Saturday, May 7, 2011

Read This Now! The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

So I've never really, ever, written a book review. And I don't really know how this is going to go.
BUT it just so happens that one of my new favorite websites Bitch Flicks has a reading list over at amazon and since I just can't wait for school to start to get my academic on, I've decided to create a library list of the books!

If you live in Milwaukee, and have a library card, and are (like me) an amnesiac when it comes time to check out books/cds/dvds (what do I get? what was the name of...), the libes has an awesome feature that allows you to build lists! LISTS I SAY!
(Full disclosure; even though I'm a total slob and completely disorganized at all times, I love Love LOVE lists.)
This is incredibly helpful for when, say, you're reading a book review in the paper (it doesn't have to the New York Times Book Review, although it does let me get my pretension on in the comfort of my own home) and you think it sounds right up your alley. You have a myriad of options:
1. Write it down in a notebook you keep of "books to read"
2. Write it down on a piece of paper you will then lose and then find and throw away wondering why you wrote that down.
3. Get on your computer (which most of you have in your phones these days anyway and let's be real, you're not anywhere your phone isn't), login into your acct. and throw it on the list! So super easy!

The lists also enable you request the item if it's not at your local library or you can see where it IS at and seek it out with the help of your friendly (sometimes) librarian.

So while on lunch at work on a particularly lazy/cold day, I decided to create my Bitch Flicks list. They didn't have EVERY book on the list, but I was quite surprised by the amount they did have.

If you can't tell, I love the public library.

So first up on my awesome new feminist reading list (which is not in any particular order) was The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti. I was super excited to read it as I've read lots about the author in various outlets, she created (or co-created) and she seems pretty cool. AND her name is Jessica!

I loved the book. It made me laugh and got me angry from page to page. While I was one of those kids who grew up in a "no sex until you're married" household, I didn't attend a purity ball (which are federally funded! How awesome is that?!?!). But, I had to work through some major, MAJOR guilt about pre-marital sex. Science facts. (In all fairness, my brother was also held to the same standard as I was and he actually did keep his end of the bargain! Good job, brother!)

It brought back memories of my abstinence only education in jr. high which I thought was great at the time because when I was 13 I was thoroughly convinced that I would be a virgin until I was married. Even though my parents didn't wait, my mom's mom didn't wait, my aunts and uncles didn't wait, no one in the WORLD seemed to wait but I knew that I would, because I was so very pure and smart and NOT SLUTTY.

Some fun facts from my childhood:
Mom, what's a slut?
A slut is someone who has sex before they're married.
(I love my mom, seriously, she is super awesome, and know now that she was just using this as a tactic to ensure that I didn't have sex, but I think this says a lot about our culture)
It was also understood that if I got pregnant while in high school I would be kicked out of the house. Another clever ruse by my mom which was broken when a friend of mine DID get pregnant and had to give the baby up for adoption otherwise her parents would have kicked her out and my mom expressed her disgust at that. When I asked my mom about it she said, "You didn't get pregnant did you?" No I didn't.
I was deathly afraid of getting pregnant because I thought I would get kicked out.


The Sex Respect program is what I was taught in jr. high, and it was awesome (I hope at this point that when I use awesome I mean ridick and totally antiquated). A quick visit to their archaic website and I came up with this gem regarding what will happen if you engage in pre-marital sex:

Premarital sex breaks up couples or pushes them into bad marriages. It fools people into marrying the wrong person. It leads to unhappiness, divorce, extramarital affairs, and dissatisfaction. It denies the couples bonding experience.

I'm not saying that pre-marital sex doesn't do this for some people. I'm sure there has to be some basis for this, somewhere no matter how archaic the research on the website is (the mid-80s).

And there is some awesome anti-choice rhetoric on there too, obs, because controlling women's bodies is actually what the virgin thing is about.

I wish I still had the book here so I could quote it, but alas it had to go back to the library. Any further posts in reference to awesome books I will retain so I can share accordingly. And of course the book is full of amazing quotes from abstinence only educators and law-makers who only think religious virgins who were brutally raped should be allowed abortions. Oh if only I were making that up:

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

And that, unfortunately, is the reason that Ms. Valenti had to write this book and why we need to read it. Because if you're not a virgin, and you get brutally raped/sodomized, it doesn't really count, cos you're already damaged goods.

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