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Promiscuities

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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,232 ratings  ·  82 reviews
In this provocative and highly personal book, bestselling author Naomi Wolf explores a subject that has long been taboo in our society: women's sexual coming-of-age. Promiscuities brazenly exposes the truths behind the conflicting messages directed at young women during and after the sexual revolution. Drawing on surprising examples from the ancient and recent past, along ...more
Hardcover, 286 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Random House (NY)
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Mary Helene
What I learned from this book: a heightened sensibility of how we honor or deny women’s desire. I’ve been taking Naomi Wolf’s thesis seriously, that in the last 40/50 years we’ve learned to dis a woman’s sexual desire.
Take the word “slut” for example; what is it really meant to connote? I was watching a YouTube video (Smosh Snatchers) recently, which has had over 1.5 million views. It’s one in a popular series by two young men. One girl hands another a screwdriver – “Because you like to screw.”
...more
Courtney Stirrat
Ok, so I am not finished reading - ah, the night is young, but I am shocked by how, well, out of date this feels. I bought it when it first came out, but somehow never got to it, even though I am a pretty big fan of the Wolf (she's a cutie, too!). What is most astonishing is not '60s through late '70s, Bay area teen perspective, but how, well, second wave it feels, or maybe 2.5 wave. But it doesn't examine or embrace the contradictions inherent in so many heterosexual sexual relationships or dis ...more
Cooper Cooper
Naomi Wolf, author of the best-selling The Beauty Myth, describes the joys, agonies and uncertainties of growing up female in the United States. Drawing on her own experience and that of her friends, raised in San Francisco in the late 60s and early 70s, she highlights the ambivalence in contemporary culture—and the mixed messages given to girls—about female sexuality and what it means to become a woman. On the one hand, a girl is encultured to deny her sexuality and become a mother and a solid ...more
Donna
Every person raising a daughter should read this, and when she's old enough give it to her to read too. My daughter and I both read it when she was about 14 years old. It reminded me of some harsh realities of my own teenage years that the patina of nostalgia had rendered soft and hazy. It helped to open a dialogue with my daughter about some uncomfortable subjects that she might not have been so willing to discuss openly with me if I hadn't handed the book to her. It brought us a little closer ...more
Noelle
Jun 26, 2007 Noelle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young women and parents of adolescents
Naomi Wolfs books resonate with me in part because we are the same age and grew up in the SF bay area.

While my mother was a little more suburban hippy and she actually lived in the haight, the cultural references and attitudes are always exactly my experience.

This book triggered many charged memories and gave an interesting perspective on them. I think this book is particularly relevant to girls today who are dealing with issues around owning (and not) owning their sexuality.

N
Katie
Feb 21, 2008 Katie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women, all ages
Shelves: ah-memories
This was my first "women's studies" book that I explored on my own. I actually bought it on a family vacation in high school, far different than a trashy beach read but incredible. It's so interesting to explore both sexuality and the idea of being a "woman" without the feeling of negative judgment.
Kenny Klein
In my mind, one of the most influential third wave feminist books. I'm a little sorry that Wolf has changed gears and is now writing more political analysis. Her take on growing up female in America was incredibly insightful.
Beth
Ahh Naomi Wolf...Sometimes I love thee, sometimes I wonder what kind of feminism you are expounding to me. I felt a great generation gap when I read this. But I appreciate her poing of view nonetheless.
Suzanne
Though not for the casual reader or the anti feminist, Promiscuities would make a great book club read, and the comprehensive index is reason enough to keep it on the shelf. I liked the mix of personal and analytical, but I don't completely agree with Newsweek's review on the back cover: "... more original than The Beauty Myth... She melts together the personal and the political so gently we're barely aware of the difference." Yes, she does do this well, but for me the book felt a bit fragmented ...more
Lisa Louie
This memoir-cum-analysis of female sexual desire and coming of age is an astounding book. Wolf narrates her own history growing up in the Haight in SF during the free-love Sixties and Seventies. She simultaneously analyzes the way in which her sexual desire was discovered and shaped during those culturally chaotic years and draws conclusions about what girls in Western society lack given the absence of meaningful coming-of-age rituals/rites of passage within our current context. Her arguments ar ...more
Nicole Field
This book...

This book has some incredibly astute thoughts relating to women and the way they view their own sexuality. What struck me particularly was how many things I identified with regardless of the 20-30 ish year age gap between Naomi's experiences and my own.

