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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.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

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
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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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 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 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 Insightful essays on becoming a woman in America Aug. 22 1998
This book is a very smooth read. I was impressed by how down to earth Ms. Wolf is while still being intellectual. It made me realize I was not the only one dealing with issues of how to manifest female sexualty in a feminist and sexually repressed society.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good for young women of the '70s Nov. 18 2013
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 an effort to include women of colour which is fine...plenty has been written about their experiences as well. Wolf grew up in the Bay area and writes with great poignancy sometimes about the events and feelings she went through. Some of her experiences were a little different from mine - I wasn't as curious to experience sex as she apparently was, nor did I experiment with drugs as a teen. But I still related to a lot of it, and that which I didn't - spending summers on a kibbutz in Israel, for example - were still good reading. (And I find myself wondering whatever happened to the gal at the kibbutz who got pregnant by her mother's boyfriend and went away to either have the baby or an abortion - we don't know what choice she made, if any).

Wolf also writes of the terrible experience of being sexually harassed by a respected college professor, marriage, kids, and a host of other issues that women face today. Since the book is from the 1990s it doesn't address many of the issues girls face today with social media. It would be interesting to see her write a sequel to this book, detailing the lives of women from their thirties to their now-fifties.
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Most recent customer reviews
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Wow! So Bad its Great! A must read for Men.
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. Read more
Published on April 18 2001 by M. Dukas
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Weakest Wolf yet.
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2000 by Amazon Customer
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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