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Sexed Up: How Society Sexualizes Us, and How We Can Fight Back

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The author of landmark manifesto Whipping Girl exposes the violent ways we are all sexualized–then offers a bold path for resistance  Feminists have long challenged the ways in which men tend to sexualize women. But pioneering activist, biologist, and trans woman Julia Serano argues that sexualization is a far more pervasive problem, as it’s something that we all do to othe The author of landmark manifesto Whipping Girl exposes the violent ways we are all sexualized–then offers a bold path for resistance  Feminists have long challenged the ways in which men tend to sexualize women. But pioneering activist, biologist, and trans woman Julia Serano argues that sexualization is a far more pervasive problem, as it’s something that we all do to other people, often without being aware of it.  Why do we perceive men as sexual predators and women as sexual objects? Why are LGBTQ+ people stereotyped as being sexually indiscriminate and deceptive? Why are people of color still being hypersexualized? These stereotypes push minorities farther into the margins, and even the privileged are policed from transgressing, lest they also become targets. Many view sexualization as a mere component of sexism, racism, or queerphobia, but Serano argues that liberation from sexual violence comes through collectively confronting sexualization itself. 


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The author of landmark manifesto Whipping Girl exposes the violent ways we are all sexualized–then offers a bold path for resistance  Feminists have long challenged the ways in which men tend to sexualize women. But pioneering activist, biologist, and trans woman Julia Serano argues that sexualization is a far more pervasive problem, as it’s something that we all do to othe The author of landmark manifesto Whipping Girl exposes the violent ways we are all sexualized–then offers a bold path for resistance  Feminists have long challenged the ways in which men tend to sexualize women. But pioneering activist, biologist, and trans woman Julia Serano argues that sexualization is a far more pervasive problem, as it’s something that we all do to other people, often without being aware of it.  Why do we perceive men as sexual predators and women as sexual objects? Why are LGBTQ+ people stereotyped as being sexually indiscriminate and deceptive? Why are people of color still being hypersexualized? These stereotypes push minorities farther into the margins, and even the privileged are policed from transgressing, lest they also become targets. Many view sexualization as a mere component of sexism, racism, or queerphobia, but Serano argues that liberation from sexual violence comes through collectively confronting sexualization itself. 

59 review for Sexed Up: How Society Sexualizes Us, and How We Can Fight Back

  1. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Anders

    I just read this book, and I can tell it's already changed my life. Maybe it'll change yours too! Serano is such a calming, rational voice — but she takes a deep and thoughtful approach to sexuality, gender and consent. Serano presents a whole new framework for thinking about everything from sexual roles to street harassment to discrimination and stigma. She breaks down all of our entrenched debates over privilege, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and #MeToo, and offers a new way of thinking abou I just read this book, and I can tell it's already changed my life. Maybe it'll change yours too! Serano is such a calming, rational voice — but she takes a deep and thoughtful approach to sexuality, gender and consent. Serano presents a whole new framework for thinking about everything from sexual roles to street harassment to discrimination and stigma. She breaks down all of our entrenched debates over privilege, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and #MeToo, and offers a new way of thinking about all of this stuff. I'm going to be keeping her ideas about the Predator/Prey script and the "two buckets" that men and women are supposed to fit into for a long time. And the notion that some people (women, BIPOC people, queers, disabled people) are more likely to be "Marked" and thus sexualized helps to clarify things a lot for me. This is a totally necessary and mindblowing book, and I only wish it was required reading in schools and colleges. Most of all, Serano proves that she's one of the most indispensable feminist thinkers of the early 21st century. Highly highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    such a slay by julia serano… AGAIN!!

  3. 4 out of 5

    agata

    Julia Serano is a biologist who spent 17 years as a researcher in the field of genetics, developmental biology and evolution. She’s also an activist, a musician and a writer, most famously known for her collection of personal essays titled Whipping Girl. Serano is also a trans woman and that part of her identity gives her a unique perspective on the subject of her newest book. Sexed Up is structured around Serano’s thoughts and observations about the way society sexualizes people, especially wome Julia Serano is a biologist who spent 17 years as a researcher in the field of genetics, developmental biology and evolution. She’s also an activist, a musician and a writer, most famously known for her collection of personal essays titled Whipping Girl. Serano is also a trans woman and that part of her identity gives her a unique perspective on the subject of her newest book. Sexed Up is structured around Serano’s thoughts and observations about the way society sexualizes people, especially women and minorities. Having been brought up as a boy and presenting as male for a big part of her adulthood, Serano has experienced this problem, in a way, from both sides. When we think about sexualization, we usually think about catcalling, racy advertisements or music videos, maybe rape culture if we’re familiar with the concept. But Serano proves that this issue is so much bigger and it affects all of us in ways that we’re not always aware of - the “I’m tolerant, but why can’t they keep it behind the bedroom doors” sentiment towards queer people is one of the examples of how the LGBTQ+ community is being sexualized, when no one complains when it’s a straight couple holding hands. I loved how clearly Serano explains her theory and presents it in a way that makes it easy to see the connections - for example, the way society sees women as inferior, so we consider men wearing female clothing more sexual (and therefore less ‘good’) than women wearing male clothes. It’s a brilliant book that shows how important intersectionality is in feminism and how we can work together to change the way society treats these whose voices have been ignored for so long. TLDR: Sexed Up is a powerful, informative and thought-provoking book about the mindsets that cause harm to so many of us and the route we can take to change that. A must read for anyone who considers themselves a feminist!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kab

