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Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut Hardcover – March 5, 2002

4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Haunted by memories of the way her high school classmates had treated Anna "Wanna" Thomas, the school's designated "slut," former Seattle Stranger editor White decided to investigate the near-universal American myths of the "fast girl" and the actual women behind those myths. She contacted over 150 mostly white women and girls between ages 13 and 55. Typical of them is 25-year-old Madeline, who was rumored in high school to have crabs, AIDS and herpes; had "whore" written in lipstick on her locker; and was beaten up at a party by other girls. White uses the recollections of these women to piece together what she calls the American slut archetype: a girl whose body matures early, who is said to have sex with teams of boys and who is frequently a victim of childhood sexual abuse. White often and sometimes gratuitously cites Foucault, de Beauvoir, Jung, Elaine Showalter and other scholars as she examines why these labels are ever present in the adolescent social universe, and what they reveal about Americans' conflicted attitudes toward female sexuality. Though her tone is accessible to general readers, White's book is a bit more academic than recent titles on similar subjects, such as Leora Tanenbaum's Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation and Naomi Wolf's Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood. The stories of White's interviewees paint a textured, harrowing picture of high school life, and readers will wish she had devoted more space to these powerful testimonies and less to the broader cultural analysis. Agent, Bill Clegg.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

These are both excellent sociological studies about girls, women, and sexuality. In The Secret Lives of Girls, Lamb (psychology, St. Michael's Coll.) explores the idea (the myth?) of the "good girl." Many girls and young women, she attests, lead double lives, acting sweet and well behaved in public but sexual and aggressive and guilt-ridden in private. Using more than 125 interviews with girls and women of all races in 25 states, Lamb compellingly argues that girls are neither inherently "good" nor the passive victims whom some psychologists (e.g., Mary Pipher) have made them out to be. Teens and women often conceal their sexual desire and hunger for power via diaries and other secret means. Yet as little girls, they played healthy sexual games like catch-and-kiss and naked Barbies (though that finding pertains only to white America; Lamb found that African American girls rarely play sexual games with one other). Girls feel powerful (translation: good!) when they engage in mischief, swear, and successfully dominate siblings. Aside from revealing a misconception, this intriguing and significant book includes two chapters for parents, "Raising Sexual Girls" and "Raising Aggressive Girls." Highly recommended for social science and child-rearing collections. White, a freelance writer, reports on the high school slut. Who is she? Why is she so universal? What happens to her ten or 20 years after high school? White finds that girls seen as sluts always disagree with what the crowd claims they did, that the "slut" flourishes in a suburban landscape, and that, like anorexics, sluts are usually white. White's perspective is different from Naomi Wolf's in Promiscuities; Wolf concluded that "we" are all sluts, all "bad" girls, and that it's OK. Not so, says White. A deep chasm exists between "good" girls and girls perceived as sluts; it's "us" vs. "them," with girls as girls' worst enemies. While Wolf intertwined personal narrative with cultural history, White bases her conclusions on over 100 interviews with white, black, Latino, and Asian women with solid results. An excerpt of Fast Girls appeared in the New York Times Magazine; for social science collections. Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (March 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684867400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684867403
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,150,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
wow. emily white has really put together a provocative book on this facet of the collective high school nightmare. after speaking with over 150 self-selected high school girls, white attempts to show that many of these girls came from similar backgrounds and suggests that there is an essential [jungian] archetype of the easy girl. while her theory has a few holes, she revives the feel of adolescence so vividly that her analytical transgressions are forgiven.
few of the questions white raises about the power of myth are original, but her pursuit of the real effect that this power has on individual lives is a refreshing change from statistics or rhetorical blather. the true stories are even more fascinating than the rumors that circulated earlier about these women, and white's storytelling is entrancing.
all in all, this is a page-turner that will give you a lot to think about. i hope i've learned a something about how it felt to be the most infamous girl in school, as well as a little lesson in tolerance and the aftermath of intolerance.
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By A Customer on April 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautifully written, lyrical in style and fiercely analytical in content. It tells the stories, sad and profound, of individual girls and women while pulling from those stories the threads of ancient myths and fears that keep us all enmeshed in the myth of the slut. Reading Fast Girls has the complex effect of making us squirm with discomfort while empowering us with the knowledge that the myth of the slut is greater than ourselves. Like Foucault's Discipline and Punish (but a much better read)the author shows how we are all victims of language and culture. Yet, this book doesn't force us to see past the wall of letters SLUT, it shows us the cracks, compellingly and deliberately, until what's revealed is what we already know in our hearts to be true. In a lesser writer's hands this might make us all breath a sigh of relief that it's okay then, not our fault. Yet Fast Girls manages to communicate the possiblity of a better way. The writer is a kind of poet-journalist, provocative without being strident, sensitive without pulling punches. Everyone should read this book (despite its weighty subject matter, it's a page turner!) AND it should be required reading for all preteen boys and girls. It could just change the world.
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By A Customer on January 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read both the book, and the other reviews. One reviewer mentioned he'd lived across the hall from some 'sluts' he knew, who were "nice people". His attitude is actually half of the problem, but that's by the by. Onto the book.
Emily White has given us an exercise in pinpointing the dangerous clique society that engulfs our schools and encourages seperatism and prejudice. The mentality behind labelling girls as "sluts" is fairly well discussed, and the author did actually hit a raw nerve with me, as I was one of those girls was *was* labelled. With that in mind, this review is admittedly biased.
I did appreciate the conversations with other "sluts", and I would love to see this book as required reading in schools everywhere. Perhaps the most startling thing about this book though, was the author's actual attitude towards these "sluts". On one hand it was sympathetic, and justifiably defensive of the whole stigma, but on the other hand, all too often it appeared that White was actually part of the problem, in her use of labels. Maybe I misinterpreted it. Regardless, it's an important book that's very accessible to a wide audience, and would be a great addition to any teacher's bookshelf. We can all learn something here.
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Format: Paperback
You know, I've had this book for a LONG time, yea...bad me. I really wanted to read this, but something else always seemed to be coming up that NEEDED to be read, and so it kept getting put off. I also really wanted to like and be moved by this book, but something about it just wasn't very compelling.

