Young women now have another sexual standard to live up to: their mothers.
At least according to a New York Times column by Erica Jong, who argues sex is passé for 30-something-women.
In her piece, Ms. Jong suggests that this younger generation of women is much more concerned about motherhood and monogamy than orgasms and orgies. She laments this fact, saying that the hard work of sexual liberation by second-wave feminists is being wasted by their children. The crux of her argument is based on the notion that young women today are rebelling against their free-love mothers.
“Just as the watchword of my generation was freedom, that of my daughter’s generation seems to be control,” Ms. Jong writes. “Is this just the predictable swing of the pendulum or a new passion for order in an ever more chaotic world? A little of both. We idealized open marriage; our daughters are back to idealizing monogamy.”
Ms. Jong’s comments have unleashed a passionate roar from the apparently impassionate young woman demographic. The Village Voice’s Rosie Gray points out this “straw man” argument is circulated by boomers every couple of years and is simply untrue.
Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel, in a post titled “Younger Generation Totally Over Sex, Proclaims Someone in Older Generation,” echoes Ms. Gray’s point. But Ms. Ryan and Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple highlight another major flaw in Ms. Jong’s piece: Her sample study appears to be her daughter and her daughter’s friends. She also confuses the term “young women” with women in the 30s, argues Ms. Ryan, who also adds that sexual fascination is alive and well within the teenage and 20-something population.
But what do the numbers say? Results from the 2010 U.S. National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior show that women in their 20s and 30s are more sexually diverse in terms of sexual acts performed than women in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
Beyond ignoring the numbers, Ms. Jong also ignores the context these 30-something women find themselves in. Sex in the 1960s was a different beast than it is today. It was far less mainstream. Now you can’t step outside in a city without being bombarded by hyper-sexualized images of women (and some men) splashed on billboards. Even if Ms. Jong’s anecdotal evidence is true of a wider trend, she doesn’t acknowledge that those hard-fought efforts to liberalize sex have also allowed it to be relentlessly shoved down our throats.
And so, maybe at some point with this force-feeding, these women do get full. So what? Wasn’t the core message behind the feminist movement of the 1960s about choice? If this is true, perhaps Ms. Jong should stop lamenting about her daughter’s choice to have an anti-climactic sex life.
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