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Wordy Wednesday: Peggy Orenstein's Girls & Sex and Boys & Sex

Self-care. What does it mean to you?

If you look at the media, self-care looks like bubble baths with aromatherapy and wine. It looks like fancy face cream, alone time, indulging in treats that you deserve, so just get off the hamster wheel of life and let yourself be happy for an evening!

To me, self-care means taking care of my health. Taking time to cook food for myself and Mark. Prioritizing that daily yoga habit. Therapy once a week. Chiropractor once a month. Advocating for myself when my doctors and I don’t see eye-to-eye. Filling a prescription before the last minute so I’m not scrambling and stressed out.

Self-care also means taking care of my relationships. Calling my mom. Setting fair boundaries at work. Putting my phone down when Mark comes home and tells me about his day. Petting the cats, and holding the cats, and playing with the cats, and snuggling the cats, and did I mention the cats? I really love my cats.

In Peggy Orenstein’s books Girls & Sex and Boys & Sex, she investigates the state of teenage and young adult sexual relationships and recommends what can be done so that young people have the attitudes and knowledge to step into sexual relationships in ways that show care for their partners and for themselves. She reveals what hookup culture is actually like and how it got that way, as well as all the damage it does to both girls and boys. She writes in succinct and clear language, and I read these books in a matter of days.

Orenstein’s writing sticks with the heteronormative perspective in Girls & Sex, which was published in 2016, but in Boys & Sex she makes sure to include perspectives from individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. At the end of each, she describes a vision for sex education, both in terms of what a school could offer, as well as what sex ed (which she dubs “human development” education) could look like in conversations parents have with their children, and how these could dramatically improve the lives of high school and college students. What she lays out is a type of self-care, a way to eschew trauma and instead build supportive relationships infused with kindness and respect.

For Wordy Wednesday, the first two words come from Girls & Sex, and the latter two come from Boys & Sex. For each word I provide the sentence in which I found it, the Oxford definition, additional context if needed, and then a sentence of my own using the word.


“... when Fifty Shades of Grey, with its neurasthenic lip-chewing heroine and creepy stalker billionaire, was being hailed as the ultimate feminine fantasy…” (2).

Noun: An ill-defined medical condition characterized by lassitude, fatigue, headache, and irritability associated chiefly with emotional disturbance.

Additional context: neurasthenia has largely been abandoned as a psychiatric diagnosis but nevertheless holds cultural and historical significance. First named around 1830, neurasthenia is no longer a diagnosis used in the US but it is still recognized by the World Health Organization. It basically refers to a weakness of the nerves, or physical and mental exhaustion.

Henri, the youtube cat full of ennui, could be described as neurasthenic, though that would be less punny.


“Like anything in the boundless olio of the Internet, that breadth can have drawbacks as well as advantages” (145).


  1. A highly spiced stew of various meats and vegetables originating from Spain and Portugal.

  2. A miscellaneous collection of things

  3. A variety act or show

In the olio of my craft bin you’ll find deconstructed photo frames, twine, ribbon, yarn, sewing supplies, a laminator, gift bags, cute tiny boxes, beeswax pastilles--it’s like Mary Poppins’ bag, or Etsy-Narnia.


“And the media scripts boys consume from childhood onward are continuously objectifying, demeaning, hostile, inimical, or indifferent to women and present masculinity as inherently antagonistic toward femininity” (65-66).

Adjective: Tending to obstruct or harm; unfriendly, hostile.

I’m not trying to be inimical, I’m just playing devil’s advocate.


“The word [gentlemen] was a nod to his southern upbringing, a soupçon of Blanche DuBois to warm the chilly northern city where he was now a college sophomore” (105).

Noun: A very small quantity of something.

When a person boldly claims to have no regrets in their life, I wonder, really? Not even a soupçon?

Thanks for joining me for Wordy Wednesday!

Quick housekeeping:

  • Get a copy of Jane Eyre and read the first chapter by July 2nd for the On Eyre podcast’s first episode. I’m so eager to hear what they talk about!

  • Tell the BOTB community what you’ve been reading lately. What books would you recommend to readers? Shoot an email to babbleofthebooks@gmail.com, or fill out the contact form here on the site. Book selfies are encouraged!

As always, I’m glad you’re here, and I wish you happy reading.



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