I’m writing this post as a response to the book 21 Myths (Even Good) Girls Believe About Sex by Jennifer Strickland. I got this book via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank both the author and NetGalley.
Now, this isn’t just me talking about the book, like I normally do when I’m reviewing something I read. Here, I’m going to give you my personal opinion, but I’m going to go beyond the book in doing so. And just to be clear, yes, I’ll be talking about sex here, and yes, to me it’s crucial that we all have that one person to talk about sex with, but I understand if you’re uncomfortable doing so openly, like some people do.
I’m very picky with the way I talk about sex depending on the situation and the people I’m surrounded with. I like to keep my experiences (or lack thereof) private; if not just for myself for my closest friends. I think there’s a lot that can be said about sex, and I think that even though we have the right to be informed, we also have the right to decide when and if we’re comfortable to talk about it.
That’s one of the reasons why this book caught my eye, because I thought it could give (especially) young women the chance to exercise that right without being put in a spotlight. Upon starting this book, however, I realized it’s clearly focused on religion, so if you’re looking for cold-hard scientific facts like I thought I would, you might be disappointed. You do get some scientific facts, and we’ll get to them later on, but in a big chunk of the book you won’t get them. I’ll give you facts, though, so keep reading.
Listen to me loud and clear because here’s a truth you need to remember every second of your existence: there is nothing on or within you to “give away” or to “save,” no matter how many times the author of this book tells you so. Do you want to abstain from having sex until marriage? Cool! Was your “first time” not a big deal at all? Nice! Your thoughts regarding sex are valid as long as they come from you and you are convinced of them. Your opinion on virginity is respectable when it comes to you doing you, not you telling other people how to live their life.
We’re all queens and we’re all great, and all that, but in all honesty, there’s no such thing as virginity. Virginity is a social construct, it’s something men invented way back when women were treated as goods to be traded between the father and the groom. It was a way to ensure that the good was new, hadn’t been damaged, that the seal hadn’t been broken. Yes, some women bleed the first time they have sex; some, but not all, and that’s because they get hurt while having sex, which is why it is also painful for some women.
Here I just threw you two other truths, so let’s rewind and organize our ideas. One: whether you want to remain a virgin until marriage or you think virginity is stupid, you are ascribing to the construct of virginity, of something that is there and then isn’t. Just make sure you’re safe and you’re sure your first time, physically, mentally and emotionally. Two: though it seems to be the norm, you’re not “supposed to” bleed when you first have sex. Three: sex the first time is awkward, I get it, but it shouldn’t be painful either. Don’t get used to painful, uncomfortable sex just because you think it’s normal because it’s not.
You know I’m trying my best to let you know about trigger warnings in books, and even if this is non-fiction, there are mentions of sexual abuse. Now, this is a book about sex, so it totally makes sense to at least mention this issue, but I felt that at the beginning, it was not being handled in the most appropriate way.
Another problem I had with this book was the fact that the author claimed that one of her goals was for non-sexually active girls to remain as such until marriage. Okay, if that’s your purpose, then you shouldn’t have sold your book as being about sex, that is misleading, that is lying in a way, and it is the reason why on Goodreads many people marked this book as DNF.
I did read through the whole thing, made notes of all my thoughts, and am now sharing them with you. If you feel like asking a question or just telling me something at some point, please send me a message or write a comment. I do want us to talk. I know that was the purpose of the author as well, to have this “chat among girlfriends” kinda deal, but the style was super annoying to me. Something else that annoyed me as well is the continuous use of the word “girls” when referring to women, up to the point when it became problematic.
There was a point in which annoyance wasn’t enough and I started becoming enraged towards this book, which gave me all the more reason to keep reading it. Here’s another set of truths: getting an abortion is your decision and nobody else’s; your sexual orientation doesn’t define your worth as a person; rape is never a victim’s fault. But here’s the biggest truth: those situations I just listed can never be compared or even put near the same category as cheating on a spouse. I’m saying this because there was a bit in this book where the author just made a list of “sins,” and included the aforementioned examples. No. I won’t allow it. Who you are is not a sin, whether it’s your choice or not. If you want to talk about sin, talk about actions, condemn cheating because that talks about what a person does, not how a person is.
It obviously makes sense that if this book is written by a Christian author who wants “girls” to “save themselves” for marriage, then this book will be inherently heteronormative. Hear me when I tell you that you weren’t born to be the complement to anybody. You were born to be free, to live and love, to make your own choices about your life. Again, if your choice is to get married and have kids, good for you! If you decide that’s not the life for you, well, go ahead and live your best life. But pretty please, don’t ascribe to archaic gender stereotypes that “determine” what is our role in society based on whether or not we have a penis. And pretty please, don’t judge others just because they live differently than you do.
Not everything can be bad, right? After all, I’m not a bitter feminist, I’m just a radical one. Well, turns out that just as I’m sharing some of my thoughts with you, the author talked about her personal sexual experience. Now, I’ve already told you that it’s my choice not to share about my experiences with people other than my closest friends, but I respect when people choose to talk about theirs in a respectful way.
Now, something you need to know about this book, although you probably already inferred it, is that it is totally, 100% against sex out of marriage. If you’re looking for advise because you want to have or are having sex and are not married, then look away because this is not the book for you.
And, now it’s time for another truth: remember when I told you that “sins” are not related to who you are but the choices you make? Okay, although that might be true to some people (people who like condemning others for their “sins”), it doesn’t mean that sex outside of marriage or “bad sex” as the author calls it is a sin. First and foremost, if it is something two consensual adults are doing in a responsible way, it is not a sin at all, it is a decision two consensual adults made responsibly. Second, the responsibility of what you do is not solely yours because you made that decision with another adult, the responsibility is shared.
Okay, so this is getting super long and I’m nowhere near done, so I’m going to make a part 2 of this post that you can read next week. Let me know if you have any questions or if maybe there’s a topic you’d like me to explore further on.
Love, Miss Camila