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Sexist Beatdown: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’s Boners Edition

Ah, Katie Roiphe. Always with the feminist controversies, that one! And, you know, I’m fond of feminist controversies: they typically open up some interesting issues, and make us talk to each other about things that are uncomfortable but important, and enrich the discOH MY GOD WHAT?????

Okay, so: Roiphe posits that the problem with the dudes today, specifically the writer dudes, is that they are not writing about sex the way they used to. You know, I have a lot of problems with the dudes today, but that’s not the one that comes most immediately to mind! Also, the “way they used to” is apparently the way that would piss Kate Millett off so much that she had to write an entire book about it. Yes, Roth and Updike and (God help us all) Mailer pioneered a specific ’60s sort of swinger virility, which has been abandoned now by hyper-sensitive feminist pantywaists like:

  • Jonathan Franzen, whose The Corrections featured a guy fucking his own furniture, along with some highly comical heavy-breathing “lesbian” scenes that could not be more obviously written by a straight man if Franzen had included pictures of himself making sweet love to a lady on the opposing pages.
  • David Foster Wallace, whose eunuch status is pretty much informed by seriously misreading or ignoring the relevant points of one essay on Updike.
  • Benjamin Kunkel, whose Indecision climaxed with a drug-fueled sixty-nine, with the male protagonist – and this is a phrase that was burned into my brain, which I must now traumatize you with to alleviate my own suffering – “ejaculating like a garden hose.”
  • Jonathan Safran Foer and Dave Eggers, because, okay, Roiphe has a point.

It’s true! The literary celebration of the male boner, and its various uses on dumb sluts who don’t even get how degrading this is to them, probably because of how dumb and slutty they are, is a lost art. I defy any of the young authors today, for example, to match these immortal words of Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a filthy slut?

Thou art more whorish, and an awesome fuck,

For thou dost let me do thee up the butt.

‘Twixt rosy cheeks mine throbbing cock is stuck!

At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes. I sent my expert team of fact-checkers out to get me a pack of smokes, so! Assertion published! But is it really Feminism – which seems to have trouble getting even its most basic points accepted by society at large – that has resulted in the castration of the American male laptop-user? Or is it the fact that the highly graphic straight-dude focused sex scene is no longer really a literary innovation, and is instead the basis of such timeless American literature as I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell? Is it the fact that the first Google result for “bright green dildo” is “two sexy goth girls playing with a bright green dildo” rather than a critical appreciation of Philip Roth’s extremely highbrow usage of the aforementioned implement in The Humbling? Or is it the fact that Roth’s scene of two sexy girls playing with a bright green dildo reads like this?

There was something primitive about it now, this woman-on-woman violence, as though in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be.

Honestly, I dunno! Pretty sure it’s fodder for a Sexist Beatdown, though! Join us, as Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I attempt to puzzle it out!

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ILLUSTRATION: Why don’t people write literature like this any more?

SADY: You know, I believe it is time to discuss the DUDES OF TODAY! And more specifically, whether they are all huge pusses who refuse to write sexy strap-on scenes for Katie Roiphe’s entertainment. The DUDES OF YORE (and ALSO TODAY, although they are older now) did not have this problem!

AMANDA: They did not. Though they do have a different problem, which is: They will not stop writing like it’s 1960, and some females Katie Roiphe has observed are just livid over this!

SADY: Right??? I mean: first of all. I think SOME of Roiphe’s concerns about the Dudes of Today, which have been repeated in many a forum and in my own personal mind, are valid. There is a creepy quasi-sensitivity about some of the DoTs she mentions, which freaks me out. I think of Kunkel’s “Indecision,” which has the dude protagonist making these big speeches about how the girl he’s dating does not deserve him, due to his aforementioned Indecision about her, which does not prevent him from being, in fact, a douche. Or this Dave Eggers essay, about how he won’t use the word “fuck” to describe the tender and glorious act of making love. Which sounds like THE WORST PICKUP LINE IN THE WORLD, actually. It sounds like a guy who TOTALLY wants to fuck, but tells you he will never use that word because it is so disrespectful, so that you will, you know, fuck him. Yes, sexism continues, even among the DoTs! But it is less overt than the Dudes of Yore, which (I think???) is why Roiphe is mad about it.

