What was it like growing up the daughter of Erica Jong, a woman whom many consider a leader in second-wave feminism? Was it liberating? Confusing? How was it different from being parented by any other person famous for writing books? When your mom is a novelist, how much of what you know is true?
Perhaps it was wrong of me to assume that the self-proclaimed queen of erotica wouldn’t have an open marriage. After all, she’d written Fear of Flying, the book that launched a thousand affairs and gave women of the Seventies the right to fuck whomever they wanted or leave their husbands or join a primal scream group or go live in a commune. I was very much not a product of that world, and while I understood some aspects of that particular paradigm shift for women, I didn’t really understand my mother’s cultural significance to these women: these starry-eyed women who spotted her in restaurants or foreign hotels, these women who came up to her and touched her dreamily and told her that her book had changed their lives. I had lived a different shift.
After all, Jong might be best remembered for coining the phrase “zipless fuck,” as described in Fear of Flying:
The zipless fuck is absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no power game. The man is not “taking” and the woman is not “giving.” No one is attempting to cuckold a husband or humiliate a wife. No one is trying to prove anything or get anything out of anyone. The zipless fuck is the purest thing there is. And it is rarer than the unicorn. And I have never had one.
In 2013, forty years after the publication of Fear of Flying, Rebecca Bengal asked in Vogue: “Has the ‘Zipless Fuck’ Become Quaint?”
Fear of Flying was radical in its unapologetic depiction, rebellious in its redefinition of the pursuit of happiness. The subject of the novel, Jong’s first (she’s written 20 more books), is as much a search for pleasure as it is a search for self. Isadora Wing, in her twenties, is on her second published book of poems, her second marriage, and falling into, not a zipless fuck, but a full-on affair. The first-person tone is chatty and funny and self-obsessed, riddled with italics and exclamation points. The word fuck appears more than 40 times; the word cunt at least 20. This is not a subtle book.
Learn more about Jong-Fast’s experiences: My Mother’s Daughter