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Publisher's Summary

The author of the groundbreaking New York Times best sellers Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter now turns her focus to the sexual lives of young men, once again offering "both an examination of sexual culture and a guide on how to improve it" (Washington Post).

Peggy Orenstein’s Girls & Sex broke ground, shattered taboos, and launched conversations about young women’s right to pleasure and agency in sexual encounters. It also had an unexpected effect on its author: Orenstein realized that talking about girls is only half the conversation. Boys are subject to the same cultural forces as girls - steeped in the same distorted media images and binary stereotypes of female sexiness and toxic masculinity - which equally affect how they navigate sexual and emotional relationships. In Boys & Sex, Peggy Orenstein dives back into the lives of young people to once again give voice to the unspoken, revealing how young men understand and negotiate the new rules of physical and emotional intimacy.

Drawing on comprehensive interviews with young men, psychologists, academics, and experts in the field, Boys & Sex dissects so-called locker room talk; how the word "hilarious" robs boys of empathy; pornography as the new sex education; boys’ understanding of hookup culture and consent; and their experience as both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. By surfacing young men’s experience in all its complexity, Orenstein is able to unravel the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important realities of young male sexuality in today’s world. The result is a provocative and paradigm-shifting work that offers a much-needed vision of how boys can truly move forward as better men.

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Peggy Orenstein (P)2020 HarperAudio

What listeners say about Boys & Sex

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A must-read for anyone who knows young men

In Boys & Sex, researcher Peggy Orenstein explores how toxic masculinity affects the sexual behavior of American Millenial and Gen Z boys. Her basic premise is that from an early age, male children in this demographic are taught to limit their emotional vocabulary, which only gets worse as they are exposed to media stereotypes, free internet porn, lack of sexual education at home and at school, and the unfulfilling expectation or reality of hookup culture, all of which combine to negatively impact their emotional and sexual literacy.

I identified with a lot of the anecdotal research in Boys & Sex. In particular, I like how the author explains that while the definition of womanhood has expanded to include many different types of women, men are still stuck with a 1950s ideal of male empowerment which basically consists of being stoic, dominant and emotionally inaccessible at all times (think Don Draper).

While I felt at times that Peggy Orenstein relied too much on her own assumptions and inherent biases when drawing conclusions about American boys, I would recommend this book, or at least the resources inside it, to everyone. It’s clearly targeted at parents with sons in high school and college but if you know any boys or young men, you will gain valuable insight into their lives and psyches from Boys & Sex. And no matter who you are, you will likely learn something about yourself too.

I really appreciate that rather than simply leaving the reader helpless to address the many factors influencing teen boys today - for example, the paywall hindering access to ethical, feminist porn and more broadly, ethical, feminist media in general - the author provides resources and tips for preventative and reformative measures. As a woman, I’m aware that I am disproportionally expected to provide emotional labor to men, but I was not familiar with research showing that young boys flat out do not express their feelings to other boys or men, meaning that women such as mothers or girlfriends are often their only confidantes. The author recommends that adults, especially father figures, talk to young boys about their feelings just as we would talk to young girls about theirs.

I also really liked the author’s ideas about restorative justice in cases of campus sexual assault (think the Aziz Ansari “Me Too” accusation), and her advice that parents should consistently emphasize the importance of sex as pleasure for everyone involved. As someone whose sexual education in school was only slightly more informative than the classic Mean Girls lines, “Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant and die,” and “If you touch each other, you will get chlamydia and die,” I feel that children and teenagers would benefit immensely from sexual education that touches on emotional as well as physical well-being. It seems incredibly novel that future generations of children and teens might be taught to touch themselves and others consensually for the purpose of pleasure, without the pressure and miscommunication that hinders my generation’s sexuality.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone. I would have appreciated more research regarding different demographics of boys and men but I learned a lot from this book and I’m sure I will consult it regularly.

The author did a good job narrating.

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Without Exception, Politically Correct

There is nothing here to glean from the author's studies of this powerful and sometimes overwhelming time in a boy's life, and how we might better understand and support them. This is not a study from their perspective, but from hers.

She makes a point to include the names of every male recently accused, rightly or wrongly, of sexual misdeeds on what seems to be her mission to support the premises of the #metoo movement. What a shame that this interesting and important subject couldn't be studied and reported by someone without their own glaring and tiring agenda.

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Misleading

I found the complete lack of diversity in the different types of masculinity to be an incredibly low blow to men/boys everywhere.
She seems to interview only jocks/athletic types and members of fraternities and then uses their stories to paint a picture about ALL boys and men. I found this to be incredibly misleading or rather she is talking about maybe 25% of people who identify as "masculine men" and not at all representative of us as a complete group.

Her narration is good, the book is easy to follow along, and I think she answers her own objective that she set out to do.

I also think her suggestions on how to help boys/men and to help reduce rape are right on par.

I just was really upset that none of the guys she interviews are relatable to how I grew up or my idea of masculinity at all - nor my perceptions of male sexuality.

I came to this book looking for introspection and found it completely not relatable.

4 people found this helpful

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Biased and poorly done

after reading her girls and sex ( which I loved) I was so excited for this book I preordered it. she still made it all about how boys treat girls. first book that I'm getting a refund on

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excellent Read missing end of Chapter 4

it's a fantastic read. very thought provoking. however chapter four is cut short. I may have to purchase paper back to read end of the chapter.

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incredible!

Every parent and teen should read this. it really should be a mandatory read for Sex Ed.

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A necessary read

This text should be mandatory reading for parents, teachers, school administrators, legislators, and anyone else who deals with young people or makes rules governing them.

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Fantastic

I'm a sociologist with a specialty in sex and gender, and I can't recommend this book highly enough. For anyone who is a parent of a teen boy, or anyone who works with males who are teens or young adults, this provides such a wonderful insight into their struggles, sexual encounters, fears, motivations, and goals. Orenstein writes with passion, clarity, and compassion.

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At least she asked men, but this is about women

You should read Warren Farrel instead if you want to learn about boys and men. This is a book about what effect boys and men have on women.

Pressures to not show emotional vulnerability are real. Same way some women say they are punished for not being classically femme, men and idealized male are the same. My story with Bethanie, opening up the very rough year I had, mysteriously she started to drift away.

Gender roles are what we should expect will emerge. gametes and strategy.

(Caveat around population level metrics)


So far: this is in the category of “masculinity isn’t working for men. Let’s tell men to be more like women. Shocked that both men and women don’t like it.” Instead we need to figure out what “better men” means rn and tell men to be that.

Clues that she isn’t asking the right questions. *why* might a culture speak emotionally to their daughters more than their sons, or to have daughters express emotions more by 3-4? the sons want to connect. But if your theory of this behavior is “it’s bad”, your understanding of where gender roles came from is incredibly basic. See: men have to be more disposable. Coal mines. Wars. Hunts. Still true today. Females society uses differently.

“A better man” chapter 8 defines a better man *only* in terms of how they treat women. men are committing suicide at 3-5x the rate of women. Maybe we should consider what men might get for being better men (but see above: not becoming women)


This book is actually “girls and (boys and sex)”. a further look into girls’ experience of sex because of how men behave. This is not a book about boys and sex.

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Every parent needs to read this.

I am a mom of 5 boys. This was exactly what I need to learn about so I can raise and guide my boys into adulthood .