Moral panic visualized

In a talk I gave a couple of weeks ago in Virginia, I mentioned how the covers of anti-“hook up culture” publications often depict women as disheveled and distraught. Since I didn’t get to show folks what I meant then, I thought I could post a couple now for your viewing pleasure (or perhaps more accurately, viewing horror).
Here’s a study funded by the Independent Women’s Forum, Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping for Mr. Right.

The cover of Laura Sessions Stepp’s Unhooked is a bit more subtle, simply showing a faceless woman taking her shirt off.

But it’s Miriam Grossman‘s Unprotected that really takes the shaming cake, with two different covers relaying the same sad message.

I wonder why Grossman decided to go with such a decidedly upbeat cover for her publication with the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute – Sense & Sexuality. (Since she’s pretty grim in the book – telling readers that young women who have pre-marital sex are likely to end up depressed, diseased drop outs.) I’d like to think it’s because the word ‘rectum’ looks so pretty in cursive.
If anyone has any more anti-hook up covers, link them in comments!

Join the Conversation

  • nightingale

    Is anybody else feeling like those are images more associated with rape victims than with being hurt by loose morals?

  • Jessica

    Absolutely! But I think that’s the point – these authors think that any kind of pre-marital sex somehow victimizes women.

  • Jadelyn

    But didn’t you know, Nightingale? Women who have sex are damaged goods and thus asking to be raped. So yeah, these look like images of rape victims, but that’s because that’s what those loose women will soon be, according to these authors anyway.

  • Crashhooligan

    I want to read all these books just so I can criticize them and get angry, but I don’t want to give these authors money.
    What a dilemma. Maybe I can download them somewhere.

  • Geneva

    I love that all of them seem to be saying “Oh no. Teh boys, they don’t like me anymore. Therefor, I am now worthless.”

  • radishette

    I’m getting a very “girls who hook up are sluts and should feel empty inside” vibe. Do these books come right out and say “but boys will be boys”?

  • gordon.gecko

    Or you could try your local library.

  • Jadelyn

    Haven’t read them, but my impression is more that the boys are entirely invisible. After all, we know that women are the gatekeepers and men are lustful beasts, so why should we even bother talking about boys and what they should or shouldn’t do when it’s already a foregone conclusion?

  • vtfem

    That drives me crazy. Where are the pictures of the depressed diseased men?
    This abstinence only message has got to go.

  • feministabroad

    I hope that woman that have had bad experiences don’t flock to these books inevitably feel bad, blame themselves and swear to change their ways. So many woman get duped by these damn books! Let’s hold people accountable. Why is it that everytime a woman has a sex life and something goes wrong…its because she has a sex life! And the subtitle or whatever of the one…”How Young Woman Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Miss out on Both.” What in the hell is that supposed to mean? If I pursue sex, I am missing out on it… I get the delay love part but I dont get the other one. Oh wait, because love without sex is meaningless? Or maybe woman aren’t supposed to pursue sex…maybe only men are. And are these books going to talk about homosexual/bisexual/gueer relationships? Noo. Okay.
    I want to see some books with heavily distraught men on them ripping their teashirts apart in grief. Or rolling around on the sidewalk. Something.

  • cand86

    Wait . . . does Grossman’s book really say that the rectum is an exit only? How can I take anything seriously in a book that doesn’t believe I can enjoy anal stimulation?
    I just picked up “Hooked: New Science On How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children” by Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr. and Freda McKissic Bush at the library. Haven’t read it yet, but the cover is at least refreshingly free from distraught men and women, although I really don’t like the whole gendered coloring of the brains- seems like they’re pitting boys against girls in terms of who can handle hooking, and don’t we just know who’s probably going to lose out . . . couldn’t a single brain simply have sufficed?

  • Kathe

    These covers (at least the last one) would be better for a book on date rape. As a young adult, I’ve been a part of this hooking up culture (friends with benefits, etc.). I’ve certainly never felt exploited. I’m in control of my sexuality, and if I express that in a way that is different from the norms of our culture, it doesn’t mean I’m being taken advantage of.

  • Robert Johnston

    There’s an easy way for a woman to avoid being victimized by hook-up culture: she should insist on having at least one orgasm first and generally be sexually assertive and in control. Surely the notion that hooking up victimizes women is rooted in the fact that men engaging in casual sex have a strong tendency to ignore their partners’ sexual desires. You don’t avoid sexual victimization by becoming even more meek and in denial about your desire for sex. There’s nothing wrong or right about casual sex, but there’s a lot wrong about submissively failing to do your best to make sure to enjoy it if you’re going to engage in it.
    I haven’t read these books, but that’s gotta be more-or-less what authors writing about how hooking up victimizes women have to say, right? Nothing else would make much sense.

