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No, Sex Wasn’t Better for Women Under Socialism

It’s hard to get in the mood when you’re sharing a bedroom with your mother-in-law.

|||Kerdkanno/Dreamstime.comKerdkanno/Dreamstime.comOne of the most mercilessly mocked New York Times op-eds of recent memory was "Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism," a 2017 piece by Kristen R. Ghodsee. Undeterred by a flood of snarky Twitter commentary ("Before or after their husbands were sent to the Gulag?"), Ghodsee has now expanded her article into a short book with an almost identical title—it is now in the present tense, presumably for a more forward-looking approach.

She gets points for persistence, but the thesis doesn't really fare better in book form.

Make no mistake: The "socialism" in Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism is not the "capitalism + welfare state" Western European model. It's the hardcore Warsaw Pact variety that was dispatched to the proverbial ash heap of history in 1991. Indeed, the book's introduction opens with a photo of Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly into space in July 1963; the caption earnestly states that she later "became a prominent politician and led the Soviet delegation to the 1975 United Nations Conference on Women." Being a "prominent politician" in the USSR is a bit like being a prominent biologist in the Young Earth creationist community.

Ghodsee, a professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania, approvingly notes the rising popularity of socialism; she clearly intends her book as a contribution to ongoing debates over socialist systems. But there is no reason to think that American millennials who favor "socialism" are thinking of Soviet-style state socialism, as opposed to, say, Scandinavian social democracy. Surely one can advocate for the latter (wisely or not) without trying to rehabilitate the former. And yet Ghodsee, who accuses "conservative cold warriors" of trying to discredit alternatives to capitalism by "screaming about Stalin's famines and purges," tries to do just that: "Although it's important not to romanticize the state socialist past, the ugly realities should not make us completely oblivious to the ideals of the early socialists, to the various attempts to reform the system from within (such as the Prague Spring, glasnost, or perestroika)....Acknowledging the bad does not negate the good."

"The good" allegedly includes female empowerment in general and good sex for women in particular. Ghodsee's thesis is that capitalism inevitably commodifies sex, cheapens female labor (because women, thanks to childbearing and other factors, have less bargaining power in the market), and relegates women's caring tasks to unpaid drudgery while forcing them to depend on male earnings. By contrast, the socialist message included the promise of both economic and sexual liberation for women.

The operative word here is promise. Ghodsee ruefully admits that things turned out a bit differently in reality. "Many women suffered under a double burden of mandatory formal employment and domestic work," she acknowledges, while "discussions of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape" were suppressed. Meanwhile, abortion was less a choice than a necessity, serving "as a primary form of birth control" (except where it was banned, as in Stalin's Soviet Union after 1936 and under the Ceausescu regime in Romania after 1966). Nonetheless, Ghodsee insists that women's integration into the workforce in the Soviet bloc was a trailblazing model of female employment, that institutional day care was a success, and that women's love lives benefited from not having to trade sex for material support.

The only actual evidence Ghodsee offers for the joys of socialist sex is some polls suggesting that East German women were having more and better sex than their Wessi sisters. (As the British social historian Josie McLennan demonstrates in her 2011 study, Love in a Time of Communism, the actual findings are complicated, contradictory, and often dubious. One such survey suggested that East German men were better endowed, which mostly seems to demonstrate that Communism breeds more prolific liars.) There's also some anecdotal stuff, such as a 40something Soviet-born woman who hears Ghodsee discuss her op-ed on a radio show and emails to say that she "nailed it"—with no mention of other Soviet-born women whose reaction was "You've got to be kidding."

As someone who lived in the Soviet Union until emigrating as a teen in 1980, I can say that Ghodsee must have a truly enormous pair of rose-colored glasses.

Ghodsee does acknowledge that the Soviet revolutionaries' initial embrace of sexual freedom and liberation from traditional family roles—notably championed by Alexandra Kollontai, the most prominent female Bolshevik—soon gave way to a far more conservative outlook. Childbearing became a national imperative; non-procreative sex, a bourgeois frivolity. The post-Stalin thaw ushered in a less repressive environment. But as the sexual revolution swept the West, Soviet culture remained remarkably puritanical well into the 1980s. One infamous moment that came to symbolize this prudery was when a woman in the Leningrad studio audience of a 1986 U.S.–Soviet satellite TV talk show seemed to declare, "In the Soviet Union, there is no sex." (She actually said "no sex on television," but the last two words were drowned out by laughter.)

