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July 2016 Vol. 53 No. 11


The following review appeared in the July 2016 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences
History, Geography & Area Studies - North America

2015-3908 CIP
Spurlock, John C. Youth and sexuality in the twentieth-century United States. Routledge, 2015. 172p index ISBN 9781138817487, $155.00; ISBN 9781138817494 pbk, $39.95; ISBN 9781315745596 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In this highly accessible narrative, Spurlock (Seton Hall Univ.) details the history of the transformative process between childhood and adulthood when youthful autonomy leads to sexual awakening.  Using the context of the long 20th century, Spurlock identifies a trickle-up process of cultural dissemination of the faddish “date.”  Begun by working-class youth, by the 1920s and 1930s, the college-aged middle classes employed this trend and used the automobile to create separation from the prying eyes of parents.  The sexual patterns of prewar youth did not indicate a “revolution” in the making, however.  By the 1950s, American adolescents had established a pattern of “going steady” representative of “transitional sexuality” or a relationship indicative of companionate social norms.  Spurlock employs a unique source base driven by teenage diaries and oral histories, yet the availability of sources limits his focus to largely white, middle-class, northern, and urban young women from a heteronormative perspective.  Through gendered analysis, concepts such as sexuality and hormones, homosociality, the sexual double standard, and issues involving sexual violence and the reclamation of girlhood provide a vital new direction of study.  Indispensable for any collection on the history of sexuality, childhood, and youth.

--E. Jackson, Colorado Mesa University

Summing Up: Essential. All academic levels and libraries.