Get out of my bedroom, Erica Jong. You’ll wake the baby.

By on July 12, 2011

I hate it when writers take what could have been an interesting topic and worthwhile discussion and turn it into a rant against something they apparently know nothing about. In her article, Is Sex Passé?, second wave feminist Erica Jong says sex has become boring because younger women are “obsessed with motherhood and monogamy” (…and if you missed it last time, we’re also trying to perfect our babies by the way we nurture them).

Both motherhood and monogamy can certainly create challenges for passion and lust, but that doesn’t mean that those challenges are insurmountable. If anyone was looking for ideas or solutions in Erica’s article, however, they would be left sorely disappointed, utterly disgusted, or at the very least confused.

While writing about how women of my generation apparently idealize monogamy, Erica wrote:

Punishing the sexual woman is a hoary, antique meme found from “Jane Eyre” to “The Scarlet Letter” to “Sex and the City,” where the lustiest woman ended up with breast cancer. Sex for women is dangerous. Sex for women leads to madness in attics, cancer and death by fire. Better to soul cycle and write cookbooks. Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.

Beds are for sleeping, canoes are for toe curling.

For me, confusion lingered in the air. We’ve been sleeping in the same bed as our children since 2004, but I don’t understand what that has to do with sex. I mean, us Canadians sleep in our beds and have sex in canoes. I would expect that even the most conservative of Americans knows that you can have sex in places other than the marital bed, so why does an apparent maven of the sexual revolution like Erica Jong not understand that physical pleasure exists outside of the bed sheets?

In her post Dear Erica, Arwyn from Raising My Boychick wrote:

I am about to enter my 30s. I cosleep. I babywear. I breastfeed (for years). I am monogamous. And I have fucking fabulous sex.

She goes on to talk about all the places that she has that fucking fabulous sex before concluding that “if I were constantly held up in measurement against your visions of sex, your ideas of passion, your standards for sexuality, I might declare surrender and pretend disinterest as well.”

Ah yes, those standards. If you’re not doing it her way, then you just aren’t doing it right. As Jenny Islander wrote in the comments on Arwyn’s post, big flashy muscle cars are not always “all that” and sometimes a good reliable minivan will do just fine.

With three kids and one of us out of the house working most of the time, experimentation is a very low priority. Orgasms are the priority, preferably before the toddler wakes up in his crib needing midnight comforting or the cat starts to yowl that it’s about to puke. Everything else is a frill. The thing about minivan sex is, it gets you where you want to go. Muscle cars take too much fiddling around to get them to even start.

Do we have a duty to be having sex according to Jong’s rules? Betsy, who also commented on Arwyn’s post doesn’t think so: “I don’t buy into Jong’s definition of human sexuality — it sounds like a chore for a woman to fulfill, something akin to a kitchen sink that is sparkling clean.” Not everyone agrees of course, and Jessica Gottlieb has been known to tell other mom bloggers: “Ladies if you don’t want to fuck your husbands I’m pretty sure someone else does #HelpingYouStayMarried.”

All good points, all worth considering, but ultimately as with everything else in relationships and parenting, maybe there is a bit of room for figuring out what works for you and your family. Erica started out saying that “generalizing about cultural trends is tricky”, followed of course by “but….”. She should have stopped while she was ahead. Generalizing is dangerous. Some couples are having fucking fabulous sex, some are having mini van sex, some are not having sex, some are having solo sex, some are having occasional sex, some are having extramarital sex, and some are making sex into their evening chore. Surely this type of variety exists in the dating scene just as much as it exists in the monogamy scene? I mean sex for singles isn’t always mind-blowingly amazing, is it?

Passion is awesome. Passion can be worked on. But the bottom line is that throwing out a good partnership, loving relationship, and stable home because each and every day is not filled with “discombobulating and distracting” sex, just isn’t worth it for most people. That isn’t a rejection of passion, it is a realistic understanding that in an equal and respectful relationship, “piquant” may not be achievable each and every day and that isn’t the end of the world. Suggesting that it must be seems like the sexual equivalent of the 1950s expectation that a fabulous gourmet meal be served in heels and pearls every single night.

Sorry, but sometimes it is pizza night. For what it’s worth, I happen to appreciate a filet mignon more when I’m not eating it every single night.

What do you think? Is there a formula for passion that our generation is simply missing the boat on? Or are we doing okay?

Image credit: Heather Sunderland on flickr

About Annie

Annie, aka Phd in Parenting, straddles life on the Quebec/Ontario border with her partner and two children. She shudders at the thought of being considered mainstream in parenting or in life and is always trying to recruit others over to the dark side. Annie is always looking for (and sometimes believes she has found) the 25th hour in the day as she balances running a business, having a family, and carrying on numerous conversations ranging from important to trivial on every social media site out there. Annie writes about parenting, feminism, social justice and the intersection between the three on the PhD in Parenting blog and tackles issues at Care2.com. She is also the mayor of the Cupcake Lounge on foursquare.

Comments

  1. Jem says:

    You know what they say… “co-sleepers do it on the couch”.