AMANDA: Right. The striking thing about this essay, to me, is that it outright states that its concern is with the “Great Male Novelists of the last century” and their male heirs. It’s also explicitly concerned with female readers, and feminists, who reject the sexual narratives in these works. But Roiphe never makes the obvious point that there are options beyond the Great Male Novelists … like Great Female Novelists, who also do The Sex. She basically limits the discussion to, “Why don’t women appreciate these classic male, heteronormative sexual narratives that treat women like cum dumpsters?” when the answer is … pretty obvious.

SADY: Yuh huh. I mean: I think I mentioned this to you, when you were talking about it earlier in the week. And Bitch blogs (yay for Bitch Blogs) mentioned it also!

AMANDA: (Yay!)

SADY: BUUUUUUT: Did she somehow miss that ladies write sex scenes nowadays? Even FEMINIST ladies? The first person that springs to mind is Michelle Tea, who writes these very funny, detailed, daring sex scenes, about fisting and hitting people with the chain whips off bicycles and all sorts of nonsense. Or—this one was brought up by Bitch—Mary Gaitskill? [This was also addressed by Katie Roiphe! Though not in the piece! Because it's not relevant or contradictory to her portrayal of feminism as a castrating, sex-killing, literature-enpantywaisting force... somehow! - Ed.] You can find some sex in Mary Gaitskill! And this stuff is often interesting, and has new perspectives, in ways that the Great Male Sexy Time Authors stopped being a long time ago. Like: the problem with Roth’s “hot lesbian strap-on threesome” scene is not that it includes lesbians, or a strap-on. It’s that it is very obviously a straight dude’s IDEA of how mystical and magical and shamanistic and pervy threesomes including strap-ons are. You can find better ones written by people who know a damn thing about it, these days! Thanks to Feminism, ruiner of sexy times. (For boring dudes.)

AMANDA: Sure! And I think Roiphe acknowledges that to some extent—though she blames not the oppressively hetero male perspective, but rather the fact that these hetero male sex writers just can’t get big erections anymore. Which is weird! But, you know, a theory! But my favorite part comes at the end, when she says this: ”Why don’t we look at these older writers, who want to defeat death with sex, with the same fondness as we do the inventors of the first, failed airplanes, who stood on the tarmac with their unwieldy, impossible machines, and looked up at the sky?” So, basically, Roiphe is concerned that readers today don’t bow down before the phalluses of the Great Male Sexy Time Authors enough. That we don’t honor Updike and Roth and Mailer enough! I mean, given that she doesn’t even deign to mention a female author, I think we honor these men quite enough, actually!

SADY: Okay, and here we enter the area that caused the MOST perplexity for me, which is: WHAT WORLD IS SHE LIVING ON WHERE PEOPLE DON’T FALL ALL OVER THEMSELVES TO PRAISE PHILIP ROTH AND JOHN UPDIKE??????????

AMANDA: A world ruined by feminists.

SADY: Or where criticizing DAVE EGGERS or BEN KUNKEL or, jesus, JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER is somehow taboo????????? People criticize those dudes all the time! Roth is treated like a national monument! WHAT HUH WHAT WHERE WHYYYYYYYYY.

AMANDA: I think Roiphe presents a really interesting (if extremely contentious) discussion, and then decides to end it with: “People are too critical of literature!” She basically just tells women to stop thinking so much and just honor the great works of men without comment. What?

SADY: Oh, yeah. And I really appreciated large parts of her argument. I forgot that one line in “The Corrections” about the lady being “still beautiful” at thirty-fucking-two, which did in fact cause me to throw the book across the room when I read it initially. Mostly from that book I remember the couch-fucking! Dude fucks furniture. It’s kind of wacky.

AMANDA: Yeah. She’s right about that stuff. And perhaps the part at the end where she tells us to honor these great pilots of Ye Olde Sexytime, she’s speaking to the new crop of Great Male Unsexytime Writers, and telling them that they are more derivative of these earlier authors than they will admit.

