Book 14: The Purity Myth

TITLE: The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women
AUTHOR: Jessica Valenti
STARTED: May 12, 2016
FINISHED: May 22, 2016
PAGES: 263
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: There is a moral panic in America over young women's sexuality - and it's entirely misplaced.

SUMMARY:[From BN] 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-only 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 virgins 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.

THOUGHTS: This book is essentially a college thesis. It's fact-filled with a logically planned argument and uses emotionally-packed stories for maximum oomph. It also includes some commentary in the form of fantastic snarky footnotes. While this writing style was not my favorite, I think Valenti does a phenomenal job of explaining why and arguing how the concept of virginity is a damaging social construct. I am in full agreement with Valenti's case and the argument she makes. I started this book knowing that I would scoff at the examples of virginity culture that Valenti uses. Sometimes I even snorted in derision. I basically read this book to feel vindicated about my feelings on this issue, so this review is definitely biased in favor of Valenti. I wish this book was required reading, because too often we let existing cultural norms just "be" when they should be challenged. It's hard to change a millennium of thinking overnight, but Valenti's book offers a good and well-argued start.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]