You may have heard about "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Melissa Gorga's new relationship advice book, "Love Italian Style." It came out last week and has already earned a whopping two stars on Amazon! But it's mainly been gaining notoriety for its seriously problematic focus on pleasing one's husband at any cost, by any means necessary ("[A] woman needs to keep herself in shape. She has to be seductive...And, most important, she has to be available for sex").
Here are a few truths the book (which we suggest absolutely no one entertain the notion of purchasing) avoided or misrepresented.
- THERE ISN'T ONE NEAT, TIDY, UNIVERSAL "MALE" SEXUALITY AND "FEMALE" SEXUALITY.
Melissa Gorga's entire belief system seems to hinge on one sadly ill-informed sentence: "Husbands want their wives to submit; wives want our husbands to dominate." Thanks so much for that offensive, gender-essentialist argument that completely negates the experience of tons of men and women who want nothing of the sort. It's always helpful to be clued in to our deepest desires by out-of-touch reality stars, isn't it, ladies? Because all of us women are clearly identical, and we all clearly want to sleep with men and only men, and the men we sleep with are all the same too, and not one of us actually has a unique or evolving sexuality of our own. Gahhhh.
- WOMEN ACTUALLY HAVE THE CAPACITY TO THINK FOR OURSELVES, THANKS.
For me, one of the weirdest aspects of this book is the fact that, as Jezebel notes, it seems to largely consist of Melissa regurgitating her husband Joe's gross, sexist philosophies. But why should we -- or Melissa, for that matter -- listen to Joe? He sounds insanely demanding and restrictive, with control-freak tendencies that border on abusive -- i.e., Joe won't "allow" her to go away without him; he tells her what to wear; and he's "gotten violent" when Melissa did things he failed to approve of. Sorry Gorgas, but not all of us women are content to just blindly accept our partners' thoughts and wishes as dogma, solely because they're our partners. Lots of us have thoughts and wishes of our own -- ones we're not willing to compromise or stifle just because some bullying dude tells us to.
- RAPE IS RAPE, EVEN IF YOU'RE MARRIED.
Both Joe and Melissa seem to condone rape (she has a whole section called "YOU CAN DO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING FOR TEN MINUTES"). But let's focus on her husband for a minute. Joe jumps into the book often to offer a male perspective -- and his perspective isn't generally OK in any sense. He basically gives men permission to "take" (er, rape) their wives whenever the urge strikes:
"Men, I know you think your woman isn't the type who wants to be taken. But trust me, she is. Every girl wants to get her hair pulled once in a while. If your wife says "no," turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated. Women don't realize how easy men are. Just give us what we want."
"Give us what we want," which is ... what? The go-ahead to rape? Sex on demand? This idea -- that, being "naturally dominant," men need, expect, and DESERVE sex whenever the hell they feel like it, and that their partners are required to give it up, regardless of how they feel -- is bunk on every level. Sure, some women might like having their hair pulled and their clothes ripped off, but others just DON'T. And if you "take" her when she doesn't consent to it, it's rape -- even if you're married.
- NOT EVERY MAN THINKS ABOUT SEX EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY.
I've met various men who've skewed submissive in bed or generally felt more comfortable with women making the first move. I've also met men with low sex drives, and men who failed to adhere to the traditional, annoying "MEN ARE SEX-CRAZED 24/7 BEASTS" cultural narrative. I've even been frustrated by it at times; I hate having to make the first move (but that doesn't mean I always want to be "dominated")! Anyway, women are human, and humans are complicated. We want different things, from different people, in different ways. That's the cool thing about sex -- it's incredibly personal and individual. We don't all want the same things, and figuring out what we (and others) do want is part of the fun.
- EVERYBODY POOPS. EVEN 'REAL HOUSEWIVES.'
The book's icing on the sh*t-show cake is Melissa's insistence that her husband doesn't know when she poops. Yes, I'm serious. She writes, "We've been married for nine years, and he has never once seen or smelled my business. How have I pulled this off? I don't do it when he's around or awake. In an emergency, I have my ways of pooping so he won't hear, smell, or see." AGHHGHGHGH WHY?! Married for nine years! Lady, he knows you poop. Her insistence on maintaining the charade of some perfectly accommodating, domestic little vixen apparently also extends to the bathroom. Give it a rest. He knows.