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Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence

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A spirited, deeply researched exploration of why capitalism is bad for women and how, when done right, socialism leads to economic independence, better labor conditions, better work-life balance and, yes, even better sex. In a witty, irreverent op-ed piece that went viral, Kristen Ghodsee argued that women had better sex under socialism. The response was tremendous -- c A spirited, deeply researched exploration of why capitalism is bad for women and how, when done right, socialism leads to economic independence, better labor conditions, better work-life balance and, yes, even better sex. In a witty, irreverent op-ed piece that went viral, Kristen Ghodsee argued that women had better sex under socialism. The response was tremendous -- clearly she articulated something many women had sensed for years: the problem is with capitalism, not with us. Ghodsee, an acclaimed ethnographer and professor of Russian and East European Studies, spent years researching what happened to women in countries that transitioned from state socialism to capitalism. She argues here that unregulated capitalism disproportionately harms women, and that we should learn from the past. By rejecting the bad and salvaging the good, we can adapt some socialist ideas to the 21st century and improve our lives. She tackles all aspects of a woman's life - work, parenting, sex and relationships, citizenship, and leadership. In a chapter called "Women: Like Men, But Cheaper," she talks about women in the workplace, discussing everything from the wage gap to harassment and discrimination. In "What To Expect When You're Expecting Exploitation," she addresses motherhood and how "having it all" is impossible under capitalism. Women are standing up for themselves like never before, from the increase in the number of women running for office to the women's march to the long-overdue public outcry against sexual harassment. Interest in socialism is also on the rise - whether it's the popularity of Bernie Sanders or the skyrocketing membership numbers of the Democratic Socialists of America. It's become increasingly clear to women that capitalism isn't working for us, and Ghodsee is the informed, lively guide who can show us the way forward.


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A spirited, deeply researched exploration of why capitalism is bad for women and how, when done right, socialism leads to economic independence, better labor conditions, better work-life balance and, yes, even better sex. In a witty, irreverent op-ed piece that went viral, Kristen Ghodsee argued that women had better sex under socialism. The response was tremendous -- c A spirited, deeply researched exploration of why capitalism is bad for women and how, when done right, socialism leads to economic independence, better labor conditions, better work-life balance and, yes, even better sex. In a witty, irreverent op-ed piece that went viral, Kristen Ghodsee argued that women had better sex under socialism. The response was tremendous -- clearly she articulated something many women had sensed for years: the problem is with capitalism, not with us. Ghodsee, an acclaimed ethnographer and professor of Russian and East European Studies, spent years researching what happened to women in countries that transitioned from state socialism to capitalism. She argues here that unregulated capitalism disproportionately harms women, and that we should learn from the past. By rejecting the bad and salvaging the good, we can adapt some socialist ideas to the 21st century and improve our lives. She tackles all aspects of a woman's life - work, parenting, sex and relationships, citizenship, and leadership. In a chapter called "Women: Like Men, But Cheaper," she talks about women in the workplace, discussing everything from the wage gap to harassment and discrimination. In "What To Expect When You're Expecting Exploitation," she addresses motherhood and how "having it all" is impossible under capitalism. Women are standing up for themselves like never before, from the increase in the number of women running for office to the women's march to the long-overdue public outcry against sexual harassment. Interest in socialism is also on the rise - whether it's the popularity of Bernie Sanders or the skyrocketing membership numbers of the Democratic Socialists of America. It's become increasingly clear to women that capitalism isn't working for us, and Ghodsee is the informed, lively guide who can show us the way forward.

30 review for Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Award-winning author Kristen Ghodsee has written a handful of books exploring communism, gender and ethnicity, and after appreciating Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism, I will be purchasing her other works to dip in and out of. As soon as I read the synopsis for this, I knew it was right up my street. Having had an issue with capitalism for as long as I can remember, I was not in need of convincing that adopting some socialist principles may be a better option for many people, including Award-winning author Kristen Ghodsee has written a handful of books exploring communism, gender and ethnicity, and after appreciating Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism, I will be purchasing her other works to dip in and out of. As soon as I read the synopsis for this, I knew it was right up my street. Having had an issue with capitalism for as long as I can remember, I was not in need of convincing that adopting some socialist principles may be a better option for many people, including women. However, the fascinating information provided had me completely engaged, and I found it difficult to put it down. I usually take my time with non-fiction but not here! She illustrates that communist ideology could lead to real improvements in women’s literacy, education, professional training, as well as access to health care, the extension of paid maternity leave, and a reduction of their economic dependence on men. I understand that this is a divisive and controversial topic and politics often gets people hot under the collar but we owe it to ourselves to look for a better way instead of just accepting the way society and wealth currently work. Sometimes I find that books such as these waffle on in an incoherent fashion, but I felt the arguments here were easy to understand and to comprehend. There are many examples from communist and post-communist states that back up many of the points she makes. I hope that this book gets the wide readership it deserves as the case it presents is a strong and convincing one. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Bodley Head for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Quin Rich

    As an avowed Marxist feminist, I found this to be an utterly infuriating text. Ghodsee is an academic historian who has written a popular press book that seeks to dispel some widespread myths about the horrors of Eastern European state socialism. She does this with the explicit aim of opening up space in contemporary US political discourse for consideration of how more redistributive and regulatory economic policies would be good for women. All of this is seemingly laudable. The problem comes wh As an avowed Marxist feminist, I found this to be an utterly infuriating text. Ghodsee is an academic historian who has written a popular press book that seeks to dispel some widespread myths about the horrors of Eastern European state socialism. She does this with the explicit aim of opening up space in contemporary US political discourse for consideration of how more redistributive and regulatory economic policies would be good for women. All of this is seemingly laudable. The problem comes when Ghodsee actually begins her analysis. In a book about socialism and feminism, there is hardly a single mention of working class women’s activism. In fact, Ghodsee dedicates an entire chapter to how state socialist regimes promoted women into their highest ranks as powerful leaders. She does this to make a point about how young girls in capitalist societies need to see powerful women in order to be inspired to become leaders themselves. This is just unreconstructed neoliberal, lean in codswallop! The point of socialist feminism is that getting a few privileged, elite women into powerful roles does nothing for the vast majority of women. Consistently as well Ghodsee makes asinine comments about how socialism is basically just an expanded welfare states with markets and private control of the economy still intact. Because Ghodsee’s reference points for socialism are Eastern Bloc countries and Scandinavia, she offers a distorted picture of what socialism actually is. If you want to know about actual alternatives to capitalism, you will not find them in this book. Indeed, Ghodsee has been made into something of a spokesperson for socialism in US media despite the fact that she has fairly centrist politics and a demonstrated lack of familiarity with socialist feminist theory and activism. Her frankly random choice of “recommended reading” testifies to this. In summary, it is a real shame that this book will likely be many Americans first sustained introduction to socialist feminism. Ghodsee had an opportunity to make a real intervention, but she instead wasted it by telling her more radical readers to take the capitalist rag “Reason” seriously as a source for information. Ghodsee presents a world where the alternative to capitalism is slightly more regulated capitalism, and where political activism takes the form of voting instead of collective action. Don’t waste your time on this if you are already somewhat sympathetic to socialism. Read Silvia Federici’s “Revolution at Point Zero” instead. If you are not already sympathetic to socialism, then perhaps Ghodsee’s confused and overly conciliatory treatise can help guide you away from the echo chamber of capitalist ideology. But even then, Federici would be a better starting point.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Jaffe

