I reviewed this book which was provided for free by the publisher. However, I do not receive any compensation for reviews. All book reviews are my personal and subjective opinion.
An interesting mix of memoir, sex education, recovery, and self-advocacy, A Dirty Word is a book for the modern female. Written in a very easy-going manner, Steph Auteri's words flow like a conversation with a friend and feels much like a shared piece from a survivor's group. Auteri takes us on a journey from her initial trauma, to how she healed herself, finding renewed purpose along the way. A Dirty Word describes the emotional journey of a survivor coming to terms with their body and discovering their sexual agency.
Auteri describes the struggles of the average female, having found she is not alone on her journey of self-discovery. Very much campaigning for change, Steph calls out the #metoo movement; "yes means yes"; the conditioning of women to be "nice", and of men to be deserving of women's bodies; that men are ignorant of their sexually aggressive actions; and how women are put on trial when they call out a male offender. The very fact that Auteri has to cite her sources when writing on everything from statistics down to her own pain during intercourse is an example of women bearing the burden of proof when speaking out.
The reader is put in the moment with precise descriptions of feelings; I also felt her pain as she mentioned her experiences. For the men, this may be an awakening as they may not realize what women and survivors go through. One of the common themes that Steph comes back to is that "women can't prioritize their own sense of comfort and self agency without forfeiting their safety." As Steph quotes Maragret Atwood, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."
One may want to look up the articles and studies Auteri cites for further reading, however, I feel the more practical information is in the ample appendix provided. As I am also a proponent of self-education the appendix was definitely one of my favorite sections of the book, rife with information on everything from self-pleasure to self-defense. Steph shares her resources that the reader may accompany her on the journey of healing, both of herself and society, so that our daughters may grow up without needing to walk with their keys between their fingers.
You can buy A Dirty Word here.
About the Author
Steph Auteri is a writer and editor who has written about women's health and sexuality for The Atlantic, the Washington Post, VICE, Pacific Standard, Salon, Undark, and other publications. She also volunteers for the Center for Sex Education, the national education division of her local Planned Parenthood. She lives with her husband, daughter, and three cats in Verona, NJ.