Whither the zipless fuck?
I’ll back up… One thing you can count on these days is the bizarre ubiquity of Facebook, which is always “on” and always ready to introduce you to new friends — or, more accurately, to friends of friends of friends. But I was still surprised when I logged on yesterday and saw this message to me from FB:
Five mutual friends
My chance to befriend Erica! To ask her whether she’d invented or merely filched the phrase “zipless fuck,” meaning a sexual encounter between strangers who have no real-life mutual friends and no intention of meeting again and, in many cases, no time to even take off their clothes. At most, a one-night stand, but from the feminist perspective spelled out in Jong’s novel Fear of Flying (1973).
It’s all so ancient now. By 1987, Hollywood was cranking out cautionary tales about sexual promiscuity, including Fatal Attraction, with Glenn Close as a bunny-boiling avenger who stalks Michael Douglas after he ziplessly fucks her — that’s what he thinks — then goes back to wifey.
I’m sure zipless fucks are as popular as ever, per capita, albeit with much more frequent use of condoms. It’s just that academics and the well-to-do and the entertainment industry long ago stopped equating them with political statements. In a recent op-ed headlined “Is Sex Passe?”, Jong wrote:
Generalizing about cultural trends is tricky, but everywhere there are signs that sex has lost its frisson of freedom… Just as the watchword of my generation was freedom, that of my daughter’s generation seems to be control. Is this just the predictable swing of the pendulum or a new passion for order in an ever more chaotic world? A little of both.
Maybe, except that Jong is only referring to the relatively small, privileged world in which she lives. The rest of us live on another planet. I think that’s one of the things Bob Dylan was getting at, in his cryptically amusing way, in “Highlands,” from Time Out of Mind (1997):
Then she says, “You don’t read women authors, do you?”
Least that’s what I think I hear her say
“Well,” I say, “how would you know and what would it matter anyway?”
“Well,” she says, “you just don’t seem like you do!”
I said, “You’re way wrong”
She says, “Which ones have you read then?” I say, “I read Erica Jong!”
OK, maybe Erica and I wouldn’t make such good friends, even in Facebook’s phony world.
Footnote: I’d link to a full recording of “Highlands” but all I could find was a teaser. (Dylan is old-school — he likes to get paid for his work.)