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Don’t Let Sex Distract You From the Revolution

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In “How to Date Men When You Hate Men,” Blythe Roberson’s hilarious new book about that classic straight woman’s paradox of wanting to smooch her systemic oppressor, there’s a description of a situation familiar to many of us: The author likes a guy, but she can’t tell if he likes her back. After months of mixed messages, she realizes her infatuation has had political consequences. “Instead of focusing on the intersectional-socialist-matriarchal revolution,” Ms. Roberson writes, “I’ve been focusing on whether or not what just happened was a date.”

She is an Everywoman, not a radical separatist. But her observations struck me as uncanny echoes of the Second Wave’s militant political celibates, a small but influential feminist sect that formed during another time when the pervasive perils of patriarchy were laid bare. I’ve always thought that sexual repression equals bad outcomes for women. Still, these radicals made compelling arguments about the destructive, distracting, frankly dangerous power of romance.

It’s hard not to read these women again during our own era of political and sexual upheaval and wonder whether love is standing in the way of a feminist future.

In the late 1960s, several years before “women’s liberation” had truly become a mass movement, some radical feminists came to view sex as anathema to effective political energy. Dana Densmore, a founding member of the separatist group Cell 16, took issue with the idea that sex was a basic human need. In 1968 in a journal appropriately titled........

© The New York Times