Diary of a Philanderer
by Anthony M. Wilson

"I wasn’t raised like this. Then I remembered, I was raised like this. Thanks, Pop."

James is a serial womanizer. He seduces women like he’s swatting balls at a batting cage. He charms and cheats in a compulsive and relentless way, as though someone shouted “go” and started counting his conquests. Despite professional, military, and academic achievements, he is a relentless bounder, a true cad, and in his “diary,” he can’t quite decide if that’s worth a high-five or a round of therapy.

James’s sexual activity begins when he is molested by a teenage girl at age of 11. Lacking guidance or context, he normalizes and repeats the encounter, soon embarking upon a steady sexual diet of rotating girlfriends while his confidence grows. By the time he is a young military enlistee, he has had countless lovers, impregnated and married a near stranger, cheated with her best friend, and is stationed overseas where his dalliances are constant and consuming. Stateside and divorced after his service, his pattern continues as he continues to juggle lovers with whom he has implied commitments and to whom he can never stay faithful.

The world is full of cheaters and serial seducers, and though unsettling, James’s story is neither new nor revelatory. Yet while the text is light on introspection and heavy on narrative, its significance is its very existence. The fact that James has penned this blend of confession and locker room bragging session suggests he is looking for answers about why he philanders. But to this central question, the narrator has little insight to share. Did he learn from his father’s model? Were his early sexual experiences instructive toward his womanizing? The answer to both is maybe. Despite the Lothario playbook, the narrative leaves the reader with the uneasy sense that James’s commodified view of women and sex are unlikely to change. And maybe that’s the way he wants it.

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