Hard to Get: Twenty-Something Women and the Paradox of Sexual Freedom sounds promising but makes the classic mistake of reporting opinions expressed in a cold state, which is ver different from the hot or aroused state in which many people make their actual sexual decisions. Unless I missed it, Bell did not cite Alexander and Fisher, “Truth and Consequences: Using the Bogus Pipeline to Examine Sex Differences in Self-Reported Sexuality,” which she should have. She doesn’t consider what Clarisse Thorn does, about the micro-interactions and decisions people make.
An exercise: imagine that the genders in Hard to Get are reversed, and that male writers are talking about their relationships with women. Most commentators, both male and female, would probably make fun of them, whether overtly or through condescension, just as they would a virgin dispensing sex advice.
There is much discussion about “having it all” that I do not think troubles men, or male discourse, nearly as much. For most people, I suspect “having it all” is incoherent and/or paradoxical: it is difficult if not impossible to have copious free time and a time-intensive career; there is an inherent trade-off between the security of a relationship and the thrill of the new. In many domains choosing one path precludes others. But so what? That’s life.
The author never asks what may to be men the most important question of all: how women choose which men they want to sleep with, although one, “Phoebe,” described as a tall, attractive redhead, knows it’s just not that hard, as long as you’re height-weight proportionate (and maybe even if you’re not), to get guys: “Basically, you talk to them” (108). Is this hard to understand? It was hard for me to talk to girls when I was in middle school but like most people I got over it.
The writing is weak or boring on a sentence-by-sentence level; there is a strongly “academic” feel.
I wanted to like the book.