Have you given up on sex?
Erica Jong (b. 1942) has a new book, Sugar In My Bowl: Real Women Write About Sex. Jong is best known for her 1973 novel Fear of Flying, which “created a sensation with its frank treatment of a woman’s sexual desires.”
Is Sex Passé?
Last Sunday’s New York Times featured an opinion editorial by Jong, Is Sex Passé? Jong writes that she “sometimes thinks the younger generation wants to give it (sex) up.”
Since Jong is a member of the Silent Generation and Fear of Flying was primarily a cultural touchstone for Baby Boomer women, I think it’s safe to assume she’s talking about Generation X and Y women.
“I was fascinated to see, among younger women, a nostalgia for ’50s-era attitudes toward sexuality. The older writers in my anthology are raunchier than the younger writers. The younger writers are obsessed with motherhood and monogamy…It makes sense. Daughters always want to be different from their mothers…
“…Generalizing about cultural trends is tricky, but everywhere there are signs that sex has lost its frisson of freedom…it seems sexual passion is on life support…
“…Just as the watchword of my generation was freedom, that of my daughter’s generation seems to be control…”
I agree with some of what Jong writes in this piece including the impact the Internet has had on privacy and intimacy. However, one impact on the sex life of Generation X women she did not explore is the relationship dynamics created between Generation X women whose earning potential and economic power has increased at the same time the earning expectations of Generation X men has decreased.
Also, while Generation X men are said to be far more child-focused than men of previous generations, I think part of the trade-off is that they are less wife-focused. This is party because Generation X women are so independent, but also because Generation X men have not experienced the same degree of societal pressure or expectation to care for women as older generations of men.
For the Sake of the Children
Another possible reason Generation X and Y women may appear to have given up on sex is because they, along with their Gen X and Y husbands, are more motivated to stay married despite bad or boring sex. Look no further than Susan Gregory’s recent article about Generation X a.k.a. children of divorce, which I recently blogged about. Maybe boring sex is a small price to pay for sparing children the agony of divorce?
Certainly, not all Xers and Millennials (Gen Y) agree with Jong. The writer of Raising My Boychick responded to Jong’s essay with a post about the fabulous sex she’s had while breastfeeding, etc. This was in response to Jong’s biting, “Better to cycle and write cookbooks. Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to…breastfeed all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him…”
I never thought I’d hear an ardent feminist diss a woman for passionate breastfeeding, but what-evahhh!
Ultimately, Jong’s essay is in large measure a veiled derision of Generation X women, who, by the way, are perpetually younger than Baby Boomers, but not “young” anymore. Her assessment that we are obsessed with monogamy and motherhood is an exaggeration intended to serve as counterpoint to the well-documented argument that the pervasive self-centeredness of younger Silents and older Boomers helped create the most anti-child phase in human history. This phase produced the most neglected generation of children in modern history, and that generation is Generation X.
Finally, my upbringing was pretty strict. I grew up in a parsonage and church attendance was a weekly part of my childhood and youth. We went to church three times a week whether we needed to or not. =) I was regularly exposed to New Testament teachings and was immersed in a subculture that believed in the virtues of holy living. I believe the best sex can only occur in a monogamous marriage between two people who love God and each other.
Hold the Sugar, Please
So, when Jong asks at the end of her essay, “Why reject honey for vinegar? Don’t we all deserve sugar in our bowls?” my answer comes from the sex life of the couple in the Song of Solomon, which takes place within the context of a lifelong commitment of marriage. There is so much honey dripping from this Old Testament book, it would probably make Jong blush. But, then again, she is only selling sugar.