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The author of the groundbreaking New York Times bestsellers 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’ The author of the groundbreaking New York Times bestsellers 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.


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The author of the groundbreaking New York Times bestsellers 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’ The author of the groundbreaking New York Times bestsellers 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.

30 review for Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    "That's the problem," Rob said. "None of my friends talk about feelings. If you were hung up over a girl, they'd be like, 'Stop being a bitch.'" Very, very interesting book. I liked Boys & Sex quite a lot more than Girls & Sex, though why is a bit harder to decipher. It might be that I knew what to expect from this one— lots of anecdotes from a small(ish) sample; not really a social study with a definitive conclusion. It might be that the sample size was larger and stretched to trans boys— it "That's the problem," Rob said. "None of my friends talk about feelings. If you were hung up over a girl, they'd be like, 'Stop being a bitch.'" Very, very interesting book. I liked Boys & Sex quite a lot more than Girls & Sex, though why is a bit harder to decipher. It might be that I knew what to expect from this one— lots of anecdotes from a small(ish) sample; not really a social study with a definitive conclusion. It might be that the sample size was larger and stretched to trans boys— it felt more "with the times" than Girls & Sex, which occasionally had a dated quality to it. It might just be, simply, that this topic was more interesting to me. When I read Girls & Sex, I had already read a lot (and experienced a lot) about girls and sex. It didn’t offer anything that fresh or interesting. Girls' sexuality might be historically repressed and shamed, but I feel like these days it is men who don’t really talk about sex (or are talked to about sex). At least not in a way that is helpful. Not in a way that really considers consent, what that means, true intimacy, and their feelings about casual hook-ups (beyond male bragging). I know what many women think about sex and sexuality. I have read opinions from women from all over the world, across all cultures, races, religions and sexualities. I know so little about what men and boys think about sex, other than that they’re supposed to want a lot of it. One of the things that struck me immediately - and, by her own admission, surprised the author - was how very willing all these boys were to talk about their experiences and their feelings. The author noted that it was almost as if they had been waiting their whole lives for someone to ask them, to care how they felt. That is heartbreaking. And the problem goes so deep that this book made me equal parts miserable and hopeful. One of the major conclusions the author made early on - one that is frustrating for women like me - is how, try as we might, women are not the ones who can really make this change happen. It's going to require men to break the cycle. Fathers, male guardians and teachers, and other male role models. They need to show young boys that it's okay to be vulnerable, to talk about your feelings, to say "no" to "locker room talk". But when these adults have their own trouble expressing their emotions, how is that possible? Not only do boys consistently look to male role models for how to behave but, as Orenstein points out, asking women to shoulder the emotional burden only perpetuates the problem. Men need to talk to one another. And that's the real challenge. Women can help in some ways, though. One thing the author noted hit me as surprisingly true: These days, many parents are quick to correct false depictions of what it means to be a woman in media - “that Disney movie is fun, but that’s not what women really look like” (etc.) - but they don't do the same for boys. There is this strange assumption that it is primarily girls' views of the world that need correcting. Parents, in general, aren't telling boys that those tiny-waisted Disney girls have no space for a uterus or, perhaps more importantly, that porn is not a reflection of real sexual relationships. Or it shouldn't be. However, I did have some of the same problems with this that I did with Girls & Sex. I won't spend as much time on it, but I do dislike some of the sweeping generalised claims Orenstein makes, such as that “Young American men […] receive more messages that they should conform to rigid gender roles in the home” than “other nationalities”. This is so vague. What? All other nationalities? Surely not. I really think her books would benefit from citations in the main body of text and not just a lengthy bibliography at the back. I’m aware I’m being picky and not everyone will have this problem - in fact, some people have been irritated with me in the past for daring to have this problem - but I just think the book would be improved by better referencing and clarification. I’m still a Poli-Sci student at heart, I guess. The main conclusion to Boys & Sex is virtually the same as Girls & Sex, and it is this: Education, education, education. Require it in schools. Talk about it at home. Not just in a one-off "The Talk", but in an ongoing, open discussion of sex, intimacy, relationships, masturbation, porn, LGBTQ+ and consent. As someone who has seen the most sweet, open, accepting, self-proclaimed "feminist" of men retreat inside their own internalized masculine stereotypes when they get into a group of their peers, I did wonder while reading this how this change was realistically going to happen. I am comforted somewhat by the thought of how very far we’ve come with women in such a short space of time. Maybe what seems a terrifying uphill climb actually won’t take that long once the idea is allowed to flourish-- the idea that it’s okay for men to be vulnerable and talk about their feelings. I hope so. Our boys and girls deserve better. Warnings for depictions of rape, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, abuse and - seriously - coprophagia. Facebook | Instagram

