Sex is the mirror of how we approach God.
— NORMAN MAILER, The Prisoner of Sex
Norman Mailer—whose well-publicized sexual attitudes are an idiosyncratic blend of hipsterism, apocalyptic sexuality, machismo and old-guard sexual morality—has become one of the prime targets of feminist literary critics. Mary Ellmann or Kate Millett, for example, who approach fiction from the vantage point of the treatment female characters receive at the hands of masculine protagonists or authors have accused Mailer of being the prototypical male chauvinist. Mailer, in turn, has responded at length to their charges, in The Prisoner of Sex and elsewhere. Both sides, in waging this war, have fired many brilliant and witty shots; unfortunately, just as many have been misfired. Now that the smoke has cleared, it is time to see what the war was about in the first place.
Millett sees Mailer as a "warrior for male supremacy," a "militarist," an "advocate of genocide" and a latent homosexual who indulges in "heterosexual posturing." Such misfired shots need not have been discharged at all if Millett had understood that Mailer's attitudes toward sex and women have their philosophical base in mystical Judaism, not in repressed homosexuality. Millett is not alone in missing this link; most critics think of Mailer as a writer whose concern with Jewish themes, characters and attitudes (unlike Roth, Bellow, Singer and Malamud) is peripheral. No one, so far, has pinpointed the fact that Mailer's philoso-____________________