    A fun and readable trip through the history of attempts to build an egalitarian society, with humor and a grounding in decades of research.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Short version: sex was better under socialism for a nut who never lived that. Long version: A mystical preacher talking about Paradise. Under Socialism the woman had both the traditional role - cook, wash, and so on - and the modern role - employee working full time. Food scarcity also meant long queues waiting for food delivery. Poverty meant no washing machine, no dishwasher, everything was done by hand, the diapers also. No hot water meant accidents while moving the boiling water pan from the ki Short version: sex was better under socialism for a nut who never lived that. Long version: A mystical preacher talking about Paradise. Under Socialism the woman had both the traditional role - cook, wash, and so on - and the modern role - employee working full time. Food scarcity also meant long queues waiting for food delivery. Poverty meant no washing machine, no dishwasher, everything was done by hand, the diapers also. No hot water meant accidents while moving the boiling water pan from the kitchen to the bath tub, which was moved into the kitchen if possible. Also some Socialist Countries, like Romania, expressly forbade contraception and most Socialist countries have had strict rules for the abortion. Rape, HIV, and other "shameful" acts were called diseases of the West and were carefully swept under the rug. There were strict rules, most of the time unwritten, of separating the spouses in the work place. And if the man was higher on the hierarchical ladder that meant that the woman was the one left to find a new work place and fast.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    4+ stars A thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening read on the multiple ways women's lives benefit from socialism. Ghodsee was preaching to the choir but her case is incredibly strong and convincing nevertheless, and is backed up with many examples from her research and time spent in Eastern Europe. Highly recommended! Thank you Netgalley and Random House UK / Vintage Publishing for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    "The argument of this book can be summed up succinctly: unregulated capitalism is bad for women, and if we adopt some ideas from socialism, women will have better lives" (p.1) This book is nothing short of fantastic! Ghodsee provides an approachable examination of how economic and social leftism (social democracy and state socialism basically) provide a better sexual life for women and men. Her main case studies are the state socialism of Russia and Eastern Europe, with some focus on Central Euro "The argument of this book can be summed up succinctly: unregulated capitalism is bad for women, and if we adopt some ideas from socialism, women will have better lives" (p.1) This book is nothing short of fantastic! Ghodsee provides an approachable examination of how economic and social leftism (social democracy and state socialism basically) provide a better sexual life for women and men. Her main case studies are the state socialism of Russia and Eastern Europe, with some focus on Central Europe (the great Scandinavian countries that leftists are used to being lectured on). Despite the Eurocentric and cis-centred focus Ghodsee does an excellent job of detailing why socialism provides a much more spiritually and sexually satisfying life for women, by examining how women under socialism and social democracy are free from the burdens of capitalism, and thus choose their true loves for marriage and companionship, rather than making forced decisions under the reified logic of capitalism. Alongside this, Ghodsee provides a short description and portrait of important socialist women (and one man) who have helped advance women's sexual and economic liberation, such as Rosa Luxemburg, Valentina Tershekova and and Lily Braun. This book reads like an extended article, rather than a dense academic work, and in her interview on RevLeftRadio, she said this approach was intentional. This is great, because despite the seemingly narrow and rather specialised focus it helps to attract non-academic readers into this too often forgotten history of socialist women, who helped reform the world, outside of a mostly Anglophone context. I recommend this book to everyone, and after you've read it please watch Fox News' response to Ghodsee's initial article for comic relief.

  7. 4 out of 5

    TraceyL

    This was a fascinating read. It's a book about politics which explores if and why women are happier living under socialist/communist governments than they are under capitalist/democratic governments. The author focuses on data collected from Eastern European countries which used to be socialist but are now capitalist. It comes at the question from a lot of different directions. One fact that comes up again and again is that when a profit needs to be made, the first cuts that are made are ones th This was a fascinating read. It's a book about politics which explores if and why women are happier living under socialist/communist governments than they are under capitalist/democratic governments. The author focuses on data collected from Eastern European countries which used to be socialist but are now capitalist. It comes at the question from a lot of different directions. One fact that comes up again and again is that when a profit needs to be made, the first cuts that are made are ones that directly affect women instead of men. My favorite information I learned in this book is what inspired the title. While the Berlin Wall was up and Germany was cut in two, a survey was done among women on both sides of the wall. Although women in the East had arguably more difficult lives, they rated their sex lives much, much higher than the women in the West. This book is full of interesting nuggets like that, and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in politics or statistics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Silvia

    The problem with this book is that its focus seems to be American centric (which is normal, I guess, it being written in English). Still, limiting communism and socialism to women working, equal wages with men, health care, child care and pension, how women viewed sex is wrong. Let’s look at each. As someone who lives in an ex-communist country I know that child care, health care and free education were barely there. Just because they existed (and still do with millions in debt) doesn’t mean the The problem with this book is that its focus seems to be American centric (which is normal, I guess, it being written in English). Still, limiting communism and socialism to women working, equal wages with men, health care, child care and pension, how women viewed sex is wrong. Let’s look at each. As someone who lives in an ex-communist country I know that child care, health care and free education were barely there. Just because they existed (and still do with millions in debt) doesn’t mean they worked properly. You were indoctrinated to work in factories. Factories, subordinated to the state, exported most of their produce, the stores were empty. You had equal wages and you had money but nothing to buy, sometimes not even food (people bribed a friend or a friend of a friend to have enough to support a family). I don’t recall from talking with older friends and family, anyone saying they felt more liberated in bed. Sex meant having children (was encouraged) for the country. The author makes her claims but still she doesn’t mention the conclusion of millions of people. Having an equal wage, free education, healthcare (nowadays, you can enter public hospitals with a minor infection and get out without a leg or dead) wasn’t enough to balance the scale of an oppressive state, corruption, inequality in various forms, the lack of almost everything. I can’t, to this day, talk with family members about those times without them bursting into tears. And here comes Ghodsee. And tells us they had better sex. I suggest to anyone thinking those were the good times to read the book I chose freedom by Victor Kravchenko. Another point that she makes regards northern countries' socialism. They have their own problems (way too many if we were to believe The Guardian journalist Michael Booth [read The Almost Nearly Perfect People; it’s a great eye opening about why socialism might not be the answer in the long run]) and I don’t think hygge and women working in government are enough to compensate. If you already think socialism is the best thing in the world then this is the book for you.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I don't think this is a fully baked book--I wish she would have spent some more time and made it a longer and more fully thought out thesis. As is, I don't think she really supports her thesis. However, this was still an excellent read. The point is obvious, but sometimes forgotten: Women are happier when they are financially independent. They can have better relationships and also better sex.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ioana

    I picked up this book because I wanted to read something on politics and ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would! I believe in equality, and both men and women having fulfilling lives. I was born after communism fell in Eastern Europe and I have lived in Denmark, where I could see how socialism and democracy can work together. For men and women alike, the government has put in place policies to protect their quality of life in Denmark, and make sure they are looked after if misfortu I picked up this book because I wanted to read something on politics and ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would! I believe in equality, and both men and women having fulfilling lives. I was born after communism fell in Eastern Europe and I have lived in Denmark, where I could see how socialism and democracy can work together. For men and women alike, the government has put in place policies to protect their quality of life in Denmark, and make sure they are looked after if misfortune should hit. They have created a society that encourages strong, independent women, which I am happy to see in my close friends and which I would like to see world-round. From education, to health, to relationships I admire what they have done. I can completely see the points that the book is discussing, and was particularly interested in sexual economics and how they manifest in a capitalist society. I liked that the author was also well-informed on the situation in various socialist countries, and made sure to separate the positives from the negatives and communism from socialism. Well researched, approachable style, just left me wanting more information and more in the way of predicting what would happen next.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Reads like a dream - I finished the whole thing in one 2-hour sitting. As in her other works, the author demonstrates a very liberal and anglocentric understanding of capitalism and socialism. That she can nevertheless extract some very telling conclusions about the wellbeing of women under socialism versus their deprivations under capitalism, makes the book all the more valuable. In a couple of neat chapters she empirically settles the record on women civil participation, quality of life, views Reads like a dream - I finished the whole thing in one 2-hour sitting. As in her other works, the author demonstrates a very liberal and anglocentric understanding of capitalism and socialism. That she can nevertheless extract some very telling conclusions about the wellbeing of women under socialism versus their deprivations under capitalism, makes the book all the more valuable. In a couple of neat chapters she empirically settles the record on women civil participation, quality of life, views on relationship, work, childbirth and -rearing, etc. Only Sheila Fitzpatrick's the Cultural Front gave me comparable insights before. 'State socialism' (as opposed to 'democratic socialism', also known as not socialism. But ok ok, US context, carry on) is derided constantly, sometimes confusingly so. After giving multiple material reasons for why the move away from traditional marriages towards women's emancipation was curtailed — opposition from the conservative peasant majority, failure of economic and judicial infrastructure to support alimony and public daycare — she concludes that Stalin simply 'found it easier' to ditch the project. She likewise flings around 'natalist' as an accusatory barb, not taking into account that for the West the demographic context was completely different and the eastern bloc simply had to take difficult decisions. Not going for maximum population growth would have meant limiting the future options the USSR had in defending the revolution, without which no real emancipation was possible anyway. All that notwithstanding, Ghodsee is of an activist bent and her appeals to join a collective struggle for a socialist and feminist future dovetail nicely with the function of the book: an ideological pickaxe with which to break open the debate on class, women and the state once more. Supremely useful, recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sean Estelle

    This very quick read was an overall entertaining, sometimes very persuasive look into the lessons we can learn for women’s liberation from ‘really existing socialisms’ and socialist theorists. I am not really sure what to think of the pieces around sex work (I would have felt better about it if Ghodsee had qualified her critique of sexual economics theory and sex work with a defense of sex workers surviving under capitalism, especially post SESTA/FOSTA). Overall definitely worth the read, even w This very quick read was an overall entertaining, sometimes very persuasive look into the lessons we can learn for women’s liberation from ‘really existing socialisms’ and socialist theorists. I am not really sure what to think of the pieces around sex work (I would have felt better about it if Ghodsee had qualified her critique of sexual economics theory and sex work with a defense of sex workers surviving under capitalism, especially post SESTA/FOSTA). Overall definitely worth the read, even with the clickbait title.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Conor