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    Checked this out to see how bad society screwed me up as a kid, and to see if it’s gotten any better for the next round. Orenstein makes many surprising discoveries during her long interview process with today’s high school and college-aged guys. Some more shocking than others. Though it takes her a while to get there, the most eye-opening bits discuss the problematic cultural depiction of men. We all know women are objectified on magazine covers and in movies, but how does it feel to be a boy and Checked this out to see how bad society screwed me up as a kid, and to see if it’s gotten any better for the next round. Orenstein makes many surprising discoveries during her long interview process with today’s high school and college-aged guys. Some more shocking than others. Though it takes her a while to get there, the most eye-opening bits discuss the problematic cultural depiction of men. We all know women are objectified on magazine covers and in movies, but how does it feel to be a boy and look at the cover of Men’s Health? To watch James Bond? She paints a surprisingly clear picture of generations of lonely boys who prefer to stay at home rather than face the world without the prerequisite 24-pack abs and million dollar car. What boys see as success is as unrealistic and unhealthy as what is depicted to girls, but--as Orenstein points out--parents rarely think it necessary to talk about. What about porn? Surely that is nothing but a den of female objectification, right? Well, yes and no. This is another situation where Orenstein exposes an under-discussed problem. We think boys watch porn and see women as mere treats for their enjoyment, but often what they’re really seeing is a chiseled man with a 12 inch penis who seems to please women with superpower efficiency. Again, potentially devastating when their reality doesn’t, um, measure up. Of course we also get plenty of chapters on toxic masculinity and issues of consent. The book does an excellent job of diving into the complexities of consent, what misunderstandings young people have about it, and offers some hope for the future of sex education. The problem is that sex education in this country is still primarily about abstinance. This blows my mind and makes me sick. It made me sick back in ’05 when my sex ed class was nothing more than slideshow images of STIs and a purity pledge. Obviously there was no discussion about LGBT sex. I don’t even think they said the word “condom.” When parents and schools are still too shy to teach sex education--real sex education--what else are kids to do but learn the hard way? And so that’s what happens. Sometimes practice makes perfect, and sometimes practice scars you for life. According to many stories in this book, practice is often happening under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Parents looking for a resource to help them understand what is happening in the lives of their sons will be smart to read this book, even if not all of it applies. I do think it focuses primarily on extremes. Certainly not all boys are hopeless and depressed, or high and hooking up hourly, but some are. And the reasons why are pretty cut and dry. Sexuality is complicated, but it’s not that complicated. It’s certainly teachable. But for some reason we feel a moral objection to do so. Still!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley

    Having read Orenstein's "Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape", two things came immediately to mind about her latest venture, 1) she made sure to be a lot more inclusive in her selection of interviewees, and 2) she pulled together a lot more resources. While "Girls & Sex" was certainly a good place to start, Orenstein fell short in allowing the research to speak for itself; there was often too much of an injection of her own thoughts and opinions on the subject of how we empower Having read Orenstein's "Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape", two things came immediately to mind about her latest venture, 1) she made sure to be a lot more inclusive in her selection of interviewees, and 2) she pulled together a lot more resources. While "Girls & Sex" was certainly a good place to start, Orenstein fell short in allowing the research to speak for itself; there was often too much of an injection of her own thoughts and opinions on the subject of how we empower and/or mishandle the sexual education of young girls and women. In her defense, it had to be difficult not to personalize some of the content, being a woman and mother herself. That said, this latest entree doesn't fall short in that department. Orenstein is plenty hands-off and the book feels more put together and complete than its predecessor. The young men interviewed within come from nearly every slice of life: rich to poor, heterosexual to transgender, Black and white, academic to athletic, etc. I appreciated the attempt to be inclusive--particularly with such a small sample (100 boys and young men)--because I felt she was less focused on doing that with the women; as such the book came off stilted and failed to truly represent the challenges of Black women and girls as well as it should have. That said, I still feel the Black perspective is missing from this book. The young men she chose to interview spend less time actually obsessing over navigating the sexual landscape than they do the white one; which is to say they are cautious because they understand the possibility of trouble lurking should an encounter go wrong. I suspect their attitudes would have been more relevant had Orenstein interviewed them in a more diverse setting. The same can be said of the one trans man she chose to interview--a man who won't be hard to find given her description and his notoriety--as I wondered how different the view might have been had she interviewed both a Black and white trans from varying backgrounds. While I understand you can't hit every chord, the chords that were missed, were noticeable. Still, there is a lot of great information offered and it definitely provides a starting point for a deeper conversation.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is not my favorite style of covering topics: lots of interviews, no analysis or research. But I knew what it was because I read the girls one. I learned a lot—mostly because I wasn’t close with any teenage boys (no brothers or best friends who talked about this stuff) so these revelations were nuts. And If I had boys (thank God I don’t))), the one thing I would definitely ban is porn.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is the book every parent wishes they could give their son, and one every son wishes they could receive. Peggy Orenstein presents a well-researched 2020 follow-up to her 2016 "Girls & Sex". The data is incredibly current and detailed on the topics of hooking up, porn, gay trans and queer, boys of color(s), consent (both ways!), and just a better understanding of what is going through the minds of boys today, and how they can become better men for tomorrow. The author remains professional thro This is the book every parent wishes they could give their son, and one every son wishes they could receive. Peggy Orenstein presents a well-researched 2020 follow-up to her 2016 "Girls & Sex". The data is incredibly current and detailed on the topics of hooking up, porn, gay trans and queer, boys of color(s), consent (both ways!), and just a better understanding of what is going through the minds of boys today, and how they can become better men for tomorrow. The author remains professional throughout the book. There is no light humor, yet it does not just bury the reader with data. The author took some serious time to interview many boys. She was surprised how well they opened up to her. They really seemed to WANT to talk about all of these topics. They were in high school and in college. Peggy admits the limitations within her data, but at least she is putting this out! There are many stories. It is great to hear the voices in the interviews learning from their conversations in real-time while talking to Peggy. Some have kept in touch to give status on things that had relationship conflicts when she first interviewed them. I wish I could copy the entire final chapter right here! A great summary and reminder to take action! I bought a hard-copy of this book after seeing a glowing review in the NY Times. I had not finished Chapter 1, when I simply gave the book to my son. He needs this right now! I then discovered an audio-book version at my local library that I have been listening to. It is extremely well read by the author, Peggy Orenstein. Her website has an extensive list of more resources: https://www.peggyorenstein.com/positi... Ch 1: Welcome to Dick School - talks about what is 'masculinity' Ch 2: Porn - not "if" they watch porn, but rather what porn is watched Ch 3: Life in a Hookup Culture - hookup has a HUGE variety of meanings Ch 4: Gay, Trans, and Queer Guys - high school can be tough; locker room talk is no excuse Ch 5: Boys of Color in a White World - black, asian Ch 6: Good Guys - get consent, right? Ch 7: Do All Guys Always Want It? - girls need to ask consent too Ch 8: Better Man - talking with parents, how to grow Ch 9: Deep Breath - fantastic summary that promotes proactive measures, not focus on damage control after-the-fact Notes: 21 pages citing each of the chapters specifics Bibliography: 17 pages, totaling over 200 cited sources Index Website: https://www.peggyorenstein.com/positi...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    For my entire life I've heard, "boys are easier to raise." This book shows, through interviews with college age men, boys are not easier to parent than girls, most people just aren't parenting them. Many of your sons are engaging in a culture of homophobia, misogyny, and assault, all of which they're almost never held accountable for by their peers, parents, law enforcement, and even the author of this book at times. I personally hated reading this book for several reasons. Mainly, because, thoug For my entire life I've heard, "boys are easier to raise." This book shows, through interviews with college age men, boys are not easier to parent than girls, most people just aren't parenting them. Many of your sons are engaging in a culture of homophobia, misogyny, and assault, all of which they're almost never held accountable for by their peers, parents, law enforcement, and even the author of this book at times. I personally hated reading this book for several reasons. Mainly, because, though there were a few minorities represented, it was largely a parade of white, middle to upper class bro athletes who don't hold themselves or their peers accountable for their behavior, who never consider their sexual partners' wants or feelings and who think saying f** is a hilarious joke. These are the type of men I have avoided for most of my life and I had to be surrounded by them every time I picked up this book, which filled me with near constant disgust. I wish Orenstein had included more men like the ones I associate with, men who have, by no mistake, escaped this toxic bro culture. Their stories were largely missing from this book and could benefit the parents and young men who might read this. I also wish Orenstein had more to say about what the men she included are doing and how they and their parents and educators can do better.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mariah Roze

