Think back to when you were 15. It was probably a pretty confusing time as far as your love life was concerned. (Unless you were, like, some sort of teenage unicorn, in which case…stop reading.)
News flash: It’s even harder for young women now. That’s the point of Peggy Orenstein’s eye-opening new book, Girls & Sex.
Orenstein, the journalist whose 2011 book Cinderella Ate My Daughter tackled the phenomenon of “princess culture,” shifted her focus up a few years, interviewing more than 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 about their attitudes on sex and sexuality.
Her subjects, who come from a variety of ethnic, regional and socioeconomic backgrounds, speak candidly about how we as a society have progressed (and, in some cases, regressed) when it comes to thinking about sex.
The mother of an almost-teenager herself, Orenstein seems genuinely shocked about what sex means today, specifically how it often precedes intimacy, with girls putting boys’ satisfaction and approval above their own level of comfort, the pervasiveness of “hook-up culture” and the weird dichotomy between girls feeling empowered to engage in sex but not to enjoy sex.
Though she references studies and statistics, what really stands out are Orenstein’s interviews with the adolescents, who provide a rather bleak look at the line between “slutty” and “prudish.”(Opposites, they say, that are both frowned upon.)
Worrisome as the girls’ experiences are, Orenstein offers a number of plausible fixes. (Hint: Have the awkward conversations, people.) And more to the point, the more we talk about the problem, she says, the more likely our daughters are to see plausible ways out.