All the F*cking Mistakes by Gigi Engle
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Come As You Are meets How to Date Men When You Hate Men in this sex handbook for the millennial feminist on how to own your body and sexuality, and use that confidence to take charge of your life
“This bold, sex-positive book delivers on its promise.” —Publishers Weekly
Stop Apologizing for Your Sexuality and Take Charge of Your Life
If you’ve ever wished you had a big sister or older cousin who could show you all the ropes of womanhood, look no further: Gigi Engle has done it all and is here to tell you all about it in All the F*cking Mistakes, a practical handbook for all the slutty and wanna-be-slutty women out there. It is the ultimate sex-talk book, demystifying female sexuality without any of the awkwardness of “the talk.” From learning how to take back your confidence in a world full of slut shaming, to discovering and owning your sexual empowerment through masturbation, to demanding the love you really deserve, this book is an ode to the women of the world who deserve to be empowered, sexually and otherwise, without guilt.
Offering bite-sized lessons that incorporate Gigi’s own special brand of no-nonsense advice to provide clarity and guidance on all things slutty, sexually normative and non-normative, and everything that falls between the cracks of these brackets, this book is your how-to guide to living your sexy AF, fabulous life.
This book sounded so promising, and when I got an email from St. Martin’s asking if I’d like to review it, I was ready. This ended up being less of the feminist guidebook it claims to be and more like your drunk friend screaming at you that “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone new.” In short, not my kind of book. But it’s an ARC, so I read it anyway.
The book isn’t all bad. I’m going to start with some things that I liked and then I’ll move on to my rants.
First of all, I loved Gigi’s stance on cheating. She hates it. She thinks it’s a symptom of deeper problems in a relationship because you wouldn’t cheat on someone you truly loved and cared about. Like, the thought wouldn’t even occur to you. I agree.
Gigi also says that if someone cheats on you, you need to get out of that relationship, because it’s all you’ll ever think about. I agree with that too. Cheating is an active decision to sabotage a relationship. I love this quote:
The “I’m so sorry! It just happened!” excuse is not a fucking excuse. Don’t try to tell me that this was a mistake. A mistake is dropping your phone and cracking the screen. A mistake is the barista using whole milk instead of 2 percent. A mistake is wearing bright blue underwear with a thin heather-gray dress. A mistake is overcooking the chicken. Fucking someone is not a mistake.
I liked her stance on feminism. She’s very clear on what feminism is and is not, and I agree with her 100%. Here are some quotes from the book:
While scrolling through my feed, avoiding deadlines, per usual, I saw a photo on a feminist author’s Instagram; a repost from a father of he, his daughter, and her prom date. The father was holding a gun. The caption read, “I hope my beautiful daughter and her date have a great time at prom.” While this may be seen as a joke and warning to her date to be a “gentleman,” what it actually is is a reminder that this man perceives his daughter as his property.
Want is the key word here. If you’re doing something you want to do and feel in control, you are doing something feminist.
A man should not be able to touch a female coworker’s thigh and face zero repercussions. You shouldn’t be able to comment on someone’s body on the street without getting called out for your bullshit. Asking for shitty, aggressive, threatening behavior to be checked is not too much to ask for.
Unfortunately, this is about all that I liked in this book. There were a number of points she made that I took issue with.
Probably the most upsetting for me, because it’s just absolutely terrible advice, is her stance on sexually transmitted infections. Basically, Gigi’s whole thing is that STIs are not a big deal and you’re a terrible person if you break up with someone for having one. This isn’t like your partner getting a cold. They didn’t get food poisoning. They engaged in risky behavior with another person and ended up putting not only their health at risk, but also yours. If someone I’m dating comes to me and says, “Well, looks like I have chlamydia!” I’m not going to say, “Oh, cool! Let’s go get some antibiotics!” I’m going to be like, “Um, where did that come from because it certainly isn’t from me.” This doesn’t quite go along with her stance on cheating, which is confusing.
