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Lillian Rubin

  • In fact, the family as an institution is both oppressive and protective and, depending on the issue, is experienced sometimes one way, sometimes the other — often in some mix of the two — by most people who live in families.

  • For those who have lived on the edge of poverty all their lives, the semblance of poverty affected by the affluent is both incomprehensible and insulting.

  • ... cultural ideals are powerful forces, shaping not only our ways of thinking and doing but our ways of being as well, giving form to both the conscious and unconscious content of our inner lives.

  • The ideal visions of one age eventually are seen as its excesses by the next.

  • ... change generally outruns consciousness, and, for most of us, change in consciousness lags well behind the changing social norms, sometimes even behind changing personal behaviors.

  • ... there is no perfect parenting, no possibility of meeting and assuaging every anxiety a small child experiences. It's simply not in the nature of life, may not even be desirable.

  • Intimacy. We hunger for it, but we also fear it.

  • ... culture both clarifies and mystifies. A set of beliefs is at once a way of seeing the world more clearly while, at the same time, foreclosing an alternative vision.

  • Society and personality live in a continuing reciprocal relation with each other. The search for personal change without efforts to change the institutions within which we live and grow will, therefore, be met with only limited reward.

  • The structure of the family is not born in nature but in human design. What we can do, we can also undo.

  • Thus it is that some people will speak words of change without living it, and others will live in changed ways without acknowledging it.

  • The depth of a friendship — how much it means to us ... depends, at least in part, upon how many parts of ourselves a friend sees, shares and validates.

  • Sometimes we choose a friend who mirrors our fantasies, dreams of a self we wish we could be.

  • Sexual freedom is about choice. It's the freedom to say no as well as yes.

  • Whatever else we may say about sex, it is at least as much a social and psychological phenomenon as it is a biological one.

  • By identifying with the powerful, the disempowered achieve a measure of safety, at least for a moment. By doing the bidding of those in power, they become a necessary part of the system, useful so long as they serve to contain the stirrings and strivings of the oppressed. By making the rules and values of their oppressor their own, they separate themselves from the rest of their group and, temporarily at least, assuage the pain of their stigmatized status.

  • We need only look at the language we use about men, women and sex to understand the differences. Men score, they make it, they collect notches — language that connotes conquest and accomplishment. Women are seduced, they're taken, they give up their virginity — words that suggest submission and loss. He's the actor, she the acted-upon. He gains status; she loses it as she gives up this socially prized commodity. He's a stud; she's too easy, a slut.

  • ... we are a society of people who have learned to look on Eros with apprehension, if not outright fear. For us, it is associated with passion, with sex, with forces that shout danger because they seem to be out of our control. This, I believe, is what makes the very idea of Eros seem so dangerous to family life, what motivates us to confine and contain it. Consequently, our young learn very early, and in ways too subtle and numerous to recount, about the need to limit the erotic, about our fears that Eros imperils civilization.

  • Interesting, isn't it, that even though more than two and a half decades have passed since the sexual revolution brought women a new measure of sexual freedom, there's still no word in the language that doesn't reek with pejorative connotation to describe a woman who has sex freely. Since language frames thought and sets its limits, this is not a trivial matter. For without a word that describes without condemning, it's hard to think about it neutrally as well. When we say the words 'promiscuous woman,' therefore, it's a statement about her character, not just her sexual behavior.

  • ... language and consciousness are not unrelated. Quite the contrary. Language frames thought and, as such, it is often the forerunner to the kind of internal change that allows us to live more comfortably with the changing behavior. New ways of being come to our attention; we name them and, even if we don't act upon them at once, a new sense of the possible exists inside us, a new dimension, a new way of seeing the world, perhaps of being in it.

  • We are a society that values a man for what he does in the world, a woman for how she looks.

  • For sex to be wholly satisfying, we must have at least as much concern for a partner as for self — a requirement that doesn't live comfortably alongside the exhortation to 'do your own thing.' In the end, we are left with an extraordinarily heightened set of expectations about the possibilities in human relationships that lives side by side with disillusion that, for many, borders on despair.

  • ... each member of a family writes its biography differently ...

  • ... there's always a crowd in the marriage bed — at the very least, the two lovers and the internalized representation of the parents of their childhood, ghosts of mothers and fathers who hover over the action and stir thoughts and feelings long ago pushed out of consciousness.

  • ... the national belief that there was a golden age of the family, a time when women and men contentedly played out their roles as given, when female chastity resolved the sexual conflicts between women and men, expresses not a reality about the past, but a longing for a world that exists in imagination alone.

  • No revolution creates a wholly new universe. Rather, it reflects the history and culture that spawned it.

  • From our earliest beginnings, we have been a nation obsessed with sex, titillated by it at the same time that we fear it, elaborating rules to contain it at the same time that we violate them.

Lillian Rubin, U.S. writer, social scientist


Full name: Lillian Breslow Rubin.