Besides cultural attitudes, there were socialist practicalities—particularly a lack of privacy, to which Ghodsee only briefly alludes. Single young adults shared cramped apartments with parents, siblings, and often other relatives; so did most young marrieds. Many couples lacked even a private bedroom, which understandably put a damper on things; there were horror tales of conjugal moments ruined by a parent or in-law shouting "Cut it out, I'm trying to sleep!" from behind a curtain. Add the lack of contraceptives and the barbarity of Soviet abortion (anesthesia required a bribe), and it's a wonder any sex happened at all.

Things were not quite as bleak in some Soviet satellite countries—East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia—that had higher living standards and more cultural freedom. (They even allowed some bawdy films, a fact reflected in a Russian joke: Group sex Soviet-style is getting together with some Polish friends who tell you what they saw in a Swedish porno movie.) On the other hand, Ceausescu's Romania, where birth control was banned and fertile women's menstrual periods were monitored to combat illicit abortions, makes the USSR look like a sexual paradise.

Ghodsee's portrayal of women's public lives in Eastern Bloc countries is just as comically whitewashed. Thus, a handful of women who snagged high-level posts under regimes ruled by all-male elites are trotted out as evidence of "state socialist countries' commitment to the ideal of women's rights," though Ghodsee concedes that "actual practice did not live up to the rhetoric." You don't say.

A particularly odd section recounts Ghodsee's own experience in a Model U.N. high school club, where she decided to become the Eastern bloc specialist because she "knew" the boys would nix a female United States or United Kingdom representative as too implausible. "The lesson I learned at fifteen was that while it was implausible that my own country would allow a woman to make crucial foreign policy decision on the world stage, this was perfectly possible for the Soviet Union," Ghodsee writes. This was in 1986, when Jeane Kirkpatrick had just finished a four-year stint as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations—and no Warsaw Pact country had ever had a female U.N. envoy.

While Ghodsee is determined to see the best in the socialist East's Potemkin feminism, the capitalist West is judged by its anecdotal worst. A friend of Ghodsee's who becomes a full-time mother is reduced to begging her husband for a credit card for a night out and grimly resolves to accommodate his demands for more sex to earn her spending money. A male friend avoids too-intimidating ambitious women and marries a foreign gold-digger who ditches him as soon as she gets her green card. (In Ghodsee's world, apparently, no one in the socialist bloc ever traded sex for material goods such as a better living situation.) Another friend, a tech executive, swears he'll never hire another woman after a star employee has a baby and quits. There is no acknowledgment in this book that, for all our remaining problems of gender inequality, Western capitalism has done a pretty impressive job of adapting to women's changing roles, or that a flexible market offers unique opportunities to craft career paths compatible with child-rearing.

Work-family balance will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. The generous family leave policies that Ghodsee admires may make things easier for some, but they often end up pushing women onto a career-limiting mommy track, which suggests that tradeoffs are inevitable. We can certainly strive to ensure that both women and men have more opportunities to choose a life that suits them and their children best, though Ghodsee's obsession with numerical parity (such as equal numbers of male and female stay-at-home parents) seems counterproductive.

The main lesson of this volume seems to be that many left-wing critics of capitalism can't bring themselves to fully repudiate the legacy of 20th-century Marxism-Leninism. Ghodsee concludes by claiming there "was a baby in all that bathwater." Not in this book, there isn't.

Photo Credit: Kerdkanno/Dreamstime.com

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and the author of Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (The Free Press) and Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood (Ticknor & Fields). Follow her on Twitter at @CathyYoung63

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  • SQRLSY One||

    For the BEST sex, we need socialistically redistributed sex!!!

    Here, let me portray for you, my idealistic utopia where we all have "freedom from sexual want", or, the right to demand your fair share of free sex from the pretty passers-by. An ideal redistributionist society, if you will… As I put on my tin-foil hat, I foresee a future USA where you will have the right to have intercourse (social and/or sexual) with any passer-by that you demand it from, except, of course, the "public servants" who are too busy enforcing your rights, to have intercourse with you. AKA, they are too busy fucking you over, to let you fuck them! And we will have to sneak, under cover of darkness or fog or smog, from house to house, to have any kind of voluntary social or sexual intercourse, for fear of having "freedom" foisted upon us, if we walk about openly… Or maybe we put on a REALLY ugly, slime-dripping disguise, and take our chances… … This LOVERLY idea brought to you for FREE by the Church of Scienfoology. To learn more about Scienfoology, please see www.churchofSQRLS.com

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Yes, let the "common" man and woman give it to the evil 1%-ers, hoarding their sexual hotness--give it good and hard.

