Sarah Posner

journalist

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What is a masculine sandwich?

So I hardly ever watch cable news during the day — and when I flipped it on today as I munched on a sandwich, I wasn’t exactly surprised to find blathering about the supposed White House “scandal” re: Romanoff. The RNC chair, Michael Steele, says the White House’s “credibility is blown!” (What about the GOP’s?)

But the stupidity was topped by a commercial for Kraft mayonnaise, in which some sort of food consultant helped a hapless woman make a “masculine” sandwich for her husband and saved her marriage!

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Ironton was once the hub of the pig iron industry. Now it is an economically distressed Appalachian town. I took these photos around the the outside of the Lawrence County Courthouse during the Memorial Day parade.

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Went to longest continuous running Memorial Day Parade yesterday in Ironton, Ohio.

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What killed fictional virility? Feminism or New Man?

Katie Roiphe’s essay, blaming feminism for what Tracy Clark-Flory sardonically calls "limpdick literature," of course has created the stir that Katie Roiphe creates. Feminists don’t understand why I’m in love with my baby, I want a real man, etc. It was obviously intended to provoke. As Clark-Flory puts it, “As overblown as these arguments can be, I suspect they provoke so much ire because they have a strain of truth (just as I admire Roiphe as a polemicist with a keen cultural understanding, despite her tendency to cherry-pick evidence).”

Setting aside Roiphe’s ax to grind with feminism, she misses a critical player in how literature (and culture more broadly) views sex: religion. As both Amanda Marcotte and Sarah Seltzer point out, a panoply of cultural influences, including pornography and an endless supply of otherwise sexually explicit media, play a role in an (apparently) diminishing desire to shock the reader through the “virile” and “manly” conquests created in the fiction of Updike, Roth, and a handful of other writers whose broad-chested, testosterone-driven encounters have been, in Roiphe’s view, castrated by scolding feminists. Now we have the variously sensitive, timid, or confused guys of Chabon, Franzen, and Foster-Wallace.

Many of the characters in the books Roiphe discusses are doing battle with faith, spirituality, and organized religion. Their reactions can be explained, in part, by these conflicts (Rabbit, for example, struggles to break free of the strictures of organized Episcopalianism; Franzen’s protaganist does battle with his family’s cultural expectations for a perfect Christmas). It’s hard, then, to view the transformations in how these writers depict male sexuality in the vacuum of feminist reactions and counter-reactions. For me, at least, and I’m a feminist.

If you’re looking for culprits, you could easily blame the tamped-down virility on the rise of cultural evangelicalism (and by that I mean evangelicalism that engages the wider culture rather than staying at church). Not that Chabon, Franzen, or Foster-Wallace care (or cared) what evangelicals think, but Roiphe’s literature vacuum overlooks cultural forces beyond feminism (and which themselves are often in conflict with feminism) which attempt to shape our sexual mores. Just yesterday, this article from the evangelical magazine New Man came across my desk: “A Clear Head in Bed.” It was a little advice column on how to purge your dirty little brain of all those media messages about sex so you can have God-graced sex with your wife. To wit:

What many men don’t know is that during a sexual release the excitement center of the brain receives a rush of pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins and enkephalins. If you receive this chemical reward outside the bedroom while engaged in lust, fantasy or pornography, then you have just received the strongest chemical reward of your life for inappropriate sexual behavior.

Worse yet, you have now taken God’s “sex glue” that was meant to be your reward and a bonding experience with your wife and attached it to the unreal world of fantasy. A man who has done this repeatedly over a period of time will create a strong neuropathic reward system in his brain for fantasy and will continue to struggle more with fantasies than other men.

If you were to listen to David Brooks this morning (which I don’t), the subjects of Roiphe’s essay (a.k.a. “the educated class”) are rapidly losing whatever influence they had over what the masses think; Brooks doesn’t say it, but I’d bet in his world of elites versus real people, New Man — or at least the views it represents — play a bigger roles shaping people’s sexual attitudes than feminism does. Which makes it all the more silly to argue that feminism is the puritanical scold that spoils everyone’s fun.

Filed under feminism

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Michele Bachmann on 700 Club.

Is the Tea Party movement like the Tribe of Issachar? Bachmann thinks so. That’s what an education at Oral Roberts gets you. I’m sure Michael Kazin is glad he was juxtaposed with her in such a way to suggest that he thinks the Tea Partiers have a legitimate gripe against “big government” (gasp).