Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women” as Want to Read:
The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,544 Ratings  ·  543 Reviews
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 curriculum to [Girls Gone Wild[ i ...more
ebook, 263 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Perseus Books Group (first published March 21st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Purity Myth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Purity Myth

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details

This past weekend I visited a theme park with some friends. While I was strolling through said theme park, I overheard the conversation of two high school aged girls. It went something like this:

Girl A: “Did you hear that Kathy slept with Rick?”
Girl B: “That loser she’s been seeing?”
Girl A: “Yup.”
Girl B: “God, that girl is such a slut.”
Girl A: “I know, last year I heard she slept with Todd too.”
Girl B: “Who’s Todd?”
Girl A: “That college guy she was dating.”

That’s right, in the context of these
Elevate Difference
Let me begin this review by professing my support for Jessica Valenti's overarching purpose in The Purity Myth: to expose the trope of sexual purity as deeply entrenched in American culture and to demonstrate the harmfulness of this trope on young American women. I agree with her assessment of the state and nature of "purity" (indeed, race theorists and sexuality theorists have long since questioned the value of the concept of purity), and I applaud her commitment to the social, psychological, s ...more
I seem to be sitting in a little hurricane eye of feminism this week. This probably has quite a lot to do with the evil masterminds behind recommendation algorithms for Google, Amazon, and Facebook, but it seems like everything I've seen, heard, or read about this week had something to do with feminism and women's rights - or the lack thereof.

I know that this sphere of issues is pretty much everywhere recently, but it's just so strange to me how issues all seem to converge around me exactly at
Christy Stewart
Reading the book was like being lifted of a burden because with every chapter I was SO relieved that what I felt helpless to argue about anymore was covered so succinctly and eloquently in this book. I don't tend to like to read nonfiction books I agree with (because what's the point? I might as well sit in the bathroom and talk into the mirror) but I've never been more pleased to agree with a book in my life, if someone asked me what I felt about feminism and/or sexuality I could hand them this ...more
Emily May
Mar 07, 2014 Emily May rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2014
I'm not a fan of all of Valenti's work but she gets it right with this one. Valenti addresses many important issues in The Purity Myth and manages to effectively make the point that a woman's sexuality shouldn't matter. She doesn't resort to virgin-shaming, that's not what this book is about, but instead suggests that women should not be judged based on whether they are having sex, how often they are having sex or who they are having sex with. A very thought-provoking and interesting book.
Very interesting read. The author puts forward the argument that defining women and labeling their morality by their sexual activity and choices is problematic. Valenti argues that overvaluing virginity is on the same continuum and spectrum as labeling women “sluts”. In the end, Valenti is not promoting promiscuousness. She is not promoting prudishness. She is not discouraging men from finding women attractive. What she is arguing is for an identification of women that is separate from their app ...more
Jul 19, 2011 Lina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other, self-help
I want to start off my review by stating that I don't think this book is anti-abstinence. It is against the idea that being abstinence makes you a more moral woman than those of us who did not wait till marriage to have sex.

This book frustrates me because proves to me how despite all the progress women have made around the world, we are till bound by archaic principles when it comes to our sexuality. The examples that these abstinence-only places are teaching is not only insulting, but de-human
Deborah Markus
“No man’s getting into my bed unless he puts a ring on my finger.”

A neighbor of mine was in the habit of saying this. It made me uncomfortable because, first of all, nobody had asked. I mean, seriously, she would throw this into a pause in the conversation the way some people might make idle observations on the weather.

Second, when she put it that way, it didn’t sound like, “I don’t know about the rest of you gals, but I have standards,” which I’m sure is how she meant it. It sounded uncomforta
Update: March 3, 2014: I found the article I mention below that I couldn't find at the time of writing this review! Because I'm a rock star. Silly rabbit, I didn't go back to look at The Toast. Long story short - On Not Having a Story About Losing Your Virginity. Finally.

Original Review:
Abstinence-only sex education.

There have been a couple articles I've read lately on the interwebz about virginity that have really caught my attention, and now after reading this book, those articles have come ba
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
Is America a dystopian society when it comes to its neglectful and abusive nature towards its women?

I ask this question honestly, not to shock or offend, but because I genuinely want to know. I'm not saying America is the worst country in the world for a woman to live, just that the 'virginity movement' comprising of powerful conservative, Republican and Christian groups, have a worrying number of ideals in common with Al-Qaeda.

As a Brit, I'm spoilt. I take my country for granted for its forwar
Crystal Starr Light
UPDATE: Bumping this up to 4 stars after reading Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters, because this book is a lot more balanced and speaks with more facts.