SADY: But, I mean, the “sexual ambiguity” she seems to have such a problem with, the idea that people no longer believe key parties and talking about the naughtiness of watching a girl jack off or—shock!—jacking off themselves is, IN AND OF ITSELF, a symbol of Man’s Ultimate Freedom From Social Mores, I kind of . . . don’t have a problem with? I mean: the sexual revolution, it had Consequences! Including feminism, yeah. But also: a lot of fucked-up relationships, which, as DFW mentions in the very essay she quotes, men of his generation were probably witnessing as children. Or, you know, they were young in the ’80s when AIDS became a rising concern.

AMANDA: Right, and we talked about this earlier in regards to college sex columns, but you don’t have to be some sort of radical to talk about sex anymore. A lot of people talk and write about sex, and some of them are hyper-conservative, or worse, boring.

SADY: Ha, RIGHT. I mean, there WAS A TIME when talking or writing about sex—graphically, grossly—was actually a way of challenging rules about what writers, or people, could and could not do. Now, it is an art form practiced and cultivated by Tucker Max. Yes! You have sex! So do the rest of us! Say something new about it, other than the fact that it involves human lady vaginas, because otherwise I may get a case of the ZZZZZZZZZZs.

AMANDA: Yes! Our favorite. And the fans who defend Tucker Max, the college boys who are likely unfamiliar with the Great Sexy Time Authors of Yore, ultimately defend him on the basis of Freedom of the Press. They act like people who dare to critique Tucker Max are “censoring” his “opinions,” and are therefore both dictatorial and prude. And that may have been the case in the past, but it’s just not a relevant argument anymore. The sexual exploits of the late-20′s upper-crust white American frat boy are not being censored by anybody! Tucker Max does not need to spread his literary seed in order to finally speak truth to power for all the man-children like himself. It has been done, people got over it, and now people like Tucker Max and Katie Roiphe are pretending like we need to pay attention to the “problem” of not really valuing this narrative as exciting anymore. Well … as much as we used to. Because, of course, Tucker Max is a best-selling author.

SADY: Right! I mean, I think the age in which you could daringly place a smuggled copy of “Tropic of Cancer” or “Lady Chatterley” on your bookshelf, so that people would know you were a rebel and sexual and literary sophisticate, ended a LONG TIME AGO, actually? And now, I mean: the issue with Updike writing a scene where a dude delivers his special package all over a lady’s face, or Roth and the mystical shamanic strap-on of power, is not that these scenes are shocking to us, and not that ANYONE would EVER try to censor them. It’s just that they are these very flowery, elaborate, pseudo-highbrow depictions of things that are just not that surprising because at this point everyone in America has seen them actually depicted, on film. It’s the false daring that makes them boring. And they read like they were taken from studying film, not life. Although if Updike actually had a thing for face-jizz, I would prefer not to know.

AMANDA: I agree—it’s the pretentiousness of it that makes you not want to just put it down but also throw it away, and I’m not sure that really has much to do with feminism, but rather just being a person who reads books.

SADY: yeah, precisely. I mean, Roth still has the power to get up my nose, which might in fact be evidence of why he’s good at what he does, but also, I get these letters from fellow feminists that are like, “Give Roth another chance! He’s great!” I think mine might be a minority vote, actually. And I think placing the entirety of the responsibility for why we seem to have moved away from this depiction of sex on Feminism, and mean feminists who want to take your literary weenie away, just places an unrealistic power in the hands of Feminism. We can’t have done this all by ourselves! We’re still working to get people settled on the “Ladies should be able to have abortions” thing!

AMANDA: Right. It’s pretty hilarious that Katie Roiphe actually believes that the feminist position is more celebrated than that of the Great Male Novelists, or that our oppressive “feminist” anti-sex culture is to blame for churning out somebody like Dave Eggers. I refuse to take responsibility for that one.

