We are simply witnessing the flowering of a new narcissism: boys too busy gazing at themselves in the mirror to think much about girls, boys lost in... the noble purity of being just a tiny bit repelled by the crude advances of the desiring world.
She also establishes her dichotomy via some very selective inclusions and possibly willful misreadings (one: she cites The Mysteries of Pittsburgh but leaves out the corn oil-lubed buttsex). And she does this mostly so that she can blame it all on Feminism:
The younger writers are so self-Ã‚Âconscious, so steeped in a certain kind of liberal education, that their characters can’t condone even their own sexual impulses... Even the mildest display of male aggression is a sign of being overly hopeful, overly earnest or politically unÃ‚Âtoward.
Yup, Kate Millett and ardent undergrads, just cold emasculatin' our literature.
Still, it's true what Roiphe says about younger authors being less willing than Updike and Roth to expose themselves so extravagantly. But, then, they should be warier of it, because, you know, explicitness is not the same as exploration, anymore.
Roiphe actually transitions directly from the "going through the motions" sex scenes of Roth's new novel, The Humbling, into her accusation of sexual paralysis among young writers. And yet she doesn't make the most obvious connection: maybe it's because these new novelists have read a lot of sex scenes, just like Roth has written a lot of them by now. She's right to blame these guys' education, but not because of all those hairy-pitted student union girls excoriating their privilege (sexual and otherwise).
Education makes you more self-aware, I've found. Kunkel, Chabon, Wallace, Franzen, Eggers—aside from being novelists, they've all done impressive, wide-ranging work as essayists, critics, editors. It'd be hard to draw a more well-read hand than these five.
Perhaps they've decided that as much as literature needs the kind of sex writing Roiphe admires, that writing isn't going to come from yet more educated urban white dudes anymore.