I had heard a lot of not great stuff about Naomi Wolf, run of the mill stuff that a whole bunch of feminist writers get, but I didn't think any of it was founded in this case. I knew that I hadn't read a Naomi Wolf book in the past and
...more
Shannon Wyss
An excellent exploration of what it was like to grow up and come of age sexually as a white, heterosexual, middle-class, Jewish girl in the late 1960s and early 1970s in San Francisco. As someone who is about 10 years younger than Wolf and also queer, i was fascinated by how her experiences were both similar to and also markedly different from my own, growing up in the Midwest in the mid-1970s and early 1980s.

Wolf does a great job of describing where the feminist movement had failed girls at th
...more
Caitlin Constantine
I probably would have liked this more if I had read it shortly after it came out. It was published in 1997, which was when I was in still in high school, and the most advanced feminist theory I'd been exposed to at that time was the other half of the third-wave feminist bookend, Susan Faludi.

As a result, the ideas presented - that the way we regard teenage female sexuality is a big old inconsistent mess - seemed rather obvious to me. Like I said, I'm sure I would have had light bulb moments all
...more
Syd


Sexuality, my own in particular, is not an easy subject for me to discuss. No doubt, I am not alone in my shyness when it comes to talking about how I feel about sex. There is a lingering fear that surrounds the word “sexuality” and even more so around the world “promiscuity.”

Naomi Wolf has taken and anecdotal approach to evaluating the secret history of female desire with her book, Promiscuities. Through conversation with her friends and by tell her own coming of age story Wolf reveals the wind
...more
Mary
Excellent book to read if you have young girls in your life and the mix signals society, families etc. have been sending them/us all these years. The only problem I have with this book is that it centers mostly around issues involving white women and sex/sexuality etc.

Still I think it's worth reading it as the author has some great insights and experiences that she talks about.
Pickyreaderinblack
Loved this book. I used it to explore my own past "coming of age" - the bumps and the joys. She is so articulate in examining the double standards that come from how adults socialize girls in sexual identity/activity and what they tell boys - so many differences! I only wish I had read this book when I was sixteen, before I initiated myself into that "rite of passage" - sex. I did not have much guidance from older women and although I was one of the few fortunate whose first time turned out well ...more
Felicity
I read this as a teenager, and it was quite possibly the first explicitly feminist work of nonfiction I read. It was an easy read, not especially academic, and very valuable for me in noticing and evaluating the messages I was getting about female bodies, desires, and choices.

