Why The Sex Myth Pisses Me Off

In The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, Rachel Hills identifies the sexual restrictions that still exist in a society that claims to be sexually liberated. Although our perception of sex has changed from only permitting sex within marriage to encouraging casual sex with several partners, how we have sex is still confined to the guidelines of strict social norms. This new set of rules is what Hills describes as the Sex Myth.

According to the Sex Myth, sex is the ultimate source of pleasure, but it’s also a source of corruption and moral decay. If you’re having a lot of sex, you’re a slut or a player, but if you’re not having sex, you’re a virgin and a loser. As a woman, you strive to be desirable, but if you’re desired too much, you’re seen purely for sex rather than as a respectable person. Girls are taught that boys are only interested in sex and they must protect their virginity, but that the only way to keep a man is to provide sex for them. Men are taught that their sexual insatiability is essential to their manhood. The Sex Myth makes assumes — or rather, requires — that sex is a significant factor in everybody's lives. Suddenly, sex is a necessity for a healthy relationship, to please your partner, and to be a fun and spontaneous person. In today’s society, our sexual history defines our respectability, and our sexual desires define our normality or abnormality. Sex is the be-all, end-all.

Rachel Hills accurately defines the Sex Myth. However, her application of the Sex Myth is infuriating. If you do not emulate the Sex Myth, Hills provides validation for your sexual choices, as well as praise. But if your sex life does align with the rules of the Sex Myth — perhaps by having sex frequently, or casually, or with multiple partners, or with creative positions — Hills denies your sexual agency, and as she sees it, you’re simply a cog in the Sex Myth machine.

This book is a feel-good for those who haven’t lost their virginity, or rarely have sex. Me? I have sex. Rather often, actually. The Sex Myth seems to shame those that frequently have sex, giving reasons why this sex was invalid, or secretly traumatizing, or that the sex wasn’t for pleasure, but for other reasons.

This is why I’m so frustrated by Rachel Hills’ analysis of the Sex Myth. According to her, my decisions regarding sex are not my own. If I’m having casual sex, it’s because the Sex Myth told me so, not because I enjoy casual sex. You know what? I like casual sex! I do not seek sex because of how it portrays me as a person. I don’t seek sex to fit in with the crowd. I have sex because it feels nice, and is fun, and exhilarating. I don’t use sex to validate myself as a desirable human being, nor am I trying to define myself as “cool” because I have more casual sex than monogamous sex.

Maybe I’m irritated with Rachel Hills’ application of the Sex Myth because I fit the “norm.” Because I’m not a sexual recluse according to society’s standards, she’d say that the Sex Myth makes me feel good, and that I’m not suffering from feelings of inadequacy because I meet the standards the Sex Myth has set for me. But I would disagree. I have sex frequently despite the fear of being labeled a slut. Sometimes I wait “too long” to have sex with a partner, despite the Sex Myth’s insistence that I need to have sex with him to make him stay. I’m forging my own sexual path, and fighting the Sex Myth just as hard as anybody else, every single day.

Image via Simon and Schuster

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Writer's Experiment Proves Male-Written Manuscripts Get More Attention

Writer Catherine Nichols had submitted the manuscript of her novel to many publishing agents. Greeted with rejections and little interest in the book she and her friends felt was perhaps her best work, she began to feel like the problem didn’t lie in her writing. Curious to see if it was a case of gender inequality, she created George Leyer.

She sent out 50 queries under her homme de plume, or male name pseudonym. As it turns out, George is “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book.” Publishers who previously told Catherine that her work had flawed characters were praising her imaginary male self as being a clever writer. Where some didn’t even respond to her queries, even George’s rejections offered helpful constructive criticism and compliments.

Catherine feels there are several variables that influenced the much warmer response that George received. Perhaps her novel was mistaken for women’s fiction when it was read under her real name. Maybe George writing a novel with a female protagonist made him stand out to the agents. These things considered, there's no denying that a male name equalled more success.

You can read Catherine’s entire story on her experience using a male pseudonym here.

