Raw, Idiom: b. Informal. in the nude; naked: sunbathing in the raw

Salon had a great interview with Jessica Valenti the other day, and it's full of fiery potential conversations.  Valenti's got a new book out called The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women, and it sounds pretty damn fascinating.

In a cultural-historical moment when Bristol Palin is suddenly the face of abstinence-only sex ed and those bizarro purity ball things are taking place across the Bible Belt, it seems only appropriate to be publishing this book.  Just yesterday I saw a clip from the Tyra Banks Show (erghh, I know, don't ask) in which Tyra interviews a super-"Christian" couple who stayed celibate until marriage and then had so many issues about fear of sex that two years later they still haven't had sex.  HELLO, can you say: time to talk about culture and sexuality?!?  Valenti's book couldn't have come at a better time.

Tracy Clark-Flory's interview with Valenti centers on the idea of an American "virginity fetish," a phenomenon which is of course tied up in all kinds of religious and socio-political crap.  Read the exchange; it's so rich with potential conversations that I found it kind of overwhelming.  It'll probably push at least a few of your own buttons, wherever you stand on all of this.  

Here's a killer blurb, from when Clark-Flory brings up the case of the 22-year-old who's auctioning off her virginity to the highest bidder:
What do you think about the young woman who auctioned off her virginity?

I don't know why we're so surprised by it. This is going to sound terrible, but that's essentially the same thing the abstinence movement is saying: “Hold off until you can auction off your virginity to the person with the biggest ring.” It's really the same thing, only done in a more explicit and economically honest way. I think it's really interesting whom we decide to call whores. [Natalie Dylan] is a whore because she's being really upfront and honest about it. But you would never think to call a woman who is getting married [for financial security] a whore.
Ouch!  But - the double standard - so true.  Valenti hits on the commodification inherent here.  And I really love her for having the balls (ovaries?) to state it the way that she does.  The rest of the interview engages other interesting questions of "purity" and argues that a definition of "virginity" itself doesn't even exist; it's just one of the many social constructs surrounding sexuality that we so often incorrectly take as truth.

Read the interview, get a little fired up, check out the book itself.  Great conversation fodder.


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