    • Kristin says:

      or the floor! or the shower! the possibilities are endless, really. i feel bad for Erica Jong. Clearly she’s too self righteous and is missing out on one of the greatest things this life has to offer. Bummer for her! Don’t babble about something you know nothing about, especially if you’ve never even experienced it yourself!

      • Caitlin says:

        ^ love the above comments! lol We co sleep with our almost 7 month old but what that has done for us is make our sex life more exciting “Ohh babies asleep couch is free” or the table or shower or extra bedroom it just depends on our mood lol I love not having sex in the same place EVERY time ugh thats just boring lol

  2. Wolfmother says:

    If anything, babywearing, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping has improved my sex life because my son’s needs are always met and so is more likely to be relaxed enough to allow me some time to get frisky with my husband when I so choose. Sure it requires a little creativity and willingness to get down to business in places other than the bedroom, but that’s what makes it so exciting. It confuses me that Erica Jong feels that being a nurturing mother is not compatible with being a sexually satisfied woman. You can definitely have both but having some imagination is key. It bothers me when feminist writers have the mistaken notion that being a mother somehow ruins your life in some way rather than enriching it.
    Wolfmother´s last [type] ..Sunday Surf – July 10, 2011

    • Maranda says:

      Wolfmother, I totally adore and agree with your counterpoint. I co-slept with my 4 (and BF) and my sex life has never suffered. When baby’s needs are met and he/she is a happy, contented little one it *does* make it a lot easier to sneak in some qualify time with your mate.

      And honestly, the fun and creativity of finding alternate places to do it is a great way to bring some spark back to your relationship after pregnancy and childbirth.

  3. Vickie @Demand Euphoria says:

    Well said. I hate the implication that we must choose between our husbands and our children. They are not against each other. We are all in it together. We do what’s best for our whole family, and for now that includes all for of us sharing sleep. And the idea that the bed is the only place we could possibly share an intimate moment is ridiculous!
    Vickie @Demand Euphoria´s last [type] ..The Television Ate My Child’s Brain! Or Not.

  4. Dave Higgs-Vis @ Folkabout Baby says:

    I read Jong’s article, and it struck me as just a crappy piece of opinion writing. I couldn’t find much substance to it, and what substance I did find was pretty far off the mark.

    I’d much rather see you or Arwyn on the op ed pages than writers like Jong. Bloggers are so much better than their paid counterparts these days.
    Dave Higgs-Vis @ Folkabout Baby´s last [type] ..Do You Know the Most Important Parenting Skill?

  5. Clueless But Hopeful Mama says:

    Love you for this! I totally agree and found Ms.Jong’s piece woefully misguided and misinformed. Yes, there probably are women who wear their babies like shields against their husbands and their sexuality, but I doubt their issues started with motherhood.
    Clueless But Hopeful Mama´s last [type] ..Improvisation

  6. Alex@LateEnough says:

    Erica Jong and her wild assumptions made me nuts. I can breastfeed and let my husband touch my breasts thankyouverymuch. Co-sleeping didn’t affect our sex life anything like when we both worked 60-80 hours/week pre-kids. Is she going to suggest we don’t work so we can get ready for our spouses to take us to bed?
    Alex@LateEnough´s last [type] ..Anatomically Correct Arts And Crafts Is Never A Good Idea

    • Annie says:

      Yes, and don’t forget to spend all day ironing the silk sheets. Wait, are you supposed to iron silk? I have no clue.

      • Moorea says:

        Silk (or satin) sheets are impossible to sleep on let alone have sex on. You just keep falling off the bed. Now, on a tempurpedic with cotton sheets, you won’t rock the baby ;) But to answer your rhetorical question, I’ve had silk sheets. If you don’t iron them, they look awful. You use them once and never again.

  7. Grace says:

    Everything you say is true. Though, frankly, even if this blinkered woman was right and it *was* a case of choosing a life filled with sex OR a life filled with family, I know which one I think is more fulfilling and worthwhile.

  8. amber says:

    “…breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him.” My breasts don’t belong to my partner. THEY BELONG TO ME. This woman calls herself a feminist?
    amber´s last [type] ..Canadians Against The Custom of Offering Our Bratty Children To Strangers

    • Carol says:

      WORD!

      My body absolutely and completely belongs to ME. I share it with people as I see fit but those breasts? They are mine.

    • Saisquoi says:

      Yes. This. Exactly.
      Saisquoi´s last [type] ..Support

    • Maranda says:

      EXACTLY!

      This article sounds like it was written by a man. An uneducated, sad, little man. Breastfeeding and babywearing are not about distancing the man, they’re about meeting baby’s needs.

      I feel like EJ is just trying to stir the shit, do you think she actually believes this stuff? If so, her model of feminism is totally outdated and irrelevant.

  9. Siti Saad says:

    I pity Erica. Really I do. Single sex can be narcisstic and lazy because you can have it with no disturbances or consequences (well for the most part if you play it safe). When you have kids and parents (in Asia, older parents tend to cohabit with their married children), sex became a challenge – you started to think how, when, where??? So you get creative, and because you can’t have it whenever, you value these moments more. So you work hard on it.

