“Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.” Mary Wollstonecraft
By Alex P. Vidal
DO we belong in the Maria Clara times if we still equate sex with emotional attachment?
Has sex nowadays become a commercial commodity that can be experienced even with the absence of a serious relationship commitment?
Some of the sexual revolution ideology stated that it was old-fashioned to want to connect sex with feelings—it meant you weren’t “hip.”
Not only marriage but monogamy and love or even tender feelings were often considered to be something only “neurotic” women wanted.
The idea was that “people should spontaneously have sex and not worry about hurting each other, just behave freely and have sex, no strings, anytime with anybody, just for pure physical pleasure.”
But almost no woman in the study conducted by Shere Hite, an American-born German sex educator, wanted that kind of sexual relationship very often—although a few thought that they should:
“I saw a TV show the other night and this guy said we need to separate sex and love and I think he is right—that is why women get hurt so much because men for some reason seem to be able to do this while we have a great deal of trouble separating them. At least I don’t seem to be able to.”
According to Hite, whose sexological work has focused primarily on female sexuality, “Overwhelmingly, women wanted sex with feeling.”
Here are some of the testimonies of the respondents in Hite’s study published in The Hite Report:
ALMA: “I think the sexual revolution is fantastic. But I have remained ‘faithful’ to my husband and will because I know from past experience that sex with me is totally involved with personal relationship. It’s part of me that I can’t separate from the rest of my body and mind. I could not successfully divide my sexual life among two or more.”
ROSE: “I think the sexual revolution has totally distorted the place of sexuality to the point that it has become an end in itself, an escape, or a desperate attempt to achieve love. Writers like Rollo May (Love and Will) and the women’s movement have helped me to value the integration of love and sex as opposed to casual encounters with partners who do not value me.”
DEBBIE: “Well, I like being able to have a sexual life even though I am not married. But I do not like the casual and ‘cool’ sort of relationship as well as what used to be called ‘romance.’ I like to feel involved with someone.”
RUTH: “I approve of the acceptance of sexual desires and relations. But personally I still believe it is more desirable to have a personally intimate and close relationship, not a casual one.”
REBECCA: “Where I see trouble is in people of my generation, many of my friends. In their attempts to be freed by the sexual revolution they have undertaken sexual practices they are not psychologically equipped to handle. In joining groups gropes and multiple sexual encounters they seem to mess up their lives…leave their partners and families for all the wrong reasons…become middle-aged hippies, as though we could ever be twenties again.
“They seem confused and definitely not content. This older group has simply forgotten that sex should be a thing that fits in nicely with a lot of other things like a good nourishing one-to-one relationship, work, personal growth, strengthening friendships, going fishing and watching sunsets.
“I get the feeling they’ve thrown out all the commitments, not just the bad ones, and sex has become the mainspring of their every waking moment.
“The sexual revolution has permitted me to share home and life with a man without marrying, and it gave me the right to choose my way of life without having to be a flag-carrying rebel about it, but if I were not to pick and choose within this revolution to suit myself, to avoid damaging myself…then I would not have been freed by the so-called revolution either; they’ve just exchanged one kind of slavery for another.
“Without doubt though, more good than harm has come of it, and my generation will pass out of it in time anyway.”
TIFFANY: “I like sex a lot. But it can only supplement a warm affectionate, mutually respecting, full personhood relationship. It can’t be a relationship. It can’t prove love. It can’t prove anything. I have found sex with people I don’t really like, or who I’m not certain will really like me, or with people I don’t feel I know well, to be very shallow and uncomfortable and physically unsatisfying.
“I don’t believe you have to be ‘in love’ and married ‘till death do us part.’ But mind and body are one organism and all tied up together, and it isn’t even physically fun unless the people involved really like each other.”
JESSICA: “The sexual revolution is great. But as an individual I feel I could not have sex except with someone I loved. And if I felt such love I’d want it permanently (as permanent as anything can be). I am even at 53 a romantic idealist—Damn it!”
JANE: “Because I’m very sensitive and afraid of getting hurt (I’m only 18), I still imbue intercourse with very strong emotional meaning. It upsets me and leaves me unhappy to be with someone who views intercourse casually and feels no meaningful tenderness afterwards.”
