Does sex have to be dirty to be fun? Most would probably say yes, although might not admit it in public. A recent essay by the writer Erica Jong in the Sunday New York Times suggested that people are becoming increasingly bored with sex, as there are no more taboos, which has provoked a huge reaction from other commentators who feel that she’s completely ignoring the experience of the younger generation.
Does sex have to be taboo-breaking to be hot? And now that just about every taboo has been broken, have people under 40 lost interest?
In an essay by Erica Jong in the Sunday New York Times, “Is Sex Passé?”, the “Fear of Flying” author frets, “…everywhere there are signs that sex has lost its frisson of freedom. Is sex less piquant when it is not forbidden? Sex itself may not be dead, but it seems sexual passion is on life support.”
The essay’s churned up plenty of backlash to her sex backlash theory, with Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan accusing Jong of focusing on middle-aged 30somethings, not actual young people, and ignoring “an entirely new generation’s discovery of and fascination with sex.” And Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory calls Jong’s piece “just the latest in a long history of arguments about how sex is being corrupted or destroyed.”
But I stated similar worries to Jong in my last book, “America Unzipped,” because couples and singles — of all generations — spoke to me of finding themselves on a kind of sexual treadmill, chasing the next thrill because the last one had become boring.
Now that the great digital cloud delivers depictions of every possible erotic combination, what’s the young taboo-breaker to do other than to retreat into a kind of defiant rejection of passionate sexual exploration?
But while there is some truth to Jong’s fretting, there is no “backlash against sex” as Jong wrote (at least not outside of the elite confines inhabited by Jong and New York and West Coast literati). Young women are not turning their backs on sex, but Jong is right when she writes that they are longing for some of the shuddering thrill that used to go with it.
What do you think—is Jong on the money? Or completely clueless?