I agree with much of what the White says, but I think because as she says herself, she as a fascination with the H.S. Slut (as a person and as a cultural image) but no direct experience with it, this reads more like an uninvolved and very shallow examination of this phenomenon.

At the end, I felt like she has said the same exact thing over and over and never really made any serious examination of the subject beyond shallow voyeurism on her part. It's not badly written and I don't think she's reached inaccurate conclusions...but at the same time I felt like she didn't really take this very far, that she really only gives a surface picture of the subject and never really gets down to the meat of it, never really "gets herself dirty with it" or makes any personal connection with it beyond a mild "fascination" with the subject and I thing that really shines through more than anything else about the book.
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Format: Paperback
This book really scared me. I guess it's about bullying per se, but it is also about violence against girls AS WOMEN, just for their sexuality, for the threat of it. In one story a girl is taken outside and tied to a tree and spat on! Girls really opened up to White as an interviewer, and her writing between the interviews is the hightlight.
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Format: Hardcover
Recently I feel as if there have been a lot of "interview and ponder" books out there where an author gets an idea, interviews a bunch of people, and writes about the interviewees' and the author's thoughts on the matter. White does this while discussing "high school sluts" but goes one step further by using history, entertainment media, mythology, and social psychology to discuss the myth or archetype of the slut story. Through her interviews White found that almost every high school had/has a recognized slut, and that that girl is ostracized by both male and female students. She also learned, through interviews with "identified sluts" that there are certain things most of these girls have in common: "early puberty, early childhood sexual abuse, a tendency toward extroversion, (and) a rumor that will not die about doing the entire football team" (171). White also found that most of the "identified sluts" were White girls from suburban areas. Although the book is well written, I feel as if it's too short and incomplete. When writing a book like this I feel like an author should bring us through a while cycle of genesis of the problem, discussion of the current problem as it is, and finally how we can change it. I feel as if White's book is lacking slightly in the last area, but at the same time I'm well aware of the question, "But how do you change an archetype that's pervaded our whole culture?"
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