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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America's Sexual Culture Does to Young Women

Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America's Sexual Culture Does to Young Women is a book that will infuriate you and inspire you at the same time. I find myself angry towards the present day culture and absolutely passionate about promoting purity for young women (and older women!) everywhere. It is, quite simply, a Must Read in a world gone sexually mad.

Girls Uncovered was written by Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD and Freda McKissic Bush, MD, two obstetricians as well as parents to daughters. They wrote this book to offer guidance to parents in the form of research and scientific fact so that parents will better be able to "help [their] daughter[s] safely navigate today's sexual culture." They approach the topic of sex in a matter of fact way which is also "hard hitting" and straight forward. I can't think it would be very easy to argue with the information that they provide within the covers of this book. Their supreme motivation is to assure parents and daughters alike that abstinence is not only something that can be achieved prior to marriage, but that is must be achieved for optimal sexual, mental and physical health of the woman.

"As doctors and parents with years of experience and research, we've concluded that the standards of today's sexual culture - namely, that young women engage in sex with many partners, starting at a relatively young age - simply aren't in young women's best interests. The new sexual norm for young people don't lead to the outcomes that young women consistently say they want as measured by virtually any indicator of health and well-being. We want to sound the alarm, not in order to limit young women's sexual lives and futures, but in order to enhance them - indeed, to rescue them. (Chapter 1, Hopes, Dreams, and Fears, page 9-10)


The authors go on to explain in their opening chapters what statistics show that young women hope to achieve in life. (The majority of them stating that they want a successful career as well as a stable, lifelong marriage and healthy family.) These authors and doctors lay out evidence that a young woman who engages in early and frequent sexual experiences is actually hurting their chances of being able to achieve their stated goals by introducing real-life threats of sexual transmitted infections. (They prefer to call it an infection rather than a disease due to the fact that many women do not realize that they have been infected by a sexual encounter until years down the road, these infections then causing diseases.) They also mention emotional and physical scars, possible pregnancies and the effects of having an abortion. (The authors do not focus on abortion in great detail. They simply mention it as a possible effect of a sexual encounter and indicate to the reader that there are more dangers involved in having an abortion than some would lead you to believe. They introduce questions about abortions but they do not purpose to provide answers within these pages.)

One thing I particularly appreciated about Girls Uncovered is that the authors are very strong advocates for parents and parental responsibilities. They communicate over and over again how vital and important the role of parents are - both moms and dads - in their daughter's lives. (It rather goes without saying that a set of parents are important in the lives of a son as well. Given the fact that this book deals specifically with the subject of daughters, their argument is for the fairer sex throughout the book.) The authors strongly believe that it is the responsibility of the parents to guide their daughter through life, offering her wisdom, advice and information as well as to offer a covering of protection for her to keep her safe from the modern sexual culture.

"Despite the native intelligence and all the advantages we can give them, all babies, young children, and adolescents are vulnerable. They are vulnerable to being hurt. They are vulnerable to being influenced for good, and they are vulnerable to being influenced for bad. There is a reason they have been given parents." (Chapter Two, Girls: Covered or Uncovered?, page 19)


I want to point out the fact that McIlhaney and McKissic Bush do not push a parenting style that is heavy handed or legalistic. Rather, they emphasize the special role that parents have been given, demonstrating with facts and figures that parents are the most influential people in a young woman's life, all while cautioning the use of honest and open communication and operating out of a spirit of gentleness and respect towards one's female offspring. I was very impressed with the tone that they maintained throughout the book.

"There are many reasons that today's girls and young women engage in acts their mothers and grandmothers would have found unthinkable at the same age. We cannot simply tell them these choices are wrong or unhealthy and they should "just say no" (though the choices are often not healthy). We need to understand and respond to the societal norms and expectations that influence young women's thinking and behavior." (Chapter Three, The Sexual Lives of Teens and Young Adults, page 29)


This book is quite literally filled with statistics and a summary of various reports. It is designed to help/cause a parents to feel the need to protect their young daughters. I'm not going to take the time to quote their sources to you in this review. If you want to know the specifics of what they shared and where they got their information, you'll have to grab a copy of this book. I'm far more interested in making note of the fact that this is a most excellent resource for parents. That said, they do address various lies which they believe society has fed to our girls, including the following:

1. The lie that boys and girls are the same. The authors explain in logical terms why this cannot be true.

2. A lie they call the "Supergirl Phenomenon" that says that girls can "have it all." By this they mean the casual sexual "hookups" so prevalent today, to "tide girls over" until their careers are established. The general idea is that girls can engage in casual sex while pursuing a career and then have the committed relationship and family afterwards. They explain why they believe this is a lie.

