Review forthcoming in Library Journal. I struggled with this book and I think in large part this is because it is not a book written for me. What brinReview forthcoming in Library Journal. I struggled with this book and I think in large part this is because it is not a book written for me. What brings these essays together is a question about women in "middle age" (late thirties to early sixties) making major life changes toward what they hope will be greater happiness -- changes in their inner perspective, in their personal actions, in their relationships, and so forth. While there is a scattering of difference -- a lesbian couple here, a black voice there, a Muslim contributor, a woman scraping by on poverty-level wages -- the overwhelming majority of the writerly voices are white, upper-middle class women in primary relationships with men. Most, though not all, are parenting. Many seem deeply unhappy with their relationship options. As an anthology, this book had a few essays that charmed, moved, or otherwise spoke to me -- and not all of them were essays that I could relate to through lived experience. One of the most powerful pieces, I though, was an essay by a happily-partnered woman struggling to set boundaries with her ageing mother who refused to seek treatment for her mental health issues. Overall, though, I felt this book mostly documented how far we haven't come in addressing sexism and ageism in our culture, and how woefully we under-support even couples with ample resources as they try to thrive as human beings in the context of parenting. With one or two delightful exceptions, these essays document the toll (acknowledged by social scientists at the population level) that becoming a parent takes on the happiness of straight couples, and sometimes queer couples too, in the absence of social supports for dependent care. The lack of socialized support, persistent internalized narratives of sex difference, and poor communication between partners combines in many of these narratives into a toxic stew that leads to everyone's unhappiness. Perhaps unfortunately, the personal-essay format leads to the feeling that solutions are individual self-improvement or endurance rather than collective change. ...more
Review forthcoming in Library Journal. I tore through this excellent piece of cultural analysis by Sady Doyle (whom I first became aware of through TiReview forthcoming in Library Journal. I tore through this excellent piece of cultural analysis by Sady Doyle (whom I first became aware of through Tiger Beatdown). I admit when I was first sent it for review I was a bit wary of the fact that the blogger-turned-book-author trend had hit yet ANOTHER of the writers I followed religiously during the 2005-2010 peak of the Feminist Blogosphere. But Sady Doyle absolutely doesn't disappoint. This is an insightful and self-aware analysis of the culture of celebrity that creates narratives around certain people -- particularly certain women -- that overtake the lives of the individuals themselves, and drive or at least hasten their destruction. Women understood culturally to be "trainwrecks" are ritually humiliated, find their careers destroyed, lose their privacy and in some cases their autonomy, and not infrequently are left to die for their sins (real or imagined). Doyle uses historical examples of the trainwreck narrative to trace its origins and signature components, and calls upon readers to resist the gender policing that this trainwreck narrative represents. An incisive piece of pop cultural analysis, the only thing I felt this book was lacking was an in-depth bibliography or further reading list to explicitly demonstrate the intellectual genealogy so apparent in this text. If you liked Jennifer Pozner's Reality Bites Back (http://www.realitybitesbackbook.com/) you will want to read this sister work as soon as it hits the bookstores this fall....more
“God and sex seem to occupy distinct and separate spaces within our communities and our psyches,” sociologist Kelsy Burke observes in her introduction“God and sex seem to occupy distinct and separate spaces within our communities and our psyches,” sociologist Kelsy Burke observes in her introduction to Christians Under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet (University of California Press, 2016). In contemporary American discourse, “religious pleasures and sexual pleasures are often pitted against each other in den debates over contentious social issues like homosexuality, premarital sex, and pornography” (2). Yet what Burke found, in her ethnographic study of Internet-based discussions about faith and sexuality, was that for conservative evangelical Christians, religious commitment and sexual pleasure are deeply intertwined. As Burke evocatively puts it:
Users [of Christian sexuality websites] portray their marital beds as crowded. Their choices appear to be (or at least attempt to be) influenced by God, who celebrates sexual pleasure for married Christians; Satan, who thwarts sexual pleasure for married Christians; and the websites themselves …monitor[ing] these desires and behaviors through feedback, providing credibility for some acts while condemning others (3).
Review forthcoming in Library Journal. A well-researched, sex-positive account of the heteronormative culture in which adolescent girls are exploringReview forthcoming in Library Journal. A well-researched, sex-positive account of the heteronormative culture in which adolescent girls are exploring their sexuality -- and the absolutely dismal mess adults have made in providing useful resources for pleasure. My major beef is that every few years a book like this comes out centering girls/women ... and a few years later the situation has barely budged. I don't think that will change until we stop assuming we know what boys/men desire, how they experience pleasure, and why they behave the way they do. I'm always glad to talk about "girls and sex" and queer sexuality but we need to start talking about "PEOPLE and sex," explicitly including cis male-bodied people in that conversation or the toxic soup of heternormativity will remain strong. That's not the book Orenstein set out to write ... but I'd love to see someone take up the challenge soon....more
Review forthcoming at MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose. This is an intellectual and social history of the idea of masturbation ("the solitary vice") and thReview forthcoming at MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose. This is an intellectual and social history of the idea of masturbation ("the solitary vice") and the place of anti-masturbation rhetoric in sexual politics and sexuality education in mid-nineteenth century America. Focusing on the 1830-50s, April Haynes considers the place of anti-masturbation advice within the larger contexts of reform physiology, women's rights, and racial politics. With particular and skillful attention to the intersection of race and gender, Haynes considers how female activists used the specter of masturbation and (white and black) women's capacity for sexual self-control as one piece of their campaign for (sexual) citizenship. Beginning at an interracial moment within Evangelical reform circles, anti-masturbation activism eventually went mainstream in ways that replicated racial, gender, and class hierarchies in the form of white, elite women policing the bodies of marginalized populations -- youth, patients, prisoners, the poor. Documenting a little-studied chapter in the history of American sexual politics, Haynes work is perhaps most startling in how contemporary the political fault-lines she charts sometimes seem. Today, just as in the 1830s, Americans remain uncomfortable with expressions of sexual citizenship that fall outside the bounds of white, cisgendered heternormative partnership. The borderlands of that healthy sexuality may have shifted and expanded slightly, but our sexual fears have remained soberingly stable over nearly two centuries of social agitation....more
Review forthcoming in Library Journal. Raises a lot of interesting questions, though I felt her interview pool of seven was problematically small andReview forthcoming in Library Journal. Raises a lot of interesting questions, though I felt her interview pool of seven was problematically small and she was really enamored with psychoanalytic theory....more
Review for this will be forthcoming at The Daily Dose. Suffice to say for now I really enjoyed her push back against the "born this way" naturalizatioReview for this will be forthcoming at The Daily Dose. Suffice to say for now I really enjoyed her push back against the "born this way" naturalization of gay and straight sexual desires. She's also doing extremely thoughtful intersectional work around race and gender within hetero- and homo- normative cultures that persistently marginalize unruly queer sexualities....more