Feminism Against the Sexual Revolution

[Further thoughts on the feminism of yesteryear, following “Enough of Anger,” National Review 9/30/2013]

The chapter on sexuality in Our Bodies Ourselves is not so bad; it’s actually refreshing. “We are all so oppressed by sexual images, formulas, goals and rules that it is almost impossible to even think about sex outside the context of success and failure. The sexual revolution—liberated orgiastic women, groupies, communal [sex], homosexuality—have all made us feel that we must be able to [have sex] with impunity, with no anxiety, under any conditions and with anyone, or we’re some kind of uptight freak.” These “alienating inhuman expectations” are “destructive and degrading.” The authors of this communal chapter quote Robin Morgan (“a Women’s Liberationist in New York”): “Goodbye to Hip Culture and the so-called Sexual Revolution which has functioned toward women’s freedom as did the Reconstruction toward former slaves—reinstituted oppression by another name.” In short, “We must destroy the myth that we have to be groovy, free chicks.”

You have to wonder what might have happened if feminists had continued to proclaim women’s freedom from the sexual revolution.

The authors observe that the contemporary assumption is that “‘Sex’ is about being a ‘real woman’—being that ridiculous caricature of a person that this society tells us we had better  become if we are to extract even the smallest amount of security, pleasure, and self-esteem from the world. It’s a sexual achievement exam.” So it’s no wonder we feel confused. “First we’re supposed to set the sexual limits, deny our responses, and hate our looks. Then, within a few years we’re supposed to be experimental and libertine. The more [sex] we have the closer we are to being ‘real’ women. That’s a lot of confusion, and it’s no wonder that many of us still have serious questions about who we are and what we want.”

Here’s some clear thinking: “Part of the reason so many people have problems about sex is because sexual feelings are considered separate or different from other kinds of feelings we have. Sex has got to do with the body—that alien part of us residing below the neck that has needs and responses we don’t understand.” But all our feelings affect the body, whether the rapid heartbeat of fear or the headache of anger. “It’s all part of the same body that we live in every day… It can’t be mysterious or alien because it’s our own familiar house….To make sex special, different, better is to disown our bodies…[O]ur bodies are us all the time.”

Indeed, the authors say, sexuality deserves its own chapter in the book only because it is “permeated with myths and preconceptions that put the woman down, and not because sexual relations are an absolutely necessary part of a fulfilled woman’s life.” Subsequent chapters on Celibacy and Monogamy treat them as reasonable choices. But if the goal had been merely increasing sexual pleasure, “it would have been a waste of time to write this paper.” Sexual fireworks “are not that important. What is important is loving, giving, free relationships between people.”

It’s a pretty good chapter; you could clean up the four-letter words and print it in a pro-family newsletter.

About Frederica Matthewes-Green

Frederica Mathewes-Green is a wide-ranging author who has published 10 books and 800 essays, in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, and the Wall Street Journal. She has been a regular commentator for National Public Radio (NPR), a columnist for the Religion News Service, Beliefnet.com, and Christianity Today, and a podcaster for Ancient Faith Radio. (She was also a consultant for Veggie Tales.) She has published 10 books, and has appeared as a speaker over 600 times, at places like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Cornell, Calvin, Baylor, and Westmont, and received a Doctor of Letters (honorary) from King University. She has been interviewed over 700 times, on venues like PrimeTime Live, the 700 Club, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Mathewes-Green, in Johnson City, TN. Their three children are grown and married, and they have fourteen grandchildren.