    Everyone should read this book! It was extremely education about gender stereotypes and roles. "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 which equally affect how they navigate sexual and emotional relation Everyone should read this book! It was extremely education about gender stereotypes and roles. "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 which equally affect how they navigate sexual and emotional relationships. 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."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steve Donoghue

    A sharply insightful look at a subject that's never been more controversial or important than it is right now. My full review is here: https://openlettersreview.com/posts/b... A sharply insightful look at a subject that's never been more controversial or important than it is right now. My full review is here: https://openlettersreview.com/posts/b...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Really interesting book on men and masculinity. So much of what she said resonated and I learned new things and language surrounding how men are oftentimes victims of sexual assault but don't realize it because of narrative surrounding assault. Toxic masculinity harms men by not teaching them to be emotive. I didn't agree with everything she said; I felt like she picked at hip hop in unfair ways (picking and choosing which Black academics she was citing when there are lots out there who feel dif Really interesting book on men and masculinity. So much of what she said resonated and I learned new things and language surrounding how men are oftentimes victims of sexual assault but don't realize it because of narrative surrounding assault. Toxic masculinity harms men by not teaching them to be emotive. I didn't agree with everything she said; I felt like she picked at hip hop in unfair ways (picking and choosing which Black academics she was citing when there are lots out there who feel differently about hip hop), and her reporting on the need to have conversations with sons felt exclusionary to those who will be raising a son without a father (two mom families or single mothers, for example). It was heartening to see a white feminist devote a chapter to men and boys of color, and gay and trans men. I'm interrogating my reaction to this book because the boys she's portraying - mostly white, straight and from upper middle class background - are the boys of my background, so while it resonated, I'm wondering what she may have missed. I agree that talking to boys about masculinity, consent and emotional intelligence is absolutely essential - and I'm wondering if it's enough to undo deeply entrenched patriarchy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Hicks

