The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women - Jessica Valenti UPDATE: Bumping this up to 4 stars after reading [b:Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters|390778|Full Frontal Feminism A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters|Jessica Valenti||380389], 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--what virginity was, how it affects women, where it is found, how pervasive it is, etc. This topic is close to me, as I was one of those women raised under the Virginity Movement (not so much by my parents, but by my church and by Focus on the Family's Brio magazine and website--two places that anyone who isn't 100% a virgin would want to avoid AT ALL COSTS). I was told to maintain my virginity until marriage (to a virgin male), that sex would lead to babies, STDs, and lots and lots of heartache (Uh, doesn't LIFE ITSELF lead to lots of heartache???), that women weren't as sexual as men, and other miscellaneous scare tactics that Valenti addresses. Reading a book like this opened my eyes to a lot of the myths I was told as a teenager, and more importantly, affirmed something that I've really embraced as an adult: that a woman is more than capable of being responsible for her own sexuality. That no one should tell her what her worth is based on who she has sex with or how much sex she has (I mean, MEN aren't held to that standard, now are they?). That virginity is a CHOICE that a WOMAN should choose if she wants to--not something forced on her by society or the men in her life.

Two of my favorite quotes:

"When I argue for an end to the idea of virginity, it's because I believe sexual intimacy should be honored and respected, but that it shouldn't be revered at the expense of women's well-being, or seen as such an integral part of female identity that we end up defining ourselves by our sexuality."

"For the record, I think virginity is fine, just as I think having sex is fine. I don't really care what women do sexually, and neither should you. In fact, that's the point. I believe that a young woman's decision to have sex, or not, shouldn't impact how she's seen as a moral actor."

This book wasn't perfect. In Chapter 6, Valenti notices the similarity between the Virginity Movement's agenda and the anti-abortion agenda and then suddenly uses the two interchangeably. I would have liked to see who and what were supporting abstinence-only education and anti-abortion, a deeper connection between the two houses of thought.

I found that Valenti could be very harsh to the Virginity Movement proponents. I don't doubt the abstinence-only education lies (I remember a few myself), but I have a hard time believing all abstinence-only education is that sloppy and horrible. In fact, many times it seems that Valenti is rather harsh to the Virginity Movement, in a way that goes above and beyond what is required. Is she doing that because she was hurt by the slut-shaming (which is understandably horrible and SHOULD NOT be done)? Or is she using this as a tactic to get her point across? And while Valenti makes a lot of good points in the book, not all of her beliefs agree with mine (which ones aren't the focus of this "review").

I am really glad I read this book; I found it empowering and educational, a hope to women everywhere that one day they will be judged like men--by their character, instead of how "tight like Spandex" they are.