Boys & Sex by Peggy Orenstein

English | ePUB | Pages: 304 | 825.87 kB

The author of the groundbreaking New York Times best sellers Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter now turns her focus to the sexual lives of young men, once again offering “both an examination of sexual culture and a guide on how to improve it” (Washington Post).

Peggy Orenstein’s Girls & Sex broke ground, shattered taboos, and launched conversations about young women’s right to pleasure and agency in sexual encounters. It also had an unexpected effect on its author: Orenstein realized that talking about girls is only half the conversation. Boys are subject to the same cultural forces as girls – steeped in the same distorted media images and binary stereotypes of female sexiness and toxic masculinity – which equally affect how they navigate sexual and emotional relationships. In Boys & Sex, Peggy Orenstein dives back into the lives of young people to once again give voice to the unspoken, revealing how young men understand and negotiate the new rules of physical and emotional intimacy.

Drawing on comprehensive interviews with young men, psychologists, academics, and experts in the field, Boys & Sex dissects so-called locker room talk; how the word “hilarious” robs boys of empathy; pornography as the new sex education; boys’ understanding of hookup culture and consent; and their experience as both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. By surfacing young men’s experience in all its complexity, Orenstein is able to unravel the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important realities of young male sexuality in today’s world. The result is a provocative and paradigm-shifting work that offers a much-needed vision of how boys can truly move forward as better men.


Note: I received a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It’s no secret that masculinity is curated through media consumption, modeled behavior, and society. Orenstein’s interviews with a variety of young adults shed insight into the ways some youth navigate sex.

These interviews add nuance to a group generally viewed as having a one-track mind, especially where hookup culture is concerned. Some interviewees speak with concern and disgust over the behavior of men who take advantage of and manipulate women . . . others have found ways to rationalize what consent means in order to serve their own desires. Many find themselves in between: stuck between the expectation that, for guys, sex means being “always up for it,” yet seeming authentically troubled when they consider how acting on that narrative could impact a partner. Orenstein is up front with the limitations of her sample — mostly skewing white and either in college or college-bound.

Boys & Sex also includes chapters on boys and men as victims of sexual assault, restorative vs. punitive justice, and recommendations on where we, as a society, can go from here.

review by Bethany