In my other life as a reader of pretentious literary fiction, I came across a Paris interview with the poet and memoirist Mary Karr that you might find interesting. It’s not fully available online, but here is the excerpt I find particularly a propos:
KARR: When I started Cherry [her memoir of her adolescence and sexual awakening], I realized there were no words to describe an awakening female libido. Boys have these childlike words like chubby and woody, but the parlance for female genitalia and female desires is too porno.
Looking at an early draft of Cherry, I said to myself, Oh my God, you’re superimposing a forty-year-old woman’s libido on a twelve-year-old girl. It seemed perverse. Like it’d inspire pedophiles to think that every young girl was Lolita. Eventually I realized I’d misrepresented the experience. A twelve-year-old writing a boy’s name on her notebook over and over doesn’t want to get boffed into guacamole. She wants the boy to bring her a valentine and put it in her lunchbox.
INTERVIEWER: It’s a different kind of longing.
KARR: It’s as powerful as a sexual urge but it’s not so genital. It’s somewhat about being seen – what feminist critics might call a longing for the male gaze. Being looked at in this culture invents you as a woman long before you’re getting laid. It was about love more than sex – about beauty, desire.
This last bit of hers was an epiphany for me, though I wonder if it won’t be controversial, considering how many feminist women I know will disclaim ever having Cared About Men, even as teenagers.
Que pensez-vous, commentariat?