Since early April, the New York Times has presented a weekly "Red Century" series of op-eds dedicated to "Exploring the history and legacy of Communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution" in 1917.
The competition for the worst "communism wasn't all that bad" entry was pretty close until Saturday (seen in Sunday's print edition), when Kristen R. Ghodsee, a University of Pennsylvania professor of Russian and East European studies, told readers that "Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism," and deigned to tell us why.
Ghodsee's alleged proof is quite thin (link to a not-safe-for-work video is in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):
Some might remember that Eastern bloc women enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time, including major state investments in their education and training, their full incorporation into the labor force, generous maternity leave allowances and guaranteed free child care. But there’s one advantage that has received little attention: Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure.
A comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990 found that Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women. Researchers marveled at this disparity in reported sexual satisfaction, especially since East German women suffered from the notorious double burden of formal employment and housework. In contrast, postwar West German women had stayed home and enjoyed all the labor-saving devices produced by the roaring capitalist economy. But they had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.
That's it. One study of one country out of the entire Soviet Union and its Iron Curtain comrades is enough to "prove" that "Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure," or, as claimed in the linked video, "At least in bed, the communists were victorious."
Ghodsee gives full credit to communist government policies for this marvelous alleged disparity, but first places heavy reliance on an anecdote from another Eastern bloc country:
Consider Ana Durcheva from Bulgaria, who was 65 when I first met her in 2011. Having lived her first 43 years under Communism, she often complained that the new free market hindered Bulgarians’ ability to develop healthy amorous relationships.
“Sure, some things were bad during that time, but my life was full of romance,” she said. “After my divorce, I had my job and my salary, and I didn’t need a man to support me. I could do as I pleased.”
Ms. Durcheva was a single mother for many years, but she insisted that her life before 1989 was more gratifying than the stressful existence of her daughter, who was born in the late 1970s.
“All she does is work and work,” Ms. Durcheva told me in 2013, “and when she comes home at night she is too tired to be with her husband. But it doesn’t matter, because he is tired, too.
... This generational divide between daughters and mothers who reached adulthood on either side of 1989 supports the idea that women had more fulfilling lives during the Communist era. And they owed this quality of life, in part, to the fact that these regimes saw women’s emancipation as central to advanced “scientific socialist” societies, as they saw themselves.
Note the quantum leap from "healthy amorous relationships" to "more fulfilling lives." In Ghodsee's world, a better sex life — if we're to believe people who had spent previous decades telling officials what they wanted to hear instead of how they really felt — isn't everything. It's apparently the only thing, and it's all due to "women's emancipation" under communism.
One of Ghodsee's own works later linked at her Times op-ed paints a singularly unimpressive picture of that alleged "emancipation" in Bulgaria (red underline is mine):
To be clear, that 14 hours a day was more than time on the job, but it doesn't change the fact that there was little time left for anything but eating meals and sleeping:
Bulgarian women were asked the following question: “What prevents you from having more children?” While 22 percent felt they were already too old, 26 percent claimed that they did not have the strength to work and raise children at the same time. A further 20 percent responded that they did not have the material resources to have another child, and another 11 percent felt that their homes were not big enough. Thus, more than half of the women surveyed claimed that it was a scarcity of time or resources that prevented them from having the number of children that they wanted.
... The survey found that while women spent eight hours a day at work, they spent an additional one to two hours commuting to and from the workplace. On top of this, they spent another four and a half hours cooking, cleaning the house, shopping for household necessities, washing and ironing, and working on private agricultural plots. These fourteen-and-a-half-hour days meant that women had little time for the other activities that the communist government claimed to be important for its citizens.
... It was clear that communist emancipation for women in the workplace had done little to lighten women’s responsibilities in the home. This double burden was a key factor informing the falling birthrate.
So in this worker's paradise, time and resources were in woefully short supply, and those shortages affected birth rates. Imagine that.
While it's true that Bulgaria's falling birthrate doesn't prove that couples were having less sex, thanks to the nation's early legalization of abortion and its sky-high abortion rate, the time- and resourced-based reasons given for not having more children would certainly contribute to that possibility. Under these conditions, it's hard to imagine the typical Bulgarian woman achieving the height of sexual pleasure twice as often as their Western counterparts — and even if they did, that hardly offsets the brutal, murderous repression and lack of opportunity seen in Eastern bloc countries and the Soviet Union.
But apparently the Times needed yet another ridiculous entry in the "communism wasn't all that bad" sweepstakes and Ghodsee, despite her own contradictory research just cited, was willing to oblige.
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That a series like this even exists demonstrates that the Times has learned nothing since its reporter Walter Duranty told the world in the 1930s that there was no widespread famine (1932–33) in the USSR (there was), and in particular that there was no mass starvation in Ukraine (there was).
But Duranty's sex life while millions were dying was apparently pretty good.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.