Image via @clnichols6 on Twitter

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Even Blockbuster Romance Authors Are Frequently "Belittled"

A new study indicates shame and embarrassment are common emotions in the field—composed of more than 90 percent women—simply because romance novels are seen as silly trash for women.

Despite romance novelists’ hard work and dedication to their craft, it seems this negative reputation is here to stay. According to sociologists Jennifer Lois and Joanna Gregson, “The genre is written by women, for women, about women – and that’s where the stigma comes from.”

It’s unfortunate for these writers to deal with backlash despite being highly successful amongst the target audience. This leads to shame on the reader’s side, as well. According to an article published by The New York Times, readers will use covers to hide what they are reading or download the novels on Kindle.

Why should a woman feel ashamed to read something that brings her enjoyment? The Romance Writers of America non-profit believes it’s because the formula doesn’t allow enough creativity – romance novelists are printing multiple books a year, and this process takes the originality out of the equation.

Still yet, novels of the same print caliber but different genre aren’t receiving the same kind of backlash. Gregson says, “Romance writers say they’re often asked intrusive questions about their own sex lives and their research methods. Nobody assumes that men who write mystery do research by killing people. You would never ask a Sci-Fi writer if they build robots, if they go to outer space. Women are assumed to write only what they know.”

Most recently, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James has received more favorable reviews than not – it poses the question: how does a romance novel become something positive in society?

Gregson and Lois explore the topic in more depth through their article, “Romance Writers and Gendered Sexual Stigma.” A full, free copy of the text is available on Sage Journals.

Why do you think our society frowns upon romance novels?

Original article via The New York Times.

Photo via International Business Times.

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This Husband Accidentally Gave Away His Wife's Beloved Judy Blume Book

I reckon a husband is rather useful to have around, until, of course, he accidentally gives away your beloved copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by putting it in a box on the curb, not realizing its sentimental value.

That misfortune recently befell one New York wife, whose remorseful hubby is now on the hunt for the missing tome. He posted this earnest flyer in Greenpoint with the hope of redemption:

"I accidentally gave this book away on Saturday July 25th in a box on the corner of of Green and Franklin Streets in Greenpoint. The book is extremely important to my wife. It was a keepsake from her mother and is irreplaceable. On the inside cover is a note that reads "Christmas 1991." If you happened to pick up this book can you please get in touch with me."

Greenpoint BUSTies, be on the lookout!

Image via Twitter/Jami AttenbergThe Cut

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Librarians Saved Gloria Steinem's Life (And She's Not Alone)

Anyone who knows me is aware that both Gloria Steinem and public libraries are two of my absolute favorite thing/people on the planet, so it was awesome to hear that she spoke at the American Library Association's Annual Conference this weekend. Steinem wasn’t only there because she’s an acclaimed author (with a new book coming out soon!)— She also loves libraries and librarians.

“I think your profession is the greatest profession on earth," she said in her speech, according to Publishers Weekly. "I really do want to emphasize, in case you’re feeling unappreciated, how important your role is. I’m here to make you not humble. You democratize knowledge. Nothing on earth is more important.”

I couldn’t agree more. Libraries are so central to all communities and provide so many resources for the people in them. When someone claims libraries are going to go obsolete because people don’t read paper books, they obviously haven’t stopped by their local library in a while. PSA: At libraries, you can borrow basically any book, CD, or DVD you want FOR FREE. With a (free) card, you can attend (free) educational or entertainment programs, use (free) wi-fi, computers, and often Kindles. You can also often bring the kids in your life to a (free) place to play. Libraries are one of the few places that accept anyone. They “democratize knowledge”—Steinem couldn’t have said it better.

Libraries fed my ravenous appetite for all kinds of books and provided me with both my first volunteering opportunities and my first paying job. When my best friend Cate and I served as the liaisons between our high school and the library, we learned community organizing tools that I’ve applied in countless other situations. This would be impossible without the women (and in my library, it was always all women) that served as teachers, mentors, colleagues, and friends for my budding mind.

“It is true for me, as for so many countless others, that librarians saved my life, my internal life,” Steinem said. Truer words are seldom spoken.

Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card!  

Image via ALA Cognotes, Video via PBS

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