    This work offers a peek through the iron curtain and into the bedrooms of the former Soviet Bloc countries. Sex, it turns out, was both more enjoyable and better understood in the authoritarian regimes of Eastern Europe. While the author displays an excellent breadth of historical and sociological understanding of the 20th century European Socialist states, the book's most profound critique is its comparison with the capitalist West--both then and now. While rationing, travel restrictions, and c This work offers a peek through the iron curtain and into the bedrooms of the former Soviet Bloc countries. Sex, it turns out, was both more enjoyable and better understood in the authoritarian regimes of Eastern Europe. While the author displays an excellent breadth of historical and sociological understanding of the 20th century European Socialist states, the book's most profound critique is its comparison with the capitalist West--both then and now. While rationing, travel restrictions, and curtailed rights of expression encumbered life under socialism, citizens were also free of the evils of capitalism. Namely, they enjoyed life uncontrolled by the commodification of relationships and sex. Socialist women enjoyed better pay, more generous government services, and the social autonomy afforded exclusively to men in capitalist countries. The book offers acute insights into life under modern capitalism, in which apps like Tinder are ubiquitous and individual sexuality is wrapped into our own personal social media 'brands.' Because, under capitalism, relationships cannot be divorced from their economic calculations. Women can lose their health coverage if their husband loses his, power-dynamics are abused, and relationships with no soul beyond financial motivation remain commonplace. By way of comparison, Ghodsee offers an alternative to the corrupted sexual dynamics under capitalism and further instills that feminism without socialism is a lost cause. I did take issue with the authors at times uncritical engagement with the perennially maligned sexual marketplace theory, as well as her aggressive optimism which I felt downplayed the enormity of capitalism’s problems. The book tends to struggle when it strays from its evidence and ventures into op-ed moralizing and political diagnoses. That said, I enjoyed my time with the work and appreciated its fairhanded approach and comparison. 4/5, Get it from the library.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this book for the Tokyo Feminist book club. 🙂 I doubt I would have read it otherwise because the title would have put me off. OK, so firstly I think about a book about socialism shouldn’t refer to Sweden and Finland as “socialist countries”. They’re social democracies - they're still capitalist countries. In comparison to the US, they're much to the further left of the political spectrum, but I think it's strange to use the Soviet Union and Sweden as your main examples of "socialism" - th I read this book for the Tokyo Feminist book club. 🙂 I doubt I would have read it otherwise because the title would have put me off. OK, so firstly I think about a book about socialism shouldn’t refer to Sweden and Finland as “socialist countries”. They’re social democracies - they're still capitalist countries. In comparison to the US, they're much to the further left of the political spectrum, but I think it's strange to use the Soviet Union and Sweden as your main examples of "socialism" - they don't have that much in common. This is stated at the start of the book: “Throughout this book, I use the term “state socialism” or “state socialist” to refer to the states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union dominated by ruling Communist Parties where political freedoms were curtailed. I use the term “democratic socialism” or “democratic socialist” to refer to countries where socialist principles are championed by parties that compete in free and fair elections and where political rights are maintained.“ In part of the book, the writer, Kristen R. Ghodsee, talks about a friend of hers, who decided to be a stay-at-home mother. Whilst Ghodsee was working towards tenure as a working mother, her friend Lisa was spending her free time reading novels and exercising whilst her children napped (just to make it sound like being a stay-at-home mom is fun and luxurious). Eventually, Ghodsee earned tenure, released a book and her daughter started school, so her life got less stressful. A few years later, when she is meeting up with Lisa to go to a restaurant, she overhears her arguing with her husband. ““… Please, Bill. It’ll be embarrassing.” “No. You’ve spent enough money this month. I’ll give you the card again after the statement rolls.” “But I shopped for the house and bought clothes for the girls. I didn’t buy anything for me.”” After this, they go to a restaurant, Lisa lies about what she was arguing with her husband about and starts drinking wine. Ghodsee is uncomfortable and offers to pay for dinner, to which Lisa says “Thanks. I’ll fuck him tonight and pay you back tomorrow.” This was meant to be a tale of the dangers of being economically dependant on your husband, but it feels as though she is attacking women’s choice to be stay-at-home mothers. Say for example Lisa divorced her husband, and started working full-time, she has to pay for extremely expensive childcare. Not everyone has that option. The story's message seems to be if you work really hard it'll pay off, and if you stay home with your kids you'll be trapped. “All of the labor she performs caring for their children, organizing their lives, and managing their home is invisible as far as the market is concerned. Lisa receives no wages and contributes no funds toward her own social security in old age. She accumulates no work experience and creates a black hole on her résumé, one that will require explaining away if she ever hopes to rejoin the labor force. She even accesses medical care through her husband’s employer. Everything she has she derives from Bill’s income, and he can deny her access to their joint credit cards at will.” This is a place in the book where I wish there was a better conclusion to end with, I thought there would be focus on the system and how it disadvantages mothers, and places them in the difficult position of having to work, pay for childcare and manage a home, or stay at home and be dependant on their husbands. Instead Ghodsee says she swore to never be in Lisa's position. There’s a lot of interesting ideas here that don't really go anywhere, I was hoping things would tie together and have a good conclusion, so I was disappointed. Especially because she talks a lot about the interconnecting problems that neoliberalism causes. The idea of capitalism being thought of as the only option, similar to the ideas expressed in Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism: "The erasure of socialist ideas from serious political discourse throughout most of my life wasn’t a historical fluke. The West’s victory in the Cold War—liberal democracy for everyone!—came at the price of iconoclasm, much of it celebratory.… So communism was killed, and along with it went any discussion of socialism and Marxism. This was the world of my childhood and adolescence, full of establishment progressives who were aggressively centrist and just as willing as conservatives to privilege the interests of capital over those of labor: think of the reckless expansion of so-called free trade, or the brutal military-industrial complex. For most of my life, I would have been hard-pressed to define capitalism, because in the news and in my textbooks, no other ways of organizing an economy were even acknowledged. I didn’t know that there could be an alternative." The topic of "sexual economics theory" from a socialist perspective was very interesting to me, particularly because these ideas are often used by sexist men online as proof that women are "inherently gold-diggers". There are studies that show that men and women prioritise different traits when looking for a partner: men generally focus more on looks and youth than women do; and women focus more on wealth than men do. These studies are used as proof that women are "hypergamous sluts" "incapable of real love!!" etc on some parts of the internet. Other people theorise it's because women's own ability to earn is lower than men's, they're at a disadvantage and marrying up is a means to a better life which is otherwise unavailable. "[after the collapse of the USSR] The commodification of women’s sexuality in Russia could be observed in the dramatic increase in sex work, pornography, strategic marriages for money, and what the authors call “sponsorship,” whereby wealthy men sponsor their mistresses. According to Temkina and Zdravomyslova, this instrumental script was “very seldom found in the narratives of sexual life” of the older women who grew up in the Soviet Union." Ok next I just find some of the writing off-putting, like this: “As if directly responding to the Western stereotype of Eastern Bloc women as tired, fat, and ugly, the East Germans included a whole chapter on “Women, Socialism, Beauty and Love,” complete with stylized black-and-white nude photographs of gorgeous models baring their perky breasts for the cause.” just kind of gross and objectifying to me. Here's a subject that warrants it's own book: “the skyrocketing incidence of depression and anxiety are the negative externalities of a system that reduces human worth to its exchange value” Just another random quote I found interesting: "Researchers asked respondents in Hungary and the United States: “If a woman wants to have a child as a single parent but she doesn’t want to have a stable relationship with a man, do you approve or disapprove?” Only 8 percent of the Hungarians said they “disapproved,” compared to 56 percent of Americans, demonstrating a much more liberal attitude toward single mothers and women’s independence in the state socialist country."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mick Van Rijk

