As President Nicolas Maduro's government shuts down television networks and the Venezuelan economy crumbles under the weight of hyperinflation, pro-socialism sentiment is alive and well in the U.S. Need proof? Look no further than the newspaper of record, the New York Times. While Maduro sentenced his political opponents to death, the New York Times was publishing an opinion pieces such as "Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism."
Using a single survey from 1990 and a handful of anecdotes, the article's author, Kristen R. Ghodsee, a professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania, argued that despite gulags and breadlines, women thrived under communism in the Eastern bloc because they "enjoyed more sexual pleasure."
The article argues that women had better sex under socialism because women were "emancipated" under the Bolshevik regime. Women were granted full suffrage, and the government "liberalized divorce laws, guaranteed reproductive rights, and attempted to socialize domestic labor by investing in public laundries and people's canteens." Women in communist states also had maternity leave allowances and access to free child care.
It's also worth noting that research has demonstrated that people have more sex during blackouts, which were quite common at that time due to state ownership of electricity companies. Given that blackouts were more common under communism, it is entirely possible that women simply had more sex.
By "guaranteed reproductive rights," the author of the article is referring to state-financed abortions, because contraception in the Soviet Union was hard to come by. This should not be surprising, as nearly everything was in short supply in the Soviet Union. In 1988, 4.6 million abortions were performed in the Soviet Union. To put that in perspective, about 650,000 abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2013. The Soviet state's approach to "reproductive rights" in the Soviet era meant that nearly one in 10 Soviet women could expect to have an abortion.
Praising state-provided abortions, free childcare, paid maternity leave, and state-financed attempts to make couples share housework ignores the harsh reality of living under socialism or communism. Many progressive feminists today may be tempted to look fondly toward the Communist bloc for its efforts to make men and women equal in every respect. But arguing in favor of what the author calls "an emancipation proclamation from above," by which she means government intervention similar to that of the Soviet Union, is not only misguided but dangerous. Broad exercise of state power led to innumerable human rights abuses, and many women suffered as a result. Some women starved to death, were worked to death, and were imprisoned, and these women should not be forgotten.
Modern socialism has not treated women much better –– we need look no further than the current situation in socialist Venezuela. Are women in Venezuela having great sex right now? No, the chaos has forced many women to cross the border into neighboring Colombia to sell sex. There are currently 4,500 Venezuelan women employed as sex workers in Colombia, and the United Nations believes that these migrant women are at a high risk of being trafficked into forced prostitution.
Women and men who have remained in Venezuela are not having great sex either. Vice wrote an article last year entitled "Here's Why It's Hard to Get Laid in Venezuela Right Now." In Venezuela, condoms are selling at about $64 USD, and pharmacists refer customers to the black market to find oral contraceptives because they are no longer available in stores. Menstrual pads and tampons are also only available on the black market, and the Venezuelan government started hosting workshops to teach women how to make their own pads out of fabric.
Women in East Germany may have had more orgasms that women in West Germany during the Soviet era, according to one survey. But repurposing this statistic to advocate for an all-powerful government misses the point. A woman should be able to live the life she chooses, and she just cannot do that under a totalitarian, socialist regime.
As exciting as it sounds to craft my own menstrual products, I'd rather pick them up at the grocery store. Or order them online. Or sign up for a subscription service. Because in a free-market economy, women don't have to rely on the state to fulfill their needs.
Amelia Irvine (@ameliairvine3) is a Young Voices Advocate studying government and economics at Georgetown University.
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