The Purity Myth

How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

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January 2010
272 pages
5.5" x 8.25"
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ISBN: 9781580053143

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ISBN: 9780786744664

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The Purity Myth

How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

By Jessica Valenti

$0.00 USD, Trade Paper, January 2010

The United States is obsessed with virginity—from the media to schools to government agencies. This panic is ensuring that young women’s ability to be moral agents is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. Jessica Valenti, author of Full Frontal Feminism and executive editor of Feministing.com, addresses this poignant issue in her latest book, The Purity Myth. Valenti argues that the country’s intense focus on chastity is extremely damaging to young women. Through in depth analysis of cultural stereotypes and media messages, Valenti reveals that powerful messages—ranging from abstinence curriculum to “Girls Gone Wild” commercials—place a young woman’s worth entirely on her sexuality. Morals are therefore linked purely to sexual behavior, as opposed to values like honesty, kindness, and altruism.

Valenti approaches the topic head-on, shedding light on chastity in a historical context, abstinence-only education, pornography, and public punishments for those who dare to have sex, among other critical issues. She also offers solutions that pave the way for a future without a damaging emphasis on virginity, including a call to rethink male sexuality and reframing the idea of “losing it.” With Valenti’s usual balance of intelligence and wit, The Purity Myth presents a powerful and revolutionary argument that girls and women, even in this day and age, are overly valued for their sexuality, and that this needs to stop.

About Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti—called the “poster girl for third-wave feminism” by Salon—is the author of three books: Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut…and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, and The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, which is being made into a documentary by the Media Education Foundation. She is also the editor of the anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, which was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 100 Books of 2009, and the founder of Feministing.com, which Columbia Journalism Review calls “head and shoulders above almost any writing on women’s issues in mainstream media.”

Jessica’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian (UK), The American Prospect, Ms. magazine, Salon, and Bitch magazine. She has won a Choice USA Generation award, was featured as one of ELLE magazine’s “IntELLEgentsia”, and was named one of the Left’s Top 25 Journalists by The Daily Beast. She has appeared on The Colbert Report and the Today show, among others, and was recently profiled in The New York Times Magazine under the headline “Fourth Wave Feminism.”

Jessica is also a widely sought after speaker who gives dozens of speeches annually at universities and organizations in the U.S. and abroad. She received her master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University, where she is a part-time lecturer.