Getting Naked Again by Judith Sills, Ph.D.
New York: Springboard, 2009
277 pp., $24.99
In a way, I’m glad I finished Getting Naked Again. If I had quit halfway through in a fit of anger over the heteronormativity, gender role proscriptions, fatphobia, and emphasis of monogamy found in this book, I would never have read the Author’s Note at the end, where Sills explains why she focused on heterosexual relationships in this book. While I’m not thrilled with her excuse (she says did not do enough research to speak with authority on homosexual relationships), I was simply relieved to find out she was at least aware that she had basically excluded homosexual relationships in her writing. I wish that this note had appeared at the front of the book, because I would have had a slightly less frustrating time getting through it.
As mentioned above, I had a number of other problems with the approach Sills takes in Getting Naked Again. While she warns readers about getting too thin, she does tell them to diet in order to boost their self-esteem, and that thinner bodies are universally more attractive (and therefore more likely to find a partner) than fatter ones. She claims that men and women universally have different wants and needs in their relationships, and that women date differently in their twenties because they are all focused on getting married and finding someone to father their children. She gives lip service to the idea that non-monogamy is fine if that’s what you want, but the rare sentiment rings false when the rest of the book is focused on finding one new partner at a time. Finally, she also devotes an entire chapter to how to approach your married friends, especially married men. Apparently, since you are now single and no longer have a husband to ensure that you remain a decent woman, you need to change everything about how you interact with married male friends. You are no longer a person in your own right. You are no longer someone who would not want to betray your friends or cause drama in their relationships. No, your singledom has turned you into a woman who is ready for any man, regardless of his marital status. Either that, or all of your married male friends want to seduce you, and you’re just too innocent or dense to know better.
The most egregious offense Sills commits is her use of the term “wolverine.” Unlike a “cougar,” (an older woman who dates younger men), a “wolverine” is any woman interested in other women’s husbands or boyfriends. In employing this term, Sills implies first that men have no free agency of their own when it comes to being tempted to cheat on a significant other. They are only led astray by other women. Second, Sills invokes the tired meme of using animals as substitutes for women, depriving them of their own agency and personhood. I’m sick of such terminology being thrown around, and seeing “wolverine” employed that way immediately caused me to lose all interest in the book.
The other fundamental problem I have with Getting Naked Again is that it seems to rest on the assumption that all women need some kind of partnership after they become single again. I suppose you could argues that Sills needs to make that assumption because her book is, essentially, an instruction manual for finding said partner. However, this book could easily have been re-imagined as a book telling you how to figure out whether or not you even wanted a new relationship after divorce or widowhood, and then decide what kind you want and how to go about it.
The one thing I will say in favor of Getting Naked Again is that Sills has an engaging writing style that is suited for a general audience. She has a gift for approachability in her tone and voice. However, stylistic strengths do not make up for the philosophically problematic aspects of relationship and gender set forth in this book. While this may not be, as Sills puts it, “your daughter’s dating guide,” it is certainly not a feminist one, either.