Sunday, March 11, 2007

Book Bashing

Controversy sells, so I feel fairly confident a new book on women’s sex hang-ups is about to become a bestseller.

And my initial take is, I hope it doesn’t.

a new book on this not-so-new subject is drawing fire in some quarters for its conclusion: That hookups can be damaging to young women, denying their emotional needs, putting them at risk of depression and even sexually transmitted disease, and making them ill-equipped for real relationships later on.
For that, Laura Sessions Stepp, author of "Unhooked," has been criticized as a throwback to an earlier, restrictive moral climate, an anti-feminist and a tut-tutting mother telling girls not to give the milk away when nobody's bought the cow.
The author "imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use," wrote reviewer Kathy Dobie in Stepp's own paper, the Post, and suggested that Stepp was, in one part, trying to "instill sexual shame." For Meghan O'Rourke, literary editor at, Stepp is "buying into alarmism about women," and making sex "a bigger, scarier, and more dangerous thing than it already is."

Anyway, you can skip on over to the article to read more if you’re interested. Now, yesterday I spent most of the day with my niece, who is 12 going on 18 in the way that all pre-teen girls are, and this is definitely the time when things get interesting. As we were having lunch she was telling me about movies she wants to see.

One of which made me raise an eyebrow. “Do you know what that movie’s about?” I asked. She grinned, nodded and proceeded to tell me all about it, because her best friend has seen it.

In fact, as the conversation progressed, I realized her best friend has seen a lot of movies and sure knows a lot more about… stuff… than I did when I was 12.

Good or bad? Who’s to say? I’m not a bra-burning feminist. I consider myself a humanist. I believe every person – male, female, otherwise, orange, purple, pink with green polka dots or otherwise – should have the opportunity to do what they’re capable of doing. It always surprises me when people start throwing accusations of sexism or racism around in discussions about awards or organizations. I don’t even pay attention. Award nominations get posted and I don’t realize until someone points it out that it’s all male or all female.

I sorta trust it’s the list of all deserving, end of story.

Anyway, before I get into a full-blown spiel ending with a global group hug and a round of Kumbaya I’ll steer this back on track. About this book.

I think I’d like to suggest that if someone’s going to get this for their daughter that they temper it out with a book that has a different point of view. Best line from Little Miss Sunshine was when Grandpa told his grandson “Fuck a lot of women. Not just one.” You know, this is considered standard male advice. How many women expected to marry a guy who was a virgin, hands up? Yet how many guys expect to marry a woman who’s done more men then they’ve done women?

When I was younger I was pretty rigid about, well, everything. Now that I’m a bit older I see things differently. And I would say that rules aren’t the way to govern someone, not in a real sense. In our house we could drink from the time we were quite young, and being drunk isn’t something I have a lot of experience with. It’s happened once, and it took 35 years. I blame an exceptionally bad influence.

But for me, there’s been no enticement, no appeal to experience that. It was never forbidden fruit, so it held no real temptation.

The most important thing that we can give anyone – male or female – is a sense of self respect, the wisdom and discipline to think through their own decisions, and our love and support.

Not rules. For heaven’s sakes, how many kids DON’T tell their parents because they’re certain their parents will be disappointed in them?

Of course, I have no right to talk about parenting, because I’m not a parent. I’m just one person with an opinion. But on the face of it, yeah, this book does bother me because I’m not sure it is the healthiest approach. I’d like to see a book that takes all variables, stories, possible outcomes and lays it out there for kids to think through, and let them draw their own conclusions, instead of being told certain behaviours are just wrong. To me, books like this fail to have much impact when they get preachy.

Gee, I wish I could track the article that was done with the theory that part of the reason there’s an escalation in group sex is because of kids attending daycare. People have a theory for everything…


spyscribbler said...

I for one, have to stand up and say that's a Horrible Thing. Sexual shame should not be taught.

Mostly because one cannot, after years of programming, suddenly turn off the shame on a certain birthday or after a certain wedding day.

At least not without some therapy, usually.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm with you spyscribbler. Why is it this is always addressed to girls, anyway? Why don't we try to reprogram boys?

I was going to say that if I'd been smart I would have experimented a bit more before marriage, but there's no way to take that wrong, is there? All I mean is, women and men should both enjoy the same liberties. And I think there's also a problem with women being too emotionally wrapped up about sex.

But I now envision myself receiving a bunch of emails from family members wanting to discuss my comments...