State, national columnists

Sexual openness versus sexual degradation

By From page A13 | November 28, 2012

Feminist author Naomi Wolf argues in a column on cnn.com that the real culprits of the Gen. David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell affair are the federal Patriot and Espionage acts.

In “Sexual Privacy Under Threat in a Surveillance Society,” Wolf writes that without these, the affair would have been left private, and we would all have been better off if it had. Her stated fear is that as a country we are losing our “sexual privacy” to government oversight and that’s devastating to the human condition.

Wolf is the author of “Vagina: A New Biography” that “radically reframes how we understand the vagina.” Partly because of people like her we already have lost a sense of sexual privacy, and with it sexual dignity, in our culture. Thanks to the so-called sexual revolution, who needs to worry about the government getting at our secrets – as if it cares – when we offer them up so freely ourselves and to people we don’t even know?

I wish there were sexual privacy. I wish other moms I’m barely acquainted with wouldn’t casually share with me things like they’ve found someone terrific to stay with their kids for the nights they spend at a boyfriend’s house. I don’t want to walk into Abercrombie & Fitch with my teens and find poster-sized depictions of adolescents on the verge of copulating. I’m not interested in public declarations of anyone’s sexual orientation. I’d rather not read from another middle-aged woman writing a column for CNN that in her dating life she’s “sexted” with boyfriends and her grown daughters saw the messages. Isn’t that charming? It’s the daughters “busting” the mom. Hee-hee.

And I really don’t want to hear any more conversations, whether on television or loudly from the other corner of the coffee shop, about how one’s sex life compares or doesn’t to “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

This list is endless.

I am no prude, and I’m certainly not talking here about intimate, open conversations with close friends, trusted confidantes or romantic partners. I’m talking about throwing up details about what should be our private sexual lives, our very selves, as if we are all living real-time episodes of “Sex and the City” in front of everyone we meet.

As my mother would say, “Is nothing sacred?”

Wolf and her feminist sisters helped usher in a society that cherishes sexual openness. But where it supposedly puts an end to sexual repression, it largely replaces it with an enslavement to a degraded sexual culture, one in which women are today far more sexually objectified than Sophia Loren ever was.

Our sexual lives should be private, not in the sense of being secret but in the sense of being sacred. Instead, Wolf and her feminist friends have encouraged women in particular to treat their sexual selves as casually as yesterday’s news, and, sadly, this often means sharing their sexual lives as if they are today’s headlines. Openness is everywhere, but dignity is gone. This debases our culture, especially women.

Wolf is wrong about the specifics of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair. As CIA director, Petraeus could have been blackmailed with such information with huge implications for our national security. So it’s right – and, anyway, probably inevitable – that it was revealed.

In contrast, when Wolf writes in her CNN commentary that “(I)t is hard to imagine fully what the loss of sexual privacy means to private life – and to the human condition,” she has no idea how right she is.

Betsy Hart’s latest book is “From The Hart: A Collection of Favorite Columns on Love, Loss, Marriage (and Other Extreme Sports).” Reach her through [email protected]

Betsy Hart


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