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Fall Editors' Picks, 2005
"Sex is one of the most interesting things we as human beings have to play with, and we've reduced it to polyester underpants and implants," Ariel Levy writes in her fascinating and furious critique of "raunch culture," Female Chauvinist Pigs . She describes a world where the concept of a sexually liberated woman is corseted into the very narrow clichés of what's hot—Playboy bunnies, strippers, and porn stars—and promoted (and bought and sold) by the very people it suffocates. With a magazine writer's energy and accessibility, Levy, who first wrote on the subject for New York magazine, considers the roots of the problem—which she sees in an incomplete Women's Movement—and talks to a wide variety of women about sex, finding a pervasive chauvinism at work in what they say and do. For the teenagers, lesbian bois, and other partygoers she interviews, sex is about scoring, social status, and getting attention—not desire, pleasure, companionship, or the myriad benefits of full, and diverse, sexual expression. "We have a very sexualized culture that is actually very narrow-minded about sexuality," Levy tells LJ , and confusion, especially for teens, follows when the political message is all abstinence. What can we do about it? "Talk about what desire is, what sex is," recommends Levy, "there is more to it than just saying no."—Rebecca Miller