PAULA: “My emotions play an enormous part in sex for me—maybe too much for my liking. I sometimes feel that I’m too ‘particular,’ or selective or delicate—I have to be feeling very intensely, or in love, or overwhelmed by sexual feelings in order to enter a deep sexual encounter. Sometimes I worry about whether the man will expect too much from me, sometimes whether I will expect too much from him.
“Sometimes I worry about whether I won’t feel enough, or will be disappointed afterwards. At times I have gone out to have a totally casual encounter just to avoid these complications. Most of my relationships—maybe all—begin with a combination of the physical and emotional. I can’t get turned on to a partner without an emotional or mental factor being present, even if not primary. And sometimes it is primary, and the physical secondary.”
DONNA: “I think the sexual revolution has caused a lot of suffering. People use it to avoid commitment; they refuse to work a relationship, preferring to search for the ‘perfect’ love. They fantasize their way through relationships, always seeking perfection, running scared at the first sign that work is needed to help two people together.
“No one knows where the other person is at, and what attracts one may turn off another. Everyone wants to try everything, but not stick to any one thing, so they change from day to day, and are bewildered by the way they and their friends reverse opinions and trade partners.
“I’m not saying the old way was better, but I’m afraid of what kind of life I can look forward to. I’m not married, but even if I do get married it seems that my marriage has a small chance of surviving. And I don’t see the advantages of this style, frankly.”
ELAINE: “I’m confused as hell about the ‘sexual revolution.’ My husband and I lived and slept together for over a year before we were married—and that was fine. We loved each other and there was some kind of commitment between us. The summer before I was married, my (then) fiancé was away and I slept twice with another man because I was curious. Fine.
“As I mentioned earlier, I lost my virginity to a friend, a bit of a cold way to start out, but I was scared and wanting to get laid, so he helped me out. Fine.
“But extra-marital sex, after a man and a woman have made a big commitment to each other—I can’t buy. I moved out on my husband when he took on a girl friend because I couldn’t stand the pain. A year later, right now, we’re negotiating. We seem to be at a stalemate. I hate to think of myself as behind the times, but I just can’t hack anything but monogamy.”
HELEN: “I still believe the greatest sexual satisfaction comes from having a partner you care about. I’ve gone through stages of having several lovers and thinking I was really liberated. But I’m much more fulfilled now with one caring partner.”
MICHELLE: “I went along with the sexual revolution quite a while until I realized that holding my feelings back was causing me lots of anguish. I was very depressed. I tried opening communications line up—that was part of the problem, but not all of it. Now, in love with my lover and trusting him, I can see how all that damaged me—made my trust mechanisms inhibited by sex.
“For a while I stopped having sex with him because I couldn’t love and fuck him both. These days things are much better. I think that the loyalty is important.”
MARY: “It’s an overreaction and after years and years of the old double standard, of women expected to be pure and virginal for marriage and to always set the limits, society has overturned itself.
“Now women are supposed to be willing, ready, and able to have sex with anyone, anytime, no strings attached and so on. Out of the latter swing of the pendulum have come some good opening ups of certain repressive taboos.
“But women, and men, remain oppressed by these roles. I have found that I can’t detach myself from sex and still enjoy it. I can’t make love with someone I’m not supposed to trust—and feel good about it.
“These attitudes don’t treat me like a whole person either. Too much mind/body separation results in either compulsive screwers or strained virgins!”
BERNADETTE: “I have mixed feelings about the sexual revolution. Hedonism seems the opposite side of the coin of Puritanism. My daughters tell me that they feel used and abused and refused promiscuity, although they have had sex with young men they cared about. I personally hate the singles scene. It makes me feel like a walking cunt!”
SOPHIA: “I guess I like the idea of intercourse—two people’s bodies joined in an act of love or mutual excitement or whatever, but I’ve become so disillusioned by the whole thing—having met and fucked with a lot of guys who (as I came to realized later) just wanted to get laid and liked the looks of my body but wanted little or nothing to do with me.
“I have come to regard sex as exploitative—having sex is almost like saying ‘here, fuck me, do anything with me that you want, I’m not worth anything anyway.’
“I guess I’m sort of screwed sexually, my ideas about sex are screwed up, and I hope my therapy will help me there. I’ve found I have a lot of guilt feelings and a refusal to enjoy sex, or at least that is what my therapist says.”