cover image The End of Love: Sex and Desire in the Twenty-First Century

The End of Love: Sex and Desire in the Twenty-First Century

Tamara Tenenbaum, trans. from the Spanish by Carolina Parodi. Europa, $17 (288p) ISBN 979-8-88966-010-1

Argentinian journalist Tenenbaum makes her English-language debut with an incisive essay collection that shrewdly dissects the cultural pressures and ideals shaping modern notions of sex and relationships. After breaking from the Orthodox Jewish enclave of her Buenos Aires childhood to attend university, Tenenbaum felt “like I’d walked into an abyss” of unfamiliar social expectations. Yet she soon realized that her female peers were similarly “scared of doing things wrong” and “eager... to understand the rules governing their bodies.” Writing that “we all arrive as foreigners in the world of desire and go through a never-ending process of learning its language,” Tenenbaum critiques the ways relationship expectations filter through women’s lives. In the essay “The Female Version of James Dean,” she contends that even women’s cultural models for “rebellion” confine their freedom to whom to marry (think Romeo and Juliet). “You Can Always Be Better” teases out the insidious ways social media dictates women’s value in and out of relationships (it’s not mandatory to have a partner “to take Instagram pictures with, laughing at nothing and lying on incredibly white sheets,” Tenenbaum writes, but adhering to—or eschewing—these norms carries “financial, symbolic, or emotional” costs). Blazing with insight and equally grounded in personal observation and Marxist-feminist theory, these essays interrogate in lucid and persuasive prose how much has really changed for women from the oppressive past to the supposedly enlightened present. It’s a feast for the mind. (Feb.)