28 Comments

  1. Wait — we don’t/can’t like Dave Eggers? What did I miss?

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
  2. innocentsmith wrote:

    Lots of refs in that article to Norman Mailer, who I decided not to take seriously EVER when, at the age of eleven, I read his very high-minded analysis of Marilyn Monroe:

    “… a queen of a castrator who was ready to weep for a dying minnow; a lover of books who did not read; and a proud, inviolate artist who could haunch over to publicity when the heat was upon her faster than a whore could lust over a hot buck … a sexual oven whose fire may have been rarely lit.”

    Because even at that age I was like, “Uh, unloading the contents of your id all over the page =/= great writing, dickwad. Also, ‘sexual oven’? Seriously?”

    But yeah, I was definitely very struck reading Roiphe’s article by how narrow the focus was for Writers of Today. There are ever-increasing numbers of ladies writing about sex; there are lots of men – gay and straight – who do too, with varying skill and intent. So maybe the issue isn’t that feminism has killed the boners of our literary figures, but that often the people who get to be considered Literary Figures are still limited to upper-middle class white dudes, who don’t these days have that much that’s new to say about sex.

    …Which was a longwinded way of saying “Great post! I agree!” but…great post! I totally agree!

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  3. jruh wrote:

    Speaking of Male Writers of the Past and their Sex, what do you think of John Irving? I like him, generally, but all the sex stuff is in his books is super squicky and weird and tends to sound like it was written by an eleven year old who is extremely randy but doesn’t now how or why sex works exactly. It’s a change of pace from Mailer, but it’s pretty weird and off-putting.

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink
  4. Sady wrote:

    @jfruh: It’s been a long time since I read The Irving, but he always kind of struck me as someone’s well-meaning but creepy Dad. Like, he’s TRYING, and he WANTS to be doing okay, but in the end you wind up going outside and someone has to make the “oh my God I AM SO SORRY” face at you. This is an imprecise metaphor, but sums up my feelings, more or less.

    Oh, yeah, and the “adulterers punished by involuntary cock-chomping and mutilation” bits. I was sixteen, and I was still like, “I sense ISSUES here.”

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  5. C.L. Minou wrote:

    In my mode of “everybody’s one of me,” I should note that La Irving also has a *lot* of transsexuals and crossdressers in his books, and the main character in his last book, who, I am told, is supposed to have Many Autobiographical Experiences, also, I am reliably told, crossdresses quite a bit.

    Moving on…to that hideous article by Roiphe…no…I can’t…instead, an anecdote: while I was in California, I went out one day to a used book store. And I had a strange feeling wandering the stacks: it suddenly hit me–consciously, that is, because I’m sure I had felt it subconsciously for a while–that the very vast majority of the books in that store were written by men–and generally about men, and almost certainly *for* men. And I felt suddenly stifled: like I was gasping for air, for voice. Like I couldn’t be heard.

    Oddly enough, I bought a collection of Adrienne Rich’s writings there, and that night I read this:

    “No male writer has written primarily or even largely for women, or with the sense of women’s criticism as a consideration when he chooses his materials, his theme, his language. But to a lesser or greater extent, every woman writer has written for men even when, like Virginia Woolf, she was supposed to be addressing women. If we have come to the point when this balance might begin to change, when women can stop being haunted, not only by “convention and propriety” but by internalized fears of being and saying themselves, then it is an extraordinary moment for the woman writer-and reader.”

    So sorry, Katie, I’m not so sorry that the era of the Big Dicked American Dude Author is fading. I’d rather be in extraordinary moments.

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Permalink
  6. Isabel wrote:

    I wish the entire NYTimes, staff and contributors alike, would get a memo reminding them all that ONE ANECDOTE (about a woman who threw a book away) is not grounds for calling something a trend.

    Also, I am most grossed out, I think, by the way Roiphe seems to be wistful for the days dudes thought of sex in terms of conquest. Um, that isn’t virile/alive/passionate, that’s fucking creepy. Not to mention her appreciation for the phrase “the floral surfaces of her mouth” because… not seeing the genius there. Maybe it’s better in context? Also, is she seriously praising as “sexy” or “honest” or “alive” or something NORMAN MAILER in a book where the protagonist MURDERS HIS WIFE in a murder scene written eerily like a sex scene? Because… ew!

