From early in the morning to late at night, people asked me if I had anything to say about Ann Landers and the response to her question about sex. The fact of the matter is that I do: Shut up, ladies.
The ladies in question are the ones who responded to the question, "Would you be content to be held close and treated tenderly and forget about 'the act'?" According to Landers, 72 percent of an astounding 90,000 women said "the act" was, at best, an act. The show, they said, need not go on.
But neither, for that matter, does the incessant men-bashing that has for so long been in fashion. Not only do these women kvetch to Landers about their husbands, but the columnist herself sums it all up by denouncing all men: "It says something very unflattering about the men in this country. It says men are selfish. They want theirs. They're takers, not particularly interested in being givers. They're getting their satisfaction and they don't particularly care whether or not their lover or wife is getting anything out of it."
Now hold on a minute there, Ann. In the first place, Landers cannot be talking about all men -- certainly not the penitents who write the men's columns in magazines, and certainly not some other men as well. And she cannot have in mind those men who are "takers" if, because their wives have been frank only in letters to columnists, they don't even know they're taking. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, but no man gotta be a lover. It takes some communication.
Landers is right, though, if she feels that she can lambaste an entire sex and get away with it. It goes without saying that no man could write what she has about women and even make it to the door. He would be vilified, chastized, criticized and, possibly, sued -- and for good reason. It is now no longer possible to talk in these terms about women -- to say, for instance, that they're emotional and like to shop and have a genetic compulsion to redecorate. Only men and communists can be castigated as a group -- but only the former for what they are at birth.
The worst part of it is that for too long men have been accomplices in their own persecution. Recognizing that historically they did discriminate against and persecute women, acknowledging that over the centuries they did get the better of the deal, they are now the guilt-ridden liberals of the bedroom: any women can Mau- Mau them.
Landers' latest findings reflect reality -- at least a part of it. There's a lot of unhappiness out there, a lot of loneliness. The quality and the quantity of sex has something to do with it, but the fact remains that in many relationships closeness is just a matter of proximity. If it's sex with a stranger some people want, they need only seek out their spouse.
It is too easy, though, to blame this disaster totally on men. Sure, some of them are selfish and, sure, some of them don't -- as one lady complained -- shower. But if there's no sex for the woman, there's none for the man. If there's no tenderness for the woman, then there's none for the man, and his life is as emotionally parched as hers.
Men do not talk about sex, and that's part of their problem. But not complaining should not be interpreted as happiness or, even, indifference. In this case, their silence is as eloquent as the letters Landers got.
Stop complaining a minute, ladies, and ask some questions. You'll get answers you won't find in any Ann Landers column.