The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women (Google eBook)
The United States is obsessed with virginity -- from the media to schools to government agencies. In "The Purity Myth, " Jessica Valenti argues that the country's intense focus on chastity is damaging to young women. Through in-depth cultural and social analysis, Valenti reveals that powerful messaging on both extremes -- ranging from abstinence-only curriculum to "Girls Gone Wild" infomercials -- place a young woman's worth entirely on her sexuality. Morals are therefore linked purely to sexual behavior, rather than values like honesty, kindness, and altruism. Valenti sheds light on the value -- and hypocrisy -- around the notion that girls remain virgins until they're married by putting into context the historical question of purity, modern abstinence-only education, pornography, and public punishments for those who dare to have sex. "The Purity Myth" presents a revolutionary argument that girls and women are overly valued for their sexuality, as well as solutions for a future without a damaging emphasis on virginity.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
This is a terrific book. Valenti starts right off in the introduction saying: Girls "going wild" aren't damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity - the idea that such a thing even exists - is ensuring that young women's perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It's time to teach our daughters that the ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they're sexually active. This is such an important book, especially right now with all the craziness about reproductive rights. She discusses rape, the weird incestuous vibe of purity balls with young girls pledging their purity to their fathers, myths about purity, and the need to trust women to make their own decisions. It's a pretty short easy read too, in fact I was surprised and disappointed when it ended. But then there's a great section listing resources for women and women's blogs. Because of the resource section this is a book that should be owned not just taken out from the library.
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Summary Jessica Valenti argues in The Purity Myth that the United States is obsessed with virginity. She asserts that those associated with the abstinence movement are perpetuating the virgin/whore dichotomy, which sets up only two kinds of women: one to be admired and emulated and the other to be disgraced and shunned. Valenti opposes the idea that a sexually active woman is “tainted” or “impure” and thereby unworthy, and she protests against the movement’s emphasis on chastity, marriage, and parenthood. She comments, “In this mess of chastity expectations, objectification, and control of women, we have lost a very fundamental truth: Sex is amazing, and there’s nothing wrong or dirty or shameful or sinful about it.” In particular, she takes to task: The abstinence teacher who tells her students that they’ll go to jail if they have premarital sex. The well-funded organization that tells girls on college campuses that they should be looking for a husband, not taking women’s studies classes. The judge who rules against a rape survivor because she didn’t meet whatever standard for a victim he had in mind. The legislator who pushes a bill to limit young women’s access to abortion because he doesn’t think they are smart enough to make their own decisions. These are the people who are making the world a worse place—and a more dangerous one, at that—for girls and women. Analysis If you already believe that the abstinence movement is harming young women, you will like this book. If you don’t, you’re not likely to change your mind. There were many parts of this book that I enjoyed. However, I came to it hoping for a clear-eyed, well-argued account of the effects of the movement toward abstinence and virginity. I wanted to recommend the book to my friends who remain on the fence about the issues that Valenti discusses. This book instead only reinforces the dichotomy between supporters and detractors of abstinence. Much of her prose reads like, well, a pugilistic and snarky blog entry, dominated by her strong opinions. She openly derides those who support the virginity movement, and suggests that her side is the only one to see the finer nuances of the point: “[F]or those who buy into the virginity movement, the only alternative to being a virgin is being a whore. There’s no in-between for them; there are no shades of gray when it comes to sexuality. . .” Rather than seeking to build a bridge to the other side, Valenti sets up a fort on her side of the chasm. That being said, there were many points made in the book that bear repeating. Valenti begins by exploring how society has put youth on a pedestal. The increasing sexualization of young girls, she explains, cuts both ways—childlike innocence is valued in women of all ages. She observes, “Young women are being trained to be not autonomous adults, but perpetual children whose sexuality is strictly defined and owned, like that of traditional wives-in-training.” One of the more powerful chapters of the book is devoted to abstinence-only education. More than just teaching children to say “no,” Valenti writes, “abstinence-only curricula . . . are built on outdated notions of gender norms and sexist stereotypes about sexuality and relationships, and ultimately seek a return to traditional gender norms.” Valenti argues that the abstinence movement is not supported very broadly within U.S. society, despite the federal funding it receives. She supports her statements with solid research: According to a study published in Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 82 percent of Americans support programs that teach contraception as well as abstinence, and half of all Americans oppose abstinence-only education altogether. Even among those who describe themselves as conservatives, 70 percent support comprehensive sex education. Valenti’s professional experience includes working at the National Organization for Women’s legal defense fund, and she has a good handle on legislative issues. Valenti proposes that men—still predominant...
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