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Promiscuities [Hardcover]

Naomi Wolf
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 2 1997
In this provocative and highly personal book, bestselling author Naomi Wolf explores a subject that has long been taboo in our society: women's sexual coming-of-age. Promiscuities brazenly exposes the truths behind the conflicting messages directed at young women during and after the sexual revolution. Drawing on surprising examples from the ancient and recent past, along with vivid recollections of her own youth, Wolf shows how our "liberated" culture still fears and distorts female passion. She also shares fascinating true stories that illustrate the fantasies and sometimes crippling realities women pass through on their way toward erotic and emotional discovery. A landmark book, Promiscuities is a call to women of all ages to reclaim and celebrate their sexuality.

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Part memoir, part exposé, Promiscuities is Naomi Wolf's (author of The Beauty Myth and Fire with Fire) perspective on the confusion surrounding female sexuality. According to Wolf, promiscuous is "a word that holds within it the mixed message girls today are given about sex: 'You're promiscuous if you do anything, but you are a prude if you do nothing.'" Thus, still polarized on the spectrum between virgin and whore, adolescent girls are allowed little information and even fewer healthy outlets for their normal sexual desires. Wolf shatters the illusion that good girls and professional women are not sexual, and boldly embarks on redefining female sexuality outside of men's experience and assumptions. Wolf's own coming of age in the post-sexual revolution of Haight-Ashbury, serves as an evocative tool for revealing the naked and admirable truth of female sexuality. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Wolf has written passionately about the effects of popular culture on female self-image in numerous articles and books (The Beauty Myth, LJ 4/1/91). Her newest work centers on the way American culture of the late Sixties and Seventies created a generation of females torn between the need to express their sensuality and the desire to meet society's behavioral expectations. To illustrate her position, Wolf relies almost exclusively on the coming-of-age experiences of herself, her friends, and acquaintances in her hometown, San Francisco. Overgeneralization abounds as she attempts to apply the microcosmic events of this mostly white, middle-class, liberal milieu to a whole generation. A new stereotype is presented in which all girls wanted to be Barbie and all teenagers viewed loss of virginity as the key to attaining "womanhood." There is a desperate defensiveness in the tone of this book, which, in spite of references to other sociological and anthropological studies, diminishes the force of Wolf's argument. Fans of the author as well as expected talk-show appearances will nevertheless generate demand for this work. Libraries should purchase accordingly.
-?Rose M. Cichy, Osterhout Free Lib., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A rambling morass Sept. 6 2001
Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood by Naomi Wolf. Not recommended.
Female coming of age. Female desire and sexuality. Feminism. Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood attempts to address these issues in the context of Naomi Wolf's own coming of age in the 1970s. The problem with this approach is that it is too personal (a weakness Wolf admits early on) to offer either much insight or value. The best it can do is provoke clearer thinking in the reader than Wolf is capable of.
The stories are provided by Wolf and her circle of friends, who are for the most part middle-class, urban, and Caucasian. Much of Wolf's discussion focuses on her childhood/adolescence in San Francisco and her exposure to that city's counterculture ideas and sex industry-something that may resonate with women of similar backgrounds, but not with this lower middle-class, East Coast, small-town girl whose exposure to the sex industry came at the end of adolescence, not during childhood. (Unlike Wolf, I and my peers didn't walk past strip clubs every day, see genital fetishes sold in local stores, or know about "sex workers" before hitting double digits.)
Wolf describes in detail such things as her procurement of birth control in preparation for the planned loss of her virginity to a "sweet guy." She would have you believe she was thinking about when a girl becomes a woman, what makes a girl a woman, the ritual of becoming a woman, and the adult attitude toward teenage sex at this tender age while making this well-thought-out decision. According to her description of the event, which feels meaningless to her because of the way society disregards it, there is no teenage impulsiveness or passion involved-again, something that does not resonate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, inaccurate tagline Dec 7 1998
Naomi Wolf strikes home here with a book that will resonate with a lot of people, especially those born between 1960 and 1970 and raised on one of the coasts. Unlike her past works, Promiscuities is a very personal story; she has a lot to say about her own experiences and those of the girls and women she grew up with. The earlier parts of the book are stronger than the finish, but it's worth getting to the end anyway.
