UPDATED 8/3/2013 WITH THE ANSWER BELOW THE FOLD!!!
Today’s post is about all of those “ZOMG college women having sexxay sexxxx with totally undeserving d00ds!!!! (and p.s. I’m bitter that I, the author of these articles, never scored in college!!!!) articles. Take a gander at this essay and guess what year it was written in. (Don’t be a jerk and Google it–give it an honest guess first.) I’ll give you the link and details tomorrow.
The modern American female is one of the most discussed, written-about, sore subjects to come along in ages. She has been said to be domineering, frigid, neurotic, repressed, and unfeminine. She tries to do everything at once and doesn’t succeed in doing anything very well. Her problems are familiar to everyone, and, naturally, her most articulate critics are men. But I have found one interesting thing. Men, when they are pinned down on the subject, admit that what really irritates them about modern women is that they can’t, or won’t, give themselves completely to men the way women did in the old days. This is undoubtedly true, though a truth bent by the male ego. Women may change roles all they wish, skittering about in a frantic effort to fulfill themselves, but the male ego has not changed a twig for centuries.
. . . . . .
The Eastern women’s colleges (and I can speak with authority only about [Alma Mater]) subtly emanate, over a period of four years, a concept of the ideal American woman, who is nothing short of fantastic. She must be a successful wife, mother, community contributor, and possibly career woman, all at once. Besides this, she must be attractive, charming, gracious, and good-humored; talk intelligently about her husband’s job, but not try to horn in on it; keep her home looking like a page out of House Beautiful; and be efficient, but not intimidatingly so. While she is managing all this, she must be relaxed and happy, find time to read, paint, and listen to music, think philosophical thoughts, be the keeper of culture in the home, and raise her husband’s sights above the television set. For it is part and parcel of the concept of liberal education to better human beings, to make them more thoughtful and understanding, to broaden their interests. Liberal education is a trust. It is not to be lightly thrown aside at graduation, but it is to be used every day, forever.
These are all the things that a liberally educated girl must do, and there has been in her background a curious lack of definition of the things she must not do. [Her] parents. . . can not very well forbid adventurousness, nor can they take a very stalwart attitude about sex. Even if they do, their daughters rarely listen. What or what not to do about sex is, these days, relative. It all depends. This is not to say that there are no longer any moral standards; certainly there are—the fact that sex still causes guilt and worry proves it. But moral generalizations seem remote and unreal, something our grandparents believed in.
AND THE ANSWER IS: Nora Johnson, “Sex and the College Girl,” The Atlantic, November 1, 1957. Most of you were in the right period immediately, although Anymouse, Susan, and Lindsay were closest. Kudos to Lindsay for picking up on the cadences of The Feminine Mystique, as Johnson was (like Betty Friedan) a Smithie, class of 1954. I edited out the comments about the “jazz age” parents who could hardly complain about the sexual liberation of their daughters in the 1950s, but I probably should have edited out the comments about television, which were a dead giveaway that this article was probably a mid-20th century artifact.
This connection between cultural anxieties about college women’s reproductive organs and sexual behavior have a long and storied past. Therefore, Comradde PhysioProffe’s sense that it could have been written in the 1920s, and koshembos’s comment about 1890, are plausible (ignoring the TV reference) because these concerns about “college girls” have been recycled through the decades that women have been going to college (ca. 1850 or so). I’ll see if I can find an article by a physician in the 1860s or 1870s claiming that women who go to college will necessarily suffer from “wandering uteri,” their ovaries will shrivel from studying Greek and Latin, and that they will have many fewer children and thus be warped and frustrated by life.
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