  • Dan S.||

    Well, some primitive societies do have something like that. In particular, a certain band of Yanomami Indians does allow unmarried men to demand sex from unmarried women. We know because of a certain anthropologist who described the practice, and was "gifted" with the chief's daughter, who he wound up marrying and taking home to live with him in suburban New Jersey. After a year or two (during which she gave birth to a son), she grew homesick, and they made a trek back to her village, where she would remain. The anthropologist returned home without her, but continued to raise the son he had with her. Years later, the son made a trip to find her. He learned that his mother had another son as a result of being raped (as we would see it) by an unmarried male of the tribe. She accepted that as part of their way of life, even if reluctantly at first, and had grown to love that son. The two half-brothers met on film, and the mother declared that she preferred her life there to life in New Jersey. This is all documented in the film A Yanomami Homecoming and its sequel, My Amazonian Adventure: A Yanomami Reunion. So even the weirdest-sounding things can be real, but I don't think any Western person would want to live under such a system.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Hey just about any place would be preferable [and more free] than New Jersey.

  • D-Pizzle||

    I saw that. You forgot to include the fact that she was 13 when she was "gifted."

  • DiegoF||

    The most compelling thing for us to take an interest in when it comes to preposterous far-left nonsense like this is its status in "respectable," mainstream bourgeois culture. Extreme leftism like this is regularly considered "a bit much" but is rather normalized, in sharp contrast to how analogous "measured" praise of Hitler or even Mussolini (or even Pinochet) would be received. This is old news but I don't see much progress, or many ideas, in fighting it--even though it gets worse and worse every year as the actual external threat of Communism recedes further into the past.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    Yeah, that's one thing I just don't get. Everybody hates Naziism, for good reason. But despite the fact that Communism is responsible for oppressing and killing more people than Nazism, it's still fine to yearn for it among certain circles on the left. It's a hole in their logical consistency big enough to drive a Soviet tank through.

    If we are encouraging punching Nazis, we should be encouraging punching Communists as well.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    This has puzzled me for a long time. Marxian professors even praise Stalin, who killed more people (civilians and soldiers) than Hitler, who signed the treaty with Hitler which enabled the invasion of Poland, and who invaded and occupied half of Poland. Yet no one on the Left, or even most mainstream fence-sitters, blinks an eye at this blatant hypocrisy.

  • Jerry B.||

    But that wasn't REAL Socialism.

  • SteveMG||

    Yes, and anyway their intentions were good. You know, they were wanting to end poverty and injustice and creating universal brotherhood. A lot of well intentioned people fell for this. Still do.

    That's usually the other answer. The late Marxist historian - widely praised at that - Eric Hobsbawm said something along these lines, i.e., communists were creating a new world. Regarding the massive horrors of communism, Stalin specifically, he responded: "In a period in which, as you might imagine, mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal, the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing."

    See? They were creating a new world so you have to do what you have to do.

  • D-Pizzle||

    Omelets, eggs, and all that.

  • DarrenM||

    Let's say Nazism was evil because of the explicit desire to kill off a section of the population and Communism was acceptable because the leaders were not quite so open about it and did it with good intentions. Wouldn't this mean Communism was actually much worse since they killed millions of people without it having to be a deliberate policy? It would have been much worse if they had actually intended the final result?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Nationalsocialist intellectuals had an idée fixe that there was a selfish gene that had to be bred out to make the world safe for Lutheran altruism. Other socialists were content to rely on brainwashing. That is the most important ideological distinction between the two socialist régimes that signed what they prefer to call the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Among other ventures I plan to impose when Emperor of the Earth is to designate some areas as political amusement parks, including Socialist Land. Then people like Ghodsee will be sent for indeterminate times to live out their personal fantasies. I will be a truly benevolent dictator.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    In her defense, standing in a bread line for hours might have been a good way to meet potential lovers you would otherwise not encounter. And let's not forget about the greatly increased possibility of seeing your neighbors in various states of undress when several families had to share a bathroom because apartment houses had one bathroom per floor. Of course, much of the nudity you would have seen would have featured bodies built by semi-rotten potatoes, vodka, and work performed while stopping over an assembly line, but at least you can check out the potential selection, I suppose.

    She probably neglects to mention that the sex would have been different for the party officials. They could retreat to their country dachas and probably had their rotating pick of nubile young peasant girls. They were exactly like the old feudal aristocracy of old, just with a modern Marxist spin.

    But carry on, extrerme statists.

  • DiegoF||

    Your analysis is cursory at best. The only real question is--how good was razor availability behind the Iron Curtain?

