I’ve been trying to keep this blog rated PG, but folks reviewing my latest novel are to blame for this sizzling entry. I normally have a strict rule for myself, in regard to responding to reviews: Don’t. Just don’t. Some writers don’t even read theirs, but I do. Being a reviewer myself, I will never, ever, respond directly to a reviewer and especially those who have been kind enough to review The Novice Master. When a writer challenges a reviewer, that can have a depressing and dampening effect on future reviews. And the writer gets blackballed as a churlish or crazy person. I know that I am lucky enough to get reviews as it is, especially the long-form variety, and from complete strangers. And they have all been complimentary, although I would certainly take to heart any meaningful constructive criticism.
But there has been one criticism emerging that I just…don’t…get. A few reviewers have complained that they can’t understand how my 19-year-old protagonist, Evan, a college freshman, could be so dimly naïve about sex, or to be more explicit, how a man/boy that age could know so little about how a woman experiences pleasure. They argue that ‘in this age’ of Internet sex saturation, how could he know so little? It doesn’t seem real or authentic to them…based, I’m guessing, on their own experience and view of the world.
So, let’s put aside the fact that I addressed all this in the novel: Evan is an odd boy, a loner, overly coddled by his parents, intensely religious—he wanted to join a monastery–and shaped by a strong and slightly repressive Catholic upbringing…would this sort of fellow be relentlessly searching the Internet for porn and tips on you-know-what, and joking about it all with (non-existent) friends? But never mind all that. Evan is miserably in the dark about women: This is the truth of his character, as I saw him. Who does not believe there are still sexually naïve people in the world, even adults? That there are even middle-aged members of Congress who believe a woman’s body shuts down during the act of rape to prevent a pregnancy? That there are GROWN MEN who don’t know how to properly pleasure a woman? The human sexual spectrum is wide and diverse, tied to a person’s intellect and emotional intelligence and experience of life…even in today’s ‘Internet age.’ And let me tell you that looking at a picture of a lady’s ruby-fruit does not necessarily instruct you on how to treat it properly. There is a (sorry, but I have to say it) spiritual aspect to fantastic sex that can’t be gleaned from PornHub and raunchy magazines. And sorry to those of you who didn’t get that from my book. That is really the knowledge Evan was seeking from his mentor.
It used to be that I would be taken to task in reviews for even putting (small amounts) of explicit sex in my books. I was told it was ‘jarring’ and ‘gratuitous.’ Now I’m getting criticized for the way I depict it. A writer just can’t win sometimes…