The Ravenously-Engaged Nonfiction Of Wednesday Martin

A Brave New World Of Female-Centered Desire

Wednesday Martin, author of the peppy bestseller Primates of Park Avenue, returns with a similarly analytical but far more titillating book. Primates painstakingly chronicled Martin’s adventures among the Soul Cycle-d, Hermes-bedecked matrons of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where the doctor of philosophy from Yale landed after marrying well. Untrue explores her life after she ditched the nabe for the slightly more outre Upper West Side and began to dream about sex outside of her marriage. “I had fantasies I did not want to share, daydreams that were more graphic than soft focus and romantic,” she writes. “And I entertained crushes on wholly inappropriate objects—men who were married, or too young for me, or too old for me. I had crushes on women too, even though I was pretty sure I wasn’t gay or bisexual.”

Married women crave more sexual variety, says Wednesday Martin.

Working in a genre that could be called “ravenously-engaged nonfiction,” Martin weaves her personal experience of desiring infidelity—on whether she pursued it herself, and how ferociously, she remains mum—into a larger narrative about sex research, primatology, ancient Phoenicia, and Beyoncé. Per the book’s unsubtle subtitle, “Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust and Infidelity is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free,” Martin has set out to prove that women have a stronger need for sexual variety and  experimentation than men.

Does she succeed? Martin’s research, some of which science journals and the mainstream news previously reported, is richly-detailed and persuasive. Women’s sexual dissatisfaction in marriage often gets chalked up to personal baggage and trauma, or perhaps simply not craving sex as much as the male species. But these excuses have always rung a bit false.

The real answer to the heterosexual conundrum could be accepting that women need what Martin calls “female fluidity”. They require more partners, more bisexuality, and more sex in general. Martin calls this brave new world of female-centered sex focused on women’s desire and pleasure “female sexual entitlement,” and I suppose that’s as fair a type of entitlement these days as any. In perhaps a savvy bit of marketing, Martin also argues that this new type of sexual power is the logical next horizon of the Me Too era. Post-Kavanaugh, we’ll have to see if she’s prognosticated correctly.

Vanessa Grigoriadis

Vanessa Grigoriadis is a contributing editor at the New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair, specializing in pop culture, youth movements, and crime reporting. She is a National Magazine Award winner and the author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

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