  • Drave Robber||

    Razors were one of the few goods I can't recall ever being in short supply. I however started to need them only a couple years before the curtain fell, so not sure about the whole period.

    And they were of awful quality, too.

  • Paloma||

    After a few shots of vodka, everybody looks good.

  • LarryA||

    standing in a bread line for hours might have been a good way to meet potential lovers you would otherwise not encounter

    OTOH, when the bread line didn't have any bread at the end of it, starving might take the edge off whatever you could feel for those lovers. ;-)

    And imagine getting close to someone in a land without toilet paper.

  • DajjaI||

    I agree with this, but living with elderly relatives is not necessarily a bad thing. As a libertarian I think we have to end social security. Yes this means that in some cases the recipients will have to move in with their children and their families. Meaning, this could put a damper on some sexual escapades. But first of all that can be a good thing, and secondly there are advantages on both sides to living together. I'm curious - would most of the people in nursing homes prefer to live with their families? Because life in a nursing home would seem to be incredibly boring. Yet I rarely hear complaints.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    In case you have not heard about it, or just prefer not to think about it, nursing homes are hot beds (sorry) of sexual escapades. I bet grandad might not be willing to give that up for the spare bedroom back with the kids.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Do a google search for 'sex in nursing homes'. What's good for the kids is good for the old goats...

  • DajjaI||

    Another reason to abolish social security.

  • LarryA||

    living with elderly relatives is not necessarily a bad thing

    Back when 60-year-old parents lived with 40-year-old children, that might have worked.

    But what about 100-year-old great-grandparents living with 80-year-old grandparents who live with 60-year-old parents who live with the 40-year-old kids.

  • rxc||

    What about 45 year old great grandparents, living with 15 year old grandparents, living with 15year old parents? (Usually only one parent)

  • Agammamon||

    Yes this means that in some cases the recipients will have to move in with their children and their families.

    Why does this mean that?

  • Eddy||

    Sex with the local Party official is always more exciting if you know you'll be getting an upgrade on your ration card.

  • Sevo||

    Eddy|11.23.18 @ 10:31AM|#
    "Sex with the local Party official is always more exciting if you know you'll be getting an upgrade on your ration card."

    Conquest, in "The Great Terror", surprises no one when he points out that convicted good looking young women didn't freeze and starve in the barracks.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Even before I read the article, Kerry Howley, Camille Paglia, Cathy Young, thanks to Reason of yesteryear for introducing me to these libertarian writers. If it weren't for reading them, I might not know that feminism can be as intellectually honest as anything--especially if I only had the current crop of what passes for libertarian feminists around here to go by.

  • DiegoF||

    Is Steph Slade a feminist? I probably shouldn't assume so just because she's a woman. But it's notable that she's an orthodox Catholic who has chosen to write for a libertarian magazine--and a very un-SoConish one--rather than something at least somewhere in the conservosphere, as orthodox Catholics (especially women) tend to do even when addressing mostly economic issues. And if she is a feminist, she is the only one I know to combine feminism, libertarianism, and pro-life. You get two out of the three tops, often with some over-the-top antagonism toward the missing element as a show of "street cred" with the other two.

    I also like Wendy McElroy or however you spell her name. Often don't agree with her but always like her. As unimpeachably libertarian as you can get. Reason should get her.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You certainly can't read any of these women libertarians and come away with the idea that they're all about using the coercive power of the state to further their goals.

    The word "feminism" is another one of those situations where we're often susceptible to knowing that people are feeding us a load of bullshit but then internalizing their bullshit message, as well.

    My understanding is that there are feminists who have accused Cathy Young of not being a feminist because she doesn't toe the collectivist line or reflexively jump on the bandwagon with every new feminist outrage.

    We shouldn't let socialist authoritarians define things for us, but somehow we both know that they're full of shit and believe them when they tell us that you can't be a feminist unless you're a progressive identitarian. I'm not about to accuse someone of being a feminist who has disavowed the term, but I'm not about to buy the definition of propagandists either.

  • Ken Shultz||

    P.S. Progressives don't get to decide who is and who isn't an "environmentalist" either--certainly not on the basis of whether they're progressive.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Come on, Ken, if progressives own anything, it is the right to label everyone.

  • juris imprudent||

    You may only disown a label bestowed by a progressive via an appropriate struggle session. It is known.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm sure there were socialists in George Orwell's day who said he couldn't be a real socialist if he was criticizing Stalin. I might argue that if it weren't for intellectually honest people like George Orwell, we might not know that honest socialism was a real possibility.

