Chicster Book Review: “Prude — How the Sex Obsessed Culture Damages Girls”

Imagine a society where girls as young as five are encouraged to be "sexy," a society where a young woman's popularity doesn't rest on how social or smart she is but how many guys she's "hooked up" with and where one in four teen girls has a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). You don't have to imagine too hard because sex trends in America is the focus in Carol Platt Libeau's new book, PRUDE: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (And America Too!).

 The book begins dissecting “The New Scarlet Letter". The old scarlet letter being young women being labeled as a slut, a whore or being easy, but today it’s being called prude; someone perceived as sexually inexperienced who consequently seems undesirable, uncool, and overly sensitive and unknowledgeable about sexual topics. Nowadays, young women playfully call each other sluts and whores, but Libeau questions what words like these really do to young women’s self esteem and how do these words encourage disrespectful behavior from the opposite sex. Does this new focus on sexuality over other aspects encourage more males to expect sex from a female without even attempting a relationship or any type of commitment? According to the book, yes and both sexes are to blame.

What's even more attention-grabbing is the opening scene of a fourteen year old girl who in the course of a day listens to suggestive lyrics on the radio, hears of a condom being found in the hallways of her school, tries on provocative clothes with friends, picks up a sexually themed novel for teens, and ends the day watching a show which continually depicts young people as hot and horny.

For some of us that scene is not uncommon; we've grown up listening to sexually themed songs, admiring supermodels and actresses, blossomed into adulthood testing out different clothing styles, and vied for the attention of a guy – but in PRUDE the central idea is that times are getting worse. The statistics in the book shows girls and boys (many in middle school) engaging in sexual activity younger than ever before, and the emotional harm to females can have long term effects. It’s obvious attitudes about sex, men and what is acceptable behavior follows through to college and into adulthood often crippling emotional/sexual relationships when girls give too much too soon.

Popular teen magazines like Seventeen and CosmoGIRL! come under fire by the author who scoffs at the sexual content in the magazines. She makes many references from the pages of these magazines, including one in CosmoGIRLl! with a story where a teenager explains an intimate affair with her high school coach. The topics of how to be sexy, bisexuality, anal and oral sex are other themes she notices in teen magazines that offer advice to teens on lifestyle, relationship and beauty. In all fairness, the context of many of these magazines is to be the “sister source” of controversial topics that most young people do not feel comfortable talking to their parents about. Of course, the book’s message is there is a serious problem in our culture when young people cannot feel comfortable going to parents for information and encourages parents to take action.

Influencers of the sexpot image are the usual suspects in this book; entertainers like Britney Spears and Fergie who maintain a sexy look for sales and the women who are desired in movies and TV shows who are far less depicted as intelligent as they are sexual and available are mentioned as images young women feed on. The influence of raunchy music videos and sexy commercials are also topics PRUDE highlights. The costs to America come in bulk the book says. Young mothers are more likely to be on public assistance which costs taxpayers, less likely to complete their education, have children who may also have children before their time, and young women who have abortions can have everlasting emotional effects later down the road. Not to mention STDs and a misguided legacy about sexuality to even younger girls as additional costs to American society.

While some parts of PRUDE sound a little preachy, anyone who has a younger sister or cousin–or even thinks of becoming a parent someday–should invest in it. Reading this book can also help readers identify the patterns in their own lives which may have shaped their sexual identity.

Libeau does not pretend that premarital sex and its consequences didn't exist way before modern times, but she also takes note of our society which seems to be changing in sexual morale. She speaks of a society where women may think they are now in control with a “freedom of sexuality mentality”, but asks are they really? A good read for anyone who wants to know why are we so sex obsessed and what does this mean for a future of young women and young people in general.

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