“What could be more eternal than sexuality?” writes author, provocateur and chronicler of changing sexual mores Erica Jong in this past weekend’s New York Times — right before suggesting that kids today are doing it wrong. And by kids today, Jong means you and me — the women of Gen X and the tip of Gen Y in whom she sees “a nostalgia for ‘50s-era attitudes toward sexuality.”
Jong blames these attitudes on a) rebellion against sexually-liberated mothers, b) loss of cultural sexual taboo and c) Internet Porn. “Not only did we fail to corrupt our daughters, but we gave them a sterile way to have sex, electronically,” she writes. “Clearly the lure of Internet sex is the lack of involvement. We want to keep the chaos of sex trapped in a device we think we can control.”
Jong’s first novel, Fear of Flying, scandalised (and titillated) audiences in 1973 when it was published, with its references to “zipless fucks” and its narrator, 29-year-old poet Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing, on a quest of sexual exploration. Jong’s newest book, Sugar in My Bowl (released earlier this month) is an anthology of sex essays by women across the age spectrum.
“The older writers in my anthology are raunchier than the younger writers,” Jong notes. “The younger writers are obsessed with motherhood and monogamy.”
How’s that for a twist on stereotypes?
Jong’s own daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, wrote an essay for the book called “They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have To” (you can read an excerpt from the essay at Salon). The mother-daughter pair did an interview with New York Magazine a few weeks ago, and (maybe it’s just the editing, but…) Molly comes across as quite a brat—more petulant teenager than 32-year-old woman, writer, wife and mother.
Erica Jong: It surprised me that daughters of the second-wave mothers seem much more interested in stability, serenity, monogamy.
Molly Jong-Fast: Your generation wants to write about having sex and not wearing bras; my generation wants to pick their kids up at school.
E.J.: I wear a bra!
E.J.: I always wore a bra.
M.J.F.: My mother’s generation was like, you get married, you have a kid, you get married again, you have a relationship, you think you might be a lesbian. My generation—I mean, I got married at 25.
E.J.: I married my first lover.
M.J.F.: Ugghhh. Lover? Lover is a disgusting word. It makes me want to throw up. It’s a Plato’s Retreatword. This idea of commitment, that was something I had to learn. It was not something my mother’s generation was aware of.
To me, though, it seems like such a stereotype—the ‘liberated’ 70s mothers, the prudish Gen X daughters. My own parents are around Jong’s age, and they were high-school sweethearts who are still married today. I’m going to wager that, divorce aside, more children of the 70s and 80s grew up like I did than like Molly Jong-Fast.
What do you think—as a whole, are we 20/30/40-something women of today more sexually repressed than our immediate predecessors?
Photo via MediaBistro