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Hard to Get: Twenty-Something Women and the Paradox of Sexual Freedom Hardcover – March 8, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Bell's clear prose and accessible subject matter will appeal to both scholars of women's studies and young women looking for an explanation of some of the predicaments their generation faces."--"Kirkus Reviews"

"Emphasises that the problem is not conflict and hurt, which are inevitable parts of living, but rather that the way these young women interpret and learn from their experiences is crucial."--"Times Higher Education"

"Finally! A nuanced look at hookup culture. This hookup book is not like the others."--"Salon"

"[Bell] hoped to find that young women would have dynamic, confident sex lives . . . but found a much more complex, difficult, dare we say Lena Dunham-esque situation instead."--"San Francisco Magazine"

"Bell hopes to dislodge embedded stereotypes of men as subject and women as object and defuse the fear that our sexuality is dangerous. Her book just might help that happen."--"Bust"

"Eerily close to the contradictory feelings you've personally had on the subject, but haven't been able to express."--Anna Breslaw"Cosmopolitan" (10/28/2013)

"["Hard to Get"] will resonate with many, and . . . will intrigue sociologists in this field."--J. M. Irvine"CHOICE" (09/01/2013)

"Timely. . . . Bell provides a nuanced examination of the conflicts 20-something women have in navigating the issues of their professional life versus their personal life."--Carolee A. Kallmann"Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy" (07/23/2013)

"An accessable and provocative text for encouraging conversation on the psychological consequences of persistent gender inequalities in this so-called post-feminist era."--Catherine Connell"Contemporary Sociology" (11/01/2014)

From the Inside Flap

“In this moving book, Leslie Bell gives us insight into the hearts and minds of 20-something women confronted with the emotional challenges of a culture that says they can have it all. Through poignant, rich individual narratives, Bell shows how professionally successful and sexually experienced young women wrestle with feelings of vulnerability and confusion about relationships and desire. 20-somethings will find relief and self-understanding through reading this book, and it will be of great help to those who treat and those who wish to understand them.”—Nancy J. Chodorow, author of Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice

"Women should be assertive but not aggressive, feminine but not passive, honest but not overwhelming. But how? Especially for women between ages 17 (the average age for first sex) and 27 (the average age of marriage) the rules for how to be a woman are highly unclear. In this deeply wise, very lucid, and highly illuminating book Bell, a sociologist and psychotherapist, describes how women sometimes “split” their desires for connection, sex and professional success. And she points to ways of moving beyond the split. An important book for women – and men."—Arlie Hochschild, Author of The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times

“Leslie Bell introduces us to a new developmental period for 20 something women in which they are focused on sexual and relationship satisfaction. By sharing these women's stories Bell helps us to explore complex issues of ambivalence, subjectivity, and identity that are at the core of personal, relational and sexual fulfillment.”—C.J. Pascoe, author of Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

“While popular portrayals of women and sex are glossy, voyeuristic, simplified, unemotional, or trite, Hard to Get offers rarely heard detailed stories that are told with emotional resonance and connection to women’s full lives and selves. Bell has made a superb contribution to our understanding about how women navigate sexuality in young adulthood in an era when they no longer must be married, and thus she has enlightened our understanding of women’s social, sexual, and psychological lives.”—Karin A. Martin, author of Puberty, Sexuality, and the Self: Boys and Girls at Adolescence

"Hard to Get shows us why, in the 21st Century, sex is easy but relationships are not. Every 20something woman who is having sex, but feels that something is amiss, should read this book."—Meg Jay, Ph.D., author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now

"Can today’s young women be independent and sexually agentic while also satisfying their relational needs for intimacy? Bell believes that they can, and insightfully uses women’s stories to reveal the inner and outer barriers to having it all."—Paula England, New York University

“Bell offers a profoundly original and important argument about why – despite gains in education and employment -- young women in America continue to be short-changed in sex and intimacy. And she gives us a new, compelling vision of what it would mean for them to attain true sexual liberation.”—Amy Schalet, author of Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex

“Female sexuality provides endless fascination; but how do actual young women find happiness in sex and love? Leslie Bell gives us an up-close look at twenty-something women at a cultural moment when they have more freedom than ever before, but their desires – sexual and relational – continue to confound. Bell navigates this complex terrain with compassion, keen insight, and an eye to social change.”—Daphne de Marneffe, PhD, author of Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (March 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520261496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520261495
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leslie C. Bell is a sociologist and psychotherapist who specializes in women's development and sexuality. She maintains a private practice in Berkeley, California. Bell earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work, and a B.A. from Swarthmore College. She published the chapter on psychoanalytic theories of gender in The Psychology of Gender, an introductory textbook.

Follow Leslie C. Bell on Twitter @lesliecbell or find HARD TO GET on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/HARD-to-GET-20-Something-Women-and-the-Paradox-of-Sexual-Freedom/366711263411753. You can also visit Leslie C. Bell's website, http://www.lesliecbell.com.

An award-winning lecturer, Bell has taught courses on women's development, gender inequality, and sexuality at U.C. Berkeley and the Women's Therapy Center in Berkeley. She currently supervises graduate students at the Women's Therapy Center in Berkeley.

Bell has served as a fellow for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the Robert Stoller Foundation.

She lives in Oakland, California with her family.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a man who has been married nearly 50 years, I am not in the primary audience for Hard to Get. However, I feel that I benefited greatly from reading the book. It is clearly and gracefully written and steers a fine middle course between dry scholarship and breathless flippancy. It illuminates some of the profound changes in society that have occurred since my peers and I were in our twenties.

Getting to know the young women whose experiences are recounted in Hard to Get makes it clear that there is no simple prescription for attaining healthy and rewarding intimate relationships. Nevertheless, the book suggests real ways that I can help the parents and other caregivers of our grandson and, especially, our granddaughters to prepare those wonderful children tor the complexities and contradictions that are a necessary part of growing into mature adulthood.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a great read for me. I found it so helpful to hear stories from the women interviewed, about tough aspects of love and sexuality that are not so often discussed. This really lifted the curtain and helped me gain a fresh perspective on my own challenges and those of my peers. I feel lucky to have found this book on the earlier side of my twenties. This decade, and the ones to follow, are taking on a brighter outlook, thanks to what I learned reading this.

Also good to know - the author is a psychoanalyst who uses that vocabulary and has developed the book in a relatively academic style. It was still very approachable, and I personally benefited from the combination of theory and research that develops the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bell's book addresses something critical: understanding the mishmash of messages society generates toward twenty something women, as well as how they internalize and navigate these often confusing and contradictory messages.

Unlike other books on similar topics, Bell is neither preachy, condescending or dry, which remains a strong point for her book. I particularly found Bell's writing style fantastic - you do not have to be a scholar to read this book and derive enjoyment. Her writing is clear, insightful, and deeply appreciative of the complexities of her subject and the women she interviewed.

I greatly enjoyed book and have heartily recommended it to others.

What I would love to see next is a similar work on how - for heterosexual relationships - this shift in messaging and self-perception in women is affecting their male counterparts.
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