    sassy stuff - made me lol but made me col more (cry out loud)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    Those reviewers who argue that this book doesn't sufficiently acknowledge the bad elements of life under Eastern European really existing socialism have completely missed Ghodsee's point. While she does repeatedly acknowledge the problems of autocratic single-party states, their misunderstanding is more fundamental than that--her point is not that things were good for women under really existing socialism, just that really existing socialist nations did more to try and promote gender equity, eco Those reviewers who argue that this book doesn't sufficiently acknowledge the bad elements of life under Eastern European really existing socialism have completely missed Ghodsee's point. While she does repeatedly acknowledge the problems of autocratic single-party states, their misunderstanding is more fundamental than that--her point is not that things were good for women under really existing socialism, just that really existing socialist nations did more to try and promote gender equity, economic and social security for women, and empower women to life independent lives not financially dependent on men than their capitalist counterparts did (or still do today). Ghodsee is very clear that the socialist countries often failed to live up to their ideals--partially because they didn't have the money for state run institutions like universal child-care, and partially because many Eastern European countries, particularly up through the early 60s, were dominated by conservative, patriarchal peasant cultures. But again, her fundamental point is that Eastern European socialist nations made concerted, purposeful efforts to work toward gender equity through things like job guarantees and state sponsored healthcare that ensured women could live without needing a man, through gender quotas that helped increase the number of women in positions of power, through liberalized divorce laws, etc. By contrast, in Western democratic countries, women often continue to be tied to men financially because they have little social security and the labor markets still predominantly reward men with higher wages and better security. Although in 2019 things are clearly not as bad as they were in the 1950s, a distressingly high number of women remain in bad marriages/relationships because they would otherwise be unable to find employment or healthcare to support themselves (and their children, if they have them). Because sex is commodified under capitalism--and Ghodsee talks about the theory of sexual economics, but Gary Becker offers another strand of seeing personal/emotional relationships as market exchanges--those with the most economic resources (which tends to be men) are able to exert disproportionate disciplinary authority. In other words, women become workers who sell their sexuality as a commodity in a labor market, whether this takes the form of overt sex work (and the sex work industries exploded in Eastern Europe after the fall of state socialism) or the form of marriages that trap women behind a need for their husband's income and insurance provided through his work. Ultimately, what Ghodsee argues--and what many of the negative reviews here seem to miss--is that when women have a degree of economic independence they have more freedom to develop positive, emotionally fulfilling relationships, which ultimately benefits men as well. And based on the evidence she's presented, some of the programs from the state socialist nations--like a jobs guarantee, universal healthcare, state-sponsored childcare,employment quotas, etc.--have the best track record for moving toward that economic independence, whereas free market capitalism's record of promoting economic independence is abyssal. But, she also argues that these positive programs can easily and productively be built into liberal democratic frameworks while abandoning the negative elements of really existing socialist autocracy. For those that critique the book for not being detailed enough in its evidence, or not providing enough concrete data, this is definitely true. However, Ghodsee does point out specifically in the introduction that the book is for a popular audience, and that anyone interested in more concrete data can consult the further reading suggestions or Ghodsee's other publications on the subject. So, while this is a fair critique for those who want the book to be more scholarly, it isn't a failure of the book, so much as a generic difference.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Her arguments are 95% emotional, and have already been refuted time and again in anti-socialist literature. I lost count of false equivalencies just within the first chapter. The author doesn't understand what capitalism is (most importantly, *not* the heavily related, corporate monopolism we have in the US), or she wouldn't be arguing that it inherently discriminates against mothers. The book was automatically returned to my digital library before I finished it, and I'm not bothering to re-borr Her arguments are 95% emotional, and have already been refuted time and again in anti-socialist literature. I lost count of false equivalencies just within the first chapter. The author doesn't understand what capitalism is (most importantly, *not* the heavily related, corporate monopolism we have in the US), or she wouldn't be arguing that it inherently discriminates against mothers. The book was automatically returned to my digital library before I finished it, and I'm not bothering to re-borrow it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Despite, or perhaps due to, the salacious title, this book is AMAZING. Incredibly well researched, I learned so much, highly recommend it!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Briar Wyatt

    A very easy read, but packs a pretty solid emotional punch while investigating the intersections of socialism and feminism. I learned some good tidbits and felt a shit tonne of solidarity!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ariel ✨

    Smart, funny, enlightening. I made a lot of notes I'll have to revisit in the future.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    The politics book club decided it was time to read something fun and spicy and possibly Valentine’s Day appropriate? I forget if that came up in the discussion, as I periodically forget about most holidays that aren’t Halloween.  Anyway, for February we landed on Kristen R. Ghodsee’s Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence.  It’s a pretty short, pretty easy read, and it lets you know where it stands right off the bat. Page 1 has two paragraphs. Th The politics book club decided it was time to read something fun and spicy and possibly Valentine’s Day appropriate? I forget if that came up in the discussion, as I periodically forget about most holidays that aren’t Halloween.  Anyway, for February we landed on Kristen R. Ghodsee’s Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence.  It’s a pretty short, pretty easy read, and it lets you know where it stands right off the bat. Page 1 has two paragraphs. The first paragraph sums up the book’s core argument. The second paragraph explains what various sorts of readers can expect to get from reading the book, except trolls, who can fuck off. The opposite page features a picture of a smiling Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, in full cosmonaut gear with “CCCP” prominently visible on her helmet. So far, so good. Ghodsee, a professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, uses the term “under socialism” in its broadest possible sense, looking at the effects of changes won by socialist parties, politicians, and agitators on women’s achievements and personal lives in a variety of countries touched by socialist movements.  Some of her specific definition choices strike me as a little odd—she refers to countries ruled by Communist parties as “state socialist” rather than “communist” because they never achieved full communism, but she refers to countries where democratic socialist parties held power and implemented programs via parliamentary means as “democratic socialist” countries rather than their usual name of “social democracies,” even though they never achieved full democratic socialism either. For most of the book I was able to mostly take it in stride that in this work we’re using words the way the author defines them, as is good and normal, but it got noticeably weird when talking about, like, there being a higher proportion of female CEOs in Scandinavian countries. “Socialist countries have more of some type of CEO” is the sort of framing that makes a big record scratch noise go off in my brain, even if it is immediately followed up with a discussion of how focusing on elite women leaves the vast majority of women behind. In the “smart editorial choices” column, the book is structured so all the “other arguments” are in the earlier chapters and the stuff about Soviet sexology is in the later ones, thus ensuring that readers are motivated to read past the first few chapters. Although if I weren’t reading this for a book club I might have been tempted to skim some bits; I have been doing this feminism thing for quite a while and I’ve read most of the stats on labor force participation rates before. It’s cool that Ghodsee brings in more stats about Soviet countries than you usually see in mainstream progressive feminist discourse, which most often just compares the US and Western Europe, though. But there’s still just a lot of Feminist Political Program ground I’ve seen covered before—maternity leave policies, hiring discrimination, wage gaps, correlation between numbers of lady bankers and firm performance in the 2008 meltdown, sexual economics theory, public policy and birth rates, etc. It therefore probably shouldn’t have been surprising that I actually found the parts of the book that were explicitly about sex more interesting than the bits that weren’t; it would appear that because it is less relevant to my usual interests than the stuff about career paths and birth control access, it was also the material that I wasn’t already familiar with. Apparently there was some pretty intense Cold War rivalry going on in the field of sex research in the mid-20th century. I had no idea. I was also fascinated by the different taxonomies (here called scripts) of sexual behavior that researchers found when conducting interviews with Russian women of different ages, which changed dramatically in different periods of political history. Researchers found five, one of which (“instrumentalist”) appears to have not even existed under the Soviet system. (The only one of the scripts that sounded even remotely tolerable to me was the “friendship script,” which Ghodsee insists is not the same thing as a friend with benefits, meaning it would appear that I don’t understand what a friend with benefits is either. Apparently I am Too Socialist in addition to Too Aromantic to understand literally anything about contemporary pairing behaviors.) (This is why I don’t usually read about this stuff—it just leaves me more confused.) One of the explicit goals of this book was to inject some nuance about how we talk about the USSR into American political discourse, where it is generally seen as a one-dimensional black hole of Evil Empire by most Americans (and then as an unimpeachable workers’ paradise of anti-imperialism by a small but loud handful of anime avatars on Twitter, but the less said about them the better). In this respect I think she does a pretty good job for American readers, even if she does occasionally hit levels of Explaining Very Clearly that would make me feel a little talked down to were I not acutely aware that I have been rendered unable to talk to normal people and am myself no longer a normal people. Also I like the term “blackwashing” and will be adopting it immediately. Overall I am pretty glad we picked this book since I probably wouldn’t have read it on my own, but it was an interesting read and I learned some things. Originally posted at This month in 'books the allos made me read'.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Larissa

