The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality
As a part of my personal/professional reckoning sexuality project, I will be sharing some thoughts on the books I am exploring. While I read this one a while ago, the author will be on our campuses this week, so I thought it was about time to share this blog!
The title of this book does not really represent what this book is about. The use of “the” to describe “sex myth” gives the impression that there is only one myth involved here when there are many myths that contribute to skewed understanding of the myths and realities. Further, the implication that we have multiple, plural fantasies, but only one, singular reality limits the possibilities of closing that gap. And, really, this book is about reality much more than it is about fantasy.
The title should be something more like: "How the Millennial Generation Navigates Hypocrisy and Hypersexualization." The “Our” in the title is most definitely interchangeable for Millennials generally, and Americans, Europeans, Australians, white, middle class, etc. specifically. But the book also provides diverse voices and works to represent sexuality beyond the heterosexual paradigm.
I consider this book a light, introductory read that shines light on a subject that is much deeper, more complicated, and embedded in a number of cultural institutions, ideologies, and practices. The author relates her own experiences and others’ experiences without judgment. She argues for a culture where sexuality “can be just one small part of the puzzle of who each of us is, instead of the load that defines us." She illustrates the ways in which young people define themselves through their sexuality, which is hindered by "the Sex Myth."
It is an interesting read, and the argument is valuable. This cross-cultural exploration of sexual myths, shows how the dominant ideologies of the white/Western world shape cultural norms and acceptable thoughts and behaviors. The anecdotal evidence that crosses several continents can only be so representative of the bigger picture. And yet, the stories are honest and genuine and the message of freedom is clear.
In my personal/professional project, this book gave me space to reflect upon what might have been different for me if I was coming of age today (and it had some interesting connections to my YA dystopia work and to my introduction to women's studies course). It reminded me just how sheltered I grew up and just how fucked up my sense of self and sexuality is. Sometimes I lament the openness and options that youth have today compared to the silence and assumptions of my youth. If I were coming of age today, would I feel more comfortable being open and honest with myself as well as with the world? Maybe. But today’s sexual environment is fraught with just as many roadblocks and potholes, they are just more varied and more menacing… and more potentially liberating.
Hills’ message seems to be more about the right to choose to not live up to the sexual hype and to be ourselves. How we should work collectively to change the limited structures of sexuality is offered a more passive solution. Her final paragraph proclaims: “It is we who are responsible for creating the future. We are creating it already, in the things we say, do, and choose to believe. The Sex Myth may be powerful, but we have the ability to dismantle it. You just need to cast off the stories and the symbolism, and let yourself be” (214). The shift from the collective voice of “we” to the individual voice of “you” might give the impression that making individual lifestyle (or ideological) changes is enough to “dismantle” the Sex Myth.
Choosing and enacting personal freedom is a start. We have to understand sexuality personally, politically, physically, mentally, and we can only begin to understand and rework our old ideas when new paradigms are available and accessible. Rachel Hills’ book helps us take steps in that direction, but we need far more tools in our toolbox.