Hard to Get is a powerful and intimate examination of the sex and love lives of the most liberated women in history—twenty-something American women who have had more opportunities, more positive role models, and more information than any previous generation. Drawing from her years of experience as a researcher and a psychotherapist, Leslie C. Bell takes us directly into the lives of young women who struggle to negotiate the complexities of sexual desire and pleasure, and to make sense of their historically unique but contradictory constellation of opportunities and challenges. In candid interviews, Bell’s subjects reveal that, despite having more choices than ever, they face great uncertainty about desire, sexuality, and relationships. Ground-breaking and highly readable, Hard to Get offers fascinating insights into the many ways that sex, love, and satisfying relationships prove surprisingly elusive to these young women as they navigate the new emotional landscape of the 21st century.
In this academic study straining for a popular audience, sociologist and psychotherapist Bell explores the conundrum of 20-something women burdened by the mixed blessing of sexual freedom. She proceeds from the flawed historical assumption that in recent years... it has become unclear what it means to be a woman, especially a liberated woman, when 20th-century American women s history is rife with periods in which this has been muddled and/or contentious. Bell s narrow pool of 20 highly educated Northern Californian subjects (she admits they re a socioeconomically unordinary bunch), today well out of their 20s, functioned well in the public aspects of their lives but felt continuing doubts and anxieties about sex and love. Bell relies on the psychoanalytic theory of splitting to explore how the women compartmentalized options in their lives and to illustrate her argument that they formulated strategies of desire as coping mechanisms. These she divides into archetypes, with the Sexual Woman and the Relational Woman representing defensive strategies, and the Desiring Woman finding an acceptable balance of sexual feelings with other relationship intimacies. Bell s conclusion, that both people and the culture at large need to change so women no longer feel compelled to split, is a rehash of feminist territory mapped out decades ago. 1 table.