    I see Cathy Young, et. al., and feminism in that context. If she says she's not a feminist, that's the end of the argument, but if that's only coming from other people because she's a real deal libertarian, then I'll respond to their charge that she can't be a real feminist if she's a libertarian with a link to the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

  • DiegoF||

    I was actually speaking more about self-identification on Steph Slade's part, to see whether I was out of line in talking about her that way, perhaps assuming that she is one just because of her sex. Which would be sexist! I don't think there's much of an interesting debate to be had about whether she or anyone else "is a feminist."

    "What are you, some kind of feminist?"
    "I am not some kind of feminist, Hank. I am Peggy Hill, a citizen of the Republic of Texas."

    Season One aired in 1997. This is probably the most dated joke in the history of the show, which is a damn shame because I was a child, had never been south of DC since settling in NYC from PR, and that shit had me absolutely gasping for breath. Won me over for life right then and there.

  • DiegoF||

    This dull and frivolous book contributes little to the discussion of its subject matter. A definitive comparison of U.S. and Russian sexual practice has already been made in a feature-length film, 2008's Who's Nailin' Paylin, by the American documentarian Larry Flynt. It records the cultural exchange between an American journalist and stateswoman and two Russian sailors whose submarine runs out of gas in front of her front yard.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Oh FFS. How far can academia, at least non-STEM, go down the road of self-parody?

    At least in the sciences, we have stuff called data and lots of eager contrarians ready to call bullshit.

    And in engineering, bad design falls down or blows up.

  • Tampa Pete||

    Yeah, unfortunately the world isn't populated exclusively by engineering problems.

  • Cy||

    Kalashnikov would beg to differ.

  • Tampa Pete||

    Yeah, it's not unusual for people to overestimate their abilities.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Actually, the world is exactly populated, in the literal sense, because we have applied scientific knowledge to solve engineering problems.

    As people around me hear me say far too often, the fucked-up arguments we have about what are mostly trivial political BS are only possible because physical life has gotten too easy for most people.

  • Tampa Pete||

    Actually, you don't appear to be replying to me. Was that supposed to be a response to me? It doesn't make sense if it was.

    The problems of the world cannot be solved exclusively by applying engineering maxims, despite what engineers want us to think.

    You either misread my post, or didn't understand it.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Sorry, you missed my twist on your use of "populated". I get that some big issues we face are not technical, at least in significant ways. And I would never let engineers, as much as I admire them, attempt to solve these.

    But my point is that most of us would not be here to argue these social and political issues if we had not already addressed fundamental technical challenges--and those WERE solved with science and engineering.

  • Incitatus||

    "Actually, the world is exactly populated, in the literal sense, because we have applied scientific knowledge to solve engineering problems."

    No, that's wrong. Irrational Human Behavior in all its unpredictable glory is just as important as advancing scientific knowledge. As is the case with most engineers though, you ignore things you can't math to death because they expose your ignorance and ineffectual status.

  • SQRLSY One||

    I would LOVE to engineer away the human ideological stupid, the greed, the ego, the narcissism, and the self-righteousness... IF it could be done w/o exorbitant prices (of many kinds) to pay! I don't see how it could be done, short of taking away our free will, via genetic engineering and-or robot overlords. I for one am not ready for that, though...

  • Hank Phillips||

    National Socialism tried to breed selectively for altruism and against egoism. Remind me how that worked out...

  • Ken Shultz||

    "There is no reason to think that American millennials who favor "socialism" are thinking of Soviet-style state socialism, as opposed to, say, Scandinavian social democracy."

    I suspect it may be for the same reason that they drink awful beer and grow silly beards.

    When I was a kid, in order to rebel against the hippies that came before us, kids would shave their heads (about the worst thing you could be was a "long-hair"), and swear off drugs (straight edge). No, they didn't cut their hair short and go straight edge because they were becoming fundamentalist Christians--although some people wanted to read it that way. We were creating a new kind of "cool" that was a total rejection of the hippie boomers that preceded us.

    Kids today are famously in touch with their parents* and, therefore, probably have few ways to express rebellion against their elders. How do you rebel against parents that have more tattoos and liberal attitudes than you do? They tilt at windmills is what they do--and being a socialist appears to tweak the noses of all the uncool people right now. I think that's mostly what we're talking about, that and the "I Don't Care" t-shirt attitude. It isn't apathy, really; it's just really uncool to care passionately about much of anything.

    In their minds, if you take something like capitalism or socialism seriously, then the joke's on you for getting so upset over nothing.

