When I first saw it, I scoffed incredulously at Pammy Godoy’s memoir-slash-workbook titled Sex, Virginity, and Relationships: What I Wish I Knew in College. My initial thought was, “A book about all three of these things can’t possibly be this short.”
Maxing out at 109 pages, this self-help manual for young women is a quick and easy read. And—I must apologize to the author for scoffing—it actually packs a lot of punch in its skinny volume. Filipino books defying traditionalist views on dating have enjoyed an uptick in popularity this year. But among the young, celebrity authors who’ve written about similar subjects, Pammy is set apart by her years of distilled insight, her credibility as an authority on the matter, and her story.
Pammy was a teenage mother, who wed her frat boy baby daddy when she was just 18. Though her story unfolds in the early ’90s, her experience resonates amid recent reports that, in the Philippines, 24 babies are born to teenage mothers every hour.While she refers to these milestones as “mistakes,” she is careful to relay her past without shame or guilt—a solid foundation for the encouragement towards unwed mothers and other young women, that she slathers on throughout the book.
In fact, the best quality of Sex, Virginity, and Relationships is that it lets girls, especially those who may be ostracized, know that they aren’t alone. That Pammy has made it her life’s work to educate women on these matters, adds to her trustworthiness.
However, it’s not a perfect book. I find myself seesawing between praise and criticism. For instance, while reading yet another heteronormative take on girls’ sexuality is tiresome (the author presumes her readers have “boyfriends” and never once acknowledges an alternative romance), it’s nonetheless refreshing to see a Filipina tackle relevant issues such as revenge porn and consent.
Similarly, for all her (rightful) cautioning against men, it saddens me that she never wags a finger at abusive women. She glosses over the beatings her sorority sisters gave her, and claims she “understood” her mother’s abandonment.
Stylistically, too, I’m ambivalent: the author is clearly well-read and intelligent, yet the language sometimes comes off as condescending in its attempt to speak to a younger crowd. On one hand, Pammy uses epigraphs brilliantly.
For example, Zora Neal Hurston’s quote, “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you,” is a clever segue into her unexpected pregnancy. Alternately, she introduces hot-button topics like sexism using the dullest of rhetorical questions: “Did you know that being sexual is closely tied to being a man in our society, while the opposite is true for a woman?” Yawn.
But overall, even though I’d be hella embarrassed to be seen in public reading a neon green book with a title like Sex, Virginity, and Relationships: What I Wish I Knew in College, I love the intention of the author—to educate and empower teenage girls and their parents. At 28, the exhortations to track my menstrual cycle in a journal, and to talk to my parents about sex, are past due. However, I do think younger girls should be exposed to the ideas Pammy discusses. Her book is not the ultimate guide, but it is a good start.
Sex, Virginity, and Relationships: What I Wish I Knew in College (P200) is available in all leading bookstores. For more information, visit Anvil Publishing’s website.