- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2000

Sixteen years ago I wrote an essay for The Washington Post headlined "The Sexual Revolution Has Gone Too Far."

I had talked to hundreds of single women in their 20s and 30s for a book, and most expressed a profound and ineffable sadness about the discrepancy in what they wanted to believe about sexual opportunities available to them, and what they actually found to be real. One disillusioned woman told me bluntly: "Junk sex is no better than junk food."

My interviews coincided with the publication of The Cosmo Report a compilation of experiences of women who had been encouraged by Cosmopolitan magazine to believe that for hip, with-it women, good sexual experiences were possible without even a glance toward love. More than a few of the 106,000 women who answered a questionnaire said they were lonely and depressed and felt they had bought the rewards of the sexual revolution at an exorbitant price.

The conclusion of a 24-year old school teacher was typical: "Men never wanted to form commitments, but in the past they had to in order to obtain sex. Now that we women are no longer afraid of one night stands, they don't have to commit themselves."

Are such findings dated? Well, the language has changed. One night stands have become "hook-ups." Last week in the same Washington Post, Patricia Dalton, a clinical psychologist who works in the nation's capital, rediscovered the psycho-sexual wheel. "If there is a disease of our time," she writes, "it's got to be loneliness."

She sees women patients in their 20s and 30s who, according to their laments, bought a faulty sexual blueprint for life, overlooking the relentless urgency of the biological clock and the truism, however unfair, that unmarried men continue to seek mates who are younger and fairer. They ignore the corollary that male mating possibilities expand with age while female mating potential shrinks.

The woman who once waited for a knight on a white horse to sweep her off her feet finds herself waiting for the perfect mate she won't divorce like her mother did. As a result women marry later and so do men. The initial passion that once motivated men and women to marry dissipates when they live together.

One 31-year old female patient, who became discouraged in a sexual relationship that had gone on too long, told her therapist: "I've been acting like a wife, and he's been acting like a boyfriend."

If "Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong was the touchstone novel for liberated women in the first phase of the sexual revolution, "Sex and the City," the popular HBO sitcom about four single women in New York, is emblematic of today's liberated women. These women, all of whom are blessed with good looks, good jobs, and a good education are repeatedly dumped by Neanderthal men who bed them but don't wed them. If Erica Jong fantasized a zipless sexuality, these sexy ladies in the city find most men afflicted with a restless and promiscuous zipper disease.

What's truly amazing is how lacking in sensuality their sexual trysts are. Romance occurs between the kiss over the glass of wine in a bar to the race home to see who can get their clothes off first. Foreplay is limited to putting the key in the door.

Guilt is gone, but so is the enduring and pleasurable after-glow. Like lots of other things, such pleasure is faked. Helen Gurley Brown, age 78, advises women of a certain age to undress in the dark to maintain maximum seductiveness. The women in "Sex and the City" offer the same advice to men. One of them, determined to seduce an elderly rich man, is excited until she sees his flabby tush. In our health-conscious culture a shapely man has become as important as sex and money. (Well, almost). Why else have health clubs become popular meeting places for singles?

If women are lonely and angry over the way the sexual revolution has failed them, some of them compensate in new ways. They've discovered the Sport Utility Vehicle. Whether single or married, driving to work or driving the kids around, the SUV is the hottest buy for the self-reliant woman of 2000, purchased for its reliability and durability.

Women love the SUV for its safety features, size and performance, says Ingrid Loeffler Palmer, automotive journalist, but they also share "a yearning for adventure, or the possibility of it." If the man can't provide that adventure, maybe they can find it on the road in the SUV.

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