Touched Out: Motherhood, Misogyny, Consent, and Control
In this stunning blend of memoir, theory, and cultural criticism, a new mother examines the intersection between misogyny and motherhood, considering how caregivers can take back their bodies and pass on a language of consent to their children
Motherhood and the culture of misogyny in America are not often explored in tandem. The connection is women’s bodies.
When Amanda Montei became a parent, she struggled with the physicality of caring for children, but even more with the growing lack of autonomy she felt in her personal and professional life. The conditions of modern American parenthood—the lack of paid leave and affordable childcare, the isolation and alienation, the distribution of labor in her home, and the implicit demands of marriage—were not what she had expected.
After #MeToo, however, she began to see a connection between how women were feeling in motherhood and the larger culture of assault in which she had grown up. In American society, women are expected to prioritize their children, often by pushing their bodies to the limit and ignoring their own desires and needs. As she struggled to adjust to the new demands on her body, this stirred memories of being used, violated, and seen by men. She had the desperate urge to finally say no, though she didn’t know how, or to whom she might say it.
Written with the intellectual and emotional precision of writers like Roxane Gay and Leslie Jamison, and drawing on classic feminist thinkers such as bell hooks, Silvia Federici, and Adrienne Rich, as well as on popular culture from The Bachelor to Look Who’s Talking, Montei draws connections between caregiving, consent, reproductive control, and the sacrifices women are expected to make throughout their lives. Exploring the stories we tell about psychology, childbirth, sexuality, the family, the overwhelm mothers feel trying to be “good,” and the tender bonds that form between parent and child, Touched Out delivers a powerful critique of American rape culture and its continuation in the institution of motherhood, and considers what it really means to care in America.
Praise for Touched Out: Motherhood, Misogyny, Consent, and Control
“Trenchant and revelatory...The central achievement of Touched Out — the one that makes me want to press this book into the hands of every parent and expectant parent I know — is how artfully Montei connects the dots between her private shame and this collective assault, opening the door for her readers to do the same.”
—The Boston Globe
“...Touched Out is a rallying cry against the normalization of a mother’s suffering…Reading the book is like the opposite of being gaslit: it lights up everything at once.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Montei… confronts addiction and ambition and pleasure, the tenderness and grit of care work, and the tenuous strings that hold people together in the hardest moments of the domestic sphere in the United States — a domain built on flimsy support. [Touched Out is] an examination that mines decades of feminist theory alongside her own story... It asks us to demand something better.”
“I burned through the pages of Touched Out like it was a whodunit— the crime scene consisting of women like Montei and myself, shell-shocked by motherhood and confused and ashamed about such a response. I yearned to go back to my younger self and hand her a copy.”
—Sarah Wheeler, The Cut
“Montei is leading the charge in a new wave of feminism—a must-read!”
—Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play
“One of the best nonfiction books I’ve read this year— particularly if you, too, like that electric space between theory and craft.”
—Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can’t Even and Culture Study
“One of my favorite living writers… A genre-redefining masterpiece.”
—Rebecca Woolf, author of All of This
“Devastatingly relatable… revelatory… Montei engages deeply with classic feminist scholarship—from Silvia Federici to Adrienne Rich—while breaking entirely new ground. Touched Out is an entry of its own: original, illuminating, and inciting.”
—Tracy Clark-Flory, author of Want Me
“A brilliant and timely meditation that is an absolute must-read for any woman who has ever felt her body is not her own anymore—pawed at, pressed into service, treated possessively, or even impregnated against her will. In America today, this may just include all of us.”
—Kate Manne, author of Down Girl and Entitled
“How much of the corporeal work of American mothering originates in us, and how much is a result of a culture that controls female bodies and conditions us to be sacrificial and passive, drained but venerated vessels of maternal love? The question is as monumental as it is unsettling. With both scholarly prowess and intimate storytelling—and with a desirous brain and body—Amanda Montei explores this labyrinthine terrain to move caregivers and children closer to joy, autonomy, and freedom.”
—Angela Garbes, author of Essential Labor and Like a Mother
“Few desires or pleasures escape the devastating forces of patriarchy and profit, and Montei deftly and unflinchingly traces the scars left by these forces in her own life and the lives of others. Never betraying love’s possibilities in her critique of love’s economic and social perils, Montei’s meditation on motherhood is a new classic.”
—Anne Boyer, author of The Undying
“A searing exploration not just of American motherhood, but of the myriad obstacles all women face on the road to locating agency and embodiment in American culture. In Touched Out, Amanda Montei takes her place among the most rigorous feminist thinkers of our time to unpack sex, rape culture, caretaking, consent, choice feminism, and #MeToo with an exacting critical eye balanced by striking prose and emotional depth. The result is an essential read and one I’ll return to for years to come.”
—Allie Rowbottom, author of Jell-O Girls and Aesthetica
“Amanda Montei boldly explains the experiences women have that are so frequently silenced. At turns illuminating and enraging, Touched Out is a crucial read for anyone who cares about mothers and mothering, and for anyone realizing that a culture that loves motherhood isn’t the same as one that respects and cares for women.”
—Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her