Dear Erica Jong,
I am about to enter my 30s. I cosleep. I babywear. I breastfeed (for years). I am monogamous. And I have fucking fabulous sex.
I’ve had fabulous sex in bed next to my sleeping child.
I’ve had fabulous sex with my child sleeping in his bed three feet away.
I’ve had fabulous sex while breastfeeding my child.
I’ve had fabulous sex while pregnant.
I’ve had fabulous sex while pregnant with my second child.
I’ve had fabulous sex in my kitchen.
I’ve had fabulous sex in my living room.
I’ve had fabulous sex in the shower.
I’ve had fabulous sex in public.
I’ve had fabulous sex in other people’s houses. (When we were spending the night anyway, for those concerned.)
I’ve had fabulous sex on the phone.
I’ve had fabulous sex on the “sterile” internet.
I’ve had fabulous sex that required an hour of washing up afterward — and not just of us.
I’ve had fabulous sex by myself. Lots of it. Lots and lots and lots of it.
I have a drawer full of accessories that I sometimes like to use while having fabulous sex, and a wish list as tall as I am of more that I’ll buy just as soon as we have the spare thousands.
I’ve had fabulous sex with a man — one man! one person! ever! in my life! how puritanical! how old-fashioned! — who wears our baby, who never was so ignorant as to think my breasts were “his” or “for him” to start with, who has seen me (was there for me, helped support me, caught for me) push a baby out of my cunt (in our bedroom, in which we had had, and later proceeded to have more, fabulous sex), who has snuggled next to our child nearly every night for the last almost 4.5 years, who helped me conceive our second child with still more fabulous sex (lots and lots and lots of it, given how long it took us).
I don’t know what issues you have with your daughter, or why you think extrapolating from (your understanding of) her to every other woman in her generation is such a brilliant idea, but when you say things like:
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?
I truly wonder what universe you’re living in, or why you think you understand my life and my motivations so well, when you are so very wrong.
And I wonder what form of feminism you’re practicing when you blame women — mothers, women with children, women who already have placed on us additional burdens and double binds galore — for this “backlash against sex” you hypothesize, and never investigate what societal pressures might exist that create the situation (you think you see), give only the briefest, un-nouned mentions of forces other than (your daughter’s) choices of which you disapprove.
Because us modern-day mothers? The “freedom” you supposedly bequeathed to us hardly exists. We are still called sluts if we say yes. We are still called frigid if we say no. We are still threatened with the removal of our children if we have sex, if we admit we like sex, if we admit we don’t like sex, if we dare to write about sex. (Heavens forbid we be non-white, non-cis, non-middle class, non-straight, non-able and attempt those things, but then, you don’t seem to care much about those of us who fall in those categories anyway.) We are exhorted to be available, always, cautioned still that even if not in the mood (when, say, pregnant and exhausted — because we couldn’t possibly be pregnant and want sex) we should “be creative” and find ways of “meeting our partner’s needs”. We are told — by the generations before us, who really ought to know better — that we’re not doing sex right because we’re not doing it like they did, like they wanted us to.
When our sexualities are still not our own, when (middle class straight white) America is still obsessed with a very particular sort of (matriphobic) sex performance, when the “sexual revolution” still hasn’t allowed us to have children and sex only when and how we want, when the burden for fixing all this is still placed on our (be-slinged) shoulders, is it any wonder that some of us say “enough!”, would wash our hands of the whole messy topic?
I’m not sure I agree with you that there is a backlash against sex (a war against women and a backlash to what little autonomy we’d achieved, no question), but to whatever extent there is, I object to your definition of its parameters (we are only liberated in “open marriages”?), to you building your argument on our backs, to the idea that it is because we “[want] to give it up”.
Monogamous partnering and parenting — even the attachment parenting you so loathe and deride — have not limited my passion for sex, for orgasm, for physical connection with my lover and life partner (which are, please note, three different, though oft related, things). But 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.
Women, and women with children especially, do not need yet another person (and one who claims the title “feminist”, claims to be on our side, at that) telling us what and how we’re doing “wrong”, especially in regards to sex. But if you ever want to come ask what my life is like, why I chose the life and parenting I do, what constraints I live under, and how you could help me work toward liberation, well, I’ll be over here.
Just be sure to knock first. Because I might be otherwise occupied.