This isn't really a review, more of a mish-mash of my thoughts and feelings about this book. So be warned: it's messy and unorganized.

I found the book very insightful, brimmed with thought-provoking arguments and comprehensive research. I appreciated a book that looked at the Virginity Myth from all aspects--wha
aPriL is sometimes feral
This book review is entirely voiced with my own cranky perspective and personal interpretation of Jessica Valenti's more scholarly and researched book. Valenti wrote a 'just the facts' book, but after completing her book I am snarling with rage.

Valenti pulls together in one book all of the insane purity fads and institutional policies and social mores and laws and religious bullying and pseudo-science surrounding the issue of American female sexuality. If your daughters are scared of their bodie
Jun 21, 2014 Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another work of nonfiction with several quote-worthy passages. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti argues that America's obsession with virginity hurts young women. She focuses on the idea that if we teach girls to value themselves in terms of their bodies, they will fail to cultivate true virtues: intelligence, assiduousness, and compassion.

The desirable virgin is sexy but not sexual. She's young, white, and skinny. She's a cheerleader, a baby sitter; she's accessible and eager to please (remem
Whoo! My first book on feminism! I heard about this book a couple of years ago and was intrigued, simply because I grew up in a world where purity was everything.


Your virginity/purity was your worth. Not if you were funny, not if you were kind, not if you had great ideas...even if you had all those things, if you were not a virgin before marriage then you were ruined. So anyway, I've casually been on the lookout for this book for awhile. This past week my fiance and I went to Portl
Valenti makes a number of good arguments in _The Purity Myth_: that it's dangerous and damaging to teach young women that their morality or lack thereof hinges on whether or not they have sex, rather than whether or not they are kind people living ethical lives; that obsession with sexual purity infantilizes women; that the virgin-whore dichotomy enables the abuse and marginalization of women, and pushes a view of masculinity that is toxic to both women and men. Valenti is right on the mark in c ...more
Charlotte Dungan
Aug 23, 2011 Charlotte Dungan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was recommended in a book discussion about sexuality. I read it because I thought it would give a different perspective than the one I was most familiar with, and that's true, but the presentation was so rude and condescending to the opposing viewpoint that it totally obscured the message she was trying to convey.*. She doesn't even have anything useful or positive to say until almost 200 pages in. If this is the way feminists paint themselves, their movement is surely doomed, even if their ...more
Apr 07, 2016 (ha)Ley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
This is the second book I've read by Jessica Valenti and it's by far my favorite. The purity myth is dangerous, and this book not only helps dismantle it but provides possible solutions. At the end there is a discussion question section as well as a list of resources, which I appreciate.

Valenti writes about a fairly serious topic without being too dull or boring. She is engaging without treating the subject too lightly.

I'll leave you with this quote, and if you like it you should probably read
Aug 27, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist
Here's the thing that bugs me, really bugs me. You ready for it? This idea that women and sex are two completely unrelated in any way, shape or form ideas. I mean, I thought that whole close your eyes and think of England thing was gone. I've read letters collected by women's groups in the late 1800s and early 1900s. You know, actually you most likely don't know. But in some of these letters, young women didn't even know they were in labor! I have nothing againist virginity or being chaste. If t ...more
Ms. Online
Laura M. Carpenter

Review of The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
By Jessica Valenti
Seal Press

For decades, Right-Wing think tanks and conservative Christian organizations have promoted what Jessica Valenti calls the “purity myth”: the belief that virginity separates moral/good women from their immoral/bad sisters. In its blatant attempt to re-establish traditional gender roles, the purity movement backs restrictions on birth control and abortio
Sep 13, 2011 Britni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminazi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I saw this book on an ad on this page:

which is making me throw up a little in my mouth every time I think about it. At some point we have to start calling some aspects of religion what they are, just plain abuse.
Aug 22, 2012 HaQuyen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I agreed with a lot of Valenti's positions and her critique of various interrelated issues such as rape culture, pro-abstinence education, media hypersexualization of women and hypermasculinity as related to how our culture treats women's sexuality, but I found the writing and organization to be uneven (wobbling between blog-like snark and academic semistructures), and the tone, frankly, was often annoying. Valenti advocates in her last chapter for people to build dialogue and keep an open mind, ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Holly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochists
Recommended to Holly by: the goddamned internet
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
I was so excited to read this book that I went to the trouble of buying it from the localest online used bookstore I could find. I even had it expressed shipped because it was only 2$ more.