  • Okra

    Ah, but their response to you would be/is:
    “The liberal myth that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle is just that–a myth. The Feminist Lie (TM) has tried to pretend that women are like men in being able to divorce sex from love, but we know that’s not the case. Studies routinely show that women in their late thirties who played the field for the past fifteen years are hungering for marriage, babies, and the love of a good man. Women DO care that their lovers won’t commit and any woman who says otherwise is lying to herself.”

  • AlmostAmanda

    Maybe you can find them in a local library. Of course, considering the limited resources our libraries have now, I would be heartbroken to think they would spend money on this crap.

  • norbizness

    A discussion of book covers on Feministing? Will wonders never cease?

  • Okra

    While I agree with the idea that “hook ups” are detrimental to women only insofar as they are male-centric and unconcerned with female sexuality or women’s pleasure, you are sadly wrong that this is the concern of the abstinence-only forces behind the books Jessica posted about.
    Their concern is simply that the sex has not been sanctioned by clergy. If a woman’s hook-ups are sexually fulfilling and provide her a safe space to express her own, non-phallo-centric sexuality, this is *not* good news to the people who endorse Grossman’s book. Thus, even pro-woman hookups must be avoided like the plague.
    The argument they use to bolster their one-track abstince-only stance has precious little to do with women’s sexual pleasure. It is, rather, some variation of, “Deep down, women as a category want to be pair-bonded with a male partner. Women may deny this, but they ultimately just want to be married, and they ultimately cannot divorce sex from love/emotion/commitment. When they ‘give away’ their unmarried sexual favors, they are devaluing the sex act they naturally want to link to love, and they are buying into a lifestyle they will one day realize is emotionally bankrupt, when they wake up at age 40 without a husband. Women, you are only hurting yourselves by hooking up.”
    (I haven’t read the book so do not know Grossman’s own views, but the book is frequently cited and discussed by those in politically far-right American Christian circles. My analysis stems thus focuses on these ideologues’ use of the book and other similar ones.).

  • evann

    I love the first picture of the naked girl. The cross of her legs makes a deep dark hole right where her heart is! IT’S SO POETIC.

  • maja_dren

    And here I thought Unprotected was about young women with disabling mental disorders!
    Though, if whatever issue she is talking about endangers every student, why is it just the pretty blonde women that are being shown in states of distress?

  • Rachel_Setzer

    For the last image (rectum! damn near killed-um!), I have but this to say:
    That is all.

  • Yoshimi

    My mom is a social worker and had to read the Purpose Driven Life because a client was. She didn’t want to give Rick Warren any money but the copies at the library were checked out so she just got a used copy.

  • Crashhooligan

    Yeah, it’s probably the best option. Though libraries keep usage statistics–I’d hate to make the library purchase MORE books of this type.
    But mostly I hate that people write them..

  • baddesignhurts

    only one orgasm?
    geez. guess i’m demanding.

  • Kathleen6674

    That’s what I hate about these books – if a woman has a rocky relationship, bad breakup, feels depressed, etc., the blame is always placed on her for being sexually active.
    Of course, women who aren’t sexually active have rocky relationships, bad breakups, and feel depressed, too. But these books would have you believe that sex is a magical fuck-up potion and abstinence is a magic buzz-through-life-with-no-problems trophy.
    All that and the ‘girls aren’t horny, they just want wedding rings’ bullshit heaped on top.

  • vegkitty

    Kind of ironic, since the view was switched about 200 years ago.

  • gemma

    The image on Unprotected is a stock image which is often used on the BBC News website. In the light-hearted Magazine Monitor section of the site there’s some fun banter about the over-use of this photo which they have dubbed Drunk Girl.
    I will have to point this book cover out to Magazine Monitor. :)

  • Ariane

    In all fairness, he did say “at least one first” ;)
    I detest books like these. Women are not automatically scarred for life if they have unmarried, consensual sex and the relationship doesn’t last! We aren’t automatically traumatized by casual sex or “hooking up” (which can mean anything on the sexual continuum from kissing to, yes, intercourse)!
    And as for Dr. Grossman’s “The rectum is an exit” comment, yeah…that’s why there are hundreds, if not thousands, of sex toys designed for anal use, and quite a few books and instructional videos on having good (read: pleasurable for all involved) anal sex. And yeah, if I could post images here I would totally post one of the “BUTTSEX!” lolcats.

  • baddesignhurts

    because blonde = stupid, and brunette = WHORE! dontcha know.
    (i was being sarcastic. plz don’t get all up in my grill.)

  • baddesignhurts

    i, however, would like to add that i am scarred for life by censoring republican assholes spewing the party line from the “christian” wrong and behaving as if what happens in my cootch is the primary indicator of my moral worthiness.
    (crap. i gave up swearing for Lent. and i screwed up….i said “republican”. i’m sorry.)

