This is an excerpt from my new regular column, The Bombshell, about the peculiarities of the fairer sex, at the New York Observer.
It can't be easy to be a man these days, what with the gender's looming end, but thinking about Naomi Wolf's new and much-ridiculed biography of the vagina has reminded me once again of the main reason why I would not want to be a man -- make that a heterosexual man. Having sex with a woman is a complicated challenge. It exhausts me to think of it.
I feel sorry for the mystified males who have to have sex with us. One friend whose wife recently left him wants to write a book for men called Stop, It Tickles. Here is how he explains his title: You meet a woman, she likes you a lot, you get together and maybe get married. But there always comes that night when you are doing the thing you always did, the thing she always liked, and suddenly she says: "Stop, it tickles." And that's the beginning of the end of all of it.
Another male friend, also not long ago turfed out by his wife and hunting for a replacement in the brave new world, has discovered that all the women he dates seem to come with their own plastic battery-powered devices. He's had to learn how to operate them.
What do women want? No, really. What the hell do women want?
The mystified Viennese head doctor was well and truly perplexed, and a century of women (and not a few men) have since tried and failed to come up with a satisfying answer, leaving men like my two friends, helpless. Now comes -- and comes -- pop feminist Naomi Wolf with a suggestion. Her advice book is so prurient and visceral that the title is asterisked out on the iTunes library on my iPad.
In Vagina: A Biography, the answer to what women want is simple and old-fashioned: Women want flowers, eye-gazing, poetic language, cuddling and a lot of languorous attention to a very particular spot between the legs.
Who could possibly argue with that? And yet, the book has already spawned a slag pile-on, by -- surprise, surprise -- other women. And not just any women, but slightly younger pop-culture feminists, some of whom have at one time or another been anointed, as was Ms. Wolf in her 1990s heyday, as the "new" face of feminism, another photogenic, usually New York-based and usually Jewish gal ripe to step into Gloria's pumps.
Interestingly, every one of the reviews of her book that I can find are by women. Perhaps because it's a visceral topic, literally, for women, book review editors from The New Yorker to Slate decided that this one is not man's territory. That's too bad, because men are the ones who need to read it.
Vagina could have been an interesting bookend under everyman's bedside reading lamp beside Hanna Rosin's The End of Men. As capital-M Men are going extinct, small-m men will have to step up to the big V with more reverence than ever before.
Ms. Wolf's book shows them why and how.
Read the rest of it at The Bombshell.