Elisabeth Smith, Resident Blogger (’14, University of Washington School of Law)
On Saturday, Fox News published a delightful article titled “The War on Men.” I don’t need to tell you much about it that you can’t figure out—women want to get married, but in their misguided quest for equality, women have destroyed men and now have to live with the consequences. All we women have to do to right our wrongs is to “surrender” to our natures, to our femininity, and poof! Eligible men interested in matrimony will suddenly appear. Eek.
My obvious questions: What exactly are we supposed to surrender? And to whom? And how will these men, once they appear, reestablish the balance all we women need? And what about women who want to marry women? Or the women who don’t want to get married?
On Tuesday, the Guardian released the short list of authors nominated for its literary “Bad Sex Awards 2012.” According to the newspaper, each of the excerpts listed is an example of “the crude and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel” and the list is meant to “discourage” the authors from writing about sex. Each of the excerpts clearly describes heterosexual sex and I would guess vaginal sex (with a focus on the penetrating penis) although maybe I’m wrong about the meaning of “her chrysanthemum.”
In June 2012, the Telegraph published “And the good sex award goes to… - Is it true that male writers aren’t capable of literary eroticism?”, which included remarks Martin Amos made at the Telegraph Hay Festival that women are better at writing about sex.
Interestingly, only two female authors have won a “Bad Sex Award” in the 20 years the prize has been awarded. Amos thinks women are better because they don’t care about sexual “potency,” which stymies men from creating accurate portrayals of sex. The article’s author then contrasts E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Gray with Amos’s work (which is clearly not as good), but hey it sells so women must find it stimulating!
Can we all just stop with the stereotypes for a second?
First, sex. Not all sex is vaginal. People don’t always have sex with someone of the opposite gender or with just one other person. While men and women may experience sex differently from a biological standpoint, we’re all individuals and we all experience things differently. But, but! Martin Amos’s backhanded compliment that women are better at writing about sex is the same as the Fox news article bemoaning the angry women who are driving men away from marriage.
“Women” aren’t doing anything. People who happen to be female have made decisions about their education, their careers, and their personal, sexual relationships. Some authors who happen to be female and successful enough that the Guardian reviewers look at their work happen to have chosen not to use “chrysanthemum” as a euphemism for vagina.