Suzanne Fields

The latest flavor of feminism is exhibitionism. "You've come a long way, baby, but you're dancing backwards." Betty Friedan is spinning.

Puritan ladies who blazed earlier trails, declaring that all men are rapists and accusing poor innocent Playboy magazine of exploiting women, are morphing into sexual sirens looking to liberate their libidos in pornographic photographs that could put a blush on the deeply wrinkled cheeks of Hugh Hefner. (Well, probably not.) But issues of date rape, sexual harassment and campus rallies to "take back the night" have been replaced with a rush of salacious sensitivity, identifying something called "vaginal personalities" and erotic effervescence.

Co-eds learn less about dead white males such as Milton and Shakespeare than about live young men and women, barely beyond adolescence, in titillating exposures in college sex magazines. Parents might be surprised to learn that this is the latest bang for their buck.

Alarmed by the sexual saturation of images influencing young girls, the American Psychological Association identifies the influence of these images in different developmental stages: "We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development." That's Ph.D. language for "this trash is bad for young girls in nearly every way." The report links the omnipresent sexual images with the three most common mental health problems confronting girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.

The Sunday New York Times magazine featured a full-page portrait of Ming Vandenberg, the editor of H-Bomb magazine at Harvard, with her leg draped suggestively over her desk as she sits behind a biology book and a computer. The magazine, which received $2,000 from the university for start-up costs, no longer shows the full frontal nudity found in other campus sex magazines, but in one issue the magazine engaged undergraduates in various poses of undress to illustrate their tales of how they lost their virginity. In one photograph, a young man stands in the shadows, under a bare light bulb, proudly showing off his not very much.

This is modest compared to other campus adventures in the skin trade, but H-Bomb carries the imprimatur of Harvard, with a faculty adviser. Boink, by comparison, is "user-friendly porn" by several students at Boston University, whose dean of students denounced it just before it published its maiden issue. Boink exposes selectively salacious naked body parts, sells for $7.95 a pop, and sponsors parties with girls walking around topless. "Boink, the Book," an anthology, will be published by Warner Books, a mainstream house.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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