    This book is just as ridiculous if not worse than her first book on girls and sex. About 20% of this book is true. I find it hilarious that all the top-rated reviews are predominantly coming from females. If that doesn't raise some suspicions then you're ignoring the signs. The first two chapters (and sparingly through the rest of the book) she uses her political bias to deem that everything is the cause of Trump — despite him only being in office for 3 years. Beyond the first two chapters she th This book is just as ridiculous if not worse than her first book on girls and sex. About 20% of this book is true. I find it hilarious that all the top-rated reviews are predominantly coming from females. If that doesn't raise some suspicions then you're ignoring the signs. The first two chapters (and sparingly through the rest of the book) she uses her political bias to deem that everything is the cause of Trump — despite him only being in office for 3 years. Beyond the first two chapters she then uses music in general and hip hop music, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, video games, dating apps (which I agree with), movies, porn, and everything you can possibly think of that influences and makes anyone — being only men — act in bad ways. She blames it on everything except for women themselves. Women have also been proven to propagate these issues she so passionately tries to explain and write about in misleading ways. Her bias is so blatantly consumed in both of these books that after reading both of them you can tell how much she hates men. She's not providing facts from a neutral viewpoint. She once again — just like her other book — interviews a few select people from a specific gender and then applies those one-off cases to support her bias in her conclusions. Sure she tosses out a couple of studies here and there with no more information on them other than citing the headline of the studies. She literally says that on the dance floor all men walk around with hard dicks trying to grind on women while also trying to put their hands down women's pants. This is absurd and untrue. She completely ignores that men also experience a lot of these issues she's preaching about. For instance... - As of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape. - About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. - 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male. Source for the above: RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) I do agree with a few things in the book. If there is one thing she gets 100% right it's the chapters that she discusses around greek life. I can confirm that this is correct. Not that I've participated in such events, but I went to a school that has one of the largest greek systems in college and those are absolutely pervasive issues that she describes. The issues the author tries to cover are worth discussing, but not when they have been presented in the — bias — context that this author does.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tad

    This should absolutely be required reading for anyone who has ever been a boy, raised a boy, wants to raise a boy, works with boys or knows boys. I realize that basically means everyone so yeah, everyone should read this book. Through interviews with dozens of young boys and young men, Orenstein recounts in painstaking and sometimes graphic detail the world that young boys are growing up in and the world that they are learning how to navigate. She writes about toxic masculinity, sexual assault a This should absolutely be required reading for anyone who has ever been a boy, raised a boy, wants to raise a boy, works with boys or knows boys. I realize that basically means everyone so yeah, everyone should read this book. Through interviews with dozens of young boys and young men, Orenstein recounts in painstaking and sometimes graphic detail the world that young boys are growing up in and the world that they are learning how to navigate. She writes about toxic masculinity, sexual assault and rape, the Me Too movement and so much more all through the lens of how it is affecting the world that young boys are growing up in. She writes about how so many boys still see themselves as one of the good guys even though many of them have committed sexual assault against women they know. It was interesting to read this part because we so often don't get to hear that side of the story. And I liked that she brought up the concept of restorative justice and the ways in which those situations can be made right. I appreciated that Orenstein's scope wasn't just focused on straight, white boys. She manages to bring in the perspectives of young men of color as well as the perspectives of non straight boys, including a few transgender youth. I was grateful that she took this approach to the material as too often a book like this could easily become all about the straight white male gaze which does a real disservice to all. I grew up a boy. I grew up around other boys. And yet, I still found myself somewhat surprised by what was revealed in the pages of this book. It is not that Orenstein reveals anything particularly ground breaking. It is more that she reveals all the ways that society and parents continue to let down and disappoint young boys. Sadly, we still don't have it right and our young men continue to suffer because of that. Eye opening, fascinating and a complete page turner. Content Warning: there is talk about sexual assault, rape and sex in this book so fair warning if you find those subjects triggering at all.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Milt Neeley

    I have read a lot of objective studies that are clinical but this one is full of anger and judgement. She only interviewed 100 subjects and she found the worst of the worst to talk to. When she did interview a good guy she slammed him for not being proactive enough. It sounds like all guys are out to get drunk and then have meaningless sex. Here is the Me Too movement in all it's fury. I listened to this with a lady friend, on a drive, and she had similar feelings. The information could be helpf I have read a lot of objective studies that are clinical but this one is full of anger and judgement. She only interviewed 100 subjects and she found the worst of the worst to talk to. When she did interview a good guy she slammed him for not being proactive enough. It sounds like all guys are out to get drunk and then have meaningless sex. Here is the Me Too movement in all it's fury. I listened to this with a lady friend, on a drive, and she had similar feelings. The information could be helpful if presented in a less victriolic way.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Books on Stereo