    The last chapter changed my rating from 3 to 4 stars. The way this book was structured made some arguments of historical figures quite repetitive, and quite a few parts were simply stating numbers and statistics of what was going on in Eastern European countries during different eras. The arguments that Ghodsee used were interesting enough to keep reading, and the final chapter was written a lot more smoothly without the endless statistics of the previous chapters. Overall I still recommend read The last chapter changed my rating from 3 to 4 stars. The way this book was structured made some arguments of historical figures quite repetitive, and quite a few parts were simply stating numbers and statistics of what was going on in Eastern European countries during different eras. The arguments that Ghodsee used were interesting enough to keep reading, and the final chapter was written a lot more smoothly without the endless statistics of the previous chapters. Overall I still recommend reading this, but you have to be in the mood for quantitative research!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I loved this book top to bottom. The title, the cover, the length and even the physical size of the book is attractive. Ghodsee is effective at demonstrating her academic expertise while still being an engaging and entertaining writer for a popular audience. In terms of audience, I also found that she was great at explicitly directing much of her book to a millennial audience without being condescending, which made her slight criticisms more impactful. Ghodsee successfully identified and articul I loved this book top to bottom. The title, the cover, the length and even the physical size of the book is attractive. Ghodsee is effective at demonstrating her academic expertise while still being an engaging and entertaining writer for a popular audience. In terms of audience, I also found that she was great at explicitly directing much of her book to a millennial audience without being condescending, which made her slight criticisms more impactful. Ghodsee successfully identified and articulated the specific issues of sexism, economic inequality and capitalism we face In this present moment and then made a clear connection to the strategies (successful or otherwise) used to address those problems for the past 150 years in order to make a genuinely motivating argument for how we can and need to move forward. I found this book to be incredibly accessible and instructive, and I couldn’t reccomend it highly enough.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mariana Garrido

    Probably the best non-fiction book I've read in the last years. Women of the world, please read it!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eric Dowdle

    The arguments are nothing groundbreaking, but the research into sociology of eastern Europeans post-ussr is fascinating

  26. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    Most importantly reclaim your time, emotional energy, and self-worth from the reductive logic of capitalism. You are not a commodity. Your depression and anxiety are not just chemical imbalances in your brain, but reasonable responses to a system that thrives on dehumanization. Relationships are a political issue too. We must push back at the dominant ideology that mangles our social bonds into nodes of economic exchange. We can share our attentions without quantifying their value. Giving and re Most importantly reclaim your time, emotional energy, and self-worth from the reductive logic of capitalism. You are not a commodity. Your depression and anxiety are not just chemical imbalances in your brain, but reasonable responses to a system that thrives on dehumanization. Relationships are a political issue too. We must push back at the dominant ideology that mangles our social bonds into nodes of economic exchange. We can share our attentions without quantifying their value. Giving and receiving, rather than buying and selling.

  27. 4 out of 5

    JC

    As far as irrelevant introductions go, this past New Year’s Eve I was driving in the pouring rain and fog through unlit rural roads trying to find my way to a friend’s place in Georgetown. The ‘driveway’ of this place (read: long hilly dirt road) was very difficult to spot from the main ‘highway’, and I missed it the first time even with assistance from my phone’s navigational app — almost missing it again after turning back. I reached the end of this tremendously long dirt road and it was pitch As far as irrelevant introductions go, this past New Year’s Eve I was driving in the pouring rain and fog through unlit rural roads trying to find my way to a friend’s place in Georgetown. The ‘driveway’ of this place (read: long hilly dirt road) was very difficult to spot from the main ‘highway’, and I missed it the first time even with assistance from my phone’s navigational app — almost missing it again after turning back. I reached the end of this tremendously long dirt road and it was pitch black, and if I happened to have made the wrong turn and in fact had ended up at the door of a serial killer, there was no way I could have made it out of this place alive. I realize that’s not how serial killing works, but at this point I was very stressed. It would have taken me a good 20 minutes to run to the nearest road with any traffic on it. I think maybe I was more worried they would think I was a serial killer and shoot me. Thankfully, it was the right place, and I made my way into a pleasant almost tableau vivant of familiar faces working away in the kitchen preparing some very lovely things to eat. After a lovely meal followed by a game of ping-pong, I descended into a conversation with a particular friend about a certain Hobsbawm book they were reading. Eventually conversation shifted onto this article they had read in Jacobin claiming how sex was better under socialism. Basically this book, I now realize. The title really is a lot more provocative than the large majority of the book’s contents. There is a section on sexology and statistical analysis on the prevalence of reaching orgasm, haha, but I can’t imagine those datasets are very reliable. I just think self-reported survey data can be a little off sometimes. Either way the book's main premise is a simple second-wave one about how women with economic independence are less vulnerable to sexual exploitation in its large variety of forms. Therefore equality is somewhat of a prerequisite for non-coercive, consensual, and hence more enjoyable sex. Ironically, since the book is a critique of how sex is commodified under capitalism, I feel like it ends up doing something a little similar for the sake of marketing itself. I mean that is part of the greater irony of socialist texts having to be sold under a capitalist economy. However, I don’t think the book does it in an exploitative way or anything, I just notice that there is a degree of irony there. Maybe that's a misread on my part. I don't know how socialist theories engage the economic activity of book publishing. Most of this book is actually a very accessible history of both socialism and feminism and the various ways they intersected in history, and of course it requires comparative mention of its binary ‘others’ capitalism and patriarchy. The book is apologetically polemical. I don’t have a problem with that, because it doesn’t try to hide it at all. You get what you expect with a title like that, maybe even less radical than many might assume. Ghodsee is a democratic socialist, and is even takes time to express a certain caution towards the millennial crowd who make memes demanding “full communism now”. I am only slightly aware of this milieu, but have certainly encountered it, and while I do think most of it is done in good fun, I also at the same time feel uneasy about some serious apologetics that is sometimes marched around for some pretty awful tactics that very concentrated state socialist power committed. At the same time, I am also less enthusiastic about the general structures of so-called ‘democracies’ today, but only because I don’t see them as very democratic. Ghodsee really emphasizes reform by way of electoral politics, and does make a caveat that more is needed, but she does seem to make her emphasis on electoral politics clear. I do think electoral politics has its place. Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib have been tremendously exciting developments, but they can only do so much. Ghodsee also talks about just engaging in conversation and working through these issues with other people who see things differently than you. She even recommends reading libertarian magazines and stuff like that. I have a bias to this sort of personal strategy simply because it was what changed my own views, and I have seen it change the perspectives of others in my life. I also think direct action seems like an exciting way to foster strong and lasting relationships with other people, and I really do want to engage with that sort of stuff more. I think I ultimately still have a certain suspicion of states, and I do think that comes slightly from the sorts of theologians I have spent the past number of years reading. Anyways, I just went somewhat off topic. The most memorable stuff for me from the book were all the different high-ranking women who were part of “really existing socialism” and the different aspects of their lives and the policy hopes they were trying to achieve, and sometimes in practice were not able to. It is surprising the extent socially progressive policies were rolled back under Stalin. Ghodsee notes how much common ground there exists between Stalin’s policies and social conservative ones today. Things like maternity leave (accessible for both genders) and affordable child-care were important early goals in various socialist countries, and I think they are very doable today. This was a surprisingly quick read. I have not yet read in detail any critical reviews of the book yet. I’m sure there’s lots of stuff to pick at — different aspects of sex work are still debated in the feminist circles I’ve encountered. I have yet to organize my thoughts about various things like that, but this book was an interesting read overall. I still know very little about socialism and leftist politics in general, as well as feminism, but I think this isn’t a bad introduction to a certain dimension of those things.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Megan Bell