    Also, the main point of the article can basically be boiled down to: “The current generation of a certain kind of writers is going in the opposite direction of the previous direction of those kind of writers.” Which is, um, how American literature has been working for at least a century now, possibly longer but that’s as far back as I feel vaguely comfortable speaking to. Like… come on. That’s how literary traditions happen. The Old School Dudes (new Ramones cover band name, anyone?) were also reacting to things that had come before them. Maybe new writers write about sex in this way partly because it’s already been done, to do this other thing, and in literature there’s often that push to be original/new/fresh/etc. I mean… it is really weird to me that she is writing about this without any awareness of how very normal it is for one generation of writers to trend in very different directions from their predecessors.

    also this post was awesome, thank you for it

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  7. belledame222 wrote:

    Kate Roiphe, Tucker Max. Tucker, Kate. Have fun, you crazy kids (surreptitiously changes locks)

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 2:32 am | Permalink
  8. belledame222 wrote:

    ““the floral surfaces of her mouth”

    Because a mouth is kind of like a flower! Which is also reminiscent of the sexy bits! Because a flower IS a sexy bit! I know, the staggering originality makes it sort of hard to wrap one’s mind around the GENIUS of it all, especially when it’s phrased like…that.

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 2:34 am | Permalink
  9. belledame222 wrote:

    but yes, I too weep for the days when Philip Roth could write about jerking off into the liver Mom would later prepare for dinner and it was considered SAUCY.

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 2:36 am | Permalink
  10. Rachel wrote:

    Jerking off into food that will later be prepared by somebody who doesn’t know you’ve done it is wrong on so many levels, but I have to say, I don’t think it could’ve made the liver *worse*.
    Great post, Sady.

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 7:08 am | Permalink
  11. smadin wrote:

    Ha! “Saucy” indeed, BelleDame. Nicely played.

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  12. Nanaya wrote:

    I know it’s been a while since I read it, but Roiphe’s grumble seems not to be a million miles away from Erica Jong’s long, drawn-out grumble in ‘Any Woman’s Blues’, which seemed to me to boil down to,

    “I was an awesome innovator when *I* wrote about FUCKING, but now all the pornographers have got hold of the concept and it’s just not the same. By the way, BDSM is boring.”

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink
  13. Gnatalby wrote:

    “The floral surfaces of her mouth” just makes me think of a funky overgrowth of bacteria. Perhaps the problem with kids today is that we floss?

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  14. Maura wrote:

    First off: great essay.

    Any time I see Roiphe’s name, my eyes cross and all I read is “blah, blah, blah – feminists suck, and they’re mean to boys – blah, blah, blah”. She’s been writing crap in the name of post-feminism for too long.

    Isabel said: “I wish the entire NYTimes, staff and contributors alike, would get a memo reminding them all that ONE ANECDOTE (about a woman who threw a book away) is not grounds for calling something a trend.”

    I know, right? I’ve been complaining about that for years, although I like to say that three people in the Village doing something doesn’t make it the next big thing.

    Anyway, I don’t think that the way sex scenes are written by a bunch of middle-class white guys is necessarily an improvement over The Old School Dudes. In general, they’re exceptionally difficult scenes to write, and it’s probably better to not even bother if you can’t write a great one. But I’m also not exactly mourning the loss of all that “muscular” writing by Mailer et al. Being a member of The He-Man Women Hater’s club doesn’t result in particularly enlightened or, even more important, interesting writing, no matter what the subject.

    C.L. Minou, thank you for posting that Adrienne Rich quotation. I think I’ll print it out and tape it to my laptop.

    PS I never heard of Tucker Max until about 2 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve seen his name at least two dozen times.

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  15. pinkpillsanity wrote:

    I think this lady would be SHOCKED if she ever read fanfiction (which in most fandoms is a largely female collective).

