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Judy Blume

Movies We Might See: "Easy A"

It's the line "I thought pretending to lose my virginity would be a little more special. Judy Blume should have prepared me for that" in the film's trailer that makes me want to see "Easy A," opening Sept 17th.

In a story takes some of its inspiration from the novel "The Scarlet Letter," Emma Stone plays a virginal high school loser who pretends to have sex with her closeted gay friend so he can look straight–which makes her look slutty. She then embarks on a lucrative scheme pretending to have sex with all kinds of guys so they can pretend they aren't virgins/gay/losers/whatever. Which makes her seem like a pretend sex worker, except that she embraces her pretend sluttiness by wearing a Red A. Even though she's still, you know, a virgin. Got that?

On the plus side, the film features Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Malcolm McDowell and Lisa Kudrow. On the minus, the romantic lead appears to be played by that pukey poor/sensitive guy from Gossip Girl. So, this could be really awesome and sex positive and smart. Or, it could reinforce every stereotype re: sexual boys are celebrated, sexual girls are reviled. And that would be really, really awful. Double feature with 'The Virginity Hit'?

Everything I know about sex I learned from "Letters to Penthouse Forum"...Or, why parents should get over themselves and talk to their kids about sex

A recent study showed the unsurprising fact that most parents either don't talk to their kids about sex, or do so far later than they should. Maybe it's denial that their kids are even thinking about sex, but by the end of the study, reported in Time:

...more than half of the parents reported that they had not discussed 14 of the 24 sex-related topics by the time their adolescents had begun genital touching or oral sex with partners.

Forty-two percent of girls reported that they had not discussed the effectiveness of birth control and 40% admitted they had not talked with their parents about how to refuse sex before engaging in genital touching.

Nearly 70% of boys said they had not discussed how to use a condom or other birth-control methods with their parents before having intercourse. Yet only half of the boys' parents, by contrast, said they had not discussed condom use or birth control with their sons.

So parents remembered having 'the talk' but the kids didn't? Were the parents so uncomfortable or vague about the nitty gritty that the kids didn't actually notice it happening? Or does handing your kid a book and walking away count as discussing birth control and STDs?

The Frisky put out a request for stories on how people learned about sex, and although the majority of commenters blamed their parents for not doing a good job talk-wise, there was this:

I find it kind of hard to blame all the teenage pregnancies and STDs on parent's lack of skill in giving "the talk" I blame it more on teenagers being dumb. I never got I flipping talk and I sure as hell knew how to get a guy off me if he was trying to stick things where he shouldn't. And when I was okay with certain body parts being placed in other body parts (ha) I wasn't dumb enough to 1. not bag it and 2. have my ass on birth control. Simple. Effective. Maybe I was just smarter than the average teenager.

Not that my own experiences were any more useful. I barely remember getting any information from my parents. And school health class was mostly about showering and not exercising too hard when I had my period. So, my sex education ended up consisting of equal parts:

1. Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God…” which was passed from girl to girl in sixth grade.

2. Reading “The Joy of Sex” while I babysat for my neighbors (ewww re: the woman's hairy armpits)

3. The song ‘Sodomy’ from the stage musical “Hair” (I looked up all the words in the dictionary with mixed success.)

4. “Letters to Penthouse Forum,” which a friend stole from her brother. I remember reading a story in Forum that included the line ‘he came into my mouth’ and all of us being completely baffled at what that meant. You mean, he crawled into her mouth? It made no sense at all.

I was the unpopular, I mean, studious kid, learning about sex in reference books. Hot. How did you learn about the Birds and the Bees?

'Free To Be...You And Me' turns 35. Which makes me much older.

I don't know about you, but Free To Be...You and Me pretty much changed my life. It's a big part of my doc "I Was A Teenage Feminist" and above is a still from the film of me with my 1974 album, freshly autographed by Gloria Steinem and Letty Pogrebin.

