportive and excited by watching girls explore a brave new world. And what’s most wonderful about Caitlin Moran’s book has been the way she has allowed mums and daughters to explore these issues, inspiring conversations between them about how gender and sexuality are changing, that otherwise they may not have had. Giving them a language to express feelings otherwise left unsaid. It’s their openness that makes Caitlin et al our heroes.

May I make a suggestion Jenni; do some research (and perhaps drop the F word). Our generation didn’t invent the wild woman. We’re just the first ones who gave her a break.

This article originally appeared on The Debrief:

1 thought on “THE DEBRIEF: What’s wrong with casual sex?

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