    11 years into marriage, my kids are independent now, we can have our regular sex back (3x a week, at least!). And I must say, it is mind-blowing every time!! It is better than sex than when I’m single. It is better than sex I have pre child. And because we know each other so well, we can experiment more, be ourselves more. And yes, we have it in the car, at the exit stairwell, in a movie toilet, in a park…! I wouldn’t trade my sex now to those I have during singlehood, no siree!

  10. Janine @ Alternative Housewife says:

    “a man-distancing sling”, really??

    Without us mothers breastfeeding on demand, there would be no nurtured, stable men for single women to date and have sex with!

    I love Amber’s post before mine about her breasts being her own – Spot on!
    Janine @ Alternative Housewife´s last [type] ..Sunday Link Love

  11. Julie M G says:

    Bang on! Nothing to add, really. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the mini-van… ;-)

  12. El says:

    With all due respect to both positions (no pun intended), I really don’t understand how it’s possible to have this conversation without factoring in the MASSIVE elephant in the room. How can you talk about what sex is like for younger women – with or without children, monogamy, baby-wearing, whatever – today without considering the total media oversaturation of commercial raunch culture? For better or worse, how younger women do or don’t experience sex today is not happening in a vacuum where the only influencing factor is daughter rebellion or co-sleeping. How about a third wave feminist response to ariel levy’s “female chauvinist pigs”? Because so far, this debate feels a bit insubstantial to me.

    • Fearless Formula Feeder says:

      I agree with you, EI. As always, I fear that the strongest female voices of our generation are all hung up on the same few things, and are missing the bigger issues altogether. I seriously am starting to think this mommy war bullshit is all one big chauvinist conspiracy to keep us from fighting the real fights. Who cares if you are a breastfeeding or co-sleeping supermom, or a SATC cliche? As long as you are living and loving to your full potential, and not letting society/men/other women inform your sense of self worth, who really cares?
      Fearless Formula Feeder´s last [type] ..The (Venus Fly) Booby Trap

  13. Eleni says:

    I just don’t understand it. I have been married 15 years, have 3 kids who I breastfed and co-slept with and wore in slings…but it has never interfered with our sex life and I was pregnant and/or nursing for 7 years! What has interfered is 60 hour work weeks and college which is our reality right now-because that makes us tired! But we still manage (at the very least) twice a week and if it is a very very busy week then once…but that is a rarity.

  14. I think I'll remain anonymous on this says:

    We had sex on the living room ottomans after the 16-month-old went to bed last night. I peaked 3-times with no-frills sex. It was fabulous. Mmmm….I think I’ll jump my husband before soccer tonight, too.

  15. Barbara @ Three Girl Pile-up says:

    What drives me crazy is that this drivel is published (repeatedly!) in the NYT! Jong hasn’t written a thoughtful critique of the complexities of navigating marriage and attachment parenting, but rather made one silly assumption after another about people she clearly has not met or even talked to. She sets up a simplistic (and to my mind, anti-feminist) competition beween children and father for the mother’s time, attention, and body. Really, that’s all we are–chattel to be meted out between our offspring and our spouses? And giving ourselves over to our spouses is the solution? Yeah, that worked out really well in the past.

    Urgh, I could go on and on.
    Barbara @ Three Girl Pile-up´s last [type] ..I admit it, I think this book is really f#*king funny.

  16. Betsy says:

    Well said.

    I am laughing my ass of recalling that last time I had sex in a canoe I was ridiculously pregnant with number 3. It didn’t go that well, really, especially after the fish cops came by to make sure “everything was okay and everybody had their lifejackets”.

    But, well, you know, eh? My kitchen sink isn’t at all sparkly either.
    Betsy´s last [type] ..He Grew Out of It

  17. Claire says:

    When my toddler started sleeping in her own bed and we were able to have sex in our bed again, my husband quickly thought it was boring. He wanted to go back to having sex random places in the house! Much more passionate to me than the plain old “marital bed”.

  18. Julie says:

    “Do we have a duty to be having sex according to Jong’s rules? ”
    Exactly. Seems there are several outspoken second wave feminists out there who use “feminism” to narrow women’s choice. I’ve heard the Green movement dogged by a feminist. And attached parenting. And monogamy. I consider myself a feminist. Are healthy, positive relationships anti-feminist? Is commitment anti-feminist? Come on. If you feel my monogamy or my parenting is not sexual enough for you, fine. None of your business anyway. But don’t drag feminism into it. I’m not giving up my rights. Sleeping around didn’t win me the right to vote. Can’t think of how that’s going to benefit the welfare of any woman, really. Is it also anti-feminist to consider the welfare of others? I think not.

Trackbacks

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    [...] Annie’s (of the Bad Mom’s Club) rebuttal [...]

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    [...] “Get Out of My Bedroom, Erica Jong. You’ll Wake the Baby.” at The Bad Moms Club [...]