Loading

Sex-Positive Books as Feminist Literature

For today’s feminist writers, sex makes a comeback

By Meredith Maran

Time-travel with me to the late 1970s, inside the headquarters of the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective. Its storefront windows are draped in Indian-print bedspreads, shielding the free-pelvic-exam patients and women’s consciousness-raising groups from curious passersby. The bricks-and-board shelves are loaded with books, many of them missiles fired by one side of the feminist “sex war” at the other. All across the country, in “wimmin’s” groups like BWHC; at conferences and in books and position papers, two factions have been arguing a pivotal issue facing the second-wave women’s movement: How should feminists have sex?

First-wave feminists focused on the burning issue of their day — suffrage. The second wave is focused on cultural critique. Our motto is “the personal is political,” and what could be more personal, or more provocative, than sex?

One problem: We can’t agree on what, exactly, feminist sex is. After Betty Friedan dubs lesbians the “Lavender Menace,” big internecine questions only get bigger: Are lesbians a threat to feminist goals, or its purest proponents? Is hetero sex inherently oppressive to women? Is consensual sexual power-play empowering, or a perpetrator of patriarchy? Should pornography be banned for promoting violence against women, or defended as free speech? Read the full story at Washington Post.

© Literary Affairs, 2005-2021. All Rights Reserved.