And oh man was it ever bad. The only reason I finished this is because the one life skill I got out of fifteen years of competitive figure skating was the ability to willpower through the most unpleasant tasks imaginable. Actually, I didn't even finish it. I skipped the last chapter when I realized there wasn
I gave it 2 stars, as some of it was interesting, but the good did not stop me feeling the bad about it.

I will quote the awsome response from author Nina Power, her view is very much the same as mine:

"Stripped of any internationalist and political quality, feminism becomes about as radical as a diamanté phone cover. Valenti ‘truly believes’ that feminism is necessary for women ‘to live happy fulfilled lives’. Slipping down as easily as a friendly-bacteria yoghurt drink, Valenti’s version of femi
Seregon O'Dassey
This book is everything that's wrong with society - and everything that has EVER been wrong with society. Even in 2015, patriarchy and misogyny reign. There are father/daughter "purity balls", but no mother/son or even father/son events. There is 50 shades of "I'm so weak I'll let a man tell me what to do" which did nothing but spawn a million more self published ebooks about super rich alpha males and innocent virgin weaklings. Strong women are still seen as a threat - to both genders while we ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
This book pissed me off at some parts, not at the writer, but at the subject matter and the injustice of it all. Definitly highly recommend this.
Dena Landon
Jul 06, 2009 Dena Landon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, excellent argument for re-shaping society to measure a woman's worth on something other than her sexuality. This is not, I must add, an argument for irresponsible sex, what it is a good breakdown of the myths behind a false concept of 'purity.' Valenti analyzes the message of many purity movements and organizations, abstinence-only education, and the concept of a woman as a passive being. In short, she argues that we are not giving young women the tools they need to be moral actors ...more
Valenti's overall thesis is one I'm totally onboard with, but by midway through the book gets a bit repetitive. I'm also not in love with her tone, which vacillates between academic and blogger. I feel some of her points are diminished by striking some tonally weird notes. Also I wish she'd found a way to lace in the more memoir-esque aspects better. It's like, research paper, blog, personal story, research paper.

Also not quite sure who the audience is for this book. As someone who reads femini
Daniel Stafford
Jun 23, 2010 Daniel Stafford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine if you will that you are a young, white woman applying for a job. Now, imagine that the person interviewing you asks if you are married. You, as a young, pretty, white woman answers no. The interviewer then mumbles and writes a notation on his paper and asks, to your astonishment, if whether or not you're still a virgin, and that you must answer honestly. So, you as this young, pretty, white woman answers back to him that you have had in your lifetime two men that you had had sex with. T ...more
I didn’t expect to like The Purity Myth. Despite the hype surrounding it, I remembered still the massive disappointment that followed the hype built up around Full Frontal Feminism for me. (For the record, everyone built it up to be this groundbreaking introductory text sure to convert everyone to feminism forever, and it turned out to be exclusive of the entire trans* community, racial minorities, men, and basically everyone else who isn’t a white, middle-to-upper-class, heterosexual, cisgender ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
A_Movie [HD] Thor: Ragnarok Wa tch ON.LINE Free 2016 1080Px 1 1 May 25, 2016 07:43AM  
Jezebelle's Book ...: First thoughts, impressions 16 25 Mar 18, 2014 07:42AM  
Jezebelle's Book ...: The Purity Myth 2 18 Feb 09, 2014 11:38AM  
The Truth About Americans and Sex 1 39 Jun 23, 2009 08:27AM  
Dispatches from the War Against Sex 1 34 Jun 17, 2009 10:15AM  
  • Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape
  • How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America
  • Virgin: The Untouched History
  • Feminism and Pop Culture
  • Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future
  • Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done
  • Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV
  • Jane Sexes It Up: True Confessions of Feminist Desire
  • The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World
  • BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine
  • Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice
  • For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women
  • The War on Choice: The Right-Wing Attack on Women's Rights and How to Fight Back
  • Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists
  • Whores and Other Feminists
  • The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service
  • Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism
  • Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild
Jessica Valenti is a columnist for the Guardian US and the author of four books on feminism, politics and culture. Her third book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, won the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Award and was made into a documentary by the Media Education Foundation. She is also editor of the anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual ...more
More about Jessica Valenti...

Share This Book

“Now, should we treat women as independent agents, responsible for themselves? Of course. But being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them. 468 likes
“The desirable virgin is sexy but not sexual. She's young, white, and skinny. She's a cheerleader, a babysitter; she's accessible and eager to please (remember those ethics of passivity!). She's never a woman of color. SHe's never a low-income girl or a fat girl. She's never disabled. "Virgin" is a designation for those who meet a certain standard of what women, especially young women, are supposed to look like. As for how these young women are supposed to act? A blank slate is best.” 185 likes
More quotes…