    An important, must read featuring the deconstruction of toxic masculinity as well as the construction of a new, refined framework of modern day masculinity. Truly eye-opening.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    A good examination of boys' approach to intimacy. I found it particularly interesting that boys used the term 'hilarious' as a catchall to describe a range of emotions, not all of them funny or even positive. The book wasn't bad but can we retire the term "forcible rape"? I keep seeing this term in feminist literature and I find it extremely problematic. I did find that the chapter on pornography was perhaps a bit overblown and reminiscent of the sex wars in the 1980s. The fact that the author c A good examination of boys' approach to intimacy. I found it particularly interesting that boys used the term 'hilarious' as a catchall to describe a range of emotions, not all of them funny or even positive. The book wasn't bad but can we retire the term "forcible rape"? I keep seeing this term in feminist literature and I find it extremely problematic. I did find that the chapter on pornography was perhaps a bit overblown and reminiscent of the sex wars in the 1980s. The fact that the author critiques pornography SO heavily and then states, in response to people asking her for "good" (her quotation marks) porn recommendations that, "I personally think curating your boy's porn is over the line" gave me pause. Why is that over the line? If you want to be involved in helping your kids make smart media choices and if you believe that teens have a right to their own sexuality, then the author's pearl clutching here comes off as extremely out of touch. Finally, Peggy Orenstein, a white woman, suggesting that Ken Jeong might be a "yellowface minstrel" is pretty ethically dubious.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    Negotiating sexuality and relationships today is arguably more complicated than when I was teenager and as the mother of two teenage boys (and girls) I hoped Boys & Sex might provide me with some insights into areas I may have not considered as part of my discussions with them. The ‘sex talk’ has never been a single conversation in our house, it’s been the subject of casual discourse over the years as they’ve grown, often initiated as the result of news stories, gossip, or issues faced by their p Negotiating sexuality and relationships today is arguably more complicated than when I was teenager and as the mother of two teenage boys (and girls) I hoped Boys & Sex might provide me with some insights into areas I may have not considered as part of my discussions with them. The ‘sex talk’ has never been a single conversation in our house, it’s been the subject of casual discourse over the years as they’ve grown, often initiated as the result of news stories, gossip, or issues faced by their peers. We’ve talked about most of the topics explored in this book, though I’ve learnt from Orenstein via the young men that she interviews, that I can do more. Thankfully my sons are surrounded by good role models, but one of the most significant takeaways for me from the book is that my boys need the men in their life, particularly their father, to better verbalise their experience, opinions and feelings about relationships, sex and masculinity. Despite my best intentions, it will be the other men with whom they connect that will significantly shape their response to the situations raised in Boys & Sex, and my empathy is not a substitute for their shared experience. I do feel Orenstein’s sampling for her research was quite small (100 young men), and very USA-centric, which meant for me there were elements I didn’t find directly relevant. Racial issues and the experience of college/university life differs here for example, also a Personal Development, Health, and Physical Education syllabus from years K-10 is compulsory in all public schools in Australia. In general this is a medically accurate, current, and inclusive program that explores physical, social and emotional aspects of sexuality in some detail (that abstinence-only is still a feature in any modern day curriculum is absurd). That said I do prefer the anecdotal approach Orenstein has taken, as scientific methodology tends to lack urgency and nuance. I would recommend Boys & Sex to parents, and suggest it be shared and discussed with teens of both sexes, as both will benefit from the information. An extensive bibliography provides additional resources to ensure we raise “...our boys to be the men we know they can become.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Peggy Orenstein has been my personal hero for over a decade. She's the reason I became a gender scholar. I was excited to hear about this book, but I believe she was too easy on some of these processes. I appreciated what seemed like her reluctance to join into cancel culture with some of these boys, but a boy who sexually harasses and sexually assaults his peers who are girls is not a "good boy". I don't care if he volunteers and if he loves his mom. It's hard to stand up for what you believe i Peggy Orenstein has been my personal hero for over a decade. She's the reason I became a gender scholar. I was excited to hear about this book, but I believe she was too easy on some of these processes. I appreciated what seemed like her reluctance to join into cancel culture with some of these boys, but a boy who sexually harasses and sexually assaults his peers who are girls is not a "good boy". I don't care if he volunteers and if he loves his mom. It's hard to stand up for what you believe in. It sucks to lose social capital for putting your peers and your teammates on the spot when they say shitty things about girls. But it's our job. And it's unexcusable to not expect this of the boys we're raising.

  17. 5 out of 5

    vanessa

    3.5. Personally, I liked reading Boys & Sex better than reading Girls & Sex. In Boys & Sex, Peggy Orenstein interviews more than 100 boys in the United States about gender, sex, porn, hook-up culture, and more. Nothing here was anything we didn't necessarily already know boys might think or do regarding their sexuality, but it is interesting to hear it first-hand from teens and young adults. Orenstein's biggest strength is her readability; her books are engaging and follow a narrative arc. I tho 3.5. Personally, I liked reading Boys & Sex better than reading Girls & Sex. In Boys & Sex, Peggy Orenstein interviews more than 100 boys in the United States about gender, sex, porn, hook-up culture, and more. Nothing here was anything we didn't necessarily already know boys might think or do regarding their sexuality, but it is interesting to hear it first-hand from teens and young adults. Orenstein's biggest strength is her readability; her books are engaging and follow a narrative arc. I thought it was also a plus compared to Girls & Sex that she interviewed trans boys and many more black, Asian, and Latinx boys. In general, I recommend you pick it up if you are interested in gender studies that are less about analysis and less based on scientific studies and more about the lived experience of gender.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Farrah

