Michael Kuratin
Heart of Pinkness:
A Masculinist Encounters Self-Help, Surface,
and The Grrl Genius Guide to Sex (With Other People) , p.3

Cathryn does manage some non-canine sex twice during the season. The first occasion – with Tyler, the young and stupid bouncer at the comedy club where she works – is still firmly equated with Thor: “Tyler was exuberantly passionate… once we arrived in bed, he brought his puppylike enthusiasm to lovemaking” Her second encounter – with William, the victim of her latest obsessions – may finally escape her need for doggy-style sex but becomes here what I would describe as purely missionary: not because the passages are boring or straightforward or because I had to do a lot of work to get through them, but rather because the narration in these passages is almost Puritanical in its evasion of any sexual details whatsoever:

He kissed me then, kissed me hungrily and in a way that was scary because it had so much power over us. It felt like something started with that first kiss and spread through us with its own life force… Which is one way to describe what happened next…

One can only hope that this “Grrl Genius” at some point was bold enough to put to paper some element of the sex act -- a little tongue-to-nipple titillation, for instance, would have gone a long way – but perhaps what we readers are seeing is the fifth or sixth draft of the teleplay, which, having been rejected by USA, Bravo and other second-tier networks, was finally edited for the desk of some pasty-faced executive at the Christian Broadcasting Network. This would almost be forgivable. What I really fear is that that Cathryn Michon’s Tiger Beat description of sex might be an accurate depiction of the way women, “grrl geniuses” or otherwise, categorize the act. If that is the case, then we as a species might as well give up right now on the quest to achieve true understanding between the sexes, because while women are out there treating themselves to Pottery Barn and Diane Keaton’s later oeuvre, men are at home masturbating into a vacuum hose to the rhythm of Rocco Sifredi’s “Buttman” series.

I accept that by labeling her protagonist a “grrl genius” and then causing her to bumble her way through single life in Hollywood, the author is engaging in some healthy self-mockery, but sadly not enough to prevent her from publishing, unless this book’s publication is in fact intended as some apotheosis of self-mockery and not as a first-look series deal with NBC. But I think that’s ascribing too much to this effort, and the sad impulse I feel after reading all 342 pages of The Grrl Genius Guide to Sex (with Other People) is to stand proudly in front of my fellow men, to pinch my fingers together, roll my eyes and lead them all in a worldwide “blah blah blah” for every moment when our female partners were trying to communicate something really really important.

Men, the presumed “other people” of the book’s title, all bear some responsibility for creating the conditions whereby there are women in such an intellectual predicament that they can be hoodwinked into buying a novel promising self help about sex but which is not and contains nothing of the sort. Or perhaps it is our friends in the publishing industry, male and female, who really should be doing the deep soul-searching. There was a time when failed novelists made their way to Hollywood to sell their souls and make a mint, and this seemed to increase the mean quality of both film and book. Now in a cruel, post-Millennial inversion, we have failed screenwriters padding hackneyed storylines with recipes, epigrams and “grrl genius relationship tips” and packaging them as self-help literature.

Relations between the sexes, and sexual relations, have been the subjects for myriad works of literature from the tame to the profane through the ages. The more artful of these respect the nuanced multifariousness of all that can happen between a man and a woman during sex, in pursuit of sex, or while recovering from sex. Grrl Genius, however, is important because it is symptomatic. Mainstream American media are not geared toward exploration so much as assimilation, the creation of consensus cultures that can be broadened and then pitched to be producers of products from designer purses and potency enhancers. Sex need not be explored to be sold; why confuse the consumers by injecting complexity into a subject that has perplexed since the beginning of time?

Dear sisters, do yourselves a favor and steer clear of the "self-help" section of the bookstore. If you want to learn a little something about men, peruse a Philip Roth or a Rocco Sifredi. I promise I’ll be waiting in line for the next Lorrie Moore.

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Lower image: Mopsy #1, 1948 (from www.samuelsdesign.com/comics)

Michael Kuratin studied Political Science at Berkeley, where he also loitered frequently around the Creative Writing department. Now working as a foreign affairs analyst by day, Michael also writes essays, fiction, screenplays, and poetry on such varied subjects as Basque history, Hieronymous Bosch and modern-day maritime piracy.

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