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The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

The Purity Myth (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Jessica Valenti

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4212025,173 (4.13)47
Title:The Purity Myth
Authors:Jessica Valenti
Info:Seal Press (2009), Kindle Edition, 277 pages
Collections:Your library, Non Fiction
Tags:non fiction, library book, Jessica Valenti, culture, sexuality, virgin, manliness, gender roles, abstinence, pornography, feminism

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The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti (2009)

Recently added byElizabethFlygare, private library, Kayla_Sue, F.L.O.W., joceloon, brbadore

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In "The Purity Myth," Jessica Valenti does a pretty bang-up job of getting the reader worked up, horrified, and furious about the "purity myth" disseminated in America...that is, as long as the reader picked up the book expecting to be worked up, horrified, and furious.

To be clear: I'm not suggesting that any feminist should be sugarcoating or pulling their punches. The issues outlined in "The Purity Myth" - such as abstinence education, particularly unfair treatment of women of color, the truly abominable sacrifice of the rights of pregnant women in favor of their fetuses, rape culture, virgin vs. victim - are very real, very terrible, and very pressing. But reading "The Purity Myth," you get the idea that Valenti is very much preaching to her self-actualized activist choir. The book is peppered with snarky one-liners, sardonic footnotes, and open hostility toward some causes. At first (for me, at least) this was gratifying, but it got old pretty quickly. Valenti is a blogger, and it shows; while her snarkiness is well-suited for 500-word rants, I can't help but feel she's doing herself a disservice by alienating anyone on the fence. "The Purity Myth" isn't going to convert anyone, but it is going to make anyone who already agrees feel really, really smug.

That said, I really enjoyed the structure of the book. I thought the chapters flowed smoothly. Valenti skillfully presented a blend of ideas, statistics, often nauseating anecdotes, and (thankfully) ways to combat the problems that she identified. Truly, it was enjoyable to read, and it successfully made me angry. I also thought Valenti did a decent job of separating the word "feminist" from some of the many misconceptions about its "universal" meaning.

Finally, I'd like to draw out Valenti's habit of attributing an enormous amount of malicious intent to the organizations she's attacking, as though there were a secret cabal of abstinence-only educators explicitly planning the best way to take as much power away from women as possible. While I definitely wouldn't call this approach "victim-blaming", I think she might be assuming too much self-awareness in those people she's attacking. Part of the horror of the purity myth is that those still caught in it really, truly think that they are doing a favor for women with their behavior. Most of them aren't evil, they've just got enormous blinders on; they're not the enemy, the institutionalization and internalization of those beliefs are. Until that institutionalization is eliminated, women won't be able to make the kind of progress that feminists are hoping for. I don't think Valenti is unaware of this, but I think she often loses sight of that in the fun of picking apart some of the more ridiculous aspects of her opponents; I would encourage readers to try to keep their eyes on the prize. ( )
  joceloon | Aug 5, 2014 |
Jessica Valenti is a clear and educated Feminist who does her research and is one of my favorite Feminist writers for the contemporary woman looking to understand how social and cultural standards and expectations can hurt women to this day. Valenti gives me hope that we can all recognize and make change in our lives to better the lives of all women, young and old. ( )
  marthaearly | Jun 6, 2014 |
Outstanding. Who would have thought that a church-based movement would elevate "purity" and "virginity" above basic ethical behavior (lies, theft, violence)? ( )
  Netherto | Oct 17, 2013 |
Disturbing and fascinating. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
This is a terrific book. Valenti starts right off in the introduction saying: Girls "going wild" aren't damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity - the idea that such a thing even exists - is ensuring that young women's perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It's time to teach our daughters that the ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they're sexually active. This is such an important book, especially right now with all the craziness about reproductive rights. She discusses rape, the weird incestuous vibe of purity balls with young girls pledging their purity to their fathers, myths about purity, and the need to trust women to make their own decisions. It's a pretty short easy read too, in fact I was surprised and disappointed when it ended. But then there's a great section listing resources for women and women's blogs. Because of the resource section this is a book that should be owned not just taken out from the library. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Mar 18, 2012 |
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"I believe that there is an ideal of fastidiousness in the world. An ideal of impossible purity in a world that is, in its very essence, impure." -- Mary Gordon in The Story of Mary Gordon
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There is a moral panic in America over young women's sexuality -- and it's entirely misplaced.
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"The United States is obsessed with virginity--from the media to schools to government agencies. The Purity Myth is a critique about why this is so, and why it's problematic for girls and women. Analyzing cultural stereotypes and media messages, Jessica Valenti reveals the overt and hidden ways our society links a young woman's worth to her sexuality rather than to values like honesty, kindness, and altruism."--From publisher description.… (more)

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