Book Review: The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality by Rachel Hills

23492818Fifty years after the sexual revolution, we are told that we live in a time of unprecedented sexual freedom. But beneath the veneer of glossy hedonism, millennial journalist Rachel Hills argues that we are in the grip of a new brand of sexual control. Cosmopolitan meets Foucault in this full-scale investigation of the role that sex plays in today’s culture.

Coming of age in the early 2000s, Rachel Hills felt like a romantic and sexual misfit. Raised on a diet of women’s magazines, teen soap operas, and media panics over “hooking up” and “raunch culture,” she believed that everyone her age was dining at an all-you-can-eat sexual buffet. Everyone, that is, but her.

When a chance encounter with a new friend challenges her preconceptions, Hills sets out to discover the truth about her generation’s sexual cultures, speaking with more than 200 people to produce a landmark account of contemporary sexual life. What she finds is the sex myth: the grand significance we invest in sexuality that once meant we were dirty if we did have sex, and now means we are defective if we don’t do it enough.

I received that ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Expected Publication Date: August 4th 2015

Rating: 8/10

Overall Impression: Hills does a great job of bringing to light a new form of sexual monitoring that as sprung from our new “sexual freedoms” however, to call this a full-scale investigation like the description says is a little over-the-top.

Recommended for: Anyone interested in sex and sexuality studies, as well as those who have ever felt that their sex life doesn’t add up to everyone else’s.

This was an interesting book to read. Many studies and books tend to focus on the increase of sexual activity in today’s society compared to just a couple decades ago. We even see it in media and magazines. Articles about increasing your sex drive and how to have more sex are constantly being written and circulated online and in magazines. However, these articles and studies have given many the impression that everyone is having sex but them. With the help of interviews from a variety of people from across the western world, Rachel Hills shows us that this isn’t necessarily the truth.

While we have all seen that sex has become less of a taboo than it was once viewed as, the idea of sex as being something to be done in moderation after marriage has really just been replaced be new taboos that can sometimes be just as damaging and ostracizing. Mainly, Hills points out that the current view of what a healthy sex life looks like (regular, multiple partners, and slightly adventurous) is actually far from the reality. In fact, this idea of healthy sexual relationships often becomes a source of anxiety for those whose sex lives, or lack thereof, look different from the one that society has said is the right way to have a sex life. Much like people were looked down on for having sex, now those who don’t have sex are seen as deviants or sexually repressed.

This society has become a rather sex-centric one, yet the sex that is often seen on television or read about in our bestselling books isn’t representative of the sex that the general population is having. In fact, there is a population of those who choose to abstain from sex just because they don’t need it in their lives. Yet, the fact that they aren’t having sex often—or aren’t having the kind of sex that most talk about, i.e. BDSM or fetishes—brings them anxiety since the socially accepted image of a healthy sex life is so narrow that many struggle to fit within that mold.

Hills book is here to tell us that our sex lives are not abnormal or unhealthy. The thing that makes many people’s sex lives unhealthy is trying to force their lives to fit into this mold. It’s the misconception about how, when, how much, and with whom that people are having sex that actually cause unhealthy habits to form. While this book isn’t full of statistics and numbers, it becomes clear through the many interviews that she has conducted that we need to start rethinking sex…again. We need to become more open to other forms of sexuality and sex lives. We need to stop calling those who don’t have sex prudes and those who enjoy something that is—to society’s standards—abnormal perverts. And lastly, we all need to figure out what kind of sex lives we want to lead and become comfortable with ourselves and our needs. This self-acceptance—and hopefully a change in the general mindset of the population—will lead to a less anxiety-filled and more satisfied existence for all.

If you’ve ever felt anxious about your sex life not matching up with expectations—and I’m sure many of us have—then I would suggest you read this book. It was highly informative, well-written, and the interviews depicted a wide variety of lives that reveals that most people don’t fit into a nice little mold. Most of us deviate in some way from the “norm” and we shouldn’t feel shy or awkward about it, because really, the “norm” is not being normal. Which I guess means that there really is no “normal” when it comes to our sex lives. I will leave the philosophers to ponder that one out.


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