Maggie Young Talks Sex, Feminism, and Military Misogyny

by Marissa Dubecky

When Maggie Young started writing a memoir about the 23 men she slept with between the ages of 16 and 26, she didn’t expect it to become a liberating and relatable story for women living in an age still plagued by misogynistic treatment, absurd double standards, and impossible expectations.

But that’s exactly what Just Another Number is: A raw, honest reflection on her adolescence through early adulthood that fearlessly details her struggles with bulimia, drugs, the military, and her dependence on male approval. Self aware and unafraid to offend with her brutal sense of humor, Young weaves an addictive story that combines some of our favorite guilty reading pleasures (sex, corruption, deceit…) with thoughtful musings about self-esteem, feminism, and personal growth. The entire book is worth a read, but for now, check out our brief interview with its bad ass author:

Where do your ideas about feminism come from?

For the longest time, women couldn’t vote. They couldn’t own property. They couldn’t hold self supporting jobs. I don’t think they were even allowed to own credit cards until the 70s. With very few exceptions, a woman’s only way to survive was through marriage. So naturally, her whole life revolved around being ideal wife material. A woman’s entire frame of mind was structured around being alluring and pleasing to men. When you think about it, the feminist progressions of the last 100 years are a very rapid shift after thousands of years of patriarchy. What’s happened is that our social and emotional evolution hasn’t caught up to our economic and political evolution.

How do you think the military is handling that evolution?

They’re making progress, but the military is still very behind on gender equality. Yes, troops are trained in sexual harassment, told to watch cheesy videos, and are, at face value, educated on how to serve with the opposite sex. But do you remember the way we all rolled our eyes and made dick jokes during the slideshow of a woman covered in eye herpes for Sex Ed junior year? That’s what military sexual harassment training is like.

Why is that, do you think?

The military is very caught up in their traditional image — a WWII poster of glorious boys in uniform marching through a parade after defeating the bad guys — and women are a threat to that image. From what I saw, their way of putting them in their place was to sexualize them. When the ship was made aware that a female would be boarding, the men would place bets on who would fuck her first. As soon as she arrived on board, they would gather in conversations about her body, her face, the way her ass looked in uniform, the way she looked at a man, whether or not she seemed like a good girl or a whore, and so on and so forth.

So it’s hard to escape harsh scrutiny and objectification as a female on the ship?

A woman is never considered a sailor in the Navy. She is either a dyke or a slut. I remember being warned in boot camp not to sleep with a man on the ship because the second I did, I would be considered a whore my entire enlistment. And it was true. If you sleep with them, you’re a whore. If you don’t, you’re a dyke.

How did you handle that?

I thrived off male attention because it was my means of valuation, so I slept with them. Then I was considered one of the biggest sluts on the ship, and this was emotionally detrimental because I cared so much about what men thought.

Is that something you still care strongly about?

For as long as I can remember, it was ingrained in my brain that my ultimate goal in life was to find love. It was in my Disney movies, my magazines, and my social interactions. But it’s an outdated myth that women need men. Unless a man is a positive addition to our life, his purpose has expired.

Just Another Number is available now

Images via Maggie Young

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.