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The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women Paperback – December 29, 2009
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About the Author
More About the Author
Jessica is also the founder of Feministing.com, which Columbia Journalism Review called "head and shoulders above almost any writing on women's issues in mainstream media."
Her writing has appeared in publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, and Ms. magazine. She is currently a columnist at the Guardian US. Jessica lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.
Top Customer Reviews
I grew up believing that virginity was a good thing, but I noticed that most of the burden of being a "virgin" was put on the girl and not on the guy. While many preachers and Bible teachers gave some lip-service to young men to abstain until marriage, I got the impression that pre-marital sex didn't seem to "damage" them us much as it supposedly "damaged" a woman. And the older I got, the more I thought, "If I am not to be 'damaged goods,' then I certainly don't want to marry a 'goods damager.'" You don't even have to be a feminist to know that a woman is not a man's possession. and these chastity and purity rituals that some young women are going through (BTW -- these were not happening when I was a teenager) make my jaw drop.
It seems to me that young women are faulted both for having sex and not having it. If we are having it, we are trashy, and if we aren't having it we are treated like ignorant little girls who knew nothing. Or we get called gay. (Yes, people try to throw that at women and girls, too!)
I also agreed greatly with the author when she decried the difficulty women have in getting a rape conviction if the woman in question was not a virgin when she was raped. To me, that's the same mentality as not prosecuting someone for stealing merchandise that was already stolen!
Perhaps my biggest problem is with the book is that I am still uncomfortable with the abortion issue. It's not a cut/dried matter, and I think that both sides of the issue over simplify things.Read more ›
Too often young women are depicted as tainted, unlovable and dirty unless they adhere to a strict model of what the Christian Right deems acceptable sexuality. The book discusses at great length abstinence only sex education classes where girls are being taught that they are like a "used lollipop" if they have sex before marriage, and worse for young women (and men) the book offers evidence that some educators are flat out lying to students. (e.g. exaggerating the failure rates of condoms and discounting or even denying their effectiveness in preventing STDs)
One thing Jessica points out that I never really thought about before is that "...young women who are sexually exploited are often young women of color from low-income communities who are perceived as inherently loose, unredeemable and hopeless." If you think about it this is true, because you have to be a "certain" type of girl to be thought of as a victim of sexual crime in the media (young, pretty, usually white - definitely a virgin). Otherwise, the woman is thought to be complicit in her attack. (she's on the streets anyways, she likes it, she's a slut already...etc).Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book helped me articulate so much of the skepticism I felt about the idea of "virginity." A great read.Published 6 days ago by Amazon Customer
I first read Jessica Valenti in my "intro level" Women and Gender studies course. We read excerpts from Full Frontal Feminism, and I loved her cussing, no-holds attitude, and... Read morePublished 1 month ago
When Elizabeth Smart spoke at John Hopkins University in 2013, she recounted the lesson of her abstinence-only sex ed course: that women were like piece of gum, and sex outside of... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Teresa
This book is supposed to create positive reinforcement for women and young girls but can come off as biased and judgmental. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Luis Pech
As a mental health clinician who specializes in working with young women, I thought Valenti's work was fantastic! Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jamie Goldstein
A bit on the extreme side of feminism for my tastes, but certainly an interesting read.Published 8 months ago by rawwrrrmeowrawr
This book is everything that's wrong with society - and everything that has EVER been wrong with society. Even in 2015, patriarchy and misogyny reign. Read morePublished 10 months ago by SO