She goes on to say that if your partner can’t handle you having an STI, they’re not going to be able to handle it if you get seriously ill when you’re older. The example she gives is cancer. So, way to compare apples and… I don’t even know. Staplers? There is a huge difference between being upset that your partner has contracted a sexually transmitted infection from someone other than you and has now put your health at risk and your partner being diagnosed with a terrible illness that is, first of all, not contagious, and second of all, not caused by being irresponsible. Yes, you’re pretty terrible if you break up with someone because they get cancer. You are not terrible if you break up with someone for getting an STI while dating you. (You are also not terrible for breaking up with someone if they got the STI before dating you and didn’t bother telling you about it until you’d already had sex with them.)
Gigi also claims to be trying to write a really inclusive, sex-positive book. She mostly succeeds on the sex-positive part, although I think she’s forgotten that you don’t need to go out and have a ton of casual sex to be sex-positive. She mostly ignores that same sex relationships and asexual people exist, except when she’ll casually drop that she’s dated a couple girls or talks for 0.2 seconds about how asexual people can find the kind of sex they like having, too. My favorite part of this was when she basically said, “This is what you need to do when you have sex, and if you’re not doing it, you’re wrong.” Who even is she?
My number three issue with this book was her idea that you should allow yourself to text your ex as much as you want for six weeks after the breakup, then stop. Well, yes. Please stop. But as someone who was on the other end of a constant barrage of texts from their ex for literal months after the breakup, I can confirm that this is a terrible idea. Waking your ex up in the middle of the night on a Wednesday with a text that says, “I miss you all the time 😢” is not doing you any favors. Sending your ex a string of fifteen texts while they’re in the middle of a meeting about how you wish you could have another chance does not make your ex want to get back together. Shooting off a casual, “I’m sad and drunk and I accidentally locked myself out of my apartment” just makes you look like a mess. These kinds of texts don’t make your ex feel bad. They’re just annoying. It’s not doing anything to help the situation and constantly reminding yourself of the relationship is doing nothing to help you get over it, either.
The final thing I want to talk about is the way she demonized her ex for having emotions and acting like a grown up. The story is that Gigi writes about sex for a living. She writes about dildos and anal sex and BDSM. Because of this, she draws a lot of negative attention. It’s not right, but it happens. Her ex was initially okay with this, and then it started affecting him personally and professionally. He realized he wasn’t okay with it anymore, and rather than asking her to give up her chosen career for him, he broke up with her. She mentions that the constant attacks by internet trolls aggravated her ex’s anxiety and “were a source of panic for him.” Apparently this makes him “weak” and “a coward” in her eyes. A few chapters before this, Gigi talks about her anxiety and what triggers panic attacks for her. What I’m getting from this is that Gigi’s mental illness is valid, but she’s decided that her ex’s isn’t. To make matters even worse, she reveals near the end of the book that her ex “became obsessed with having a private life” and specifically asked to be left out of this book, but she included him anyway because it’s her life and her book. Then she just casually mentions that he broke up with her the next day, seemingly out of nowhere. Out of nowhere? Really? I would have broken up with her too if I’d told her that I didn’t want to be written about in her sex book and she did it anyway.
I think that we currently live in a society that professes that we’re the best, we’re amazing, we’re perfect, and anybody who doesn’t want us just exactly the way we are is an idiot, a coward, the worst person on the planet. This is such a toxic mentality. Sometimes relationships don’t work out. It sucks, but it is what it is. Wallowing in it, rehashing what happened with your ex years ago over and over and over again despite now being married to someone else, repeatedly calling your ex a coward and complaining that he didn’t deserve you — all of that is unhealthy. It’s bad for your mental health. You need to let it go. One person didn’t want to be with you. They couldn’t handle the way you live your life. That hurts, I get it. But you have to get past it. You have to move on.
Overall, you’ll either love or hate the very aggressive writing style of this book. You’ll either love or hate Gigi’s very opinionated essays. You know which side I’m on.
For a better book on female health and sexuality, I’d recommend The Vagina Bible, written by an actual physician who actually has credentials to back up the claims she makes. For better books on feminism in general, I’d recommend We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele. If you have any recommendations of good books on feminism, sexuality, or women’s health, I’d love to hear about them.
Have you read All the F*cking Mistakes? Can you recommend any books with similar themes?
Let’s talk in the comments!
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