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December 04, 2005


Greg Feirman

I am wondering what the modesty gals think about the movie "40 Days and 40 Nights" that came out in early 2002:


I found out about the Modesty Zone by reading Wendy's editorial in the Wall Street Journal and then first thing this morning this movie was on Comedy Central and it made me think of you ladies.

Most of you have probably seen it but the premise is that Matt, played by Josh Hartnett, is going to abstain from sex for 40 days because it is controlling his life too much. His brother doubts he can do it. His friends and co-workers at his company in San Francisco create a betting pool for when he will fail.

He meets that "special someone" where it's supposedly not about sex but something deeper. (But it really seems like it's all about sex since they can't seem to have a normal relationship without his vow causing all kinds of awkardness). In trying to maintain his vow and push the relationship forward he acts like a freak. At the end of the first date, where you are "supposed" to kiss the girl, he panics and gives her a high five. Couldn't he have just given her a kiss on the cheek or a hug?

I think the movie is interesting as cultural commentary. The alternative to the "hook up" culture is portrayed as ridiculous. It's really a false alternative which seems to me to be trying to say that there really is no viable, "natural", "healthy", alternative. But what do the modesty ladies think? That's what I want to know!

Wendy Shalit

Hi Greg,

I didn't see the movie--and from your description I can't say I'm tempted--but your comments seem very apt. Please continue to send your insights our way!

Actually, many people are invested in pretending that there is no viable alternative to the hookup culture. A high five at the end of a date? Please. If the traditional-minded were actually this dorky, how in the world could they ever have children?

Although Hollywood and various other culture vultures try to intimidate young women with the impression that "everyone who's cool" is having sex by the third date, this is obviously not the case. Ironically, the girls who end up hooking up just because it's The Thing to do are usually the ones who end up the most miserable.

I saw this all the time in college, where the nerdier someone was the more they felt they had to get "totally wasted," just to try to prove to everyone that they were cool. I think this connects back to Merav's good question of who are the real nerds, anyway?

The girls who don't drink or hookup may be thought of as "square," but they have the confidence to buck what everyone else is saying they have to do, so that's pretty cool in my book.

Merav Levy

I'm glad that my comment inspired such interesting feedback. Good to hear from you Greg and Wendy.

I did actually see the movie '40 days and 40 nights' (about 3 years ago). I have my own mixed reviews on it. On one hand, it was interesting to see how hollwood portrayed the "Shomer Negiah" relationship(which is a phrase known to Jewish Orthodox people, referring to the abstinence of any physical contact during a relationship until marriage). And on the other hand, I was on a date when I went to see it and was very embarrassed to be watching this very crude sexual content on screen with this boy I've known for 5 minutes.

I did feel that the tension between the couple in the movie was overdramatized and made the whole concept seem ridiculous and unattainable. (which I can vouch for, is false - it IS possible, .. and for the marriage minded - preferrable)

But I did like how the relationship was portrayed to have developed into one of real appreciation for one another. Instead of falling into infatuation with the girls body, you see Josh Harnett's character slowly falling in love with her mind, with HER.

I feel the 'hook-up' culture is a result of peoples insecurities and fear of intimacy. I mean, it's ok to have sex with someone you've just met, but to talk about your feelings or confide in them, is getting too personal and intimate. Magazine columnists are advising their readers to sleep with the guys on the 1st to 3rd date, but to open up and get personal - save THAT for later, you don't want to sound too nedy! or scare him off for fear of intimacy!

It seems to me that the alternative to the 'hook-up' culture is the 'True-to themselves Nerds'. The ones that are secure in themselves and the relationships they build with others. The ones that feel they can swim against the current and maintain their bright colors, because the current just leads to the swamp anyways.

Greg Feirman


Thanks for your comments!

I've been racking my brain for the last couple of days for the "perfect" response for Wendy Shalit. Unfortunately, it hasn't come to me yet. But I will say that I've long admired you and your work since it came to my attention years ago in a review of your book by Jonah Goldberg in "Reason" magazine. I was inspired by the fact that you were only 23 years old when the book was published and enough outraged by Goldberg's criticisms that I wrote a letter to the editor, which I am happy to say is still available on the internet (they edited it quite a bit I remember, but it's still cool (you have to scroll down a bit)):


So thank you for making my day on Monday! You are a Goddess of Modesty to me.

As for "40 Days and 40 Nights" I understand your disinclination to see it. Watching it is somewhat analagous to arguing with a liberal about politics: it is at once frustrating, since you know the bad consequences their ideas lead to, the fallacies they are based on and the hopelessness of persuasion; fascinating, because you can see, in the concrete, a view foreign to your own and repugnant, well expressed by someone who believes it or at least wants you to believe it; and boring, because you've heard it so many times that it's become tedious. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Josh Hartnett is like SO, TOTALLY, COMPLETELY, RIDICULOUSLY, HOOOTTTT!!

If you still aren't inspired to run out and rent it right away, you might want to watch Hugh Hefner and his three girlfriends tonight on the Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (CNBC, 7pm and 10pm Eastern). I learned by watching them on Larry King last Tuesday (http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0511/29/lkl.01.html) that there is a new show on E!, "The Girls Next Door" (http://www.eonline.com/On/GirlsNextDoor/) about their lives together. Apparently, they are in an "exclusive" relationship. The harem has a hierarchy where one girl, Madison, I think, is #1, and Kendra is #3 (I forget #2's name). #1 and #3 appear to me to be early 20s; #2 might be a little older. Hef is 80 now, I think. According to Hef, his relationship with Madison is the "best of his life" and he is very, very happy. Personally, listening to the women speak, I couldn't understand how he wouldn't be bored out of his mind. I would have thought a deeper kind of relationship between a man and a woman was possible. But I guess I am wrong!

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