Katie Roiphe vs. Steve Almond
Last Sunday, in a big NYTimes think piece, sexual mores writer Katie Roiphe accused Dave Eggers and his fellow male American literary contemporaries of being too into cuddling (like that’s a bad thing):
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. For a character to feel himself, even fleetingly, a conquering hero is somehow passé. More precisely, for a character to attach too much importance to sex, or aspiration to it, to believe that it might be a force that could change things, and possibly for the better, would be hopelessly retrograde. Passivity, a paralyzed sweetness, a deep ambivalence about sexual appetite, are somehow taken as signs of a complex and admirable inner life. These are writers in love with irony, with the literary possibility of self-consciousness so extreme it almost precludes the minimal abandon necessary for the sexual act itself, and in direct rebellion against the Roth, Updike and Bellow their college girlfriends denounced. (Recounting one such denunciation, David Foster Wallace says a friend called Updike “just a penis with a thesaurus”).
It sounds pretty. And it’s hard to resist the compulsion to bow down to the almighty New York Time Book Review and just assume it’s not quite making sense because you’re not smart enough. But this week, on The Rumpus, author Steve Almond confirms your suspicions and takes Roiphe to task, point by point:
The first and most basic [problem] is: why the hell is she just talking about hetero white men? I’m not sure what feminist nomenclature Katie Roiphe would assign herself, but I can’t fathom why she would choose to “assign primacy” to The Man.
As a hetero white man (okay, Jewish, with an occasional trannie impulse, but still), I hereby empower the Katie Roiphes of the world to stop writing about us as the dominant literary/cultural faction. Instead, you can lump us in with all those females and people of color and homosexuals and female homosexuals of color, who also write great books, many of them with great sex scenes. Such as, uh, Mary Gordon and Michael Lowenthal and Junot Diaz and Alicia Erian and Mary Gaitskill and…
Really, we can handle it.
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