I actually heard this book being recommended by Dr. Phil (not that I’m not a regular viewer). How ironic and fortunate that myself and a coworker were able to attend and hear University of Iowa professor Dr. Durham speak about her book this past February to The Women’s Connection.
The Lolita Effect, as the subtitle states, addresses the media sexualization of young girls. Dr. Durham provides many illustrations of how our culture is obsessed with these very detrimental representations (one of my favorites: major chain stores that sell junior panties that read “who needs credit cards…”). The Lolita Effect identifies and evaluates several harmful myths such as: “if you’ve got it flaunt it” and that “violence is sexy”. Dr. Durham presents realistic strategies for dealing with these media myths and depictions. As one reviewer stated she approaches her topic without being too “puritanical or permissive”.
While reading the Lolita Effect, I began to wonder when and how the term “Lolita” became equivalent to the “sexy girl”. I certainly tried my best to read Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 complete and unabridged novel, Lolita. Those Russian poets are a challenge. Middle aged Paris born Humbert Humbert (yes there are two) tells the story of his obsession with a particular type of young girl that he refers to as “nymphets”. In today’s world we call folks like this pedophiles. H.H. becomes fixated on his twelve year old stepdaughter Lolita. A very intense relationship ensues. The book was met with much controversy and has been critiqued both as - “Old Europe debauching young America, and as Young America debauching Old Europe”.
Although the namesake and topic of “sexy young girl” is the subject in both books, they are worlds apart. Durham’s book is fresh scholarly research while Nabokov’s is a tragicomedy still possessing classic literary status. I should get class credit!