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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  7,841 ratings  ·  711 reviews
There is no working medical definition for "virginity."

“Vaginal rejuvenation” – in which a woman’s labia is trimmed and vagina tightened or her hymen is completely replaced (a "revirginization")– is the fastest-growing form of plastic surgery in the U.S.

Over 1,400 federally-funded Purity Balls, where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers in a prom-like event,
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Seal Press (CA) (first published March 21st 2009)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Start your review of The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
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
May 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Emily May
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism, 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. ...more
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
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
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
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
May 26, 2014 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
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
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
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.

If your daughters are scared of their bodies and resort to weird, neurotic behaviors or religious extremism, you might want to read this book. Valenti pulls together in one book all of the insane purity fads and institutional policies and social mores and
Julie Ehlers
There is not a soul alive who wants to be told what they are and are not allowed to do sexually, but there are definitely a lot of people out there who want to tell other people what they are and are not allowed to do sexually. Specifically, there are people out there who think women shouldn't be having sex at all unless they are married and doing it for reproductive purposes (in the U.S., these people are usually Republicans), and then there are other people out there who think women are basica ...more
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 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
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
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really important message--one that I wish I'd had as a teenager subjected to LOTS of purity myth BS. The book is best when it links a variety of disparate conversations back to the purity myth. The book is weak where she just tries to pin the purity myth on bad, mean and misinformed people. I think it's obvious why the myth developed--looking back at human evolutionary history, female sexuality was very much a point of concern for fathers and husbands. So they devised myths and other more hars ...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
Aug 22, 2012 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
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
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
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.
This book is an eye opener. Non fiction isn't what I usually read but this was good. ...more
Sep 13, 2011 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.
Nov 19, 2011 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
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.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've come into touch with Jessica Valenti's writing before through her online essays and columns, but this was the first of her full-length works I read. Published in 2009, it still rings true—the war on women's reproductive rights, especially in the USA, is still being waged, and I suspect it will get worse before it will get better, especially with the current administration.

Valenti's snarky wit may not be for everyone, but it was right up my alley. However, despite her solid and extensive res
Emm - "That Book You Like is Coming Back in Style"
Review redone, as the old one I felt was mediocre. I don't know exactly what to feel about this book - I want to recommend it because of certain parts, but it's not my favourite and I feel the title is misleading and alienates part of its intended audience. If you were not already firmly in agreement about its issues, is it likely you would pick it up? Also, the particular issues do not affect only young women, it affects everyone.

To clarify, this isn't a book condemning modesty, which is a good
Mar 20, 2014 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
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
Daniel Stafford
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
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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

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32 likes · 1 comments
“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. 577 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.” 204 likes
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