The younger writers are so self-conscious, so steeped in a certain kind of liberal education, that their characters can’t condone even their own sexual impulses; they are, in short, too cool for sex. Even the mildest display of male aggression is a sign of being overly hopeful, overly earnest or politically untoward. For a character to feel himself, even fleetingly, a conquering hero is somehow passé. More precisely, for a character to attach too much importance to sex, or aspiration to it, to believe that it might be a force that could change things, and possibly for the better, would be hopelessly retrograde. Passivity, a paralyzed sweetness, a deep ambivalence about sexual appetite, are somehow taken as signs of a complex and admirable inner life. These are writers in love with irony, with the literary possibility of self-consciousness so extreme it almost precludes the minimal abandon necessary for the sexual act itself, and in direct rebellion against the Roth, Updike and Bellow their college girlfriends denounced. (Recounting one such denunciation, David Foster Wallace says a friend called Updike “just a penis with a thesaurus”).
If there's one word I keep using in my discussion of this shift, it is "self-conscious." I really like her use of "abandon" instead of my "wild," but it doesn't work as well as an adjective.
This doesn't look like a strictly generational thing, as the more puritanical writers come from the disco-punk generation of 1958 - 1964, Generation X, and probably whoever the hot authors of the '79 - '86 cohort are. Rather, what's common is when they started writing -- the very late '80s or early '90s and afterward. That of course coincides with the sexual counter-revolution of the past two decades and counting. Even the older writers who used to write more carnal scenes can no longer pull it off, which shows that everyone is susceptible to the larger changes. This is not an effect of aging since the young today are even more hostile to lust.
Where else in high culture does this show up? Art films perhaps? The trouble is that a lot of those are probably French, and France does not have a clear split between pre-'91 and post-'91 culture like America and Canada do, judging by crime rates. Italy saw a huge drop in crime during the '90s, though, so we could throw them in. The UK... kind of, but not as much. Are the artier movies made in those countries during the '60s through the '80s wilder than those from the '90s and 2000s? I'm not a film buff (and even less so for the artier flicks), but Woody Allen vs. Wes Anderson comes to mind.