    This is economic and political systems as you’ve never seen them before. Kristen R. Ghodsee examines how state socialism contributed to women’s lives as workers, mothers, partners, sexual beings, and citizens and how capitalism exerts economic forces that act negatively on women. Ghodsee isn’t a card carrying Communist—she’s a scholar who suggests we adopt some of the socialist policies that made women’s lives better, and she offers a fascinating, funny, and enlightening study of women under bot This is economic and political systems as you’ve never seen them before. Kristen R. Ghodsee examines how state socialism contributed to women’s lives as workers, mothers, partners, sexual beings, and citizens and how capitalism exerts economic forces that act negatively on women. Ghodsee isn’t a card carrying Communist—she’s a scholar who suggests we adopt some of the socialist policies that made women’s lives better, and she offers a fascinating, funny, and enlightening study of women under both state socialism and American capitalism in the past century.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kaylie

    Intelligent, thorough, and optimistic. Highly quotable and recommended. Good for feminist issues and an excellent mind-expanding primer for socialism that is implementable, not just ideological. Also may have made me cry on a plane.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brant Roberts

    “If women’s liberation is unthinkable without communism, then communism is unthinkable without women’s liberation.” – Inessa Armand “What we can now conjecture about the way in which sexual relations will be ordered after the impending overthrow of capitalist production is mainly of a negative character, limited for the most part to what will disappear. But what will there be new?” – Friedrich Engels[1] After the reunification of Germany in 1990 the Chancellor Helmut Kohl made an appeal to East G “If women’s liberation is unthinkable without communism, then communism is unthinkable without women’s liberation.” – Inessa Armand “What we can now conjecture about the way in which sexual relations will be ordered after the impending overthrow of capitalist production is mainly of a negative character, limited for the most part to what will disappear. But what will there be new?” – Friedrich Engels[1] After the reunification of Germany in 1990 the Chancellor Helmut Kohl made an appeal to East Germans, “No one will be worse off; for many, life will be better.”[2] After almost 30 years since the end of really-existing-socialism[3] those words have rung deeply hollow. The liberal consensus of the end of history has been revealed as a farce for every nation that emerged from the socialist states and a renewed popular discourse around socialism and democratic-socialism has begun to overtake the largely Western narratives about these political systems and economic modes of production. While there have been many recently published works on the subject, none cut more directly into the questions surrounding the experience of women under socialism than renowned anthropologist Kristin Ghodsee’s new book Why Women Have Better Sex under Socialism and Other Arguments for Economic Independence. Ghodsee’s book is written with the intention of saving what state-led measures worked for women under socialism without justifying what went wrong under the governments that implemented them. In short, the author walks a fine line between the conservative criticism of socialism and embracing the system uncritically, all while asking the readers to take into account what could work for everyone in a democratic-socialist future. Weaving personal narratives throughout the book, her approach to spelling out what the experiences for women were under socialism and comparing them with the experiences of close friends in the West was done seamlessly and did not distract from the main points of the book – if anything, her narratives actually strengthened them in ways that made the book far more fascinating. Although an academic, she avoids the narrow, jargon ridden presentation style that fills the volumes of most works on socialist history. Most importantly, she chose to publish the book with a non-academic press which has made it far easier to reach a popular audience with far less purchasing power than a university library. Having completed many years of travelling and interviewing people across the former Eastern Bloc beginning in 1989 as anthropologist, Ghodsee has seen what effects the transition from socialism to capitalism looked like and how it changed the everyday lives of ordinary people, especially women. The book covers the lived differences for women who experienced both systems, including: social reproduction and household labor time; access to abortion; the ease of getting a divorce; the mostly broken glass-ceiling to political power; sex work; the practice of citizenship; and, perhaps most importantly, how often women experienced orgasms. Avoiding the often orientalized portrayal of these countries by Western scholars, she critically examines each one and lays out what worked well in these societies for women and what did not. By 1961 the US was losing the cultural side of the Cold War, having been surpassed both in the space-race and in the Olympics in terms of gold medals; the reason for this is simply that the socialist states – especially the Soviet Union – had double the brain power since they had empowered women to work in every professional field and had allowed them to train as athletes.[4] It was largely in response to this problem that President John F. Kennedy created the Commission on the Status of Women.[5] That stronger rights for women in the West came about during this period, and stronger rights for women in the socialist states came about as the Cold War began, should be no surprise as the competition for progress was a much better arena for all women than after the Cold War. It is in this context that Ghodsee’s book should be read. As Ghodsee points out, not every socialist country regarded women’s rights at the same scale as others. For example, although abortion had been legalized in the Soviet Union, thanks to the work of Alexandra Kollantai and many other women who took part in the revolution, it was criminalized again under Stalin and then decriminalized again by 1955. In Romania abortion was outlawed in 1966, and in Albania the state actively worked to restrict access to birth control, sex education and abortion.[6] The end of state socialism not only reintroduced the commodification of everyday life but also the commodification of women’s bodies. Ghodsee sums up the latter: “Today, Russian mail-order brides, Ukrainian sex workers, Moldovan nannies, and Polish maids flood Western Europe. Unscrupulous middle men harvest blonde hair from poor Belorussian teenagers for New York wig makers. In St. Petersburg, women attend academies for aspiring gold diggers. Prague is the epicenter of the European porn industry. Human traffickers prowl the streets of Sofia, Bucharest, and Chisinau for hapless girls dreaming of a more prosperous life in the West.”[7] That private property and capitalist relations created these problems should be no surprise to American readers. Essentially arguing that socializing Indigenous men and women into patriarchy preceded capitalist relations and built the social foundation for colonization, Lakota scholar Nick Estes notes, “To gain access to Indigenous lands, white men had used Indigenous men to break communal land practices and undermine Indigenous women’s political authority.”