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Promiscuities Paperback – July 21, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Part memoir, part exposé, Promiscuities is Naomi Wolf's (author of The Beauty Myth and Fire with Fire) perspective on the confusion surrounding female sexuality. According to Wolf, promiscuous is "a word that holds within it the mixed message girls today are given about sex: 'You're promiscuous if you do anything, but you are a prude if you do nothing.'" Thus, still polarized on the spectrum between virgin and whore, adolescent girls are allowed little information and even fewer healthy outlets for their normal sexual desires. Wolf shatters the illusion that good girls and professional women are not sexual, and boldly embarks on redefining female sexuality outside of men's experience and assumptions. Wolf's own coming of age in the post-sexual revolution of Haight-Ashbury, serves as an evocative tool for revealing the naked and admirable truth of female sexuality. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Wolf has written passionately about the effects of popular culture on female self-image in numerous articles and books (The Beauty Myth, LJ 4/1/91). Her newest work centers on the way American culture of the late Sixties and Seventies created a generation of females torn between the need to express their sensuality and the desire to meet society's behavioral expectations. To illustrate her position, Wolf relies almost exclusively on the coming-of-age experiences of herself, her friends, and acquaintances in her hometown, San Francisco. Overgeneralization abounds as she attempts to apply the microcosmic events of this mostly white, middle-class, liberal milieu to a whole generation. A new stereotype is presented in which all girls wanted to be Barbie and all teenagers viewed loss of virginity as the key to attaining "womanhood." There is a desperate defensiveness in the tone of this book, which, in spite of references to other sociological and anthropological studies, diminishes the force of Wolf's argument. Fans of the author as well as expected talk-show appearances will nevertheless generate demand for this work. Libraries should purchase accordingly.
-?Rose M. Cichy, Osterhout Free Lib., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (July 21, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449907643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449907641
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Naomi Wolf was born in San Francisco in 1962. She was an undergraduate at Yale University and did her graduate work at New College, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Her essays have appeared in various publications including: The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Ms., Esquire, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She also speaks widely to groups across the country.

The Beauty Myth, her first book, was an international bestseller. She followed that with Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change The 21st Century, published by Random House in 1993, and Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, published in 1997. Misconceptions, released in 2001, is a powerful and passionate critique of pregnancy and birth in America.

In fall 2002, Harper Collins published a 10th anniversary commemorative edition of The Beauty Myth. In May of 2005, Ms. Wolf released The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from my Father on How to Live, Love and See. The End of America, published in September 2007 by Chelsea Green, is Naomi's latest book.

Naomi Wolf is co-founder of The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, an organization devoted to training young women in ethical leadership for the 21st century. The institute teaches professional development in the arts and media, politics and law, business and entrepreneurship as well as ethical decision making.

She lives with her family in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Denham on June 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Promiscuities may not resonate with everyone, but as a member of Wolf's generation, it definitely did with me. She does a wonderful job of explaining the whole 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation in which girls live regarding sexuality, with anecdotes from her and others' personal experiences.
I fail to see why the book has gotten so much criticism for being anecdotal and personal; at no point did I feel she was trying to pass it off as hard science. I think Wolf explains beautifully the whole paradox of what it means to be female in post sexual revolution society. I would not only recommend this book to young women, but to parents, particularly fathers of girls about to enter this stage, because I think it will be a real eye opener.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By marie.rochon1@sympatico.ca on February 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed "Promiscuities" so much that I found myself continually marking up pages and asterisking sections as they described situations I had lived through but could not articulate. I found this book to be incredibly insightful. Finally a book that discusses how it feels to be a young woman, struggling with her burgeoning sexuality, in a world that denies and degrades female sexual power. While Wolfe's perspective on this issue is largely white, middle class, and could have included more ethnic attitudes of female sexuality, this book is a starting point on a discussion that needs to continue. I found this book to be fascinating and will return to it.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jill on April 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book, by such a 'noted' feminist researcher, has recieved an undue amount of criticism for several reasons. The first being that there is always an over emphasis on the context Wolf chooses, which is her own. There is an overwhelming failure to notice how this creates a story, and a background for the reader. Elsewise, we would just be meandering through some misplaced memories. It also serves to show that these stories are not meant as an all inclusive look at what it means to have sex as a teenage girl.
The second undue criticism comes from the nature of the book - as a collection of stories. There are complaints that, unlike The Beauty Myth, there is not a lot of factual research - which Wolf readily admits in the introduction. The reason for this is often revealed in interviews with Wolf. She often notes that she wrote it because she realized her daughter would be going through the same things in a number of years. The lack of theory and jargon in this book make it accessible for young women who many not even really understand what the word "feminist" means.
I write this because I read this book as a young girl, and later as a university student. As a pre highschool student, this book gave me guidance and reference not available to me from my family, friends or school. The fact that someone was telling these stories served to make my own experiences normal and gave me realistic expectations in the world of "high school romance". I don't hesitate to say it probably saved me a lot of heart ache, as I was exposed to the stories of "women who have gone before"
As a university student, I feel that the true stories of women are generally not heard in the forum of mainstream culture. Although I have come to disagree with some portrayals and sections of this book, I also realize it's value and recognize it's impact on my life. It is a must read for young women, and should be available in health and family life classes everywhere.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Erica N. Herron on November 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
The very things that others hate in this book is what makes it so overwhelmingly important to me.

I have so many feminist books on my shelf. They dominate my library. They remain largely unread. I bought them because I believe in everything inside them; I can't read them because I can't stand what they have to say. They are bogged down in factual statements that read like a laundry list of angry, mind-numbing statistics. They try so hard to *prove* their point in this defensive tone of voice (a tone they've earned.) And I just don't need anybody to tell me that I'm not in a privileged position in 50 billion different ways, I don't need anybody to argue me into it. I'm the choir; I'm a woman, I know exactly how I'm treated every day. I know, I get it, I'm doing what I can about it, shut up. But I buy these books because, although they are so morbid, sarcastic, dry, boring, and depressing, they are a bitter pill that I know is good for me. I'm supposed to read them as an educated, intelligent, outspoken feminist.

And so I expected what everyone else apparently wished this book was: another laundry list, more arguments, more facts, blah blah blah, all recited in a dutifully mean and nasty tone of voice (because we wouldn't want to show any empathy or emotion about these subjects, or the boys will call us weak, hysterical females!) I expected for it to hold my attention for all of two pages.

It's been so long since I haven't been able to put a book down, and I found it in this book. Yes, it's personal. It's also so incredibly relatable. The old cliche: it made me cry, it made me laugh. Mostly it did so because she essentially told me all of my own stories in that raw, honest, nostalgic, captivating way that I've always wanted to hear my voice speak.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mark J Dulcey on December 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
Naomi Wolf strikes home here with a book that will resonate with a lot of people, especially those born between 1960 and 1970 and raised on one of the coasts. Unlike her past works, Promiscuities is a very personal story; she has a lot to say about her own experiences and those of the girls and women she grew up with. The earlier parts of the book are stronger than the finish, but it's worth getting to the end anyway.
One problem: the tagline used for the paperback edition ("The Secret Struggle for Womanhood") might lead the reader to expect a book with answers rather than questions, more like Ms. Wolf's previous books. The tagline of the hardcover edition ("An Ordinary American Girlhood") is better, though it perhaps misleads the reader about the universality of her experiences.
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