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Martin Amis Says Women Write About Sex Better Than Men

Posted on the 13 June 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Martin Amis

Martin Amis: Women can write better about sex. Photocredit: Javier Arce

The background

Novelist Martin Amis, 62, whose new book, Lionel Asbo: The State of England is out now (which concerns, amongst other things, interfamilial sex) is known for his controversial remarks. At the Hay Festival this week, he said that women are better writers when it comes to emotion and sex, reported Anita Singh on The Daily Telegraph. Men, he suggested, are too carried away, whereas women can make a scene more real. Amis has before suggested that the sexual revolution wasn’t without its downsides. Commentators are split: some agree with him, others say that writing about sex is hard anyway.

What did Amis say?

He suggested, quoted on The Telegraph, that there was a “difference between real sincerity and literary sincerity”, and that there was more “real sincerity” in femal fiction. This is because writers are “God-like”, and therefore “omnipotent”, and potency is an “embarrassing” question for men. This doesn’t trouble women. “They have a lot else to worry about, but not that.”

Only two women have won the Bad Sex Award

The Daily Mail pointed out that Martin Amis had been nominated for the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his last novel, The Pregnant Widow, and that in its 19 year history, “all but two of the winners have been male.”

“Keith imagined her buttocks as a pair of giant testicles (from L. testiculus, lit. ‘a witness’ — a witness to virility), not oval, but perfectly round.” From Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow.

Women do write better about sex, but they also experience impotence

Monique Roffey on The Guardian said she’d never read a scene by a male novelist that echoed “real life.” That’s why Amis’ comments “struck a chord.” And whilst she agreed with him about why novelists don’t explore “potency” – she didn’t agree that women don’t worry about that as well. Women “suffer from impotency too.” It was only when Roffey went to tantric sex school that she discovered the power of sex. “Sex is exactly the kind of gnarly part of life novelists should tackle. It deserves the same realism, the same attention to detail as writing about any other aspect of life.”

Men can write better about sex

Jojo Moyes on The Telegraph said that the book charts seem to bear out Amis’s theory. E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey may be “far from Amis’s standard” in terms of prose, but it’s still selling 100,000 copies a week. The thing is, though, if “it’s a metter of honesty, or a representation of the excruciating fumblings and misadventures,” then she disagreed with Amis. Look at John Updike – a “master of brutal truths.” And Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach is a great example of “disastrous sex.” Women can struggle with it – Jean M Auel, for instance. It’s much “easier to stick to love.” And if nothing else, Amis has written “the best descirption of impotence in the English language” – an attempt “to force a raw oyster into a parking meter.”

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