    3.5 There are a lot of training wheels and an unnecessary, iterative spelling out of harmful stereotypes particularly in chapter 7, but also some solid analogies and models, especially about unwanted attention (being marked as a spectacle), derivatization (being flattened to a projected single dimension), stigma, and contagion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kara Strohmeyer

    This is the second time ever that a book has given me the urge to tab and take notes!! Im not usually one for note taking for fun, but I found this book so fascinating & I had SO many ~lightbulb moments~ throughout. Serano has a unique perspective on how differently people treat men and woman, being a Trans woman who transitioned later in her life - and uses this experience along with her extensive education to break down hypersexualization from a sociological standpoint. In recent years, a lot This is the second time ever that a book has given me the urge to tab and take notes!! Im not usually one for note taking for fun, but I found this book so fascinating & I had SO many ~lightbulb moments~ throughout. Serano has a unique perspective on how differently people treat men and woman, being a Trans woman who transitioned later in her life - and uses this experience along with her extensive education to break down hypersexualization from a sociological standpoint. In recent years, a lot of light has been shed on the hypersexualization of women but this book also highlights the issues with this problem in regard to men, people in the LBGTQ+ community, and people with disabilities. This book was so eye opening & written in an engaging and enjoyable voice. I've already added the author's previous book, Whipping Girl, to my nonfiction TBR!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Sexed Up is an examination of sexualization that blends sociological, biological & psychological research with personal perspective. The core of its unique approach is the vantage point of the author, Julia Serano, a trans woman who is able to compare experiences while she was gendered as male with the experiences she has now, as well as those while she was transitioning and people she interacted with had less comfortable footing to rely on in our primarily binary way of looking at humans. More Sexed Up is an examination of sexualization that blends sociological, biological & psychological research with personal perspective. The core of its unique approach is the vantage point of the author, Julia Serano, a trans woman who is able to compare experiences while she was gendered as male with the experiences she has now, as well as those while she was transitioning and people she interacted with had less comfortable footing to rely on in our primarily binary way of looking at humans. More than anything, this felt like a one stop shop delving into breaking down ingrained societal viewpoints and conditioning towards sexualization. Serano presents approaches that could yield a path forward -- I especially liked the "going off script" idea to the progression of a sexual relationship (or encounter). The work it will take to unlearn sexual stigma feels daunting as it relies on people to take ownership first of their own biases. We know many people are too sure of their own opinions to be open to alternate truths and, sadly, putting in work to undo a lifetime of learning can be more effort than someone wants to put in. Serano doesn't claim to understand all the history and nuance that comes with being a cis woman. That is partially why, as a cis woman, I appreciate her observations through new eyes. The misogyny and misplaced motives behind street harassment (and any unwanted attention) is not news but feels validating when Serano brings it to the table (cut to me thinking: "See? It really IS this tough for women to just walk down the street"). I imagine trans and queer readers found similar familiarity with what was on the page. In the initial chapters, as Serano lays out her experiences with people misgendering her when chatting at music clubs she was playing, it read as almost judgmental. While I believe the intent was to express these as observations and examples of how people are conditioned to sex one another from their limited "two filing cabinets", I couldn't help but see a bit of amusement that these people (some of them, her friends) were not able to correctly gender her as she identified at the time. I did find myself zoning out a bit midway through the book. Unsure if my mind was getting bogged down in specifics. The back and forth between stigmatization and objectification made my head spin at one point. This is one I'll keep on my shelf for a re-read down the line but already have multiple friends wanting to borrow.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marqy