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  16. Taybeh Chaser wrote:

    Sady and Amanda–Awesome beatdown of yet another “The feminists have cut off all the balls in existence! Who will save the poor de-sacked boys?!” whine. In particular, good points about the creepy quasi-sensitivity of the younger male writers–Nice Guy(tm), anyone?–and how bright green dildoes and the writers who write them are a big pseudo-rebellious yawn these days.

    With the Great Male Writers of Yore and Today, I’ve often felt I had to issue a kind of pass when it came to depictions of sex and attempts to get inside the heads of female characters. I rarely expect them to get it “right” or that I will be able to recognize or identify with the women in their works (and, back before I wised up, I used to think this was because *I* was a weird chick). I can enjoy other parts of a work more easily–while remaining aware of its problematic aspects and trying to pick them apart–if I keep my expectations pretty low in the gender and sex department. That’s a sad thing to have to say, and it’s because of a sad failure of imagination and human sympathy on the part of such writers that I have to say it.

    “I think this lady would be SHOCKED if she ever read fanfiction (which in most fandoms is a largely female collective).”

    I never quite got why fanfic is a mostly-female thing. (No insult to anyone, but I, personally, don’t understand the huge appeal of fanfic in the first place.) But I guess I think it’s nice that there’s a sphere of writing out there that is a kind of girl’s club, even if it’s hardly regarded as “great”. In the same vein, there are also a lot of female writers out there on various archives of (generally original) sex stories. They’re not getting paid or having accolades heaped on them either. But they are writing graphically about sex–sometimes well, sometimes badly. Sometimes I find one whose outlook seems similar to my own, sometimes I say “Not for me, but you have your fun, sister”, and other times I’m 95% sure I’m reading the slobberings of a lying hetero cis-dude who thinks he knows what women want based on what a couple of his exes liked or due to his own encyclopedic familiarity with internet porn–experiences or frank conversation with a number and variety of actual ladies not necessary.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 1:35 am | Permalink
  17. Taybeh Chaser wrote:

    Second part of that post, re: internet fiction, should have been @ PinkPillSanity. :)

    Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 1:37 am | Permalink
  18. belledame222 wrote:

    ime internet pr0nfic that *isn’t* fanfic tends to be male-dominated. This is where you tend to find a lot of your hetlez fantasies written by dudes. As opposed to fanfic, where you find a lot of hetgayboy/femmegayboy fantasies written by ladies.

    it’s a mixed up topsy turvy woild

    Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 2:21 am | Permalink
  19. al_zorra wrote:

    This KR — What I’d have given to have had a mom like hers.

    As my mom was certain I should do nothing but bake bread from yeast and knead it myself etc. ,etc., etc., etc., while always picking up to help the ‘men’ for no pay, though my brother and male cousins got paid for doing exactly what I did to ‘help out,’ and etc. etc. etc.

    I just want to pull the byatch in and byatch slap her for her ignorance — and tell her like I’d like to tell all feminists of whatever age and gender that still almost all agri biz is performed by women and men still get all the profit.

    Gads, the lengths byatches with silver spoons will go to show they are better than the rest of us, even to reactionary ….

    Love, C.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  20. Alexander wrote:

    Excellent analysis. I read the Roiphe article earlier today (first encounter with the author) in the New York Times book review, and was rather thrown. The direct downplaying of sex as conquest, the blase rejection of authors criticizing the frat obsession with sex as great literature–I had a gut reaction for the whole thing as very disturbing. I’d had some issues articulating my objections (not having read much of any of the cited authors, for one thing) and thanks for a typically insightful and amusing overturn of this stance.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
  21. Sady wrote:

    @al_zorra: Um, can we please not post comments on smacking bitches because you disagree with them on my feminist blog? Thank you.

    Monday, January 11, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  22. Davey wrote:

    I haven’t read The Humbling, and what’s excerpted here looks pretty shitty, but one of the things I object to about Rolphie’s essay is that she’s reducing Roth et al. to just sexual writers. I think she actually gets right that one of Roth’s strengths is that he’s fearless about his own repugnancy, but that carries over to how he writes about Jewish identity, like the anti-Semetic workout tape in Operation Shylock. I can understand not liking him, or finding his work repulsive and sexist (I don’t on the first, but I don’t think he’s created any great female characters, which even outwardly sexist artists like Nabokov have been capable.) But he’s about more that self-titilation.

