Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
April 22, 1971, Vol. XVI, No. 16
By Howard Smith
AT ONE POINT while I was talking to the Chairman of the American Virgin Liberation Front, I asked her, “Are you a virgin?” Wendy Robin answered, “Would you ask a member of the NAACP if they were black?”
HS: Do you have people in your group who aren’t virgins?
WR: Yes, of course, some members are married, some aren’t, a number of them are men, we even have some homosexuals. All of us are over 21, mostly in our mid-20s, but the ages range all the way up to 50.
HS: Then you’r not just anti-sex?
WR: Not at all; we just feel that no one should be coerced into it. Everyone has a definite time when they just aren’t ready for sex, but today young people are made to feel as if they’re sick if they want to wait until they feel they can handle a relationship psychologically and sexually.
HS: What age would that be?
WR: Different ages for different people. I personally wasn’t even ready to hold hands at the age of 18. What we really hate is the idea that a virgin is a joke, and the idea that “getting the virgin” has become standard.
HS: Not today; most men I know don’t want virgins. Don’t you put any value on sexual experience?
WR: I think that’s putting too much emphasis on the physical aspect of it; there’s an emotional involvement too.
HS: But don’t you acknowledge that occasionally sex can be a purely physical thing, with no emotional attachments at all?
WR: I think emotional attachments are very important.
HS: What kind of people are in your group?
WR: Lots of people join because they have had bad sexual experiences that they felt they were forced into, and want to protect others.
HS: Do you feel threatened that something might happen to you if people knew you were virgins? THis is the motive behind lots of lib movements — homosexuals, for example, feel they might lost a job if someone found out.
WR: I don’t think we’d lose jobs, but we might lose a date with some guy, or he’d try to coerce us into going to bed with him if he found out.
HS: What things are the American Virgin Liberation Front doing to prevent this “coercion”?
WR: The main thing is in getting to the media. Spreading the word that it’s okay to be a virgin until you’re ready. We object to the distorted view of sexual reality that magazines like Playboy and Cosmopolitan present — they push sex as a necessary part of a glamorous life. For another thing, we have a letter-writing campaign to get rid of prominently displayed pornography. We feel it can really be harmful to young kids, who might be intimidated into doing the same thing because they feel promiscuity must be the norm. I think if some young people were exposed to the kind of thing you see right out on drugstore counters it would completely blow their minds.
HS: Aren’t you then infringing upon other people’s right to read pornography and arbitrarily setting an age for when a person is able to handle it?
WR: Not at all; and we are strongly in favor of sex education in the schools — people should be prepared when they decide that the time is right for them to have intercourse.
This was part of a penetrating conversation I had last week with Wendy Robin, the 26-year-old actress who heads the American Virgin Liberation Front; even though the group’s name [sounds like?] a prurient plot to defile the shrinking ranks of voluntary celibates, it’s definitely not that at all. Their extremely serious purpose is to “liberate” the chaste from pressures being applied by all of us sex fiends who have been liberated by other movements; it’s another spin-off in the rush to back sexual preference with political power. This group of organized nay-sayers (once they were called professional virgins) now numbers around 50, centered around New York and Philadelphia, and is holding monthly meetings. So if you don’t want to be deflowered and want to protect other buds from being nipped, write to AVIF, care of Wendy Robin at 348 East 15th Street, apartment 22, New York 10003, and she’ll let you know when the next meeting is.
MEDIA WOMEN is a New York feminist group whose members work for newspapers, magazines, publishers, and tv networks or write on a free-lance basis. Their first publicized action was that sit-in at Ladies Home Journal last spring.
Right now, the group is working on a “A Women’s Guide to the Media,” a booklet that will survey more than 50 publishers and networks and rate them according to sexist attitudes, salary discriminations, and working conditions. It’s aimed at women who want to get started in media jobs in New York, especially college seniors. Because the women contributing to the booklet have worked in the places surveyed, the information is detailed, personalized, and specific — a real no-bullshit approach that gives the reader a pretty good idea of what to expect there. An example:
“What can you say about a brilliant, eager, well-educated girl whose ambition has slowly atrophied? Chances are that she worked for Simon and Schuster. At this marvelous house inequality reigns while young women are harassed by hunger.” The booklet goes on to claim that “in the old days it was the tradition at Simon and Schuster to only hire girls form the seven sisters school who had a B.A. in English, outstanding typing ability, and skill in steno. Today, because there are very few of these package deals floating around, the requirements for being an editorial secretary have sharply dropped. Although it is no longer necessary to have graduated from one of the seven sisters schools, to have a B.A. in English, and a skill in steno, it is a must to be able to type and to have parents rick enough to support you.
“Salaries, which have gone up considerably in the past year, start in the range of $100 to $115 a week with a $5 raise every six months. Operating on an inverse value system, Simon and Schuster does not accord raises on the basis of merit. The merit system is still an unknown in this house where it is a prove fact that the harder a woman works, the more she deserves the right to stay in the same place. Even two years editorial experience and a master’s degree in English is useless in elevating her from the position of starving secretary if she is misfortunate enough to be a quick accurate typist. Such is the case of an extremely intelligent young woman who not only possessed all of these attributes, but also had to her credit some exceptional editorial work, plus the discovery of what turned out to be a very successful unaccented manuscript. Her eventual reward came with the happy news that she would soon become secretary to two editors instead of just one — at, of course, the same salary.”
The New York Women’s Media Guide says that the New York Post has “perhaps the best record of any major newspaper in the country for hiring women, and for giving them equal assignments once they are hired. The Post has a large number of women its staff and is very open to giving women, and young people in general, three-month try-outs.
“Like all New York City’s newspapers, the Post is forced by union contracts to give women equal pay for equal work, in general. It gives women a wide range of assignments, and is open to story ideas from its reporters, although women suspect men get certain complicated assignments because they are men, and notice that out-of-town assignments tend to go to men.
“Most of the women on the Post are feminists, and recently they have tried to change the newspaper’s writing style to eliminate language like ‘a beautiful blonde divorcee…’ The male editors seem to have resigned themselves to living with a liberated female staff after the editors failed in an attempt to fire the two most outspoken feminists.
“The men on the copy desk send semi-literate dirty notes to female reporters, and get their kicks from making anatomical cracks and betting on which female will be the first to show up wearing the latest style, from knickers to hot pants.”
Besides this survey — most of which is already completed — there will be a section on the underground press, free-lance writing, employment rights for women, and information on how to file a complaint. To give employers a chance to improve their ratings, the group plans to update the guide each year. Right now they are collecting funds to print the booklet, which they what to be able to distribute for free. To make a contribution, spiritual, monetary, or informational, write to Media Women, 183 Berkeley Place, Brooklyn, New York, 11217.
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 2, 2010