Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Jaclyn Friedman – What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety

Why didn’t this book exist when I was younger? But at least it exists now!

Jaclyn Friedman – author of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, as well as a regular media commentator on gender issues – has produced a vital and engaging go-to book to help inform young women to make safe sexual choices, and to feel liberated by the choices they make.

Whether Jaclyn’s readers are yet to embark on their sex lives, in a monogamous relationship, or enjoying regular casual flings, What You Really Really Want (Seal Press,November 2011, £11.99) provides them with the tools to separate what they actually want from what society tells them they want, thereby arming them with the skills to define and create their own sexual identity.

What is most satisfying about Jaclyn’s book is that it succeeds in being non-judgemental. The media, schools and even our families often portray sex as a taboo subject that young women must never engage in for fear of becoming infected, tarnished or ousted as a whore. Yet at the same time, young women are told that unless they dress provocatively and are willing to perform virtually any sexual act imaginable, they are frigid prudes. And nobody wants to be seen as a prude. It’s an absolute minefield, and I can’t say I envy today’s teenagers for all the mixed messages and hypocritical views hurled at them by the world.

What You Really Really Want is a welcome text to help young women make informed decisions about what it is they, as individual people, want sexually. Instructive and interactive, the book uses case studies, quizzes, creative exercises and more to help illustrate the points it raises. Jaclyn writes in a friendly, accessible and un-patronising tone, but because the content provides a lot of food for thought, you should set aside a fair whack of time to fully digest the book and work through the exercises she suggests.

Along with MichaelKaufman and Michael Kimmel’s book The Guy’s Guide to Feminism (also published by Seal Press recently, and reviewed by me here), Jaclyn Friedman’s latest book should take pride of place in the library of every school, college and youth club, and ought to be an essential read for all young women as they consider their sexuality. I wish this book had existed when I was in my teens – it would have made those treacherous years just that bit easier to manage. As it is, this book exists now and thank goodness it does!

In my humble view, teachers and parents will be failing in their responsibilities if they don’t give this book to the young women under their care. So, congratulations to Jaclyn for writing this book, and to Seal Press for publishing yet another essential book for women. There is a microsite for What You Really Really Want here.

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