Have you ever had one of those days where you just couldn’t stop thinking about what a useless sack of shit Adam Carolla is? Most likely not as his twitter and podcast presence is much more avoidable than his television and radio presence was.

Normally I would refrain from calling someone a douche but I'm willing to make an exception since Carolla is about as bad for your vagina as douching is.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about his upcoming book In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks. I am a bit surprised he’s coming out with a book since his target demographic doesn’t really seem like the book buying type to me. Oh wait – I sometimes forget that there are folks out there who keep their books on the backs of their toilets instead of on shelves.

Rather than Carolla’s upcoming book this post is going to be about a very good book which I had to pull off of the shelf in an attempt to repair the mental damage I suffered after hearing a few minutes of Carolla’s yammering.

“But Ms. Badger,” you must be asking yourself, “why were you listening to something that involved that waste of resources in the first place?”

Well, because I may just love Dan Savage more than I hate Carolla. I’m a fan of Savage’s column and podcast and although I had skipped over podcast 202 just because it had Carolla in it, I decided to go back to it after I had exhausted the other archived material. Also I will admit I was a little intrigued after having heard podcast #206 introduced as containing “100% less Adam Carolla”. It was pretty obvious that something had gone kind of wrong with his appearance on the show. That’s when I noticed in the description of #202 that Carolla was on the program “For the first and last time…” Clearly I wasn’t the only one who was totally skeeved out.

So what kind of sagacious advice did the former Loveline host have to share with Savage’s listeners? Other than letting us know that you’re suppose to have your fun sex before you get involved with the person you’re going to marry and once your sex life is dead you move on to important stuff like breeding, he also cracked this egg of knowledge on our heads:

Men cheat because they’re horny;

Women cheat because they’re unhappy with the relationship.

Oh thanks for the reminder, because I totally forgot that women never get horny[1]. This seems silly, since I’d be willing to bet a dollar amount tantamount to my massive student loan debt that I have masturbated more times in a single day than Adam Carolla has.

Hey wait, here’s a book that will not only tell us all that women do get horny but that it’s dangerous to pretend that they don’t.

The book I’m talking about is Dilemmas of Desire by Deborah L. Tolman, who as it turns out is a bit more credentialed than Carolla when it comes to talking about these kinds of things.

Tolman extensively interviewed 31 high school girls not to look at pregnancy and abortion rates, the use of contraception, STD rates, or even to focus on sexual violence – she asked them how they felt about sex, about their feelings of desire and how they react to, understand, and deal with those feelings. To put it more poetically, she asked them about being horny.

The teenagers who talked to Tolman come from urban and suburban backgrounds and were selected at random from several school districts. There were girls who were initially selected whose parents would not consent to let their daughters talk to Tolman, and girls who were wary of being interviewed because they assumed Tolman had selected them because she knew something about their sexual activity or reputations. None of the girls interviewed had ever talked to someone about their sexual desire before.

How necessary was this book? Extremely necessary in a culture where we expect girls to be the gatekeepers of teenage sexuality because we assume teenage boys’ desire makes them either utterly irresponsible or a threat, in a culture in which a father can simultaneously be proud of his teenage son’s promiscuity and worried over the potential loss of his teenage daughter’s flower of virginity, in a culture that divides teenage girls into “good girls’ and “bad girls” My god, the heartache and other pain I could have been spared growing up if I had read a book like this. Or heard a Sleater-Kinney album for that matter.

I know what some of you might be thinking; “cultural messages, society, blah blah blah… what does “society” even really mean… are girls really that disconnected from their own feelings of desire? – maybe their desires aren’t just as strong as teenage boys’ desires.”

Let’s clear one thing up right away. Any teenager is going to have quite the hormonal cocktail coursing through his or her body. Any teenager is going to have to find ways to cope with his or her emerging sex drive.

As for teenage girls being disconnected from their own feelings of desire, what the girls self-report in Dilemmas of Desire is very similar to what I experienced and observed when I was in high school. A large number, I would say most, of teenage girls feel conflicted about their own sexual pleasure. While it is assumed that teenage boys masturbate and that it is perfectly healthy and natural for them to do so, the same cannot be said for teenage girls. Even amongst teenage girls who state that masturbation is normal and healthy and natural and would like to engage in masturbation, many find facing their own desire and embracing their own pleasure creates so much anxiety for them that they aren’t able to relax enough to follow through with it.

Sounds like an awful lot of anxiety about something that’s supposed to be natural/normal/healthy, right? One would almost think that a completely different message is coming through instead – such as for women, embracing masturbation can cost you your career.

Tolman covers a lot of ground in Dilemmas of Desire including a rather thorough look at how teenage girls negotiate the minefield of sexuality, how we may be putting teenage girls at greater risk of sexual assault by leaving their desire out of the teenage sexuality discourse, and what can be done to improve that discourse. She does this in a tone that balances academic with approachable, leading readers to trust Tolman’s authority and their own reading of the text.

Maybe if enough people read this book we would find young women better understanding their ‘yeses’ and being more empowered in the delivery of their ‘noes’. Maybe those ‘yeses’ could be real ‘yeses’ instead of just a lack of a ‘no’. Maybe teenage girls will have enough agency in their own sex lives to move beyond ‘it just happened’ – which, by the way, is how more than 1/3 of first born children are brought into the world, they “just happen”.

Maybe you should read this book.


[1] Although I must admit that unless I am extremely horny myself I tend to find the word patently un-erotic. Mildly horny, moderately horny, rather horny, or quite horny and I cannot say or hear the word with a straight face.