Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle toward Womanhood

By Wolf, Naomi | Tikkun, May/June 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle toward Womanhood


Wolf, Naomi, Tikkun


It's time to blow the abortion debate open and look at the wounds that lurk underneath. If we emerge from the blame-and-shame dialogue surrounding abortion, we can ask the pertinent question: How does the way that our culture explains sexuality and intimacy influence our sexual behavior, and subsequently, our rate of abortion? In this section, these underlying and neglected issues are explored by Naomi Wolf in a series of excerpts from her forthcoming book entitled Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle Toward Womanhood, and by Anna Runkle in an article entitled "Unsafe Sex". These writers urge us to face how we conceive of women's bodies and female sexuality, and the cultural dynamics produced as a result.

From "Third Base: Identity"

...He and I could have been a poster couple for the liberal ideal of responsible teen sexuality - and, paradoxically, this was reflected in the lack of drama and meaning that I felt crossing this threshold. Conscientious students who were mapping out our college applications and scheduling our after-school jobs to save up for tuition, we were the sort of kids who Planned Ahead. But even the preparations for losing one's virginity felt barren of larger social significance.

When Martin and I went together to a clinic to arrange for contraception some weeks before the actual deed, no experience could have been flatter. He waited, reading old copies of Scientific American, while I was fitted for a diaphragm ("the method with one of the highest effectiveness levels if we are very careful, and the fewest risks to you," Martin had explained after looking it up). The offices were full of high school couples. If the management intended the mood to be welcoming to adolescents, they had done an excellent job. Cartoon strips about contraception were displayed in several rooms. The staff members were straight-talking, and they did not patronize. The young, bearded doctor who fitted me treated it all as if he were explaining to me a terrific new piece of equipment for some hearty activity such as camping or rock climbing.

In terms of the mechanics of servicing teenage desire safely in a secular, materialistic society, the experience was impeccable. The technology worked and was either cheap or free. But when we walked out, I still felt there was something important missing. It was weird to have these adults just hand you the keys to the kingdom, ask, "Any questions?" wave, and return to their paperwork. They did not even have us wait until we could show we had learned something concrete -- until we could answer some of their questions. It was easier than getting your learner's permit to drive a car. Now, giving us a moral context was not their job. They had enough to handle, and they were doing so valiantly. Indeed, their work seems in retrospect like one of the few backstops we encountered to society's abdication of us within our sexuality. But from visiting the clinic in the absence of any other adults giving us a moral framework in which to learn about sexuality, the message we got was: "You can be adults without trying. The only meaning this has is the meaning you give it." There was a sense, I recall in retrospect, that the adults who were the gatekeepers to society had once again failed to initiate us in any way.

For not at the clinic, at school, in our synagogue, or anywhere in pop culture did this message come through clearly to us: sexual activity comes with responsibilities that are deeper than personal. If our parents did say this, it was scarcely reinforced outside the home. No one said, at the clinic, "You must use this diaphragm or this condom, not only because that is how you will avoid the personal disaster of unwanted pregnancy but because if you have sex without using protection you are doing something antisocial and morally objectionable. If you, boy or girl, initiate a pregnancy out of carelessness, that is dumb, regrettable behavior." Nothing morally significant about the transfer of power from adults to teenagers was represented in that technology.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle toward Womanhood
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.