Next to their ecstatically libidinous predecessors like Saul Bellow or John Updike, today's male novelists are chaste, self-conscious, and uninspired by sex. That's the complaint
offered by Katie Roiphe
in The New York Times. For Roiphe, authors like Dave Eggers, David
Foster Wallace and Michael Chabon have been so conditioned by "postfeminist second guessing" that they're unable to write compellingly about sexual
impulses and desire:
The younger writers are so self-conscious, so steeped in a certain
kind of liberal education, that their characters can’t condone even
their own sexual impulses; they are, in short, too cool for sex. Even
the mildest display of male aggression is a sign of being overly
hopeful, overly earnest or politically untoward.
Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory
, for one, disagrees. Though she admits that feminism has changed the
way male authors write about sex (in some cases, for the worse),
Clark-Flory doesn't like the alternative:
Where Roiphe and I differ is that she favors a return -- at least in
certain relational respects -- to an earlier time when things were
simpler, more straightforward. I, on the other hand, would like to see
us keep on maturing.
Roiphe's dismissal of today's
sexually confused men is proof of just how far we have yet to go. It
feels like she is shaming these male authors for failing to keep up
their end of the bedroom charade.
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