    Julia Serano has a special way of explaining things that many of us have 'felt' or 'perceived' in our lives. When I read one of her books, I'm always amazed at her ability to call out social customs and taboo thoughts that most of us would rather shy away from or take for granted. In "Sexed Up", Serano articulately explains the ridiculous double standards regarding sex/gender/sexuality that pervade our culture. Among those is the idea that in our society, the penis has a 'tainting' effect on tho Julia Serano has a special way of explaining things that many of us have 'felt' or 'perceived' in our lives. When I read one of her books, I'm always amazed at her ability to call out social customs and taboo thoughts that most of us would rather shy away from or take for granted. In "Sexed Up", Serano articulately explains the ridiculous double standards regarding sex/gender/sexuality that pervade our culture. Among those is the idea that in our society, the penis has a 'tainting' effect on those who desire it. In other words, gay men, straight trans/cis women, etc. are highly stigmatized groups in our society due to the fact that we've reduced these groups to a mere portion of who they are - their sexualities. Since men have historically held (and still hold) hegemonic power in our society, Serano concludes that the penis is viewed as an object that 'takes sex' from people, rendering those who have been, as she puts it, "f**ked" by one, as inherently weak, submissive, and a mere sexual object. This is a highly condensed version of Serano's argument, and one of many that struck me as particularly powerful. I'm a gay man, but I cannot stress enough that this book is not just meant for LGBTQ folks. Anyone who is interested in how and why our society stigmatizes sexuality in all its forms should be reading this book, as there isn't anything quite like it. Serano writes very frankly and honestly, leaving little room for ambiguity or doubt about her ideas. This style helps to make a book about such a complex and sometimes uncomfortable subject easier to read and understand. Approaching the topic of sexuality with the same frankness one would discuss a recipe from a cookbook is ironically enough the essence of Serano's main argument in this book - that we should work to aim all sex-related stigmas. Sex, sexuality, and gender are parts of everyone's lives. It's time that we stop avoiding these subjects, abandon our "predator vs prey" mindset towards sex and dating, and stop stigmatizing those we view as "marked by sex". Once we do that, EVERYONE, including cis straight men and women, will find themselves in a world where they are no longer uncomfortable discussing or expressing sexuality.

  8. 4 out of 5

    James

    Interesting at times, but overall, middling and culturally myopic. If this book had been intended entirely as memoir, I wouldn't be as critical of it, but it appears to be intended as social science/general nonfiction. This hit a bit of a nerve. The author has an interesting view of what constitutes feminine attire. The culture I grew up in was apparently very different in that feminine in terms of manner of dress didn't refer to revealing clothes (as the author describes), but rather long dresse Interesting at times, but overall, middling and culturally myopic. If this book had been intended entirely as memoir, I wouldn't be as critical of it, but it appears to be intended as social science/general nonfiction. This hit a bit of a nerve. The author has an interesting view of what constitutes feminine attire. The culture I grew up in was apparently very different in that feminine in terms of manner of dress didn't refer to revealing clothes (as the author describes), but rather long dresses/long skirts and soft colors - think on a spectrum between Amish romance novel cover and kindergarten teacher. It's jarring how sexy and feminine are conflated in a book about sexualization. I have to wonder if the author has ever left the city?? My primary reason for picking up this book was to read about sexualization from a trans-inclusive perspective, because of the really gross ways trans men are often fetishized by gay men (and occasionally lesbians). I wanted to read something with real depth, written from the perspective of someone who knows things (about chasers and queer culture) rather than just shared laments on the Internet. There are eight sentences about trans men in the book. Two are about the murder of Brandon Teena. This was not the book I was looking for; obviously, I know that now that I've read it. I just wish someone cared enough about our experiences to write about them and help us understand. Yeah, this wasn't really a book I needed to read. I think trans women would get more out of it than I did. Mileage for others will be extremely variable. Overall, the writing is mostly good, but I can't imagine this achieving the notoriety of the author's previous works.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Karch

    Serano weaves together personal anecdotes and deep research into a compelling argument on the way that societal perceptions allow sexualization to happen and how we can transcend these mindsets to fight back against the negativity faced by so many groups. Reading this has already changed the way that I think and allows me to notice just how prevalent these mindsets are, and how we need to work together as a whole to overcome them.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    Sexed Up explores a new framework to look at gender, sexualization, and consent. I really enjoyed how Serano didn’t assume I was knowledgeable in topics and gave sufficient definitions as well as examples. I know I will be thinking about the predator/prey and marked/unmarked mindsets for a long time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David

    One of the best things I’ve read in some time. Tackles some vexing problems of modern life by combining a number of different viewpoints to come up with some really compelling explanations for some behaviors and beliefs which frankly mystified me for far too long.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Miriam banuelos

    Very interesting read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abhirup

  14. 5 out of 5

    Felix

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  16. 4 out of 5

    KP

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Mckearney

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shawna

  19. 4 out of 5

    Koko Stubitsch

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jenae

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sadhbh O'Sullivan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hill✴️

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Bean

  27. 5 out of 5

    Liz Keller

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julie Wilson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Perry

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Moriarty

  31. 5 out of 5

    Rowan Hampton

  32. 5 out of 5

    Kye

  33. 4 out of 5

    mad mags

  34. 4 out of 5

    An

  35. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  36. 4 out of 5

    a

  37. 4 out of 5

    Milouchkna

  38. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Adams

  39. 5 out of 5

    Po

  40. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Steakley

  41. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Phung

  42. 5 out of 5

    Inés Molina

  43. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  44. 5 out of 5

    Yueyee Vue

  45. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Ball

  46. 5 out of 5

    Emmelia Eliason

  47. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  48. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

  49. 5 out of 5

    Sarina

  50. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  51. 5 out of 5

    Sakura-Chan

  52. 4 out of 5

    Gracie Baker

  53. 4 out of 5

    Liz Miller

  54. 5 out of 5

    Hil

  55. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  56. 5 out of 5

    Edward

  57. 4 out of 5

    Eh

  58. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  59. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

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