Every generation of women since the 1970s has most likely read at least one of Judy Blume's classic coming of age tales, if not every single adorable, doe eye-opening one. There was Iggie's House (theme: racism), Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (periods), It's Not the End of the World (parents getting divorced), Blubber (mean girls), and that teenage sexuality tome, Forever. Oh and of course there were the little kid books: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge and Otherwise Known as Shelia the Great, all widely stocked in school libraries. But even though to date it's sold four million copies, a lot of people still draw a blank when it comes to her scandalous "dirty book," Wifey.
Many great writers published in the legendary Olympia Press wrote erotica in order to pay the bills while they waited for their proverbial literary ships to sail in. Judy Blume, on the other hand, was already a successful, best-selling young adult and children's author when she did a 180 and wrote her entrée into the steamy world of the bodice ripper. After Erica Jong's infamous and highly enjoyable Fear of Flying um, landed on the scene in 1973, which was basically the first mainstream novel that confronted female sexuality and gasp(!), sex for pleasure, not necessarily love, Blume shocked her fan base by publishing Wifey in '78.
Here's a handy Cliffs Notes-esque summary: The story centers around Sandy, the original desperate housewife, who lives in a world of suburbia, grocery shopping, country clubs, a distant husband and marriage devoid of passion. Somewhat inexplicably, it takes a smarmy motorcycle "hooligan" showing up on her lawn and jerking off in front of her to awake the sexual desire within. What follows is an affair or two and the ultimate realization that in order to invigorate her marriage, her husband needs to give her more oral sex. Oh yeah, and honesty and communication. The end.
Yes, it's kind of stereotypical and yawny. And having read quite a few "dirty books" in my lifetime, I wouldn't say Wifey is particularly naughty or even possesses much literary merit. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate its role in challenging gender stereotypes and questioning the status quo of women's sexuality from a historical standpoint. "Mad Men" being such a runaway hit and all, those of us in the generation that came after some of the most crucial eras of the women's movement are getting a high dose in terms of what females had to put up with and how far we've come. Who's to say that Wifey didn't play a somewhat significant role in the progression?
Also, I wonder how many kids ended up "accidentally" picking it up. Huh. Add it to your book club lists ladies!
See also: "Where women's porn goes wrong"
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