Personal essays about emotional healing and sexual identity fill the pages of MAKING OUT LIKE A VIRGIN: SEX, DESIRE, & INTIMACY AFTER SEXUAL TRAUMA

by Catriona McHardy and Cathy Plourde

Verdict: MAKING OUT LIKE A VIRGIN effectively shares the personal stories of sexual abuse survivors in various stages of the healing process who have reclaimed their sexual identities.

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4.0

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Seventeen contributors from five countries, and ranging in age from their mid-20s to their late 60s, offer their views on thriving after sexual assault. Women, men, and transgenders (straight, gay, and bi-sexual) describe their experiences and feelings associated with them. Stories recount years of abuse by the same person, multiple incidents by different offenders, or an isolated trauma. Victims of sexual assault and mental health professionals may find relatable stories and storytellers within this collection.

The amount of detail varies from person to person, as does the writing skill and willingness to discuss the healing process. Most writers supply just enough explicit description to establish the sexual trauma, before moving on to healing and growth. There’s an intimacy between writer and reader – a form of trust that essays will be used for healing, rather than perpetuating victimhood.

One essay, “Four Out of Five” by “Glen” stands out for its refusal to conform. Glen writes of his repeated sexual assaults by older girls and boys in four different instances: “My ‘experiences’ I wear almost like badges of honor. I have always been happy to talk about them and have, for the most part, retold these stories with humor. To me, they are hilarious accounts of weird moments in my life.” The fifth incident, however, remains shrouded in secrecy and unhealed. “I have not shared this story with anyone and won’t here, but the older I get, the angrier, more resentful, and embarrassed I become.”

Although some – such as Glen – still struggle, many of these rape survivors evolved into sex educators, counselors, activists, and authors, whose healing extends beyond themselves to others in similar circumstances. Take Maureen Shaw, whose essay “Find Your Voice and Carry a Big Sign” is more typical of the collection. Raped at age 15, she kept silent about the assault for seven years, displayed “a litany of self-destructive behaviors,” and finally found her voice and began healing. Now a parent and committed partner, she’s a widely published writer on the subject of feminism.

That’s part of the beauty of Making Out Like a Virgin. The contributors don’t merely offer different stories and perspectives, but approach the project from different stages of the healing process, which makes the work accessible to more people.

MAKING OUT LIKE A VIRGIN effectively shares the personal stories of sexual abuse survivors in various stages of the healing process who have reclaimed their sexual identities.

~Carol Michaels for IndieReader.

 

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