  • Ken Shultz||

    P.S. I suspect that resentment against parental authority is the beginning of all libertarianism. Nevermind socialism. How do we libertarians reach kids for whom paternalism isn't a bad thing? To persuade people to want to be free to make choices for themselves, don't they already have to want to make choices for themselves?

  • DiegoF||

    When I briefly scanned your comment I initially read "windmill" and imagined baby ninth-grade DCHC Ken Shultz waving his arms about in the moshpit.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, that's a different kind of windmill.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Well, there is this thing called responsibility, and its cousin accountability. Letting your post-college kid live in the basement with rights to the fridge and car does not help.

  • Paloma||

    Seems to me they are kind of taken in by their school teachers, who cater to the idea that parents have been indoctrinated and don't know what they're talking about, and the teacher is going to tell them the real deal.

    Teachers and parents are no longer partners in the kids education. Teachers used to be The Establishment. They've somehow weaseled out of that role, or tried to.

  • mtrueman||

    "How do you rebel against parents that have more tattoos and liberal attitudes than you do? "

    Suicide and self-harm/mutilation are all the rage these days in capitalist countries. So is gender confusion and a host of psychosomatic conditions like allergies.

  • John I||

    "a host of psychosomatic conditions like allergies"

    You're a fucking idiot.

  • mtrueman||

    You're our expert on rebelling against tattooed liberal parents. And an intellectual coward.

  • MarkLastname||

    Allergies as psychosomatic conditions is one of the dumbest conspiracy theories I've ever encountered. Do you think AIDS was invented by the CIA too?

  • mtrueman||

    "Allergies as psychosomatic conditions is one of the dumbest conspiracy theories I've ever encountered."

    Based on what? Your extensive review of the literature, or John's say so?

    I notice that neither of you address my point. Suidcide, self mutilation, gender confusion and psychosomatic conditions are the way kids these days rebel against tattooed liberal parents. You too intellectual coward are.

  • DajjaI||

    Two things that baffle me: first of all, why do capitalists/republicans oppose the sex trade? Because it seems to me that if you work hard and make a lot of money, you'd want the right to spend it as you see fit. Secondly, why are socialists often the most outspoken proponents of sex worker rights? Because it seems to me, the whole point of socialism is to use your political power to extort sex.

    Discuss:

  • mtrueman||

    It's certainly true that divorce was much easier under the 'socialist' nations than under the bourgeois democracies. In the 1950s and before there was an entire industry of sleazy private investigators for whom gathering (or fabricating) incriminating evidence to satisfy puritanical divorce courts was their bread and butter. You can read about Fred Otash, the real person who was also a character in James Elroy's novels - LA Confidential and the following trilogy.

    Abortions were also easier, and less stygmatized. There was also state provided day care. What surprised me while looking into this fascinating subject was that the bolsheviks, unique to the world at the time, criminalized spousal rape. More than 50 years later, there were still states in the USA where rape was legal. These days, I believe, all states are following the legal precedent set by the USSR.

  • Eddy||

    Divorce from bread and board was always available in the West, if you could prove adultery, abuse, or the like. What divorce from bread and board *didn't* give you was the right to remarry when your previous spouse was alive - thus, in systems where divorce allows you to remarry, there's an incentive to trade in your spouse for a new model, and if you need to perjure yourself to get some legal poon, then so be it.

    The commies want to make sure that a person's sole allegiance is to the party/state, so the easier it is to break up and control other sources of loyalty - such as the family - then that's a good thing from the commie point of view.

  • Eddy||

    (Fortunately, modern reforms to divorce law in the West have banished perjury from divorce cases! /sarc)

  • mtrueman||

    "then that's a good thing from the commie point of view."

    It must be a good thing from a capitalist point of view, as well, seeing as how all modern capitalist countries have followed the bolshevik example. They weren't forced to but did so voluntarily.

    You may be interested in reading some novels of Henry James, never one of my favourites, but he writes of the indignities women were subjected to whether in marriage or divorce under capitalist regimes.

  • Eddy||

    The version of capitalism we have now undervalues loyalty, except to the state which they turn to to screw over their competitors, etc., etc.

  • Eddy||

    Unfortunately, as far as I remember the only novels of that era I've read are the H. G. Wells ones, the Joseph Conrad one with the anarchists, and *Ethan Frome.*

  • Eddy||

    Now my great-grandpappy was apparently a drunk, great-granda left him, but not to remarry, just to be away from him.

  • Eddy||

    Though I'm not sure great-grandma frequented the same parties as James' social circle.

