Gail Elizabeth Wyatt's Stolen Women explores how body identities are often shaped by deeply rooted myths and cultural stereotypes. Tracing Black women's body images and sexuality from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, Wyatt powerfully explains in her introduction that "to the degree that we allow our sexual self-image to be defined by others, we will remain, as our ancestors were, stolen women, captives not of strangers but of the past, and of our own unexamined experiences. The challenge we face is to see ourselves not as others see us or want us to be seen, but as we are, as we were, and as we want to be."
Wyatt, a Ph.D. and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral science at UCLA, explores the origins and hazards of these images through a psychiatric lens. Her use of case studies and behavioral research puts a human face on how these myths affect the development of young Black women, and her careful analysis breaks down behavioral trends clearly and concisely.
Black women are often seen in opposing sexual terms, either as completely nonsexual or perpetually sexually available. Wyatt fills in the gap between these two dangerous stereotypes, unpacking childhood messages about sex and exploring issues like how girls learn to be "ladies." She encourages all "stolen women" to regain control over their bodies from these external forces, allowing women to apply her work to their own lives and giving them the tools to break free, refusing to believe these painful myths are unchangeable.