Synopses & Reviews
and#147;In this moving book, Leslie Bell gives us insight into the hearts and minds of 20-something women confronted with the emotional challenges of a culture that says they can have it all. Through poignant, rich individual narratives, Bell shows how professionally successful and sexually experienced young women wrestle with feelings of vulnerability and confusion about relationships and desire. 20-somethings will find relief and self-understanding through reading this book, and it will be of great help to those who treat and those who wish to understand them.and#8221;and#151;Nancy J. Chodorow, author of Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice
"Women should be assertive but not aggressive, feminine but not passive, honest but not overwhelming. But how? Especially for women between ages 17 (the average age for first sex) and 27 (the average age of marriage) the rules for how to be a woman are highly unclear. In this deeply wise, very lucid, and highly illuminating book Bell, a sociologist and psychotherapist, describes how women sometimes and#147;splitand#8221; their desires for connection, sex and professional success. And she points to ways of moving beyond the split. An important book for women and#150; and men."and#151;Arlie Hochschild, Author of The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times
and#147;Leslie Bell introduces us to a new developmental period for 20 something women in which they are focused on sexual and relationship satisfaction. By sharing these women's stories Bell helps us to explore complex issues of ambivalence, subjectivity, and identity that are at the core of personal, relational and sexual fulfillment.and#8221;and#151;C.J. Pascoe, author of Dude, Youand#8217;re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School
and#147;While popular portrayals of women and sex are glossy, voyeuristic, simplified, unemotional, or trite, Hard to Get offers rarely heard detailed stories that are told with emotional resonance and connection to womenand#8217;s full lives and selves. Bell has made a superb contribution to our understanding about how women navigate sexuality in young adulthood in an era when they no longer must be married, and thus she has enlightened our understanding of womenand#8217;s social, sexual, and psychological lives.and#8221;and#151;Karin A. Martin, author of Puberty, Sexuality, and the Self: Boys and Girls at Adolescence
"Hard to Get shows us why, in the 21st Century, sex is easy but relationships are not. Every 20something woman who is having sex, but feels that something is amiss, should read this book."and#151;Meg Jay, Ph.D., author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now
"Can todayand#8217;s young women be independent and sexually agentic while also satisfying their relational needs for intimacy? Bell believes that they can, and insightfully uses womenand#8217;s stories to reveal the inner and outer barriers to having it all."and#151;Paula England, New York University
and#147;Bell offers a profoundly original and important argument about why and#150; despite gains in education and employment -- young women in America continue to be short-changed in sex and intimacy. And she gives us a new, compelling vision of what it would mean for them to attain true sexual liberation.and#8221;and#151;Amy Schalet, author of Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex
and#147;Female sexuality provides endless fascination; but how do actual young women find happiness in sex and love? Leslie Bell gives us an up-close look at twenty-something women at a cultural moment when they have more freedom than ever before, but their desires and#150; sexual and relational and#150; continue to confound. Bell navigates this complex terrain with compassion, keen insight, and an eye to social change.and#8221;and#151;Daphne de Marneffe, PhD, author of Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life
"In this academic study straining for a popular audience, sociologist and psychotherapist Bell explores the conundrum of 20-something women burdened by the mixed blessing of sexual freedom. She proceeds from the flawed historical assumption 'that in recent years... it has become unclear what it means to be a woman, especially a liberated woman,' when 20th-century American women's history is rife with periods in which this has been muddled and/or contentious. Bell's narrow pool of 20 highly educated Northern Californian subjects (she admits they're a socioeconomically unordinary bunch), today well out of their 20s, functioned well in the public aspects of their lives but felt continuing doubts and anxieties about sex and love. Bell relies on the psychoanalytic theory of splitting to explore how the women compartmentalized options in their lives and to illustrate her argument that they formulated 'strategies of desire' as coping mechanisms. These she divides into archetypes, with the 'Sexual Woman' and the 'Relational Woman' representing defensive strategies, and the 'Desiring Woman' finding an acceptable balance of sexual feelings with other relationship intimacies. Bell's conclusion, that both people and the culture at large need to change so women no longer feel compelled to split, is a rehash of feminist territory mapped out decades ago. 1 table." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
and#8220;Belland#8217;s clear prose and accessible subject matter will appeal to both scholars of womenand#8217;s studies and young women looking for an explanation of some of the predicaments their generation faces.and#8221;
and#8220;Emphasises that the problem is not conflict and hurt, which are inevitable parts of living, but rather that the way these young women interpret and learn from their experiences is crucial.and#8221;
and#8220;Finally! A nuanced look at hookup culture. This hookup book is not like the others.and#8221;
and#8220;[Bell] hoped to find that young women would have dynamic, confident sex lives . . . but found a much more complex, difficult, dare we say Lena Dunham-esque situation instead.and#8221;
and#8220;Bell hopes to dislodge embedded stereotypes of men as subject and women as object and defuse the fear that our sexuality is dangerous. Her book just might help that happen.and#8221;
“Makes a compelling case that young women are both more ambitious—and also more conflicted about relationships—than ever before.” Bust
"Eerily close to the contradictory feelings you've personally had on the subject, but haven't been able to express."
"[Hard to Get] will resonate with many, and . . . will intrigue sociologists in this field."
"Timely. . . . Bell provides a nuanced examination of the conflicts 20-something women have in navigating the issues of their professional life versus their personal life."
and#8220;Makes a compelling case that young women are both more ambitiousand#8212;and also more conflicted about relationshipsand#8212;than ever before.and#8221;
Hard to Get is a powerful and intimate examination of the sex and love lives of the most liberated women in historyand#151;twenty-something American women who have had more opportunities, more positive role models, and more information than any previous generation. Drawing from her years of experience as a researcher and a psychotherapist, Leslie C. Bell takes us directly into the lives of young women who struggle to negotiate the complexities of sexual desire and pleasure, and to make sense of their historically unique but contradictory constellation of opportunities and challenges. In candid interviews, Belland#8217;s subjects reveal that, despite having more choices than ever, they face great uncertainty about desire, sexuality, and relationships. Ground-breaking and highly readable, Hard to Get offers fascinating insights into the many ways that sex, love, and satisfying relationships prove surprisingly elusive to these young women as they navigate the new emotional landscape of the 21st century.
About the Author
Leslie C. Bell is a sociologist and psychotherapist who specializes in women's development and sexuality. She maintains a private practice in Berkeley, California.
Table of Contents
1. The Paradox of Sexual Freedom
Part I. The Sexual Woman
2. The New Taboo: Katie
3. The Bad Girl: Jayanthi
4. A Pill to Kill Desire: Claudia
Part II. The Relational Woman
5. The Good Girl: Alicia
6. On Not Having It All: Phoebe
Part III. The Desiring Woman
7. How Does She Do It? Maria and Susan
8. Maybe Sheand#8217;s Born with It: Sophia and Jeanette
9. Conclusion: Whatand#8217;s a Modern Woman to Do?
Appendix I. Splitting
Appendix II. Clinical Interviewing
Appendix III. Demographic Information about Respondents