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Publisher's Summary

The United States is obsessed with virginity from the media to schools to government agencies. In The Purity Myth Jessica Valenti argues that the country’s intense focus on chastity is damaging to young women. Through in-depth cultural and social analysis, Valenti reveals that powerful messaging on both extremes ranging from abstinence curriculum to Girls Gone Wild infomercials place a young woman’s worth entirely on her sexuality. Morals are therefore linked purely to sexual behavior, rather than values like honesty, kindness, and altruism. Valenti sheds light on the value and hypocrisy around the notion that girls remain virgin until they're married by putting into context the historical question of purity, modern abstinence-only education, pornography, and public punishments for those who dare to have sex. The Purity Myth presents a revolutionary argument that girls and women are overly valued for their sexuality, as well as solutions for a future without a damaging emphasis on virginity.

©2010 Jessica Valenti (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Purity Myth

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  • serine
  • 22-04-2016

BRAVO! Logical and engaging!

Excellent book! Valentin explores how the virgin ideal has served as a foundation for policymaking, medical decisions, cultural norms, ​etc. Acting like an analytical sledgehammer, Valenti points out myriad logical inconsistencies in any argument that uses purity as its anchor. I found one of the most interesting and memorable arguments was that we only protect women we deem pure. If a woman is seen as less than pure, it's easier to imagine she deserved any bad treatment. This argument is particularly wonderful when she addresses purity and women of color.

IMO, she stumbled a little bit with the porn arguments. But, I have yet to read an author who hasn't. Trying to make a porn argument, from any angle, is like walking through a mine field. Where is the line between empowerment and oppression and objectification? It's not always easy to tell. despite some floundering in this area, Valenti actually brings up some excellent points and contributes to asking some very important questions about how porn may or may not affect women in all facets of society.

Valentin does an excellent job of questioning when we perceive that a woman has agency (she should know better than to walk alone at night or dress in a way that shows too much skin) or lacks agency (a woman is obviously not smart enough to have been thoughtful enough about a life changing unwanted pregnancy).

My favorite thing is how this author boils down arguments to very simple terms. The main message seems to be:

1. The purity myth ensures that women are treated like children, but children you can have sex with.

2. Power is not 'pure', so women shouldn't have it.

Excellent and on point! I highly recommend this book. Ended up being a page turner and educational at the same time.

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  • Kelly Brockett
  • 21-11-2020

Good, but...

The information here is great, but I wish the narrator was better. And also, the fact that the author has 0 compassion for people who identify with purity ideology makes it a far less accessible text than I’d hoped. As someone who only recently realized how damaging purity ethics are and have been to me and society as a whole, and who has conservative religious family members I love very dearly, I wish the author had taken a more active approach to understanding the points of view of people who believe in the purity myth. As a result, I can only recommend this book to people who are already well distanced from purity ideology themselves. If you fall into that camp, I recommend it very heartily. Otherwise, try “Pure” by Linda Kay Klein instead.

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  • Katherine Price
  • 08-08-2017

Second time we better than the first!

This book is essential for anyone trying to understand how misogyny effects the United States. Valenti talks comprehensively about the effects of purity obsession, the myth of virginity & how the two play out in our politics. Truly stomach churning ideas that society as a whole needs to rail against.

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  • Tim
  • 31-03-2015

Brief, but comprehensive

An excellent and quite quick review of the well-funded modern resurgence of traditional gender roles.

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  • Jeremy
  • 22-07-2015

Good read

Really enjoyed this one. Would love to see another to see what/if anything has changed since this was written.

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  • Timothy S
  • 31-05-2021

a good broad examination of purity culture

a good broad examination of purity culture. The speaker has a nice voice to listen to.

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  • Briana Fredline
  • 07-05-2021

wonderful book for recovery

this is a great title if you're recovering from the trauma of purity culture or as a survivor of assault. very cathartic.

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  • Donovan O'leary
  • 27-01-2021

loved it

Absolutely amazing. Jessica Valenti is spot on in her writing. I'll be reading Full Frontal Feminism next.

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  • Alisha
  • 18-08-2020

This book is a necessity for younger women especially

I’m so glad someone is finally talking about the obsession with virginity and women’s sexuality. I learned so much. I am so grateful for this book. This book is a must-read especially for religious/conservative young women, who I think have virginity forced on them more.

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  • Becca
  • 27-11-2017

Eye opening

I only listened to 3 chapters before knowing I wanted to share this book with more people. It is a must read. I had to read this book for school, but it was so easy to listen to and so easy to love. This reader is amazing and so easy to listen to. I absolutely loved this and will listen to it again.

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  • Dalma
  • 16-04-2020

Insightful and real

Despite it being almost a decade old, all the issues addressed are valid and prominent today. I greatly enjoyed this much insight and honesty in the every day mind of men and women today. Let’s be better. Let’s break out of purity culture!! ❤️

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  • booklover
  • 30-07-2017

Valenti at her best

Would you listen to The Purity Myth again? Why?

Absolutely. There is so much to gain from every time one listens!

What did you like best about this story?

The many societal aspects of viginity, purity and its underlying sexism.

What about Abby Craden’s performance did you like?

Nice voice and timing.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Something in every chapter

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