    Well, much like Girls & Sex, this book is horrifying. I would in no way call it an easy read (I found myself unable to fall asleep after reading the chapter on porn and the one on drunken hookups wasn’t much better.) That said, I think this book is an important read for moms of boys to push through in order to understand what is going on and what challenges are out there. I may have wanted to stick my head in the sand instead of finishing it, but I don’t think that would have been a better optio Well, much like Girls & Sex, this book is horrifying. I would in no way call it an easy read (I found myself unable to fall asleep after reading the chapter on porn and the one on drunken hookups wasn’t much better.) That said, I think this book is an important read for moms of boys to push through in order to understand what is going on and what challenges are out there. I may have wanted to stick my head in the sand instead of finishing it, but I don’t think that would have been a better option. Some quotes that stood out to me: Re porn— “What may be of more immediate concern to guys themselves, though, is that male porn users report less satisfaction than others with their sex lives, their own performance in bed, and their female partners’ bodies—and the effect becomes apparent among those who indulge as rarely as a few times a year.” “That reduction of pleasure in partnered sex was what concerned the majority of my interviewees. Even when they felt their porn habit was at reasonable levels, more than half had, at one point or another, cut back on their use, much the way they would if they were drinking too much or smoking too much weed.” “For a small but significant group of the boys, porn use had become a compulsion, one they felt had seriously harmed them.” “What was important and consistent was that they believed porn had been damaging in ways that no adult had ever discussed with them, and that they had never previously discussed with an adult.” As another boy, a high school senior in San Francisco, put it, “I think porn affects your ability to be innocent in a sexual relationship. The whole idea of exploring sex without any preconceived ideas of what it is, you know? That natural organic process has just been f**** by porn.” “The ubiquity of internet porn in itself means parents no longer have the luxury of squeamishness; we can no longer afford to not talk honestly to our children (especially our boys) about sex. The potential risk to them and to their partners is just too great. Nor do I think it’s enough to dismiss porn as “not realistic” or “an adult fantasy”—that begs questions of what, exactly, is unrealistic about it and why its fantasies so frequently eroticize male aggression and female submission. Instead, as I said earlier, remind your son that curiosity about sex as well as masturbation are absolutely natural, but that porn’s perspective is limited and distorted, especially for someone without much (or any) real-life context. The bodies and behaviors depicted are not typical; much of its activity would not, in truth, be pleasurable, especially for women (the ones in the videos are paid to pretend to enjoy what’s happening and, by the way, most are left broke and unemployed within a few months). Porn can create false expectations; lower guys’ satisfaction in sex and with their partners; hijack teens’ sexual imaginations; eroticize gender inequality and racism.” Re binge drinking and hookup culture — “To say that hookup culture is lubricated by alcohol would be a gross understatement: it is dependent on binge-drinking to create what Wade calls the “compulsory carelessness” necessary for a hookup. Alcohol is, above all, what establishes a couple’s indifference: hooking up sober is almost by definition serious. Inebriation itself—“I was so drunk”—can even become the reason (or the excuse) for an encounter, as opposed to, say, attraction, interest, or connection.” “Students, both in high school and college, see hooking up as the first step toward a relationship, although most hookups don’t result in one. No wonder as many as 85 percent of college students report ambivalence or unhappiness with hookup culture and one in three say their intimate relationships have been “traumatic.” “The thing is,” he said, “I could never ask a random girl on a date. That would just be weird.” So, I said, it would be more appropriate to get drunk, make out with someone you don’t really know on the dance floor and maybe have intercourse with her than to, say, ask someone you like from one of your classes to go to a movie? “Yeah,” he said sheepishly.” Re talking about sex with parents— “ I love my parents,” he said. “They have taught me a lot of things. But when it comes to sex, they haven’t. Just about nothing. They haven’t guided me, and there’ve been times where I really wish they had, that they’d given me some advice. I wish that they had told me that sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it’s really scary. . . . Honestly, I just wish they had told me anything, because I was sort of thrown into this place where I knew literally nothing except [from] a couple of classes in school and watching porn. And I don’t know. I guess I resent them a little bit for that. . . . I mean, it’s uncomfortable to talk to your parents about sex, but it’s also one of those things that I wish they had forced me to do, because I feel like I would have been better prepared. Maybe I could have not gone into some more uncomfortable situations if they had talked to me.” Despite their apparent mortification, boys do want their parents to talk to them about physical intimacy, for someone to go beyond the classic don’ts: don’t have sex, don’t get anyone pregnant, don’t get a disease, don’t be disrespectful. They are particularly eager to have their fathers talk to them about their own experience with sex, love, even regret. But according to a 2017 national survey of three thousand high school students and young adults by the Making Caring Common Project, the large majority of boys had never had a basic conversation with their parents about how to be sure in advance that your partner wants to be—and is comfortable—having sex with you or about the importance of “being a caring and respectful sexual partner.” More than 60 percent had never heard from their parents about the importance of not having sex with “someone who is too intoxicated or impaired to make a decision about sex.” Neither parents nor teachers of most of the male students had ever told them not to catcall girls or use degrading comments such as “b****” or “hos,” even though 87 percent of the girls reported having been sexually harassed. Those ideas might seem self-evident to an adult, beyond the need for comment, but given the rates of coercion, harassment, and assault, boys are clearly not learning sexual ethics merely by osmosis. What’s more, most of those who did have such conversations with adults described them as at least somewhat influential. After nearly a decade of reporting on teenagers and sex, if I know anything for sure, it’s that parents just have to get over it. I know it’s awkward. I know it’s excruciating. I know it’s unclear how to begin. You may have never even been able to have such conversations with your own spouse or partner. I get that. But this is your chance to do better. Discomfort and embarrassment are not excuses to opt out of parenting (quick tip: talk during physical activity. Or, even better, in the car: you don’t need to look at each other, plus they can’t escape). Despite their eye-rolling, ear-plugging, and other superficial resistance, teenagers consistently say that they do want such information from parents, and that they benefit from it. I know from experience that’s true: boys often told me that our conversations had dramatic, ongoing, sometimes therapeutic impact—and I was a total stranger. So, rather than fixating on how discussing physical and emotional intimacy makes you—and your son—want to sink into the earth, consider the opportunity it creates for a closer relationship, to show him that you are genuinely there for him, to display openness, strength, and perseverance in the face of messy realities.” “Just as a single “talk” about table manners wouldn’t make your son polite, a single discussion about intimacy won’t ensure good sexual etiquette—particularly since, for parents of sons, the average length of such talks is ten minutes. Parents need to have habitual, brief, often casual conversations that increase in complexity as children grow older.” Re the importance of dads — “As for intimate relationships, dads can offer guidance on personal integrity; establishing and respecting sexual boundaries; mutuality; caring; pleasure. They may want to share their own evolution on some of these topics, including past mistakes and regrets. Let me reiterate: no need to be perfect, to have all the answers, or even to feel totally comfortable discussing the questions. As one college sophomore told me, “In high school, it would have made all the difference in the world to have my dad talk to me about this, even though my mom did a really good job. Because subconsciously, as a teen guy, she was still a woman telling me these things, and I really, really needed my dad to be like, ‘Noah, this is real.’ And because he didn’t have those kinds of conversations with me, it instilled a pattern of me not having them with my friends or my partners. And I want to be having these conversations.”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jakub Szestowicki