  • Eddy||

    Yes, there was a stigma about leaving your spouse. "You pays your money and you takes your chances," was the attitude. But that didn't deter everyone in bad marriages.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    First, every human mind is fucked up (yup) when it comes to sex. We want and don't want real and imagined sexual thought and action in all myriad ways at the same time, and our thoughts and feelings change as soon as we focus on them. Call it the Heisenberg sexuality principle.

    Conservatives have owned the fucked up part of sex that wove together natural prudishness with religion to produce bizarre ethics that have messed up people for millennia. They would oppose the sex trade for violations of their twisted ethical codes, and even fear of gods' vengance.

    I suspect true capitalists might pretend to oppose the sex trade for the same reason drug smugglers might oppose legalization.

  • Eddy||

    The mistake of conservatives *and* progressives was setting up a Police for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue (or vice cops as we call them), waving aside the corruption and abuse which comes from such a police force.

  • Eddy||

    And waging a war on vice has frequently been on the progressives' radar screen, despite the existence of a "pro-sex worker" contingent in their ranks.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    They both view the People through virtuous lenses.

    For conservatives, virtue must align with theocratic or other archaic morals and codes, most of which are essentially arbitrary and inherited from mystical past figures.

    Meanwhile, progressives constantly re-invent morality to suit whatever political agenda is on the front page. Being virtuous requires acrobatic skills. And often meeting conflicting ethics.

    Not sure which one is worse (but at least country club republicans had more fun, after a few martinis).

  • Paloma||

    Progressives always believe that a superior, educated and selfless elite must save those "common" but dense populace from their inevitably bad choices.

    And that there will always be selfish people exploiting those common but dense people who make bad choices.

    Under this scheme, everyone serves "the common good" as decided by the selfless elite. Every single progressive policy flows from those principles.

  • Hank Ferrous||

    Operation Choke Point. Anti sex worker, not a republican thing, an obama thing. The neo victorians, neo puritans are progressives.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Republicans worship the same mercantilism in which Adam Smith urged the violent Navigation Acts against the Dutch. Conservatives call it capitalism because marxists used it as a sneer, nationalsocialism is taboo and mercantilism sounds old-fashioned. What they oppose is freedom from coercion, and coercion is what God's Own Prohibition party is about.

  • 68W58||

    Meh-a lot of women like to be dominated (see the popularity of "50 shades"), socialism just manifests that on a huge scale.

  • Eddy||

    "From each according to their hotness, to each according to their horniness. Especially senior Party officials."

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Well, at least you'd be safe.

    [rimshot]

  • Eddy||

    So would yo mama.

  • dxh@yahoo.com||

    Completely overlooking the real reason relations were better back then. Because even in the Soviet block back then men were real men and women were real women, the world was not full of soyboys and feminazis.

  • Paloma||

    Really? Look at how everyone dressed. Baggy non descript ugly clothes. Marching music instead of popular music to make out to.

    Where was their art? Where was the flavor in their lives?

  • DarrenM||

    That's why they had better sex. Everything else was too boring.

  • No Longer Amused||

    How is sex better when everyone is starving?

  • Trainer||

    The school I work in in Ukraine had a commemoration for victims of Holodomor today. Holodomor would be about 3 million women (give or a take a million) who didn't get to live to have all that good sex in Ukraine alone. It would be more accurate to say that woman who survived socialism had better sex but, of course, that's probably not true either.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Yeah but as Ms ghodsee points out there were good intentions involved somehow so a few million dead women was just collateral damage for all that hot sex everyone else was getting.

  • Trainer||

    Tse pravda!

  • AlmightyJB||

    Oral is more intense when you're both starving.

  • goneGalt||

    How is sex better when everyone is starving?

    No fatties.

  • Fats of Fury||

    Kristen R. Ghodsee: So how was life under socialism?
    Russian women: We was fucked!
    Kristen R. Ghodsee: Agreed, sex was much better under socialism.

  • Liberty Lover||

    That's funny!

  • John I||

    ""There's also some anecdotal stuff, such as a 40something Soviet-born woman who hears Ghodsee discuss her op-ed on a radio show and emails to say that she "nailed it""

    Clearly this isn't an inaccurate memory from this Soviet-born woman, either, just because she happened to be hornier at 21 than she is at 47. It's awfully difficult to take someone's claims seriously 30 years later when they may just be mistaking natural nostalgia for lost youth for what the reality was like on the ground

  • CDRSchafer||

    Well, at least there aren't any fat chicks under socialism.

  • Paloma||

    Mrs Khrushchev?

