Thursday, January 16, 2020

Peggy Orenstein's "Boys & Sex"

Peggy Orenstein is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Don’t Call Me Princess, Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and Waiting for Daisy as well as Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World and the classic SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap.

Orenstein applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, and reported the following:
Page 99 turns out to be a pretty interesting one. So much of the book is about the message boys still get, perhaps more strongly than ever, that sexual conquest is the measure of a man, that having as many hookups as possible (and often treating your partners poorly in the process) is the surest path to status and "fun." But they also talked about a desire for something different and how difficult it could be to find that. Page 99 picks up in the middle of a conversation with a college junior who's had three not-very-satisfying hookups since starting school but doesn't know how else to meet girls. He tells me that asking someone on a date would be weird, and I respond by asking why making out with a girl he barely knows on a dance floor and maybe going home together seemed more "weird" than asking someone from class out to a movie. He says, "Absolutely. I think about that all the time."

The page goes on with the quote from a second boy:
"I've had two one-night stands in college, and both of them have left me feeling empty and depressed. I have no idea what I gained from those experiences other than being like, ‘Yeah, I had sex with someone.’ There were no feelings of discovery or pleasure or intimate connection, which are really the things that I value. I mean, what is this dance we’re doing right now if all we take away is a number?”

Then there was the college sophomore in Los Angeles, one of the more sexually active young men I met, who fell silent when I asked about the most intimate act he’d ever engaged in, finally saying, almost reverently, “Holding hands.”
I think it captures the spirit of the book both in the sense that it's about the boys' voices; that they are candid, a little raw, in what they're saying to me; and that our interviews gave them the rare opportunity to express emotion in a way that boys are often denied.
Visit Peggy Orenstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Waiting for Daisy.

The Page 99 Test: Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue