I’m not one of those people who thinks novelists can only write about people just like them. I don’t think men have nothing to say about female sexuality — in fact, I think dealing with it is to a great extent a man’s job. Hey, someone has to do it. (It’s when I imagine navigating the treacherous currents of someone like me that I thank God for not making me a lesbian, mostly.)
But a groundbreaking exploration of the still surprisingly virgin territory of women’s fantasies and desires — come on, isn’t that a woman’s job? First of all, as we know from quantum physics, the observer affects the experiment. The overseeing presence of a male may affect what women say, making it more stereotyped, exhibitionistic, or seductive. There may be some vestigial tendency to play to the vestigial authority figure. I had a male shrink for a short time in my twenties, and telling him about my sexual life, which pretty much was my life at that age, made me uneasy. He was a good guy and seemed trustworthy, but I had the feeling that he could be psychoanalyzed to a fare-thee-well and there still had to be some prurience and voyeurism there. Had to be. Women’s desire is both elicited and deformed by men’s desire, like a pear tree on a trellis, or a high-cut bikini wax. To get to the root of it, it might be useful to be talking just among ourselves, even knowing and welcoming that male readers are eavesdropping. A woman could pose questions to other women that a man would never even think of.
And second of all, this is a good gig. And why is a guy getting this good gig when the subject is the inner life of women? Just because, echoing another male authority figure, he wrote a “fabulous” New York Times Magazine article called “What Do Women Want?”
Ugh. It puts me off Double XX as a whole. Mind you, most of its columns and blogs are written by women. It’s just curious that of all of them, this one — on a subject so intimate, so idiosyncratic — was given to a guy.