[Read the letters Salon readers submitted in response to "Meaningless Sex! Rampant Drug Use! Teen Debauchery!" by Rebecca Traister.]
Dear Salon readers,
I'd like to take this opportunity to respond to the criticism arising from my Salon interview earlier this week. If Salon's editors agree to publish this letter in its entirety, my confidence in the publication's journalistic credibility will be restored, as I've been entirely misrepresented -- even deceived -- by Salon reporter Rebecca Traister.
On the phone, Ms. Traister referred to my novel "Generation S.L.U.T." as "a smart and well-written book," and said that -- while she didn't agree with all my conclusions -- she enjoyed the book for what it is. After explaining to her at length that I'm not out to promote an anti-woman or anti-sex message, imagine my surprise when I discovered that her article brushed my work off as "alarmism" about kids "boffing like bunnies." Nowhere did she refer to the book as anything close to "smart and well-written." She also simplified the book's thesis to the point of parody.
The actual message of the book isn't that kids are having too much sex; instead, the problem is that Generation Y is one of depressingly few emotional attachments, and this is leading to a total lack of cultural identity -- primarily manifesting itself in a vapid, psychologically hollow sex scene, but also apparent in increased rates of self-mutilation and sexual violence.
Even a five-minute glance through "Generation S.L.U.T." will prove to any reader that I'm not out on a zealous anti-sex crusade, and that I'm not part of the "Christian right," as one Salon reader assumed. As I mentioned in the interview, I've got a girlfriend, I like to get naked with her, and I don't begrudge anyone for getting naked with whomever he or she pleases. (For what it's worth, I care for my girlfriend deeply, love her very much, and respect her as a wonderful woman-creature who lets me do naughty things to her tang-tang. Tee hee, boobies!)
What my generation lacks isn't purity; it's a sense of selfhood. Whereas America has traditionally been a culture of individualists, now teens and college students find identity through communal brand names (Abercrombie & Fitch comes to mind, but it'll be something different in two years) and meaningless idols such as Paris Hilton and Justin Timberlake, who stand for nothing and inspire nothing in return. Youth identity is now coming from corporate entertainment channels and cultural icons of mediocrity -- certainly not from individuals with any sense of purpose or passion for life.
"Generation S.L.U.T." documents a generation raised by divorced parents (more than 50 percent), meaningless icons of success, and a corrupt, reality-distorting entertainment media that capitalizes on the psychological weaknesses of America's young. (Yes, I'm signed to MTV Books. No, I don't defend MTV.)
This is a major cultural shift, and brushing it off as "alarmism" or "nothing new" is cheap and reactionary arrogance. Liberation brought a lot of great things to daily life in America -- and I'm not suggesting a return to Victorian repression -- but there were also damaging consequences stemming from the 1960s. Ignoring these is just as dangerous as Bush's push for 1950s-style morality.
Although I blame the feminist revolution -- a direct result of the equally responsible Vietnam War -- for much of the ethical relativism pervading American culture, I'm not "anti-woman" or "anti-equality." As I told Ms. Traister on the phone -- which she conveniently omitted from the article -- the feminist movement produced some great changes for America: equal voting rights, equal property rights, and equal opportunity for careerism. However, including my quotes about feminism's negative effects while excluding the positives makes me look like a decided sexist, which isn't my message whatsoever.
Other little things that make me out to sound like an idiot: Misquoting me as saying Craig Kilborn is an "author"; oversimplifying the description of my next project as "about why nations go to war"; oversimplifying the story about my experiences with religion; and especially juxtaposing quotes from different points in the interview to make me look like a sleazebag -- such as when I answered a question about a gang rape scene in the book, and later a question about my bitterness from a college breakup. Suddenly, I'm saying as one sentence: "I'm not saying [rape] happens at every school in the nation, but sure, it happens. I went through a very dramatic breakup at college, and that probably soaked into a lot of the fiction."
Another strange development is Ms. Traister's adding her own commentary into the questions after our interview. For example, the question "Your argument is that increased relativism left you without morals?" later became "Your argument is that increased relativism and the encouragement of individuality left you without morals?" Suddenly I'm against individuality? My entire argument is that individuality is needed more than ever! Such deceptive rewording of the interview questions is simply unjust and ethically bankrupt journalism -- not to mention an insult to Salon's readers, who trust the basic integrity of this publication.
For the record: I'm not at all interested in curbing teen sex rates -- I've never bought into the STD crusade, and I'm not a Puritan -- but my problem is with the aimlessness and superficiality created by a culture that promotes sex as a meaningless, emotionally hollow activity with no soul or passion ever attached. Traister's vindictive piece completely misrepresents that aspect of "Generation S.L.U.T.," and I'd encourage Salon readers to judge the book on its own merits, not those of a passive-aggressive reporter who oh-so-objectively refers to her interviewee's name as sounding "like that of a guy who tees off with your grandfather on the Coral Gables golf course."
One last note: I absolutely don't consider myself a "whistle-blower" or a "spokesman for a generation." I'm certainly making judgments -- analyzing any controversial aspect of society will lead to judgments -- but I'm only speaking for myself here. I'm not so pretentious as to assume millions will agree with my thought process simply because I publicly declare my beliefs; like I say in the interview, I want to start a discussion here. Receiving these vicious personal attacks against me (and my personal safety) from "tolerant" and "open-minded" Salon readers wasn't my intention, to say the least.
Strange ... I'm not sure whether to apologize to the offended, or simply tell you all to suck down the Seed from my massive Jewish cock. Either way, read the book, read my logical arguments, and then judge my conclusions. And if you still feel that I'm a "self-centered blowhard" ... Well, Ayn Rand did say that "ego" is the most important word in the English language, didn't she?
Still a Salon Premium subscriber,
Rebecca Traister responds: I stand by my story. I believe that it and Mr. Beckerman's letter speak for themselves.