Yes, Erica Jong, Sex Has Changed

Are we gals having less sex?

That’s the question my fellow Barnard grad Erica Jong asked in her NYT article this past Sunday. Now in her 60s (my mother’s age), Jong wrote a sexual revolution novel Fear of Flying in 1973, in which she unabashedly celebrated her discovery that she had a libido. Thirty-eight years later, however, Jong fears not flying but her daughter’s apparent chastity, concluding that, “We had sex so you didn’t have to.” The Nation blogger Katha Pollitt (Jong’s contemporary) wrote a fierce rebuttal questioning Jong’s journalistic rigor (a survey of one does not a trend make). Pollitt tries to foist some real numbers on the topic — half of the women in America own vibrators and the median age of marriage is up — but ultimately, who knows whether we’re having more fun of the digital than the carnal kind?

I can tell you this: my sexual awakening occurred in the late 80s. The hottest news story that decade: AIDS and STDs. In my all-girls school, we sat through matter-of-fact classes on how such things get transmitted and why the condom was invented. Maybe more than a few of us concluded that survival depended on being selective and prudent — a decidedly different flavor of sexual freedom than Jong enjoyed decades earlier. If there’s any point to all of this, I’d posit that yes, Ms. Jong, sex has changed. But is it possible that post-boomers are more into quality than quantity? A survey of one answers in the affirmative.