The self-absorbed narrator continually looks for (and finds) sex but is terrified, if not emasculated, by the prospect of love.
The plot is, to be charitable, episodic, as the unnamed narrator drifts from coffee shop to bar to restaurant to UCLA frat party. He gets engaged but gets out of there fast when he finds he’s being manipulated. He finds another girlfriend and eventually (kind of) decides to get married. Although he vaguely alludes to having a job, he has no visible means of support. Still, he goes through the motions of having a life: He talks to his mother on the phone, rides on an airplane, plays Mutant Storm Reloaded, Contra and Halo 2, downloads pornography, goes to a gay party, attends a graduation, insults his potential in-laws. But none of these activities—perhaps with the exception of video games and pornography—is significant. What gets him off, so to speak, is sex, in all its forms. His life is consumed with discussing, fantasizing about or engaging in sex. The narrator lives by what he calls the “ninety-eight percent rule,” a willingness to have sex with 98 percent of all women “in the age range of seventeen or so to dead,” though it’s never clear what 2 percent he excludes from his lubricious vision. He fantasizes about every woman he sees, from a girl in a bar to his girlfriend’s mother to the “subway whore”—in his eyes, all are objects and potential sex partners. And his narcissism is unbounded. In one spasm of philosophical journal reflection the narrator writes, “Remind myself that one day the sun will destroy this planet so nothing really matters.” Point taken.
The Main Event of Portnoy’s Complaint, without the wit.