3. The lie that cohabitation is smart.

McIlhaney and McKissic Bush finish up their book with suggestions for society and warnings of what will happen if we do not, in fact, chose to start re-providing a covering for our girls. I'll end with this note which is specifically addressed to parents:

"Parenting is not for the faint of heart or the uninvolved. If you want to protect and support your daughter, it will cost you - in terms of time, money, effort, even relational pain. But think of this as a calling, and the costs as investments - because the payoff in the life of your daughter has a much better likelihood of surviving and thriving during these difficult years if you stay engaged and provide the "cover" she so desperately needs. For a girl uncovered is a girl at risk." (Chapter Three, The Sexual Lives of Teens and Adults, page 34)


Quite simply, I think that everyone ought to read this book. The culture as we know it needs a good shake-up. Some of us have dared to be different for awhile now and we must press on. I'm grateful for this book that dares to challenge the lies which our modern culture is feeding to our young women. I do hope you will read and consider it.

Many, many thanks to Moody Publishers for shooting a copy of this book my way in exchange for sharing my opinions on it.

21 comments:

BerlinerinPoet said...

Wow. I think I will.

Stephanie said...

Sounds fascinating! As the mom of one daughter (and 3 sons)I would say practically speaking the covering begins early. Like when they are preschoolers and elementary students and you dress them in appropriate clothing. A bikini on a 6 yr old? Not appropriate. {stepping off soapbox now}

Taia said...

I saw this reviewed elsewhere and it's a topic that interests me, since I went to a school with a high pregnancy rate (72 births to ~700 high school girls my freshman year) and STD rate.

One of the conclusions I drew that the Christian community doesn't usually admit/write about is that women committed to abstinence until marriage are much less likely to marry at all. In my mind, this means they ought to prepare to be single, career-wise. The reason for this is that many (most?) men aren't willing to marry someone without having had sex, given the tremendous number of choices of women who will have sex. The girls that I thought "had it together" in high school and were not sexually active are overwhelming single in their late 30's. In reality, it's hard to do research on women who abstain from sex until marriage (vs until age 25, when this book focuses), because there are so few and they have other characteristics (extremely low or high IQ, for example) that are confounding variables.

The best sociological research I've seen recently notes that class markers (income, educational level) are the best predictors of whether a cohabiting relationship will result in a marriage, especially a lasting one. According to fairly recent Barna research, Christians have higher divorce rates than atheists.

Sky said...

I saw this title awhile back and I was intrigued. I should have known you would beat me to reading it and then offer an awesome review!
This sounds like a good book, especially for girls who are feeling the pressures of their peers to "be cool" and "feminine". Our culture has now confused the term feminism with the term feminine. Taia; (joining you on your soapbox...) AMEN! And I will add, playboy bunny shirts on anyone is disgusting but the fact that they come in CHILD's sizes is disturbing on many levels!

Taia said...

Sky, I'm afraid it was Stephanie on the soapbox. I think I wore a bikini around six- it was two pieces and I could get it on myself, which saved my mom work as I already had 3 younger siblings. I think the squirrel and deer in the corn fields around our house were unbothered.

Shonya said...

Sounds like a much-needed book! Thanks for a great review.

Carrie said...

@Taia - And I would say that this is exactly why parents of SONS need to read this book as well. Having two boys and one girl in this household, neither gender is going to escape the arguments as to why they should remain abstinent until marriage.

I'm entirely opposed to the argument that girls should have sex because if they don't, they might not get married. (If that is the way that it truly is, then men need a good talking to and we have a severe problem with the opposite gender - which I think we do.) My daughter is far too valuable to me for me to tell her that she might want to consider having sex to convince/persuade a man to marry her. No test runs required. Rather, I'd have her learn of her worth and value so that she understands that she *does* have value and is *worth* waiting for! And any man who gets close to her better be prepared for a mother and father to be in his face pretty darn quick.

As for my sons - oh ho ho. That's another post all together.

Carrie said...

P.S. to Taia - the comments about the squirrels in the cornfield DID make me burst out laughing!

Krista said...

Yeah, having 2 girls coming I have recently been thinking how slightly scared I am of this whole raising girls process! I think this book will be going on my Amazon list...
And yes, the boys will definitely be getting perhaps the longer end of the stick in this department as well, especially if the husband (who teaches high school) has ANY say in it. He gave some students (male) a royal talking to the other day for their disrespectful talk about girls. :)

Taia said...

My brothers are upstanding young men. My sons will be taught to be similarly upstanding. I don't think, though, that this changes the statistical argument that the number of men willing to wait for marriage before having sex will continue to exceed the number of women who are thus prepared. Thus, the excess celibate single women (like my sister) should be prepared to be principled singles. I've always admired the camaraderie of a well-run convent. My piano teacher was a nun. :)

Taia said...

