The Infamous 1970s Sex Novel Featuring Lilith’s Kin


What modern lovers refer to as “casual sex” was, at one time, known by a very different, very transgressive name.

In 1973, Jewish American writer Erica Jong infamously published Fear of Flying, a radical novel that immediately garnered attention from all sides for its progressive views of female sexuality. The book—about a young poet who accompanies her second husband to Vienna for his psychoanalysts’ conference—became a hallmark for second-wave feminism for its frank depiction of infidelity. The protagonist herself is a descendant of Lilith, the freethinking first wife of Adam who refuses to bend to his every beck and call.

Though the novel stands on its own right as an artful bildungsroman, many people remember it for the raw, uncouth phrase Jong introduced to our lexicon—the “zipless f***”—which Jong describes as “absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no power game…No one is trying to prove anything or get anything out of anyone.”

Jong’s prodigious oeuvre (to which she is still contributing—it seems a sequel is (finally!) slated for publication next year) has wormed its way into our national consciousness. You know you’ve made it if you’re name-checked in a Dylan song.

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