Is Sex Passé?

SEX-articleLarge Erica Jong in the NYT:

My daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, who is in her mid-30s, wrote an essay called “They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have To.” Her friend Julie Klam wrote “Let’s Not Talk About Sex.” The novelist Elisa Albert said: “Sex is overexposed. It needs to take a vacation, turn off its phone, get off the grid.” Meg Wolitzer, author of “The Uncoupling,” a fictional retelling of “Lysistrata,” described “a kind of background chatter about women losing interest in sex.” Min Jin Lee, a contributor to the anthology, suggested that “for cosmopolitan singles, sex with intimacy appears to be neither the norm nor the objective.”

Generalizing about cultural trends is tricky, but everywhere there are signs that sex has lost its frisson of freedom. Is sex less piquant when it is not forbidden? Sex itself may not be dead, but it seems sexual passion is on life support.

Katha Pollitt counters, in The Nation:

What is Jong’s evidence for this supposed outbreak of chastity? Well, there’s her daughter, who’s in her mid-thirties and contributed an essay called “They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have To,” about her parents’ child-embarrassing shenanigans, and a handful of other anthology participants. Oh, and cybersex (quick someone, tell Anthony Weiner’s pen pals they should claim they were driven by a “lust for propriety” rather than, well, lust). And babies—“our current orgy of multiple maternity” with family beds and breastfeeding “at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him.” (Well, they don’t belong to him, do they? I thought Isadora Wing’s revolutionary point was that a woman’s breasts, and all the rest of her, belong to herself. )

Even for a trend story, “Is Sex Passé?” is pretty shaky. Molly Jong-Fast is just one person. A handful of New York writers is just one handful. In fact, there is really no evidence that young women, of whatever class, educational level or ethnicity, married or single, mothers or not, are less interested in sex than comparable women were in 1973, let alone in the 1950s.