    One other thing Rolphie omits is any gay male writers, past or present. She mentions Michael Chabon’s “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” only in passing, and you’d never know from there that the primary sexual relationship in the book is between two men.

    Monday, January 11, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  23. Avery wrote:

    I think it’s worth noting that Phillip Roth’s “Humbling” also earned him a Bad Sex Award Nomination: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/nov/18/bad-sex-awards-roth

    Personally, I was pulling for Oz (having been forced to read “Rhyming Life and Death” against my will).

    @Taybeh Chaser

    “other times I’m 95% sure I’m reading the slobberings of a lying hetero cis-dude who thinks he knows what women want based on what a couple of his exes liked or due to his own encyclopedic familiarity with internet porn”

    Once while reading a short story published by Small Romance House Which Shall Go Unnamed, I had the lovely experience of running smack into, out of the blue, breathless descriptions of the female love interest’s shaved pubic area and her thrill for the cock (with bonus cat!fights over said cock and the reduction of women to their genitals in conversation).

    Nothing against women who swing that way, but my encyclopedic experience with bad Internet porn says “all signs point to Dude,” in spite of the female penname.

    Monday, January 11, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  24. The only thing I remember from Tropic of Cancer was the scene where one guy takes a crap in the bidet. It was boring, as I recall, even to a sex-starved college student.

    Katy Rolphie writes only for the male gaze. Sure, she thinks she’s writing for women, but only to tell us what the men are thinking. And apparently, Roth and Updike are throwing an epic wobbly over how no-one’s paying attention to their man-porn rapey-type fantasies any more.

    Why were they considered great writers? Oh, right. Because they were all angry (not so) young white men, the only Authentic[tm] voice of the age.

    Rolphie is a male apologist and cheerleader. She writes so that the men who read her pieces are reassured that the womenfolk are only thinking about babies and men and sex with men at all times.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  25. Ronnie wrote:

    Sigh, I wish Sady (great writer) and the other feminist bloggers could go 2 days without mentioning Tucker, but apparently they just cant do it. Of course they smoke too, so how smart is THAT.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink
  26. Sady wrote:

    @Ronnie: Hi, Ronnie! Thanks for weighing in with your many opinions on what I should and should not write about! I’m always enthused to hear them, particularly when the person in question types their little comments out as if they are unaware that I personally read, approve, and frequently respond to each comment on my blog!

    Also: me so sorry me dumb for have addiction to legal widely-available substance me use since age eleven. Ronnie smart for point this out. Me never hear smoking bad for me before! Me never advised to quit in condescending tone by stranger! Me never try quit multiple times, me never defeated by fact me addiction have less successful quit rate than many illegal addictive substances! Ronnie FIRST PERSON for present this perspective! Ronnie FRIENNNNNNND.

    Anyway, since we’re besties, I think it’s time that I tell you I’m getting pretty tired of writing this “Tiger Beatdown” thing. How about you come on over and do it for me? You know, since you could clearly do a better job than I. Heck, maybe you’d like my lungs, too? I’d gladly throw them in as part of the package.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  27. emjaybee wrote:

    Sady, can I just thank you for the Franzen snark? That couch thing has bothered me forever…also when I realized I was reading yet *another* story of aging academic white dude with a student totally hot for him, my eyes rolled completely out of my head. By the end, I was yelling for the dad to just DIE already, and make it all be over.

    Dear aging white male academics; most young girls do not want your bods. It’s creepy. Stop already. Thanks.

    Friday, January 15, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink
  28. CassieC wrote:

    Oh, Tiger, why did you have to do this to me? I have a busy work day, but must somehow also spend it reading all your archives.

    My bf, such as he is, is a HUGE Philip Roth and John Updike fan. HUGE. I told him that if Roth were less of a whiny entitled asshole, he would have gotten laid more, and we would be spared his on-page whinniness. Now I can send him this link! Entertainment will ensue. Many many thanks.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 2:23 am | Permalink