It's been a while since I read it, but I remember especially valuing the emphasis on storytelling: the lack of positive stories about female sexual awakening in our mainstream culture, the shift in stories about women's de
...more
Db
Jan 03, 2008 Db rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women, men, teenager girls together or with their mothers/grandmothers/aunts/etc
Recommended to Db by: the library
A book of feminist theory in memoir/story bits form, engages therefore from the perspective of living not of theorizing, which is great. Not being a women I'm curious how much this rings true for folks, but I found the central tension, trajectory, and ideas particularly thought provoking in its not quite successful attempt to replace the slut/virgin, pleasure/maternal, each for her own, ritual-lacking-experience that will resonate more or less depending on who you are. Moreover I think this book ...more
Ruthiella
I think the thing to keep in mind when reading Promiscuities is that it is essentially a memoir and not a polemic; it is a very personal exploration of 20th century female sexuality. As Wolf writes in the concluding chapter, "I am conscious that an inquiry such as this ends by raising more questions than it can answer; sexuality is so personal, and the creation of a sexual culture such a subtle, collective undertaking, that any simple prescriptions are too crude a response." There were times whe ...more
okyrhoe
The book has been published with 2 variant subtitles, Promiscuities: A Secret History of Female Desire and Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood.
As a cultural critique Promiscuities may seem limited by the narrow focus on Wolf's personal experiences. As a memoir, or an ethnological study, of growing up female in the liberal/radical social milieu of San Francisco in the 1970's, it is a worthwhile read.
It is interesting to note that Wolf makes a case for the reintegration of coming-of
...more
Bob
I liked this book as much as I disliked 'The Beauty Myth'. In both Naomi Wolf writes brilliantly, but in this she admits that men have a point of view, that they aren't all just political constructs and that she actually likes some of them.
That aside, this is a very honest book. She has looked at herself and put what she has seen onto the paper boldly. Her history of the times she grew up in would be a clinical dissection if it weren't couched in such compelling prose. There is a very strong se
...more
Bruce
Near the end of the book Naomi Wolf writes "sex is in the mind" but continues that it is not what we are taught to do but what we are taught to think. Much of the work leading up to this statement reveals what we are taught and at times compares "modern western' social mores with those of the past and of other cultures. A thought provoking book that I recommend everyone read but especially recommend it for girls that are in the process of becoming 'women', not just physically, but emotionally an ...more
Sharon
This book was part memoir, part historical review of sexual mores over time. Wolf is only a few years older than I am, and it was interesting to see similarities and differences in the way we grew up and were exposed (or not) to information about sex and sensuality. I do not think she always drew a clear line between her experience as a child and young woman and her interpretation of it as an adult, but the whole book brought into focus the entrenched cultural ideas (many of them historically in ...more
Katarina
I read this book as part of a project I was working on about how we perceive sex and sexuality. Naomi Wolf's book was insightful, at times revelatory, and very personal. Parts of the book really struck a chord in me-- some things, I guess, don't change much. Some of her other experiences were more removed from mine, but were nonetheless understandable and relatable.
I would recommend this book to any woman, and possibly even a few men. I would, however, recommend against reading it at church,
...more
Lauryne Wright
I wish I had this author's range and insight.
Jansie
Jan 13, 2008 Jansie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Although this was written from the perspective of someone growing up in San Fransisco in the 60's, there is, sadly, not much that has changed when it comes to girls and their sexuality. I saw myself in her stories and anecdotes. And I saw my friends. This book is worth reading if for no other reason than to just remind us that we are all in the same boat and that our sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of and that we own that part of ourselves, not anyone else. How important it will be to teach o ...more
Malena
This is on a topic I'm very interested in (the females' coming-of-age lack of ritual in American culture) so I did trudge thru, but the way it is written "we" this and "we" that is not an all inclusive female "we", as the author acknowledges early on, it is specifically a 1980's west coast upper-middle class "we" but otherwise tries to maintain an objective tone about our hormonal nature as young women. There are some good points. I was looking for something I could share with my daughter but it ...more
Rose
This book makes a lot of claims about how adolescent women develop in their sexual identities. I'm not sure that I agree with all of the claims, but some of them...Some of them read like pages right out of my life. And I appreciate that Wolf incorporates stories from other women's experience as well. I think it could benefit from more stories from other cultures, but in terms of American womanhood (take that as you will) this book was interesting, enlightening, and brave. I wonder what other wom ...more
Abbey
the first book i'm reading for my final research project on young female sexuality in my gender and society class. wolf sets out to discuss her own sexual experiences as a way to resist the silences surrounding the issue. growing up in the 1970s Haight Ashbury world was much different than my Ohio late 90s coming of age, but this book is still so easy to relate too. and courageous.

what would happen if we all were honest about the actuality of our sexual experiences? bravo, naomi wolf!
Jan
Only read a few selected chapters.

Interesting historical insight on how sex was perceived and interpreted in the past and how this interpretation of history of sex was changing completely over the course of past few decades. Showed me that when somebody's saying that things used to be certain way through out the whole history, they are most certainly picking only one specific part of the history and ignoring everything that doesn't suit their argument.
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Naomi Wolf is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Beauty Myth, The End of America and Give Me Liberty. She has toured the world speaking to audiences of all walks of life about gender equality, social justice, and, most recently, the defense of liberty in America and internationally. She is the cofounder of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, which te ...more
More about Naomi Wolf...
The Beauty Myth The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood Vagina: A New Biography Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries

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“We should be telling girls what they already know but rarely see affirmed: that the lives they lead inside their own self-contained bodies; the skills they attain through their own concentration and rigor, and the unique phase in their lives during which they may explore boys and eroticism at their own pace - these are magical. And they constitute the entrance point to a life cycle of a sexuality that should be held sacred.” 37 likes
“The anthropologist Margaret Mead concluded in 1948, after observing seven different ethnic groups in the Pacific Islands, that different cultures made different forms of female sexual experience seem normal and desirable. The capacity for orgasm in women, she found, is a learned response, which a given culture can help or can fail to help its women to develop. Mead believed that a woman's sexual fulfillment, and the positive meaning of her sexuality in her own mind, depend upon three factors:
1: She must live in a culture that recognizes female desire as being of value;
2: Her culture must allow her to understand her sexual anatomy;
3: And her culture must teach the various sexual skills that give women orgasms.”
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