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A modern-day (and humorless) Lysistrata, in which celibacy is not a means for forcing men to end a war but for women to achieve political power and independence. Originally forced into celibacy by an illness, British feminist and journalist Cline (Just Desserts, 1991; Reflecting Men, 1987) found that the experience substantially altered the way she viewed herself and the world. Here, she explores the concept of celibacy in interviews with other celibate white women in Great Britain and North America and through research into 19th- and 20th-century celibate groups, such as the Shakers, and cultures that practice extended periods of celibacy, such as the Dani of Indonesia. She asserts that socially conditioned beliefs about female sexuality set up obstacles to celibacy, urging women to examine and reject those that foster dependency and restrict autonomy. Railing against the power of man-made language, Cline counters by using a vocabulary loaded with terms like ""the genital myth"" to categorize male thinking and ""passionate celibacy"" to express her own ideas. The latter is Cline's term for purposeful celibacy -- ""the choice to be without a sexual partner for reasons of personal, political, or spiritual growth, freedom, and independence."" Paradoxically, she insists that this is a form of female sexuality. Despite her personal confessions and extensive quotes from dozens of interviews, however, her assertion that many women today are opting for celibacy with a ""passionate conviction, almost a revolutionary fervor,"" fails to persuade. Cline gives glimpses of celibacy as practiced in other times and places, but her overt feminist bias makes her accounts suspect. An angry little book, full of ammunition for the war between the sexes.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1994
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Crown