The story of Atalanta revealed the shocking fact that you didn't actually have to marry the handsome prince to live happily ever after. This totally rocked my world and went against all conventional fairy tale wisdom. I hear from many gay men that 'William's Doll' had a similar world-rocking effect on them.

Here's a clip of Atalanta:

I watched the video recently and was stuck by how earnest it all was. I can't imagine how anything that irony-free (and unapologetically liberal) would ever be made today. It's been updated for its anniversary, but I wonder how well the tone of the new stuff meshes with the original material.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a handy briefing from USA Today:

Free to Be … You and Me struck a chord when it was first published in 1973. Its message to young readers was simple yet eye-opening: They could be different and that was fine.

"The message is a rather deep one, that you can choose your own role models, you can fight stereotypes," says Thomas, 70, who starred in the hit '60s TV series That Girl, which broke single-woman-in-the-city stereotypes. Free to Be "was a revolutionary book. Some people were even afraid of it."

Original contributors included many of Thomas' friends — children's author Judy Blume, author and composer Shel Silverstein and actor Carl Reiner. The new edition features all of the original material plus 14 new contributors from children's literature, updated artwork and a new CD.

Diablo Cody Hearts Judy Blume. Don't We All!

Even though author Judy Blume has been maddeningly difficult to interview for The American Virgin, I still love her books, especially virginity-loss classic Forever. And although she keeps weasling out of interview requests, she did autograph my copy of Are You There God? It's Me Margaret for me. I didn't tell her that it, along with Letters to Penthouse Forum, constituted much of my early sex ed studies.

Juno screenwriter (and self-proclaimed radical feminist), Diablo Cody just wrote a sweet appreciation of her for EW. Here are some excerpts of Cody's piece:

A couple of years later, I began reading Blume's more controversial works, addictively squeamish stuff like the devastatingly titled Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. If Picasso had his Blue Period, then Judy Blume had her Period Period. Man, did I learn a lot about menstruation from these books. Margaret was the one that got passed around feverishly in school. Not only did it teach us a (futile) breast enhancement exercise, it introduced us to ''Two Minutes in the Closet,'' a game we played at many parties thereafter. But underneath all that hormonally charged madness lurked an affecting story about Margaret choosing between her mother's Christianity and her father's Judaism. I lived in a town where ''interfaith marriage'' meant a Polish Catholic marrying an Irish Catholic — Blume had widened my horizons yet again...

You have to wonder why no one's made a big-screen adaptation of Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself — a bracingly vivid story of a Jewish girl in postwar Florida — or Forever, an oft-banned tale of love and (virginity) loss. I imagine it's because these stories belong to young women. Real young women, not singing Disney cheerleaders, hair-flipping pop stars, or cartoonish socialites. ''Judy's girls'' are imperfect and unsure; they tend to vacillate maddeningly between outspokenness and passivity. Even physically beautiful characters (like the protagonist in Deenie) are outcasts somehow, stymied by the expectations of others. It's definitely not the stuff of Hollywood.

Thanks Melissa at Women & Hollywood for the heads-up!

Orada mısın? Benim, Margaret.

Studio 360, one of my favorite radio shows, devoted part of its latest show to Girl Culture. I was really fascinated by an item about reading Judy Blume books in Turkey. Zarife Öztürk, who translated the books for a Turkish publishing house, talks about why "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" was not the monster seller it has been in the US. You can hear it here:

Host Kurt Andersen presented several other interesting stories: female film students at NYU film school, how culture influenced the design of an American Girl doll from the 1970s - and an odd memoir about a woman obsessed with fitting into her grandmother's dress (more about this in an upcoming post!) You can hear the whole show here.

I think both the show and Kurt are brilliant, so I was really baffled that Girl Culture only took up part of the broadcast. Could the producers not find even an hour's worth of stories on the lives of girls? C'mon - they managed to do a whole hour on Moby Dick!