Customer Reviews: Promiscuities : The Secret Struggle for Womanhood
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on June 9, 2000
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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on February 4, 1999
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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on April 27, 2003
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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on November 7, 2006
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. This is the story of every girl I've ever known. She didn't pick girls and their social behavior apart like some sort of lab rats, noting this and that hierarchy, that statistic on teen pregnancy, that one on number of girls who know how to use a condom.

No, she approached girls as what they are: us when we were younger. I understood so much more about my girlhood self after this book, and felt so understood for the first time in so many ways, that I simply cannot fathom anybody having a problem with the personal nature of "Promiscuities." Intimacy is the pinnacle, the crown jewel, of this book, NOT its flaw!
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on January 27, 2000
Naomi Wolf, called "naive" and "sloppy" by middle aged reviewers, speaks to a younger audience in a voice that is frank and concise.
I first read Promiscuities at the age of 15 while in the south of France on my first "summer program" experience...bought the book as something to read on the plane but wound up completely engrossed over and over again. I was away from home for an extended period of time for the first time in my life...confronted with sexuality from all angles. Wolfe's words, her stories and anecdotes, made SENSE of the "rites of passage" I was unconsciously experiencing.
Heartfelt thanks to the author, a woman who is not afraid to "tell it like it is" and who offers sincere advice to young women in the world today.
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on December 7, 1998
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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on November 25, 2002
...but not what I was expecting in terms of an expose about young women growing up in general. Wolf attempts to convey to the reader that her middle class, albeit liberal, upbringing as a common denominator amongst young women growing up during the turbulent sixties and seventies. Her parents were hardly Ward & June (she does acknowledge this), but to think that the lives of her and her white, (upper-Intelligentsia) middle class friends are the measuring stick for all young women is NAIVE. As a memoir, it is a good read, but as an insightful social commentary about what women from all backgrounds have experienced, it is seriously lacking in different perspectives of race and class. She mentions the paradox of slut/prude- you are a slut if you profess to enjoy sex and you are a prude if you do not have sex. That was the only pressure she felt from society as an adolescent female? How about those of us who were raised from birth to believe that "nice girls DON'T"? Yes, I was born in the 70's, but my parents were not running around nude in the park or sending me off to Kibbutzes in Israel in my early teens. Those of us not fortunate enough to have open-minded parents had to deal with the double condemnation of societal and parental pressures. The number of young women growing up in similar circumstances to myself far outweigh Naomi Wolf and her circle of friends with their rarified upbringing.
Therein lies my frustration with this book- if you must insist upon tackling a subject by writing primarily about your own experiences, call it a memoir. Otherwise, if the writer wishes to expound upon a larger theme of young women's lives, she should speak with young women from numerous backgrounds. Then the book can be classified as a sociological study.
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on June 13, 1999
This is an incredibly empowering book for women. No longer do we need to think of ourselves in a manner of either being a virgin or a whore. I only wish I would have read this three years ago, before I became desperate not to be seen as the former. The history of women's sexuality was particularily wonderful. Though I took sex ed in the 80s and 90s, we still were being taught that it was always the boy who made the first move, and it was up to the girl to say no. (In other words, it is her fault when things go all the way.) It is depressing that no matter how far we come, we still regress back to that. This book should be required reading for every sex ed teacher, every school-aged girl, every school-aged boy, every parent. Want an insight into the mind of a female teenager? Things haven't changed much since Wolf was a teen 30 years ago. This book changed -- probably forever -- the way I view matters of sex and sexuality.
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on March 6, 2009
The book is an interesting read -- both as a memoir of the San Francisco culture the author grew up in, as well as a window into the kind of female-centric sexuality that is being peddled by contemporary feminism.

For Wolf, the point of sexuality is female pleasure. The reason why women are divorcing, per the book, at the rates that they are is simply because men are bad lovers, and cannot please women sexually. According to the book's conclusion:

"What would happen to our divorce rate if we accepted that, when women long to be attentively touched, gazed at, caressed, deeply kissed, surrounded with sensuality -- when they long to be given a kind of sexual adoration or devotion, and an 'extreme' abundance of pleasure -- it is because ... that is how women are made ... What would our divorce rate look like if we dared to teach men the skills that could keep women's promiscuously responsive bodies happy in monogamous lives? What would male adolescent sexual behavior look like if boys were taught to treat teenage girls ... like nascent sexual goddesses? ... What would our violent landscape look like if men believed that true masculinity meant becoming an extraordinary lover to a life partner?"


As we can see here, the message of contemporary feminism here is clear: women are sexual goddesses who deserve extreme amounts of pleasure from men. Men are problematic if they do not view women as sexual goddesses, and evaluate their own self worth in terms of their ability to pleasure women sexually. Male sexuality is unimportant and secondary: female sexuality is superior to male sexuality, and men should realize and accept this, and focus on becoming the kind of female-oriented pleasure givers that women deserve, providing sexual adoration and devotion to women in abundance, if they are to have any hope at all of women behaving monogamously.

Funny, but that doesn't sound like equality to me at all. Rather, it sounds very much like female sexual supremacy, male sexual inferiority, and a demand that men service women sexually to the point of treating them as sexual goddesses worthy of adoration, if they are to have any hope of retaining their sexual loyalty. What we see, unmasked, here is the true face of sexual feminism: not equality between men and women and mutual respect for male and female sexualities, but rather the subordination of male sexuality to female sexuality, plain and simple. It's nothing short of a plea for the widespread recognition of female sexual supremacy, and male sexual subordination -- something that many of us intuited about feminism even without works such as this one, but which are quite well confirmed by this book's conclusion.
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on January 15, 1999
Being a man and reading this book I found it very informative into the woman's struggle. The auhtor hit many aspects in life and I believe that men should read this book too. I learned many things about what goes on in the woman mind.
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