email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshZen Sex
Wendy Shalit's new book, Girls Gone Mild, is sure to meet with criticism from some ranks of feminist thinkers as well as those who hail the sexual revolution of the 1960s as liberating. This criticism, though, is not new for Shalit and her counter-cultural message. Her 1999 book, A Return to Modesty, provoked similar critiques from certain quarters. So just what is this provocative message Shalit suggests? Surprisingly, her ideas, while against the cultural grain, are quite conservative and, some might say, old-fashioned. She argues that the sexual revolution, and its ripple effect still felt today, has brought with it its own sets of oppressive tendencies for young women and that it has made modesty, once considered a virtue, out to be a near pathology of human sexuality.
In Shalit's first book she argued, among other things, that modesty may in fact be a prerequisite for the erotic. In this new installment, she offers an impressive array of arguments and empirical data that suggest that not only is modesty a viable alternative to the purported liberation propounded by the sexual revolution crowd, but it is a trend sweeping culture to the benefit of young women. The new counter-cultural stance is not an attitude of detached sexual promiscuity, as was the counter-cultural position of the 1960s, but of modesty and a view of sexuality that affirms the profoundly holistic nature of a human being. In other words, sex, at its best is tied, and not divorced, from emotional experiences such as caring and love. The pressure to repress feelings for the sake of male acceptance and to treat sex as a casual undertaking are pressures felt by the heirs of the sexual revolution and the desire to deliver equality to women via a certain stance on what it means to be sexually liberated. Shalit's message in the book carves out space for young women to reject these pressures.
Shalit decries the marketing of overt sexuality to young women, teens, and even younger girls. Among the jarring examples Shalit provides of this trend are the popular Bratz dolls. One wonders whether laugher or tears are more appropriate as she describes the scene on the shelves of the toy section:
Bratz Babyz makes a 'Babyz Nite Out' doll garbed in fishnet stockings, a hot-pink micromini, and a black leather belt. To look 'funkalish' (whatever that means), the baby also sports a tummy-flashing black tank paired with a hot-pink cap. Dare one ask what is planned for 'Babyz Nite Out' and what, exactly, is she carrying in her metal-studded purse? Is it pacifiers or condoms? It might be both…The dolls are officially for ages 'four plus,' but they are very popular among two-and-three-year-old girls as well (xv-xvi).
This reinforces the expected behavior from women in society at an alarmingly young age, thinks Shalit. Young women are expected to be sexually liberated, i.e. to be detached from the emotional dimension of human sexuality, to match the male drive for promiscuity, and to flaunt their bodies.
However, Shalit sees a new wave of role models leading a new movement of girls and young women who assert that it is okay to be the "good girl," that it is okay to desire a sexual relationship that is not based on a one-night hook-up (but on the predication of love and mutual respect) and that it is okay to keep some things about one's body and sexuality secret until an appropriate time. The book is, at heart, about these women who stand in the wake of the tide and even mean to turn it. Shalit says, "What is liberation to one generation can be oppression to the next" (106). This seems to be the effect of the expectations placed on young women by their sexual revolution predecessors. Girls Gone Mild presents an impressive collection of stories and anecdotes from women who have found the sex-as-a-casual-affair view foisted upon them by societal expectations to be wanting. These women no longer feel as if portraying the "bad girl" is supposed to be empowering. The book is full of Shalit's footwork in gathering many such examples around the country. These new role models give hope to the many girls today, gilrs who Shalit discovered feel that they have to be "bad" just to fit in. While the pressure is for girls to go wild, Shalit offers a portrait of a world in which girls go mild, and benefit from the results. This is true liberation, thinks Shalit. It is the liberation for young women and girls to pursue their natural hopes and dreams--for love, family, caring relationships--and not to succumb to a prepackaged story about how women ought to behave if they are to be liberated and escape the throes of oppressive men.
Some will, of course reject Shalit's argument. If the liberation of women means being on a level with men in every sense of that phrase, then that seems to imply matching men's ability to have detached casual sex and to treat one's body as a sexual instrument. In other words, Shalit's work is fraught with a view of essentialism concerning the sexes. I find this view unobjectionable, but many will not agree. An upshot of Shalit's endorsement of essentialism is that women truly find liberation when they allow themselves those tendencies and emotional attachments that come natural to them. In fact, empowerment for women, Shalit says, is exacted when men are forced to show women respect and a good measure of nobility.
Some will also object to Shalit's ethical objectivism, the view that there are at least some ethical principles that apply to all people, in all places, and at all times. Her arguments are predicated upon the idea that the reigning cultural mores do not determine the morality of a given action, but that the moral assessment is independent of cultural agreement or disagreement. Again, I find objectivism unobjectionable, but some will object.
In all, it is a provocative and informative read and to be highly recommended if one desires a glimpse into cultural criticism, feminist theory, philosophy, and pop culture.
© 2008 Ryan Pflum
Ryan Pflum is a graduate student in philosophy at Western Michigan University
Editor's note: this book will be published in paperback by Ballantine Books under the title "The Good Girl Revolution: Young Rebels with Self-Esteem and High Standards"
Comment on this review