For Maria, exclusive love is the ideal, and she therefore cannot understand her daughter, Olga Sergeevna, an underground socialist, of the second generation. Olga suppresses her feelings for a man because he does not share her political views. Olga says, “He no longer argued with his old passionate faith in the revolution… We differed even in our vision of the future” (Kollontai 198). The woman’s life of the second generation is a transition between the old slavery roles of women in feudal Russia and women’s new roles after the Socialist Revolution. Love becomes secondary to other considerations, such as dedication to work and the Russian Social Democratic Party. The woman’s active contribution to the economy and politics becomes a necessity to ensure her liberation in the new society.
The woman of the third generation, Zhenya, is a party worker in the NEP period who neither has the opportunity nor feels the need to fall romantically in love like her mother and grandmother. Zhenya often argues, saying, “Look mother, you know that my behavior is shabby, that you shouldn’t sleep with people you don’t love… I assure you, I’m exactly the same sort of person, and I’m perfectly aware of my responsibilities to the Party” (Kollontai 204). During this period, the Soviet martial ideal became a partnership of equals, a free union of comrades founded on mutual affection (free love) and united by common interests. In another conversation with her mother, Zhenya replies, “For a long time I was really just physically attracted to men… that is, until I met this other man, although it’s all over now... but I like the men I slept with, and they liked me…that way it’s simple, and it doesn’t tie you to anything” (Kollontai 203). Olga, her mother, cannot understand how she can sleep with men she does not profess to love. Zhenya is presented as energetic and intelligent, dedicated to her work and fundamentally responsible in her relationships. She is seen as the “new woman.” The author, Alexandra Kollontai, believes that contemporary women must cease to have any emotional dependence on men. In her debates in the 1920s, she would often state that changing sexual partners should be no more than “drinking a glass of water.” Alexander Kollontai explains, “The sexual act should be recognized as neither shameful nor sinful, but natural and legal, as much a manifestation of a healthy organism as the quenching of hunger or thirst” (Goldman 7).
Alexandra Kollontai tries to plead for women’s rights to an independent life by writing about abortion in the story called “Three Generations.” In the story, Zhenya, Olga Sergeevna’s daughter, takes a very liberal view of abortion. When Zhenya is confronted by her mother about her lifestyle, she replies,
I sleep with men on my own free will. We stay together as long as we get on with each other, and when we no longer do, we just part company and nobody gets hurt. Of course, I’m going to lose two or three weeks’ work because of this abortion, which is a pity, but that’s my own fault and next time I’ll take the proper precautions (Kollontai 203).
However, in the 1920s and 1930s, the issue of contraception was absent from almost all the juridical, theoretical, and programmatic discussions of women’s liberation. Neither jurists, who vigorously promoted women’s emancipation through law, nor women party leaders discussed birth control at any length during this period. Women become desperate to find a safe, painless, and reliable means of limiting birth. Basic birth control devices such as condoms and diaphragms were not available to the vast majority. Under these circumstances, abortion played a critical role in enabling women to limit fertility.