In a world that has been revolutionized by the #MeToo movement, Peggy Orenstein (Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter) uses her latest book, Boys & Sex, published in January of 2020, to expound the argument that understanding the male side of the equation is as vital as understanding the female side. Through her interviews with numerous boys—aged between 16 and 22, white, people of color, gay, bisexual, transgender, all of them feeling like the kind of guys you might meet anywhere—she garners stories that dig into the many layers of the sexual culture of male youth. Whether they’re about boys struggling to reconcile themselves with the sexual abuse they’ve perpetrated towards girls (and the boys who have been victims of that abuse themselves); boys utilizing porn as their primary, if not sole, guide on pursuing sexual relationships; the lewd and sexist “locker-room talk” often thrown around among athletes, and popularized by the 2005 Access Hollywood tape recording between TV host Billy Bush and president Donald Trump; or the nuances of consent and the sexually-driven filter that men often look through when interacting with women (actor and stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari being one example), they’re always enlightening, usually disturbing, and undoubtedly essential for abolishing stigmas and establishing frank communication on subjects including sexual violence, hookup culture, and toxic masculinity. Being a 21-year-old male myself, Orenstein’s book opens a discussion that’s close to my heart and is just what I need for this phase of my life. I highly recommend it for all other growing boys and their parents and other adults in their lives.
Windup score: 93/100