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A Call for Lustiness

Just say no to the sex police

By Camille Paglia

TIME magazine March 23, 1998

(TIME, March 23) -- Liberal Democrats, who supported Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas in 1991, are waking up to the police state that their rigid rules have created. Now, as allegations fly about presidential sex, we can finally distinguish between genuine sexual coercion and free expression of sexual thought.

As a college teacher, I've long held that no person in power should demand sexual favors in return for a high grade or promotion. Nor should subordinates sexually involved with teachers or managers enjoy an unfair advantage over their peers. Those principles are a genuine contribution to feminist history.

But the secondary "hostile environment" policy, which allows employees to file lawsuits on nebulous grounds of psychological distress, is grotesquely totalitarian. It offends free-speech rights and is predicated on a reactionary female archetype: the prudish Victorian lady who faints at a sexual innuendo. This isn't feminism; it's Puritanism.

The Anita Hill case, far from expanding women's rights, was a disaster for civil liberties. That Hill, an articulate graduate of the Yale Law School, could find no job-preserving way to communicate to her employer her discomfort with mild off-color banter strained credulity. That Thomas could be publicly grilled about trivial lunchtime conversations that occurred 10 years earlier was an outrage worthy of Stalinist Russia.

An antiseptically sex-free workplace is impossible and unnatural. We want a sophisticated art of seduction. Feminist excesses have paralyzed and neutered white, upper-middle-class young men, as should be obvious to any visitor to the campuses of the elite schools. I want a society of lusty men and lusty women whose physical and mental energies are in exuberant free flow. While men must behave honorably (Governors and Presidents should not be dropping their pants in front of female employees or secretly preying on buxom young interns), women must also watch how they dress and behave. For every gross male harasser, there are 10 female sycophants who shamelessly use their sexual attractions to get ahead. We don't want a society of surveillance by old maids and snitches. The proper mission of feminism is to encourage women to take personal responsibility without running to parental authority figures for help.

The fanatic overprotection of women is fast making us an infantile nation. We need to treat sex with greater realism and imagination. Women should be taught not that they are passive wards of the state but that sex is a great human comedy where the joke is always on us.

Camille Paglia is professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the author of three books.

In TIME This Week

Cover Date: March 23, 1998

Are Bigger Banks Badder?
Kiss But Don't Tell
Two Women, Two Stories And A Presidential Denial
Touched By A President?
The Ubiquitous Mr. Fix-It
The Expanding Cast
A Call for Lustiness
Sex And The Law
No Go: Why the Army Lost A High-Profile Sex Case
Is Slate Worth Paying For?
When Wall Street Runs Welfare
Calvin Trillin: Titanic (Glub), Lewinsky (Blab)
The Notebook: 'Garbage In, Garbage Out'

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