Guernica: Do you notice any of these issues around gender and sex playing out in the classroom when you’re teaching?
Stacey D’Erasmo: When I started teaching a lot, there were two tropes I was seeing quite often that had to do with love and sex, particularly in straight sex scenes. The tropes were numb girls and hateful boys. There would be this particular kind of numb girl scene: “I saw him in the bar that night. We stayed up too late drinking. Later, he bent me over the barstool. I felt nothing.” I would see that scene over and over again.And then there was a parallel scene I would see over and over again, which was the hateful boy scene. It would be a male narrator and he’d be having sex with this woman, and he’d say, “Her breasts were lopsided and one of them was puckered on the side, and she yelled in my ear too loudly.” I got really tired of reading these scenes because they both felt to me like dodges. If he bent you over the barstool, you felt something. And the hateful boy scene also felt like a way of emotionally distancing what was going on. If the male character only ever felt hatred, disgust, and revulsion, well, why did this even start in the first place? Both of those felt to me like literarily socially acceptable ways to write about sex without actually writing into the scene. To say, “I was numb,” or, “I thought she was disgusting,” are two ways of not actually having characters be vulnerable in the scene. And I don’t mean feeling more socially acceptable feelings. I don’t mean that they should have been feeling wonderful, warm, intimate, one-on-one love. I mean there are many more emotions than that. And somehow these young writers have gotten the idea that you can skate through a scene by essentially armoring yourself with these two very, very distancing attitudes. I started pushing back on that because it’s boring. It’s not true, and it’s boring. A lot of things happen in those moments.