One problem: the tagline used for the paperback edition ("The Secret Struggle for Womanhood") might lead the reader to expect a book with answers rather than questions, more like Ms. Wolf's previous books. The tagline of the hardcover edition ("An Ordinary American Girlhood") is better, though it perhaps misleads the reader about the universality of her experiences.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and compelling! Feb. 4 1999
I enjoyed "Promiscuities" so much that I found myself continually marking up pages and asterisking sections as they described situations I had lived through but could not articulate. I found this book to be incredibly insightful. Finally a book that discusses how it feels to be a young woman, struggling with her burgeoning sexuality, in a world that denies and degrades female sexual power. While Wolfe's perspective on this issue is largely white, middle class, and could have included more ethnic attitudes of female sexuality, this book is a starting point on a discussion that needs to continue. I found this book to be fascinating and will return to it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Talk of the Town June 19 2003
It is an excellent conversation piece to share with your husband/boyfriend, friends, daughter and mother. It touches on so many issues that are too "weird" to say outloud. It really makes you think about your sexuality and your desires and your relationships with both women and men in a way that validates them for the first time ever. It is thought- provoking and informative. You will read it, love it, and pass it on.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Wow! So Bad its Great! A must read for Men. April 18 2001
Although I give it only 2 stars as literature, I really enjoyed reading this book, not because it was great or revelatory or profound, but because it was fascinating. I read it cover to cover and underlined many parts. Its virtues: it is quite frank and stimulatingly arousing in places. Yeah! It's main theme is to stick up for the sanctity of the female sex drive, which is getting no respect, she says. Its also very interesting for a man to read how one woman can adopt a global view that nearly every thought or bias or instinct coming from her own head, is at least partly attributable to being planted there by a male-corporate-media-advertising cabal whose single-minded focus is to confine and define women into roles that are useful to "them". Of course the women are too strong and vital to be taken in by this. The author also is interesting for taking some unexpected stands, she is pro-sex (way risky position!), yet she feels that teenagers should be encouraged to limit their sexual experimentation to "first base" and "second base" only. I enjoyed reading it, and it expanded my knowledge and experience of the author, and by proxy, some fragment of the female population who think and feel as she does.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Weakest Wolf yet. Jan. 14 2000
This book was a memoir, and, if I may say so, a very superficially written one. Which is a shame, because a real memoir of Wolf's life would probably be quite interesting.
Wolf's purported discussion of the sexual maturation in young women deals with little more than her own experience and that of her circle of friends. Which is also a shame, because a seriously written book on this topic would also be interesting.
But Wolf treds a painfully dull and over-hyped path with this book, which manages to hide her considerable intellect almost completely under trite melancholy reminisces. Utterly failing to provide any insight into adolescence's turbulence, Wolf laments her psuedo-tragic past and suggests ill-thought-out "solutions" for preventing such pain.
This autobiography is not really an autobiography at all, as it only covers a few years of her life, and doesn't delve into her psyche or experience at all, except with regard to her (huge) virgin/whore complex. It might be a very compelling book about her adult life as she struggles with her feminist beliefs and the backlash to "The Beauty Myth," but it's not. So if you are interested in Wolf as a thinker, you're out of luck.
But if you're interested in the complex social navigations of young women in our society and how those interactions have affected our culture's view of women, you're out of luck too. Any discussion about this issue is about as deep as a puddle.
The real shame of this is how much I like Naomi Wolf, and how much "The Beauty Myth" meant to me. And if one looks hard enough in this text, you may take something out of it. However, something went horribly wrong with this sophomoric, pseudo-intellectual book from a very smart author.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good for young women of the '70s
If you're a young woman who came of age in the 1970s you will probably like this book. Maybe I should specify if you were a young *white* woman as Wolf states that she didn't make... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Nicole Chardenet
1.0 out of 5 stars Too bad, it was a good idea
If Wolf had wanted to write about her fast, furious and unique upbringing in San Francisco, she should have just called it an autobiography. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Saved by PROMISCUITIES
Naomi Wolf, called "naive" and "sloppy" by middle aged reviewers, speaks to a younger audience in a voice that is frank and concise. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars Good memoir; naive author.
Intelligent adult women need to write more about their coming of age. Wolf has done just that, and writes well. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars Hated it.
Wolf's book is a memoir, plain and simple. She can dress it up with social commentary (complete with the use of tired jargon like social "scripts") and she can fill... Read more
Published on July 30 1999
this is by far the most amazing book that i have ever read. everything wolf wrote about was so true for me, and for other women that i know. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening read for men trying to understand women
I found this book very enlightening. I would like to better understand contemprary women, this book has strongly influenced my ideas and opinions.
... Read more
Published on Sept. 29 1998
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