Gone are the days when we pretend that our teenage girls are not immersed in a sexual society.  Finally, we get it. Sex surrounds them, entices them and sadly, in many cases sex defines them. Thanks to likes of Peggy Orenstein and her latest book, Girls and Sex, we have a better look at what the girls themselves are thinking. She provides insight into sexually stimulated world of teenagers in this book written for parents, asks crucial questions, and in my opinion, most importantly shows us that girls are willing and want to talk to us about sex.  

Orienstein interviewed 70 middle class young women between the ages of 15 and 20, both heterosexual and homosexual, a wide range of psychologists, and experts. In this thought provoking read, she recounts conversations with the subjects, paints the good, the bad and the ugly about the current temperature of young people’s sex lives and indicates that parents, by and large, are missing out on opportunities to talk about what’s going on. 

According to Orienstein’s research, and bringing comfort to mothers of preteen girls like me, is the fact that the actual number of teenagers having sex are down. While intercourse seems to be “so yesterday,” today, young women face a “pornified” world, and a warped sense of what real-life sex is like but normalization of casual sex with very little emotional connectivity.  Many of them shared with Orenstein the belief that oral sex is “no big deal.” Girls see giving oral sex as an means to popularity, often with the help of alcohol for courage and comfort. They are also misinformed, often expressing the belief that no risk of pregnancy means no risk at all. Sadly, too many young women think very little about their own pleasure but feel compelled to provide it for their partners. 

“Girls & Sex” is the second of Orenstein’s books inspired by her own daughter, who is a young teenager. After hearing an interview on NPR, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  It does not disappoint, but rather provides another resource for those of us trying desperately to keep the lines of communication open, to educate our daughters on safe practices, healthy relationships, and that when it comes to sex, their thoughts and desires absolutely matter. 

by Stephanie Morgan

book review, parenting teens

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