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- Hide Preview | 21 Comments | submitted 5 months ago by itiswr1tten [Post Locked]

Intro

Years ago (1969 to be exact) a subversive Jewish guy named Philip Roth wrote a book. The name of the book is Portnoy's Complaint, which is a partially autobiographical confession of sexual deviance by the author.

Why is this on TRP?

Roth received massive flak for this book. He pissed off an amazing number of people and groups - women, Jewish Americans, mainstream media, the "polite society", you name it. All were angry.

This is a post about critical thinking, and why it is so important to your journey as a man.

The Book

Portnoy's Complaint is framed as a man's confession of his sexual escapades to his therapist. This was partially because talking about sex in 1969 was still thoroughly forbidden - Roth's framing of the narrative allowed for the plot to take shape without being immediately dismissed.

“I needed permission, and permission came with casting the book as a psychoanalytic confession”

-Roth, New Yorker

The book details events like masturbating with raw liver that is later served at the family dinner table, the many women Portnoy runs through, and his inner thoughts .

The Response

Here's where TRP comes in - the difference between the message and the the response.

The principal themes of the book are lust and awe - Portnoy is both using and fascinated by women. As much of his nature is objectification, it is accompanied by a certain appreciation for femininity. While not as salacious, TRP recommends a roughly similar approach - appreciate women for what they are but don't mistake what they are. Ultimately, the book was a revolt against Roth's conservative upbringing.

Feminist critics (the movement was just getting its engine going in 1969) objected violently to the book. In their minds, Portnoy's Complaint was the pinnacle of misogyny, a written work of objectification. They were wrong - for one simple reason. Voracious sexual desire and misogyny are miles apart.; the awe of women that accompanied Portnoy's lust could never be construed as hatred of women.

Confusing the two is one of the principal mistakes of our critics, that masculine animal nature is to be contained. On the contrary, this book proved that unbridled male desire has myriad fans, men and women alike.


The other wave of critics were the Jewish community - they claimed Roth's book cast the protagonist as a man out to destroy the image of Jewish people.

“The cruelest thing anyone can do with ‘Portnoy’s Complaint,’” novelist Irving Howe said in his own scathing review, “is read it twice.”

For many Jews, the subversion of what was once a traditional, mate-pairing exercise guided by religion had been supplanted by this book. How could they stand for it? Portnoy was by all means a complete cad - bedding women and not generating children was antithetical.

For his critics, Roth had committed a major sin: portraying women or Jews as imperfect creatures, not perfect angels.

Conclusion

The vulgar scenes and comedy all are a way for Roth to hit the real nerve: the frustration that comes from being told to comply via shame, from the shame of sexual urges to the shame of abandoning family traditions to the shame of survival. Portnoy's Complaint is actually a rejection of "traditional moral values" as they're inconsistent with his lifestyle:

“The hysteria and the superstition!” Portnoy blurts out in the book. “The watch-its and the be-carefuls! You mustn’t do this, you can’t do that — hold it! don’t! you’re breaking an important law! What law! Whose law!”


Ultimately, people were mad because Roth portrayed characters like them that had flaws. To them, this was hateful.

Think about that statement as you hide your phone beneath your shoulder while you browse this sub. Maybe you're not so different from Alex?

Conclusions

  1. Lust is often mistaken for misogyny in the modern era

  2. The hatred of a fictional character is projected embodiment of a deeper problem within a group

  3. Is it hateful for characters to have flaws? Ask yourself.