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Fears of Flying Return

I love to listen to the titans of the women’s movement, to hear their opinions about where we are now and what they think we need to do to make feminism a core democratic value. So listening to Erica Jong, the author of the “Fear of Flying that put her on the map in the 1970s, was a priority for me. She was in town to promote the new book she edited by women writing erotica for women entitled, “Sugar in My Bowl.”


I appreciate any time someone, usually a woman, tries to lift the sights for our sexual eyes away from the pornography industry and who will treat sexuality with a sense of humor and grace and also acknowledge sexual behavior as diverse expressions of what it is to be human. Jong assured us that the various authors reflect an incredibly diverse list of story lines. Unfortunately, there is not a single lesbian story in the book, a flaw that was noted by more than one member of the audience. This occurred presumably because she did not want to be directive and tell her authors what to write about. It was a lame excuse. But what disturbed me more were the discussion questions she both asked of her two co-authors, and answered herself about sexuality. “What is the future of sex?” “Are we too public about sex?” Those questions reflect her opinion that we have ruined sexuality by being too blatant and public about it in this culture. She is toying with the idea that the best sex is mysterious, romantic and probably unconsummated! She pines for the chivalrous days when lovers left love notes tied onto trees (at least in the novels. I am quite sure none of my ancestors did that sort of thing! That doesn’t sound like farmer behavior!)

To illustrate her conflict about too-much sexuality the two young co-authors Jong chose for the panel were young and reticent about sexuality themselves. One was embarrassed saying the word “vagina” and the other said she could only write erotica about dead people or old people (evidently putting them in a similar, and safe, category!) Further, at least two of the fantasies in the book focused on an “affair” that was only a kiss (!) and asphyxiation, the ultimate non-involvement with one’s partner. It sounded as if everybody is now afraid of flying! I expected more original thinking from a woman of Jong’s status.

But Jong is mistaken to conclude our choice today is either dreaming about or even enacting romantic fantasies that, however racy they may be, still remain platonic, OR buying into the brouhaha of the hook up where everyone is looking for sex, however meaningless and objectified.The middle ground is learning to be better lovers, finding out the characteristics of romantic, sexually intimate relationships that stand the test of time, and discovering what kind of sexual persons we are and who we are attracted to in a healthy way. Ah, so much to learn and so few teachers.

We all know that few people of faith step up to the plate in a positive way to address this void even though our faith traditions are supposed to teach us how to live righteous lives and treat one another morally. Instead, religion is used to spread lies that pleasure is sinful, the body is shameful, sexual behavior is primarily for procreative purposes and certainly only legitimate if monogamously married. There are exceptions;

The Unitarian Universalists (not all of whom consider themselves Christian but rather humanist) and the United Church of Christ have developed a wonderful sexuality curriculum from kindergarten through old age. It stresses diversity, health, and moral decision-making at every age level. And, even if classes are not being taught, it would be an exceptional UU congregation where one heard a sexually repressive teachings. However, I hope to change that. I am planning  some programming this fall in Philadelphia aimed at a body positive, sexually affirming and inclusive community of faith. In addition, there will be new YouTube videos posted on this site that challenge, from a Christian perspective, the sexually repressive messages that are all too familiar.

We don’t have to give up our faith and our God in order to have satisfying sexual lives nor do we have to give up sexual diversity of expression in order to be religiously faithful. There is a middle ground: responsible, thoughtful ethical sexuality that is prayerfully considered, intimately connected and grounded to the deepest tenets of our faith.





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