Erica Jong’s opinion column in the New York Times last weekend, entitled “Is Sex Passé?”, was probably just an inflammatory booster for the new book she has edited, an essay collection about women and sex called Sugar in my Bowl. It was also, however, a fake trend piece, and Katha Pollitt has stepped up to the task of denunciation. “No, Erica Jong, Sex Is Not Passé,” she writes.
Pollitt v. Jong — clash of the Amazons! We declare Ms. Pollitt the winner:
I’d argue sex is better now, too: better birth control and legal abortion means less fear of pregnancy, there’s more information out there, more men give oral sex, people have fewer inhibitions about masturbation, sex toys and other pleasure-enhancers (half of US women own vibrators, so at least they know what an orgasm is and are not too guilty to go after them), women are better able to ask for what they want. Since they are marrying later—26.1 was the median age for women at first marriage in 2010 versus a cradle-robbing 20.8 in 1970—they come to marriage with more experience, including, for a growing number, lesbian experience.
She also calls Ms. Jong on her theory of the “current orgy of maternity,” citing actual statistics instead of solipsistic anecdote:
As for babies, the birthrate was higher in 1973, and almost twice as many women in their 40s today than in 1973—almost one in five—have had no children at all. That doesn’t tell us anything about women’s sex lives—no kids because no partner? No interest? No working-order plumbing?—but it does make one wonder where this “current orgy of maternity” is taking place outside of Park Slope and the Quiverfull movement.