    Not great, not terrible

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    A must-read if you are raising a child or teen, love a child or teen or know a child or teen. And yes that is everyone. Prepare to be uncomfortable but in a necessary and important way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dori Gray

    Should be required reading for all parents of boys.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Very fascinating and readable.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

    Peggy Orenstein's newest book (written four years after her excellent "Girls and Sex") examines a changing world for young men in light of the "Me Too" movement. Parents of boys should read this; boys and men should read this; come to think of it, everyone should read this. We would ALL be wise to understand and internalize the wisdom -- and universal benefit-- of sexual interactions that are respectful of others' feelings and grounded in mutual regard. It can't be easy to be a teenager today, b Peggy Orenstein's newest book (written four years after her excellent "Girls and Sex") examines a changing world for young men in light of the "Me Too" movement. Parents of boys should read this; boys and men should read this; come to think of it, everyone should read this. We would ALL be wise to understand and internalize the wisdom -- and universal benefit-- of sexual interactions that are respectful of others' feelings and grounded in mutual regard. It can't be easy to be a teenager today, but young folks would all benefit from Orenstein's unflappable counsel and insights. (And parents raising children need to be aware of the perils that await if they trust the media to educate their children about sexuality: if you can't manage to talk about it yourself, internet porn is likely to do the job for you -- and who wants THAT result?!)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Dao

    One of the books we choose for our 2020 book club (currently three POC men), so I was definitely excited to pick this one up. I'm glad to say that Peggy Orenstein decides to address the elephant in our room, which is interviewing men who identify as queer, trans, or are POC. There are many interviews in which people from different ethnicities, sexual identities, and gender identities tackle the issue of masculinity and what it looks like to them. Oftentimes I've read books which center around a One of the books we choose for our 2020 book club (currently three POC men), so I was definitely excited to pick this one up. I'm glad to say that Peggy Orenstein decides to address the elephant in our room, which is interviewing men who identify as queer, trans, or are POC. There are many interviews in which people from different ethnicities, sexual identities, and gender identities tackle the issue of masculinity and what it looks like to them. Oftentimes I've read books which center around a white cis-male heteronormative standard as the status quo, mentioning marginalized folks as "something they don't feel comfortable or experienced talking about" or "the other". That being said, I *wish* I could give this book 5 stars, it's so close and a 4.5 to me. IMO the book is close! It misses on asexual / aromantic / bisexual men (a gray area commonly erased in today's narrative). Another thing I wish Peggy did more of was ending with different opportunities for men to improve (by no means is this her duty). There are general solutions like talking about hook-up culture when you're young, less porn, and trying to talk back to your male peers when talking about sexual encounters, but there's definitely more to go off from there. Overall the topics in this book are a great conversation starter, and I am looking forward to analyzing some of the material for our talk. If people are looking for something similar, I recommend The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks, or All About Love by bell hooks. The latter being more focused on intimacy and what that looks like, less-so on gender dynamics.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janessa

    Fascinating, sadly relevant, honest, and open.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Have four kids. Going to have to have the talk with all. Now have resource.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laianna

