The statistics are daunting: "Two out of five girls nationwide have had sexual rumors spread about them," reports Leora Tanenbaum. "Three out of four girls have received sexual comments or looks, and one in five has had sexual messages written about her in public areas." The 50 women interviewed for this book differ greatly in ethnic background, age, and economic status, but they share one thing in common--each of them, along with Tanenbaum herself, was labeled a "slut" in junior high or high school. (And, as recent cases involving Anita Hill and Monica Lewinsky demonstrate, a woman can face such taunts no matter what her age or professional level.) As such, they became victims of a double standard that winks at sexual promiscuity among teenage boys but insists that young women remain virginal and pure. Even worse, the slut bashing is perpetuated in nearly every case by female classmates. In addition to insisting that schools get serious about combating sexual harassment, Tanenbaum urges the development of sex education programs that acknowledge responsible alternatives to abstinence, programs that would recognize the sexual desires of young women (and men) without condemnation. Her social critique is solid, but it's the personal accounts of emotional abuse--and, thankfully, perseverance--that will thoroughly convince you that the current tolerance of slut bashing is simply unacceptable. --Ron Hogan
From Kirkus Reviews
Absorbing first-person narratives from a wide range of women, including the author, alternate with a somewhat prosaic analysis of the ramifications of being labeled a slut in adolescence. Journalist Tanenbaums first book offers up striking images of the cruelty of teenagers, both male and, more significantly, female, toward the girls whom they have labeled ``sluts.'' The author indicts the school systems that ignore or even condone such behavior. Her allegations that humiliation of the perceived otherin these cases young women with bad reputationsis alive and well in the American school system may come as no surprise, but her depiction of its various manifestations, ranging from taunting in the cafeteria to rape in a stairwell, is shocking to anyone who thinks of school as a haven from violence. The strength of Tanenbaums book lies in the accounts of her interviewees, many of whom attribute their confidence today to what they suffered in their youth. As one woman recounts: ``Learning to be an outsider is important, because an awful lot of people in the world are outsiders. I learned to be alone. I learned to use my head in more complex ways than I would have been able to otherwise.'' The key point that the book illustrates is how little American society of the 20th century has changed when it comes to condemning women for attempting sexual parity with men. Though the definition of what constitutes sluttiness has shifted over the years, the similarities in the interviews of ``sluts'' of the 1950s and their contemporary counterparts are sobering and sad. Most often cogently written, the book bogs down toward the end when Tanenbaum abandons analysis for prescription, offering pablum like ``For real changes to occur, girls need to change the way they relate to one another.'' You havent come as far as you thought, baby. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.