Cover image for Turning on the girls
Turning on the girls
Benard, Cheryl, 1953-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
Physical Description:
312 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Ten years ago women took over, and now they are busily changing everything, from schools and language to women's and men's thinking. Lisa, the twenty-two-year-old heroine of Turning on the Girls, works at one of the ministries dedicated to mental revolution. Her task: to update women's sexual fantasies. There will be no more masochistic or romantic daydreams! Lisa finds herself slogging through piles of highly unrevolutionary literature, from The Story of O to Harlequin romances. This is what used to turn people on?

Meanwhile, not all men are pleased with this kinder, gentler world. Harmony, an underground men's movement, is planning a violent uprising to put women back in their place. Lisa and her trusty assistant, Justin, are recruited by security forces to infiltrate Harmony. Before long they find themselves in Zone Six -- where the unreformable men reside -- on the run, trying to save the world as they know it.

Cheryl Benard's deftly comic novel gives us a chance to envision a world designed by women -- and to reflect on how such a world would differ from our own.

Author Notes

Cheryl Benard is the director of an Austrian research institute and the author of the novel Moghul Buffet (FSG, 1998). She lives in Vienna, Austria, and North Potomac, Maryland.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

If Dorothy Parker had written Brave New World it might have resembled Benard's satiric vision of a utopia designed and run by women. With the Revolution, the problems of hunger, disease, and poverty are overcome, and crime has become a thing of the past. Lisa, Benard's heroine, works at the Ministry of Thought helping create a body of sexual fantasies appropriate for the new post-Revolution woman. Her assistant, Justin, is in the final stages of his "re-education" and is hoping to be able to rejoin society as a full-fledged citizen. However, a counterrevolution is brewing: a group of disenfranchised men (and the women who love them) have formed an underground movement to restore the old order. Justin accidentally becomes involved, even though he appreciates what the Revolution has brought. Lisa is ordered to infiltrate the group, and as things heat up, Benard explores with wit and insight the war between the sexes and all the confusion that has resulted from the evolution of gender roles over the last few decades. --Bonnie Johnston

Publisher's Weekly Review

Women have taken over the world in this gender-centric, rollicking good novel. Called on the carpet for bad behavior and general ineptness, the worst specimens of the male sex are banished to Zone Six by an elite group of New Age Femi-Nazis; borderline males are "re-educated" with counseling and medication. But a creeping romantic urge survives in the triumphant female population. Women still long for male companionship, and black market sales of romantic novels are corroding the very foundations upon which the Revolution was fought. Enter Lisa, an operative of the lauded Ministry of Thought, who is charged with finding an acceptable sexual fantasy for women. Researching centuries of erotica, pornography and outright s&m, Lisa concludes that women have always dreamed and written about dominant, testosterone-laden men. Just as she's about to give up in despair, she is given a new assignment. With Justin, her administrative assistant and a current re-education subject, she is ordered to infiltrate Harmony, a counterrevolutionary underground men's movement. Despite discovering that Harmony meetings are rife with such archaic pursuits as makeovers for women and coed dancing, Lisa and Justin have little to report until they are invited to a special meeting and find themselves stranded in Zone Six with simpering women, redneck men and positive proof of an antirevolutionary coup attempt but no way to transmit their knowledge. Though hampered by a long-drawn-out beginning, the novel is saved by wry humor, backstabbing betrayals and fabulous secondary characters. Deeper than a mere "what-if" fantasy, this contra-Atwoodesque social fiction may satirize political correctness, but it also manages to salute present and future feminist triumphs, albeit in roundabout fashion. (Mar.) Forecast: The title is terrific; the cover that carries it is not: flowery, it gives little clue as to the nature of the novel. But this book will succeed primarily through word of mouth, of which there will be plenty. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved