An entire industry has sprung up during the past decade or so that is dedicated to analyzing working women: Do we neglect our families, do we fall apart on the job when our kids get sick, are we becoming more prone to heart attacks, or is working actually good for us, and so on. Not so long ago, studies started coming out about the most intimate details of working women's lives.
Working women, the studies said, were too tired to have sex, or at least they were too tired to have sex with their husbands. (At least one study found that working women were not too tired to engage in extramarital affairs at a rate that was rapidly approaching working men's.)
Now along comes another study that blows the previous studies out of the water, at least insofar as it concerns professional women. The study makes a direct link between money and sex and is the kind of study that ought to make every red-blooded American male a staunch supporter of better pay for women. More on that in a moment.
The study was done by Srully Blotnick, a psychologist, who has been conducting a survey of women's attitudes every six months since 1958. The research, funded primarily by corporations, uses a pool of 60,000 women. The latest survey, to be published in the October issue of Savvy magazine, used a random sample of 1,128 executive, professional or entrepreneurial women ages 25 to 45. (Is there no sex after 45?) Among his findings:
Most career women would like to make love at least twice a day. "Women," says Blotnick, "like the idea of starting and finishing the day in a warm and emotional way. The reality is that many of them don't have sex that often. They say they're lucky if they have it twice a week."
The median income of the women surveyed was $39,000, substantially more than the median income of most working women. The survey also found that the more successful a woman is, the more affectionate she is in public.
"If you look at women earning $75,000 or more they are more than twice as likely to do three things in public," says Blotnick. "They are much more likely to kiss their husbands hello or goodbye, hold hands and hook their arms in their husband's arm. In essence she is saying if you don't like it, you can lump it. Yet, if you drop down to the $20,000 to $30,000 income level, the quote is, 'It will compromise my image of seriousness.' It's just not so. It all goes back to confidence. That junior woman needs to copy the appropriate senior woman. She's copying the wrong person, the stereotype.
"We're witnessing a sea change among career women about what the proper balance between work and love is," says Blotnick. Women, he says, were saying they were "too tired" for sex as recently as early this year. In the '70s, "we heard over and over again women saying, 'I have to put my work first, how will I catch up if I don't.' Now obviously she feels she has achieved enough in the work arena to allow herself and her feelings a little more place in her life. The phrase we heard in this survey more than in all the surveys put together was, 'There's not enough love in my life.' We didn't hear that two years ago.
"It's almost as if they're coming home from the war. The phrase they would use over and over again was 'Now, I have to make up for lost time on the romantic front the same way I had to make up for lost time in the last 15 years on the career front."
These women are no longer afraid of violating a taboo that was until very recently widely viewed as a kiss of death for a woman's career: 55 percent said they had sexual encounters with co-workers.
"It's as if the taboo was suddenly lifted in September 1985," says Blotnick. "It was there in the spring of '85. It's one of those abrupt shifts in attitude." It is, he says, directly linked to fear of herpes and AIDS. "A lot of women in [the] '70s and '80s told us that 'If I need a guy I can always find one for a one-night stand.' They didn't want anything to distract them from their career. Now they're worried that this very one-night stand with a guy whose sleeping around will give them a disease from which they won't recover. That's what's brought them into the office. Here they feel they know these men."
Blotnick says the survey concentrated on trend setters and said lower-income women may continue to focus "monomaniacally on her work," for another year or so, but then she may begin to "copy the style of the trend setters." Which, at least in terms of getting a better balance between work and romance, would seem to be a good thing. Going through life playing catch-up can't be much fun.