Letters to the Editor

Wendy Shalit's new prudery does women no favors; both sexes are changing their attitudes on oral sex; Scientology critics seek protection for free speech.

Published July 28, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

The modesty debate


Wendy Shalit is careful to point out that she's not a prude. But using a
word like "modesty" does nothing to update the belief that women, no
matter how curious or mature they become, should only give into sexual
desires when they meet the man who will take care of them -- and even then,
they should never make an effort to enjoy the physical act.

The sum of this philosophy is that a woman acting to fulfill her desires
outside of marriage is "immodest" -- which is just a new way of saying slutty, dirty,
bad. This does nothing to further our understanding of human desires, and
presupposes that all women want the same thing: a man as a life partner.

Yes, there is merit to the idea of restraint, but Shalit seems consumed by
the idea that restraint is a concept only she is keeping alive, that
everyone is tortured by an inability to control themselves, and that a new
term for a very old set of behavioral guidelines will somehow increase
civility, cleanliness and overall life satisfaction.

-- Adam Brooks

Wendy Shalit has repeatedly questioned why the rape rate is so much higher today
than in Victorian times. Does she not realize that during Victorian
times, women had a small fraction of the rights they have today, and that
there was no "reporting" of rape? Like domestic violence, which was more
acceptable and not even viewed as wife-beating during those times, hard-line
statistics may seem to have increased, but there is actually just an
increase in reporting.

I would also like to point out that Shalit entered college the same year
as I did. Presumably, she went on college tours and was an educated
shopper; most people spending in excess of $100,000 over four years are.
If that's the case, then she should have asked the same questions I asked
when I went on college tours, one of which was whether there were co-ed
bathrooms. I felt uncomfortable with them, and it is one of the reasons I
chose not to matriculate at Brown or Vassar.

More schools than not have single-sex bathrooms. I wonder why Shalit
chose to attend a school that is known for its liberal student body and

-- S. Baxter

Wendy Shalit is completely wrong about sex-ed
being too "vulgar"; in fact, it is too formal. The language
used is very grave. Try to crack a joke in that class, and
they act like you're telling jokes in at a funeral. I can assure Shalit that girls don't need to be
protected from all the yucky words out there, but to be
trained in assertiveness and confidence. All of her
language about "protecting" 15- and 16-year-old girls (who
should be learning to function as adults and take care of
themselves) is demeaning. Perhaps if young adults were
allowed to be adults, we wouldn't need Wendy Shalit
simpering to us about modesty, good manners and all the
nasty, vulgar things out there.

-- Lillie Wade

Wendy Shalit dismisses Leora Tannenbaum's suggestion that sex education "from birth" would help reduce
the rates of teen pregnancy by saying, "But if what you said is true, then 30 years ago
we should have had more unwed mothers and more teenage pregnancy because that's when we were more uncomfortable talking about sex."

Unfortunately for Shalit, this is exactly what did happen in the '50s
and '60s. In her book "The Way We Never Were: American Families and the
Nostalgia Trap," Stephanie Coontz shows that the teenage pregnancy rates
in the United States actually peaked in 1959.

So what Tannenbaum says is true; Shalit needs to do her homework.

-- Scott Shepherd

Ottawa, Ontario

Gen X's change of head


Shari Thurer finds herself taken aback by her
younger patients attitudes, which differ markedly from her (generation's) own.
But she is unable to suppress disapproval. Oral sex, she argues, equals
bad sex for women. Women who perform oral sex outside of safe, monogamous
relationships are hurting themselves. We boomers wrote the book on sex, it
was our damn revolution; you're just young and misguided. It's typical crap.

Thurer's whole line of thinking is off the mark because she doesn't give any consideration to generational attitudes regarding
cunnilingus. I'm guessing that many boomer men would view it as a chore/necessary
evil to aid them in their attempt to "score" a hummer; and I wouldn't be
surprised if many women of the same age are much more inhibited than their
daughters when it comes to initiating and accepting such pleasure. But I know
that most guys my age (30) enjoy performing oral sex on women and young women
like (and often expect) it. Oral sex may be no big deal to the kids today, but it's a much more reciprocal relationship than Thurer would have us

-- Todd Bennington


Shari Thurer's otherwise insightful piece on the desensitization of fellatio
was marred by one unfortunate statement. Giving head does not by definition
require a woman to "assume a subordinate position." Any two people with
even a hint of an imagination can find ways around this if they so desire.
This is a tired stereotype which contributes nothing to increasing the
understanding of sexual dynamics.

-- Lou Fuoco

This article was obviously written by a member of
the boomer generation who felt that fellatio was only performed by "bad
girls" and was a more intimate act than intercourse. What the author fails to take into account, however, is the parallel change in men's attitudes
concerning cunnilingus. When the boomers were in the height of their sexual lives and
thereby shaped and defined the landscape of sex. cunnilingus just wasn't
done. Now men are as proud of their ability to give head to their partners as
the women are.

The sexual landscape, in my eyes, is much more level field than it ever was in the
boomers' generation, with both partners taking submissive and dominant
roles interchangeably, giving and receiving.

-- Kenneth W. Scott

The characters in "Chasing Amy" do not boast about their
skills at fellatio. In the scene to which the good doctor refers, Banky (Jason
Lee) and Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) compare wounds they
have received while performing cunnilingus, which is
something quite different. The scene is a parody of the one
in "Jaws," in which Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss compare
wounds received while dealing with sharks.

-- John Harkness

Copyright -- or wrong?



Thanks for Janelle Brown's article about abuse of the DMCA. The courts
have recognized the importance of anonymity in protecting free speech,
especially against vindictive and powerful organizations.
Critics of Scientology are understandably protective of their
anonymity: Scientology representatives have picketed the homes of critics,
contacted their employers to try to get them fired, and even harassed
their parents.
I began picketing Scientology under a pseudonym. It only took Scientology
two and a half months to "out" me with my real name on alt.religion.scientology;
two months after that they began picketing my home.

The DMCA needs to be amended to provide greater protection to those who
wish to speak out without fear of this kind of retribution.

-- Kristi Wachter

There are many of us out here who have been subjected to the harassment
tactics of the Church of Scientology. In my case I lost my job when
CAN (the Cult Awareness Network) was forced into bankruptcy following an
extensive campaign of legal and other harassment. A number of Internet
contributors have been forced into bankruptcy from Scientology's legal
harassment. The real outrage is that the "Church" of Scientology is using
tax-exempt money to intimidate, harass and bankrupt people all over this
country and beyond.

-- Jim Beebe

Northbrook, Ill.

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