Reading Group Guide
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion of Sex and Sensibility. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Many fine books from Atria Books feature Readers Club Guides. For a complete listing, or to read the Guides online, visit http://www.BookClubReader.com
Questions and Topics for Discussion
Q. In the Introduction, we learn that today approximately 32% of U.S. women between the ages of 20 and 44 have never been married, as opposed to 19% of women in that same age group in 1970. Does this statistic surprise you? What are some of the reasons for this rise in the number of single women?
Q. In Confessions of a Teenage Cocktease, Elissa Schappell passes on advice given to her from her grandmother: Be a good date, not a great date, a good date." What were some of the ramifications of being too "great" a date?
Q. Pam Houston touches on the theme of female competition in her essay, In the Bowl of Lights that is La Paz, where she and a female co-worker compete over a handsome Italian architect. When he shows interest in her, she admits it "never occurred to her say no." Why do you think this is? Daisy Garnett, in her piece Sexual Healing, relates a similar theme..."like many women, when it came to sex, I was so grateful to be given the opportunity to say yes, I never learned how to say 'no.'" Why do you think it is hard for some women to say no to men's advances?
Q. In Sexual Healing, Daisy Garnett is pleased with herself after the encounter with the amorous masseur and wonders, "Is this what it feels like to be a man?" Do you think this is a popular fantasy for women--to have sex like a man? Why would that be empowering? Why do you think her experience with the masseur makes her less interested in sleeping around and more interested in, as she puts it, "permanence?"
Q. Amy Sohn is known for her frank descriptions of sex in her magazine and newspaper columns and her novel, Run, Catch, Kiss. In Travel Love, she pines for the more romantic customs of the Victorian era. Do you think many women do? What are the pros? The cons?
Q. Movies can be very influential on how we view the world, especially when it comes to romance. Amy Sohn leans over to unlock her date's car door a la Kyra Sedgwick in Singles. Julianna Baggot envisions the typical tearful airport goodbye with her French boyfriend. Is this influence helpful or harmful?
Q. In her essay How to be Alone, Lisa Gabriele suggests that her father's leaving when she was young affects her current relationships with men. Do you think this is true of everyone? How important are our relationships to our family with regards to our relationships with others?
Q. In How to be Alone, Lisa Gabriele pines for her long-distance football player boyfriend only to visit him and discover "being with Mark is not as much fun as missing him." Have you ever been in a relationship or dating situation where the anticipation was better than the reality?
Q. In Herland, Revisted, Meghan Daum compares and contrasts life as a young single woman in New York City and Lincoln, Nebraska. Were you surprised by the census numbers Daum provided and the male/female ratio in some U.S. cities? Daum uses Charlotte Perkins Gilman's feminist classic, Herland, as a touchstone for this piece. Discuss the concepts of 'Herland' and 'Ourland.' Which kind of 'land' do you live in?
Q. Merrill Markoe reveals in her essay, Medusa's Sister, that after having sex for the first time, she felt like she knew less about the sex act than when she was a virgin. Do you think this is common in young women? Were you surprised when Markoe later revealed she was raped?
Q. In Do You Take this Woman, writing partners Em & Lo demonstrate how their friendship is similar to a marriage. Discuss the ways that a friendship resembles a marriage. Are men like this with their close friends?
Q. In The Feast of San Gennaro, Jennifer Weiner brings up a much-discussed topic--what exactly denotes sex--is it the physical act or a deeper intimacy? What constitutes cheating?
Q. With bountiful Internet dating sites and columns like Missed Connections, how does modern media and technology affecting modern-day dating?
Q. In One Way to Stay Warm in the Winter, Thisbe Nissen tells of an unorthodox roommate situation, with another woman and a man. Is their situation attractive to you? Why or why not? When you first heard their proposed plan for living together, what did you anticipate would happen?
Q. Jennifer Baumgardner's Whereya Headed references Judy Blume's novel, Forever. Which books or films from your youth had an influence on how you viewed dating and relationships?
Q. Laurie Notaro relates the agony of ending a dating dry spell only to realize she hasn't "tended the garden" in Cut and Shave. Do you have any embarrassing dating stories?
Q. Jane Austen's novels discussed marriage and romantic opportunities with a slightly jaundiced eye because, as Darcy Cosper points out in her essay, Everything I Know About Dating I learned from Jane Austen, in Austen's day marriage "was merely the only course open to (a woman) at that moment in history." What are some of the changes in dating since Austen's day? What would Jane Austen think of today's modern single woman?