“He has spent his literary life exploring the watershed of sex from that uncharted side which goes by the name of lust and it is an epic work for any man. . . . Lust exhibits all the attributes of junk. It dominates the mind and other habits, it appropriates loyalties, generalizes character, leaches character out, rides on the fuel of almost any emotional gas whether hatred, affection, curiosity, even the pressures of boredom yet it is never definable because it can alter to love or be as suddenly sealed from love,” - Norman Mailer, quoted in a diverting essay by Katie Roiphe on the comparatively pallid sexuality of today's male fiction-writers.
Read the whole thing and make your own mind up. One small observation - Roiphe sees, it seems to me, what the Christianist right doesn't: that sex has fatally lost its allure of risk, adventure and revolt in today's middle class culture and has become a kind of bo-bo banality, to be viewed through the prism of knowingness and irony and indifference. Safer sex made Roth's obsessions remote - and almost admirable in their rawness and candor.
Perhaps only one generation can experience the unqualified thrill of sexual revolt - in the window between the pill and AIDS. I remember my one long personal conversation with Mailer in Provincetown maybe fifteen years ago. He explained how he couldn't see sex with condoms as sex at all and had never used them; I explained how I had never had sex without a condom at that point in my life and could barely understand sex at all by his definition.
So sexual intercourse ended in 1983. And just too soon for me.