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It’s almost Valentine’s Day and there’s no doubt you’re being bombarded with relationship-esque content all over your Instagram feed. And while I love obsessing over couple photos as much as the next person, my feminist conscience simultaneously sends off warning signals during this love-is-the-answer time period.
In a culture that constantly tells women they need a man in order to be complete, Valentine’s Day often feels like yet another opportunity for society to push this redundant, problematic message further. For all of my fellow skeptics, here are some feminist reads that will challenge everything you’ve thought about sex and love. They’ll also help you improve arguably the most important relationship in your life: the one you have with yourself.
Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein — Peggy Orenstein has a knack for encompassing what it means to be a young woman exploring the depths of her sexuality while existing in a world that seeks to demonize female pleasure. This book is the sex-ed you wish you got in high school and more.
New Erotica for Feminists: Satirical Fantasies of Love, Lust, and Equal Pay by Caitlin Kunkel, Fiona Taylor, Brooke Preston and Carrie Wittmer —The comedy writers behind this breezy, hilarious read about the frustrations of everyday sexism are truly exceptional. Read this if you’re feeling crushed by the weight of your patriarchal day-to-day interactions and need a good laugh.
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks — If you’ve never dabbled in bell hooks’ work, now is the time. All About Love examines the nature of relationships with partners, with the self, with your family and how our white, male-dominated society complicates these experiences.
The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti — In short, Jessica Valenti is an icon. Through this book she poignantly demonstrates how the concept of “virginity” that is ingrained in our educational and religious systems inevitably damages the country’s youth.
Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes by Helen Benedict The American media has a long history of covering rape and abuse in a way that negatively impacts women. Through this book Helen Benedict analyzes specific cases of sex crimes and demonstrates how the press contributes to the concept of “rape myths” in our culture.
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