[8] The situation today is dire and while the end of socialism meant the end of long lines for products, it was also the beginning of a much worse situation. Indeed, a common joke across Eastern Europe since 1989 reflects these feelings: In the middle of the night, a woman screams and jumps out of bed, eyes filled with terror. Her startled husband watches her rush into the bathroom and open the medicine cabinet. She then dashes to the kitchen and inspects the inside of the refrigerator. Finally she flings open a window and gazes out onto the street below their apartment. She takes a deep breath and returns to bed. “What’s wrong with you?” her husband says. “What happened?” “I had a terrible nightmare,” she says. “I dreamed that we had the medicine we needed, that our refrigerator was full of food, and that the streets outside were safe and clean.” “How is that a nightmare?” The woman shakes her head and shudders. “I thought the Communists were back in power.”[9] Women’s taste in men under socialism was not constrained to the same problems that many women face today – being in relationships/marriages for strictly financial reasons, access to health insurance via their partner’s job, being in a worse living situation, staying in only for the sake of their children, going into debt, etc. – rather, women were able to choose more freely who they wanted to be with because of the social safety net provided by the state. In short, as one East German man put it, money was not enough, “You had to be interesting.”[10] The social safety net was arguably the backbone of socialist economies in that everyone had some relation to it and every family relied on it some way. It also had an ideological function in that men were socialized into sharing household work and raising children through different forms of state media.[11] In both East Germany and Bulgaria, “state publications encouraged men to participate in domestic work, sharing the burden of child care more equitably with their wives, who were also employed full-time.”[12] One of the implications was that men had to be more generous in the bedroom given that, unlike their counterparts in the West, women had the social mobility and autonomy to leave. The title itself is inspired by sexual satisfaction surveys performed by East German researchers in West and East Germany which began in 1984 and ended in 1990. The questions ranged from the desire to get married to if they enjoyed their last sexual encounter. The results of the former were “73 percent of East German women and 74 percent of East German men wanted to get married” while “71 percent of women in the West desired marriage, but only 57 percent of Western men did, a fourteen point difference.” The results of the latter were “75 percent of GDR [East German] women and 74 percent of GDR men said yes, compared to 84 percent of FRG [West German] men and a mere 46 percent of FRG women.”[13] That there was 38 percent difference is revealing of the lived differences between women who have a strong social safety net and women who have nothing remotely close. There is little worth criticizing in Ghodsee’s book as she neatly and tightly edged-up much of her prose and positions. However, given that cultural production received so much funding and attention from the socialist states, it is surprising that Ghodsee did not include any mentions of films that portrayed women. For example, while it’s easy to critique East German films such as Destinies of Women (1952) and Divided Heaven (1964) as state propaganda, there were films that produced much more realistic portrayals of the everyday lives women from Traces of Stones (1966) to The Legend of Paul and Paula (1973). I mention East German films the most here since most of her supporting data comes from East Germany. That this book has gotten so much attention and warranted so many reviews already – including a few bad ones – is only further testament to the interest that so many people have in the history of the policies of the socialist states and how they shaped the everyday life of people. Ghodsee even received one critical email in response to her New York Times op-ed from a Czechoslovak woman, who had experienced socialism and is now residing in Switzerland, When I got married, we had to work to be able to pay off loans for both the flat as well as furniture we had bought. Within a year, we had our first child. The “generous” maternity leave was eight months after which I went back to work. I had to gently wake our little daughter every morning at 5:30am as the day care center opened at 6am and it took 15 minutes by tram to get there. Once at the day care center, I had to dress her in a uniform and hurry to take the bus at 6:30am to get to work. I often only just managed to catch the bus and it was not unusual that the doors of the bus would close behind me with part of my coat still hanging outside. At the time, my husband was getting off work at 2pm which meant that he could pick up our daughter, buy some groceries and prepare dinner in time for my return at around 5pm. Shortly after that, we would put our daughter to bed as the next day promised the same rushed routine as the day before. My husband and I were both tired after such a day….”[14] That this letter was meant as a criticism speaks volumes and while one can understand how tired anyone is after a day of labor and social work, the idea that this was a problem is baffling. The mothers of the rest of the world would be astonished at practices such as, eight months of maternity leave, having adequate public transit close to residential areas and workplaces, free day care centers, getting off work after only six to eight hours, having a husband willing to cook dinner and pick up their child on the way home from work, and having a flat close to all of it. Ghodsee’s book is a much welcomed addition to socialist thought since, unfortunately, there have been few, if any, books published on the topic of women’s experiences under socialism. The most striking experience in the book is that of Bulgarian socialist Elena Lagadinova who began her political experience as an antifascist partisan and ended up as a full member of the Bulgarian Politburo.[15] It was because of the work of antifascist women like Lagadinova that many of the first steps for women’s emancipation were implemented. While many of these policies were reversed with the reintroduction of capitalism and private property, this book documents what could be the policies of the future – post-capitalism. [1] Friedrich Engels, Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, 1884, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx... [2] https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-x... [3] From here on, reduced to “socialism.” [4] As a side note, it is interesting that the gender gap in testing among children in the former Socialist states was much smaller than in the rest of Europe. The implication is that socialist education for everyone was far more inclusive and did not restrict girls to the same patriarchal standards as other European states. Math, Girls and Socialism, May 2018: http://ftp.iza.org/dp11532.pdf [5] https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-view... [6] Kristen Ghodsee, Why Women had Better Sex Under Socialism and Other Arguments for Economic Independence (London: Vintage, 2018), 67. [7] Ibid., 12. Ghodsee cites numerous examples of these issues in the book’s footnotes. [8] Nick Estes, Our History is the Future: Standing Rock versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance (New York: Verso, 2019), 83. [9] Kristen Ghodsee, Why Women had Better Sex Under Socialism and Other Arguments for Economic Independence (London: Vintage, 2018), 12-13. [10] Ibid., 10. [11] Ibid., 61. [12] Ibid., 133. [13] Ibid., 135. [14] Ibid., 63. [15] Ibid., 90-91.

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