    In Boys & Sex, researcher Peggy Orenstein explores how toxic masculinity affects the sexual behavior of American Millenial and Gen Z boys. Her basic premise is that from an early age, male children in this demographic are taught to limit their emotional vocabulary, which only gets worse as they are exposed to media stereotypes, free internet porn, lack of sexual education at home and at school, and the unfulfilling expectation or reality of hookup culture, all of which combine to negatively impa In Boys & Sex, researcher Peggy Orenstein explores how toxic masculinity affects the sexual behavior of American Millenial and Gen Z boys. Her basic premise is that from an early age, male children in this demographic are taught to limit their emotional vocabulary, which only gets worse as they are exposed to media stereotypes, free internet porn, lack of sexual education at home and at school, and the unfulfilling expectation or reality of hookup culture, all of which combine to negatively impact their emotional and sexual literacy. I identified with a lot of the anecdotal research in Boys & Sex. In particular, I like how the author explains that while the definition of womanhood has expanded to include many different types of women, men are still stuck with a 1950s ideal of male empowerment which basically consists of being stoic, dominant and emotionally inaccessible at all times (think Don Draper). While I felt at times that Peggy Orenstein relied too much on her own assumptions and inherent biases when drawing conclusions about American boys, I would recommend this book, or at least the resources inside it, to everyone. It’s clearly targeted at parents with sons in high school and college but if you know any boys or young men, you will gain valuable insight into their lives and psyches from Boys & Sex. And no matter who you are, you will likely learn something about yourself too. I really appreciate that rather than simply leaving the reader helpless to address the many factors influencing teen boys today - for example, the paywall hindering access to ethical, feminist porn and more broadly, ethical, feminist media in general - the author provides resources and tips for preventative and reformative measures. As a woman, I’m aware that I am disproportionally expected to provide emotional labor to men, but I was not familiar with research showing that young boys flat out do not express their feelings to other boys or men, meaning that women such as mothers or girlfriends are often their only confidantes. The author recommends that adults, especially father figures, talk to young boys about their feelings just as we would talk to young girls about theirs. I also really liked the author’s ideas about restorative justice in cases of campus sexual assault and “grey area” bad experiences (think the Aziz Ansari “Me Too” accusation), and her advice that parents should consistently emphasize the importance of sex as pleasure for everyone involved. As someone whose sexual education in school was only slightly more informative than the classic Mean Girls lines, “Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant and die,” and “If you touch each other, you will get chlamydia and die,” I feel that children and teenagers would benefit immensely from sexual education that touches on emotional as well as physical well-being. It seems incredibly novel that future generations of children and teens might be taught to touch themselves and others consensually for the purpose of pleasure, without the pressure and miscommunication that hinders my generation’s sexuality. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone. I’m giving four stars only because I would have appreciated more research regarding different demographics of boys and men but I learned a lot from this book and I’m sure I will consult it regularly. Although the author does not delve into media content that explores the issues presented in her book, I would highly recommend the HBO tv shows, Mrs. Fletcher and Euphoria, for further reference. Both do an amazing job presenting (and confronting) realistic portrayals of the effect of toxic masculinity on adolescent male sexuality and could be viewed as companions to Boys & Sex.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chanequa Walker-Barnes

    This book is a must-read for any parent of boys as well as adults who work with preteen, teenage, and college-aged boys. Orenstein - whose work has focused on girls and women - turns her journalistic inquiry to boys. The book is based upon her interviews with boys in high school and college in which she asks them about their sexual behavior and attitudes. The results are astounding, especially for adult readers who are GenXers or older. Orenstein demonstrates that the combination of social media This book is a must-read for any parent of boys as well as adults who work with preteen, teenage, and college-aged boys. Orenstein - whose work has focused on girls and women - turns her journalistic inquiry to boys. The book is based upon her interviews with boys in high school and college in which she asks them about their sexual behavior and attitudes. The results are astounding, especially for adult readers who are GenXers or older. Orenstein demonstrates that the combination of social media, reality TV, and the internet’s open access to porn (especially PornHub) have created a sexual landscape for boys that many parents are unfamiliar with. Here are a few of her points: (1) Exposure to porn is normative for today’s boys. The question isn’t whether they’ve seen it, but how young they were and how much they’re watching it. (2) Media depictions of sex and early exposure to porn have dramatically shaped boys’ perspectives of intimacy and sexuality, creating significant problems with performance anxiety. (3) Boys need and crave relationship, but hookup culture prevents them from admitting those needs, creating isolation and frustration. (4) Boys still do not understand consent. (5) Many boys have experienced being victims of non-consensual sex. Orenstein’s research population were largely middle class and affluent White boys. She does, however, include a chapter on boys of color (focusing on how they’re impacted by sexual stereotypes) and LGBTQ boys (demonstrating that even in supportive environments, the lack of avenues for sexual experimentation may lead to a dangerous early reliance on Grinder). In essence, the book was terrifying. But one that helps adults understand the world that boys are facing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abiola

    First book that my POC men book club is reading in 2020. I was excited to read and discuss the topics in this book as they are they sort of things that with male privilege I don’t have to think about. That said, I enjoyed the book. It was well searched and besides the cringe stories by high school boys I found it easy to digest. Orenstein has a rich diction, so I’m very happy that I read this on my kindle where I could easily search for words I didn’t know. My biggest problem with the book was in First book that my POC men book club is reading in 2020. I was excited to read and discuss the topics in this book as they are they sort of things that with male privilege I don’t have to think about. That said, I enjoyed the book. It was well searched and besides the cringe stories by high school boys I found it easy to digest. Orenstein has a rich diction, so I’m very happy that I read this on my kindle where I could easily search for words I didn’t know. My biggest problem with the book was in the range of representation of the voices mentioned in the book. There were some black & latinx students interviewed but those mentioned had been in predominantly white spaces for some time and had learned how to navigate through them. I would want to see how lower income or those on the fringes think about how they preform masculinity. A good book to understand how young men see themselves and as sexual beings. Their insecurities, hopes, flaws and occasional breakthroughs. This is by no mean the defining text but a great starting point! Lots of references. Looking forward to discussing this with my book club

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    While this is a fascinating glimpse into boy's lives and she augments her interviews with reference to other scholarly works and journalism, I would caution that she only interviewed around 100 young men. Still, one can extrapolate using common sense, research, and knowledgeable guesses. She has said in interviews about this book that if girls disassociate from their bodies as they enter young adulthood, boys disassociate from their emotions. Follow from that and you can guess what that means.

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