The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

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9781580052535: The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

The United States is obsessed with virginity from the media to schools to government agencies. In The Purity Myth Jessica Valenti argues that the country’s intense focus on chastity is damaging to young women. Through in-depth cultural and social analysis, Valenti reveals that powerful messaging on both extremes ranging from abstinence curriculum to Girls Gone Wild” infomercials place a young woman’s worth entirely on her sexuality. Morals are therefore linked purely to sexual behavior, rather than values like honesty, kindness, and altruism. Valenti sheds light on the value and hypocrisy around the notion that girls remain virgin until they’re married by putting into context the historical question of purity, modern abstinence-only education, pornography, and public punishments for those who dare to have sex. The Purity Myth presents a revolutionary argument that girls and women are overly valued for their sexuality, as well as solutions for a future without a damaging emphasis on virginity.

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About the Author:

Jessica Valenti is the founder and Executive Editor of Feministing.com, and the author of Full Frontal Feminism and The Purity Myth. Her writing has appeared in many publications including The Guardian, and in 2007 she was named one of Elle magazine's 2007 IntELLEgentsia. She lives in Astoria, New York.

From Booklist:

Making a cult of virginity via media stereotyping and “abstinence-only” sex education damages young women, Valenti says, and rolls back women’s rights by emphasizing sexuality and deprecating personal character. Furthermore, the book’s most thought-provoking chapter points up an insidious connection between chastity and pornography: “the porning of America” is vital to those in the virginity movement, which needs increasingly available hard-core porn to justify its extreme regressivism. The dangerous belief that a woman’s primary value is sexual underlies the objectification and sexualization at the heart of the virginity movement’s agenda of controlling and defining women, Valenti maintains. When young women see their bodies and sexuality as commodities, that isn’t caused by porn culture but by “a larger societal message that . . . their sexuality is not their own.” So, is a “post-virgin world” possible? Full of piercing insight and wit (recalling her own sexual initiation, Valenti quips, “I fail to see how anything that lasts less than five minutes can have such an indelible ethical impact”), this is an important addition to women’s studies. --Whitney Scott

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