Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
by Peggy Orenstein
Harper, March 29, 2016
In her powerful new book, Peggy Orenstein draws from in-depth interviews with more than seventy young women to reveal a profound and broad change in the ways that girls now experience their sexuality during adolescence and into young adulthood. In most ways current parents are more involved in their children's decision making and far more controlling in their children’s academic lives than parents in the past, yet there is little parental awareness of the dangerous arena of the hookup culture, which girls (and boys) navigate every day. Indeed, most parents never have a single conversation with their teenagers about romance and sexuality. The results of this silence for many teenagers can be deeply problematic. Ms. Orenstein describes the myriad ways that pornography pervades and influences how young men and women view relationships, virginity, their own desire for intimacy, and the obligation to follow the male-dominated narrative of porn culture. Her book is a wake-up call for parents and teachers to understand, and then shepherd, their children through a landscape that can be unforgiving and destructive. As schools seek to develop policies around sexual misconduct and assault, and as they offer curriculum around sexual health, they must also educate themselves about the realities that their students live out in their daily lives. Ms. Orenstein’s book is a strong, sensible, and clear-eyed piece of reporting that should be essential reading for educators and parents alike.