Wednesday, June 25, 2008

lookit, a book review.

Shere Hite - Oedipus Revisited: Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male Today

I think the first - and possibly most important thing - is that this book is basically a much shorter, slightly discursive summary of The Hite Report on Male Sexuality (Hite does these batshit huge "reports" on sexuality, building on and refuting parts of Kinsey's work, and as such is quite the Name). So... it can feel a little skim-y, like there are huge chunks missing even though it's a decent-sized book (although if the female sexuality version is anything to go by, the actual Report is a fucking tome, and not the fun kind). It is, however, readable enough; it's a bit disappointing in parts. Excuse me while I go academic, but it falls into the trap of being heteronormative and perhaps a little masculinist - Hite doesn't delve into gay sexuality or kink, nor does she consider reflections of race or class on sexuality, so her portrait can appear a little two-dimensional and limited (which leads to a criticism of generalities, although I'll kick myself in the foot by acknowledging that you have to generalise a little, and it's easy to generalise too much when you've only got so much space to deal with).

Oedipus Revisited is an interesting book, that deserves a bit of time - thankfully it's written in such a way that it is easy enough to pick up and put down, giving the reader time to reflect. I don't think it aims to be definitive; it presents a simplified version of the findings and then extrapolates a few theories. Hite's approach to the intertwining "normal" male sexuality (the myth she's spent the first 250-odd pages systematically trashing) and politics is compelling although not a particularly new one; politics is power, power is identity, and identity is sexuality, gender, race and class, to simplify things. It can appear a little jarring, the first time you're confronted with the idea, but Hite takes a little time to explore the idea (although I think she assumes her readers are familiar with the idea to begin with)

Hite is clearly more familiar with female sexuality (The Hite Report on Female Sexuality was first published in the mid-70s), and a lot of Oedipus Revisited is concerned with male reactions to female sexuality, which is mildly irritating, although equally interesting; I'd have liked more on the societal junctions and less on the clitoris, but at the same time the presentation of the myth vs reality is illuminating. My biggest criticism is that Hite assumes her readers are familiar, not just with her earlier work, but with the basics of gender theory, but Oedipus Revisited is still an interesting and informative read - if you want to take the time to digest it.

And now, back to the hook.

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