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.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.