A little background--for my Senior Seminar, I'm doing a paper on the cultural images of Menstruation from 1900-2000. In my initial research, I came across a book, so I picked it up from the library.
This book is called the Body Project, by Joan Jacobs Brumberg, and it is fabulous. It's got me thinking about a lot of different things, and many of the issues are the ones we deal with here every day on Scarleteen.
The chapters, such as Sanitzing Puberty and the Disapperance of Virginity, are wonderfully written. She includes what I'd call direct sources, such as the diaries of young girls and their thoughts on different things. It's a rather narrow book, seeing as it focuses mainly on white, middle class American girls. For the purposes of my paper, this will turn out to be fine, as they're the biggest audience the advertisements target.
What really got me going was her last chapter, that closes it up. She discusses the differences between Victorian teenage life and modern teenage life, and the pros and cons of each. With modernity, you have your knowledge, and your sexuality is available to you. But through her research, she contends that it is also available to the world, and suppports this with journal entries from modern girls who now, instead of writing in uninformed euphamisms, now write of sexual harrasment.
I highly reccomend this book for anyone wishing to get a history on why it is this subject is treated this way, according to the white middle class suburban America. The author acknowledges that there are differences for those who don't fit that catergory, and does discuss it a bit, but that was not the focus of her book.
If you like her, she also wrote Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa and Mission for Life: The Judson Family and American Evangelical Culture.