Whoops- typing error in previous comment.
"The number of women willing to wait for marriage before having sex will continue to exceed the number of men."

Caniad said...

Very apropos.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

This sounds like a book I need to read, though I have to wonder if it's not just more preaching to the choir, maybe?

Oh, and on the clothing thing--I DO NOT like shopping for my girls now that they're no longer in the little girls sizes (well, one is and one isn't, but pretty soon neither will be). I don't care to dress my 7 year old like she's 21. :-)

Carrie said...

@Amy - Dressing BOYS is also interesting. Now that I have one out of the little boy sizes, I'm discovering that practically everything has a skull on it. It is impossible to find many things withOUT it. I really have no interest in dressing my boy like a sloppy gangster.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

I'll chip in my two cents.

1. Carrie, I like that in your review, you brought out that it will need to be more than just a "say no" mandate. The whole conversation is important. Well done.

2. Since I am the first man to comment, let me state unequivocally that one of the greatest fears of a decent young man is that he will marry a woman who hates sex. Particularly if he believes in marriage for life. In our culture, women have been conditioned to think that only their needs and desires are important - and that if they are unhappy, it is perfectly ok to divorce the man, or cut him off sexually.

3. While Christian girls do not *necessarily* absorb this cultural lesson, they often absorb the other harmful lesson that sex is dirty, or at least unspiritual.

4. This combination means that the man takes the real risk in a virgin marriage. For a woman, perhaps entering a marriage where he may or may not ever show signs of love might be the equivalent.

Thus, I think there are two sides to preparing our daughters (I have 3) for the future is to discuss purity, but also discuss the necessity of fun, passionate sex if they wish to have a successful marriage. This should also include enough instruction (to both boys and girls) on how to discuss this issue with a prospective mate in an appropriate manner.

I will state for the record that I married a "good girl", and that talking through sexual issues (including with a counselor) before we married was one of the best things we ever did.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

I'll chip in my two cents.

1. Carrie, I like that in your review, you brought out that it will need to be more than just a "say no" mandate. The whole conversation is important. Well done.

2. Since I am the first man to comment, let me state unequivocally that one of the greatest fears of a decent young man is that he will marry a woman who hates sex. Particularly if he believes in marriage for life. In our culture, women have been conditioned to think that only their needs and desires are important - and that if they are unhappy, it is perfectly ok to divorce the man, or cut him off sexually.

3. While Christian girls do not *necessarily* absorb this cultural lesson, they often absorb the other harmful lesson that sex is dirty, or at least unspiritual.

4. This combination means that the man takes the real risk in a virgin marriage. For a woman, perhaps entering a marriage where he may or may not ever show signs of love might be the equivalent.

Thus, I think there are two sides to preparing our daughters (I have 3) for the future is to discuss purity, but also discuss the necessity of fun, passionate sex if they wish to have a successful marriage. This should also include enough instruction (to both boys and girls) on how to discuss this issue with a prospective mate in an appropriate manner.

I will state for the record that I married a "good girl", and that talking through sexual issues (including with a counselor) before we married was one of the best things we ever did.

Stephanie Shepherd said...

I'm ignoring this book on my kindle, but your review is convincing me it needs to be read ... especially with my 3 girls, although like Amy said, it will most likely be preaching to the choir. Glad to read your review for the head's up before diving in.

Bluerose said...

Well, I'm definitely planning on reading this book now! I'm #2 at Paperbackswap, so it shouldn't be too long. :)

I love when I come to your reviews a day or two later, and get to read all the comments. It's like seeing a book discussion and I find it incredibly interesting to see all the different view points, especially when male thoughts(completely different) are added in!

Barbara H. said...

Interestingly, the True Woman site had a post about girls and sexuality yesterday too:
http://www.truewoman.com/?id=2030

It's hard when the entire culture is against purity -- but not impossible. God's people have stood against national culture before.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I wanted to say thanks for the "token male" adding his thoughts to the conversation. Ooh, whet a task ahead of us in raising our children in righteousness! But thanks be to God, we have a Helper!

Stephanie said...

Carrie, I know exactly what you mean about boy clothes! I have 3 boys (3, 7, 8 yrs) and finding something without a graphic is difficult. That's one of the reasons I LOVE Land's End. You can buy plain shirts - no graphics. Also, their girls clothes are VERY modest and cute. There' girl swimsuits have become less modest over the last couple of years but there are still a few options I like. I always get my daughter (5 yr) a 2 piece swimsuit - some kind of tank top and shorts/skirt. She looks adorable, we have an easy time getting it on and off and her body is modestly covered. If you watch their Overstocks and seasonal clearance (about Nov. and Feb.) then you can really save a bundle. I bought Ellie's swimsuit last fall for less than $10. Wish I could do that for me!

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