  • Trainer||

    She got lots of extra rations for sleeping with Mr. Khurshchev.

  • Echospinner||

    Meh.

    Like the kids just invented it.

    Has nothing to do with socialism.

  • DarrenM||

    Taking it as a given that women had better sex under socialism, I think the more likely reason is that there were fewer alternatives.

  • Eddy||

    So a socialist is in town for a convention, and he decides to visit a socialist whorehouse.

    He sees a really attractive prostitute, and says to himself, "I guess there *is* better sex under socialism."

    "What's your name?" he asks the hottie.

    "Natasha."

    "OK, I'll take you."

    "Sorry, sir, but Olga here has seniority."

  • Eddy||

  • goneGalt||

    "Sorry, sir, but Olga here has seniority."

    F*ck Olga,

    Oh,WAIT!

  • Trollificus||

    Holeee shit.

    Her long-discredited political theory predicts that there should have been a great social, sexual and economic liberation of womyn, some time between 1916 and 1980. Therefore, in her mind, she constructs one, and if it requires superhuman mastery of euphemism, qualifying adjectives and sophistry to make it sound plausible, so be it.

    Reality be damned! The only things that matters are a) does it fit the narrative dictated by the theory? and b) can it be made to sound plausible? Half-plausible? Plausible to half-educated college students who already really want it to be true? Okay then.

  • Trollificus||

    Holeee shit.

    Her long-discredited political theory predicts that there should have been a great social, sexual and economic liberation of womyn, some time between 1916 and 1980. Therefore, in her mind, she constructs one, and if it requires superhuman mastery of euphemism, qualifying adjectives and sophistry to make it sound plausible, so be it.

    Reality be damned! The only things that matters are a) does it fit the narrative dictated by the theory? and b) can it be made to sound plausible? Half-plausible? Plausible to half-educated college students who already really want it to be true? Okay then.

  • Banake||

    I never get why people argue about this kind of thing. Even if women has better sex under socialism, it is a stupid thing to care about. Why do people make fun of incels and then write about 'how horrible it is when wymyn don't have sex' if not for double standards and stupidity? - Let me put it in this way: Women doesn't have any right to great sex, and I don't care about women not having great sex, the world has real problems, how about we talk about these real problems?

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    If the individual is denied and diminished in the collective, it is not the individual's sexual "needs" to be gratified, but the collective sexual "need". To each his needs! The People's Commisariat of Sex will oversee the redistribution of sex to the Proletariat! We will seize the sex from the filthy and greedy sex kulaks and the bourgeoisie!

  • Palatki||

    The kulaks get blamed for everything.

  • Trainer||

    Watch for her new romance novel "Love in the Khrushchyovka" coming to Amazon soon!

  • Banake||

    XD

  • MaleMatters||

    Can't think of a more-qualified person to write this than Cathy Young.

  • Rockabilly||

    Comrades !!!

    Under Socialism, every man's penis is the same size and all women reach organism !

  • Hank Phillips||

    I am reminded of the one Yakoff Smirnoff joke that was banned in Russia! (...the neighbors' son is looking out the window at me.) Thanks to Cathy for the reminder about Ceausescu's "anti-race-suicide" birth control bans sooo popular with Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. But the Soviet government did eventually repeal some of its coathanger abortion laws in the late fifties, Then the UK repealed theirs shortly before the 1972 Libertarian Platform was incorporated into the Roe v. Wade decision. Interestingly, American prohibition of Indian hemp led to its replacement with Thalidomide. Efforts to procure abortions in 1962 were in some cases a consequence of the mystical fanaticism and pseudoscience that led to both the Comstock laws banning ALL contraceptives from the mail (sparking further restrictions via state laws) and the ban on marijuana 63 years afterward.

  • realsimon||

    What @CathyYoung63 forgot to mention is a lack of basic female hygiene products until early nineties, when the imports started to trickle in. Planned socialist economy just didn't believe these products were a good use of resources.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Finally, some fiscal restraint!

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  • Seamus||

    There's also some anecdotal stuff, such as a 40something Soviet-born woman who hears Ghodsee discuss her op-ed on a radio show and emails to say that she "nailed it"

    As it were.

  • Hiring Assessments||

    Surely, you can read about Fred Otash, the real person who was also a character in James Elroy's novels.

  • Venata||

    Ghodsee has been correctly identifies as a "Cold Warrior" -- she is not doing solid empirical research or offering innovative interpretations of complex phenomena, she is re-fighting the Cold War on behalf of communism. See critique of her work here:
    http://jordanrussiacenter.org/.....communism/

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