  • leshachikha

    While I agree with the spirit of your post, I tire of the notion that orgasms are the signpost, as it were, of sexual pleasure.
    I rarely orgasm, whether by myself or with a partner. This is not the consequence of a lack of exploration. I don’t have any particular hang-ups about sex. And I am vocal with my partners about my likes and dislikes.
    In fact, I detest it when well-meaning partners try and insist on “giving me an orgasm” before we have sex or before I concentrate on pleasuring them. It makes me feel pressured. I like foreplay and oral sex for their own sake. An orgasm is a pleasant bonus, but the joy I get from a hook-up can’t just be reduced to whether I have one or not.

  • Smartpatrol

    Now I don’t have to read any of these stupid books.

  • SarahS

    So, here I am at work tonight as a librarian in a library. While we do keep usage stats, we DON’T keep clear stats on the magical thing called the “OCLC World Cat Interlibrary Loan”.
    OCLC World Cat is a database of EVERY book in the world (just think about that for a second) and most libraries – even if you live in a tiny podunk town – can get you any book available in the continental US.
    Just for kicks, I looked up these three books.
    Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping for Mr. Right is found in 25 libraries in the US. Rare-ish. but depending on your region, not impossible to get. Mostly in academic collections.
    Unhooked is found in over 800 libraries in the US plus Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Taiwan. This one will be very easy to get.
    Unprotected is found in 70 US libraries and 1 in Canada. Still, very easy to get.
    Then your home library doesn’t record a circ for that book and most libraries sending materials don’t buy more if it is for users outside their tax base. Easy peasy. You are supporting your local library and reading the materials you are interested in without encouraging your library to buy this crap :-)

  • SarahS

    Forgot to add this part, just call or go to your local library reference desk and tell them you want to get something on Interlibrary loan and a competent librarian should take it from there.

  • YoungFeminist

    These books are ridiculous and it’s sad that women are writing these. I for one really hate the whole pursue sex, delay love and lose at both comment.
    I for one have never pursued love only because I just believe it’s one of those things you shouldn’t go out looking for, you should just wait for it. It’s much better when it hits you in the face.
    But honestly, as a teenage girl, I have pursued sex because I’m just finding my sexuality and I do love sex. Have I ever felt used or depressed after sex, no. Well I have felt depressed if it was bad sex but that’s aside the point. And I definitely felt I didn’t lose at anything. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for a year now and I can honestly say I do love him. And as you can see my whole sexual past (that he knows everything about) didn’t make me lose at love.
    These books do nothing but spit a whole bunch of crap and I would really hope that a girl who reads this doesn’t think of herself as used. I also love the whole thing that women who have sex become diseased drop outs along with being depressed.
    She can tell that to the girl here who has friends, a boyfriend, a great school life, clean from STD’s, never been pregnant, and is using her senior year to go to cosmotology school and getting a job out of high school.

  • allegra

    Yeah, seriously. It’s like we’re supposed to assume all men are total douchebags to begin with and so we SHOULD HAVE KNOWN we’d get hurt by sleeping with one of them. (Oh, but marriage makes them totally different and monogamous.) So, like usual, it’s our fault. How the f*ck does that work.

  • allegra

    Yeah, that’s a really interesting observation.

  • samanthab

    Just last night, as my boyfriend and I were chatting in bed after amazing sex he asked me, “Can you believe we’ve been together for over a year, and even into the second month of seeing each other we’ve acted like a couple who’s been together forever? Why do you think that is?” My response was, “I think it’s because of our sex early in the relationship. Sex and the time spent immediately afterwards creates an quick, intense bond between people.”
    I, for one, am thankful for my self-initiated pre-maritial “hooking up” choices everyday.

  • dormouse

    Not only do these images only deal with women’s sexuality, but they also deny women sexual agency. Getting drunk (on purpose) in order to go out and meet boys is not the same as rape, and even though women and men might regret their later choices, they bear the responsibility for what happened. Women who hook up in college (on purpose) are not victims.
    I am a college student, and I only had to hook up with a guy once to know that it wasn’t the way I wanted to conduct my sex life. I don’t think I ever curled up on the floor and cried about it though. I learned from my mistake and moved on to a monogamous relationship. That was my choice, and I still have lots of sex. Hooking up does not equal rape. Sexually active girls do not equal victims. Period.

  • Amber Dawn

    Youngfeminist, I don’t want to be a nag but… you plan on going to college as well right?? I’m in my junior year of college and have learned 1000 times more then I ever learned in high school. They censor a lot of important information. Still cosmetology sounds like a fun job to have through out your college years.
    Also, if Jessica Valenti reads this comment, (crosses fingers) I have an “academic crush” on you Jessica :D