The shadow of two teenage girls

Author Peggy Orenstein says it’s never easy to talk about sex – especially with teenage girls. After interviewing over 70 young women and experts, Orenstein says teens today face many sexual pressures, from having their virginity ridiculed to shaping their self image in a world distorted by porn. Orenstein also explores why girls, empowered in so many public realms, focus more on giving sexual pleasure as opposed to receiving it. In her new book, “Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape,” Orenstein looks at the fine line between hookups and assault, and the disconnect between feeling empowered versus feeling desired.

Peggy Orenstein, author of "Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape" and "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture"; contributing writer, New York Times Magazine

  • Noelle

    Young women: liberate yourselves, question cultural assumptions!

  • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

    A lot of people are skeptical about the occurrence of both bisexuality and asexuality. Even some experts steer women (and no doubt men as well) away from both categories. I believe both should be respected. They’re more common than many people believe.

  • Noelle

    abstinence-based sex education doesn’t help matters.

  • Robert Thomas

    I don’t know that I’ll ever again ask for a glass of water with any nonchalance.

  • Cee Bee

    It’s not teen boys who make the Tyranny of Hot, it’s capitalism – and specifically the grown men who make its decisions. Hollywood movies, television shows, porn, advertising, sports, everything. Women’s bodies are profitable objects – commodities – because sex sells.

    Until American adults start to openly challenge the dictates of hyper-free-market capitalism and reflect on their own personal role in capitulating to it, we won’t get very far trying to get teenagers to challenge the Tyranny of Hot. Young women learn very quickly as soon as they hit puberty, that their bodies are suddenly profitable or unprofitable objects. Getting boys and men – for the most part, the buyers – to reflect, think, and contribute constructively to challenging this dynamic is particularly important. This is something that Europeans do much better than us — both in their cultural approach, their high school sexual education courses, and a much stronger general suspicion of the “free” market.

  • Will Ray

    Joshua will get zero dates because young women are not evolved enough to realize he is a great guy

  • Marissa

    As a 35 year old woman who completely identifies with much of my self confidence stemming from how attractive I feel, particularly to the opposite sex, yet at the same time and sort of paradoxically being a strong, outspoken feminist, I’m wondering how to navigate and shape this world of sex and sex appeal for my 5 year old daughter who already exhibits many of these alarming behaviors such as wanting to expose more skin as she dresses for what I assume is the purpose of being attractive!
    Thanks, Marissa

  • Robert Thomas

    This all seemed like perfectly reasonable, progressive-minded regular stuff until the invocation of tedious polemicist Michael Pollan spoiled it.

  • BDN

    Girls like Peggy blind boys with science

  • John

    I think Peggy’s choice of Girls (versus Women) is correct because her discussion is focused mostly on adolescence in females. If the issues discussed are resolved and healthy, then the status of the individuals is adult to adult. Biological age versus emotional age versus the age of both partners in the sexual relationship. So these issues can define adolescence at many ages.

  • Will Ray

    I think Peggy misses the boat. The bottom line for sex is pro creation. The idea of pleasure is like the idea of racism. It is a man made concept. If you get pleasure every time you are lucky. Plenty of people have a bad sex experience and don’t conduct a study or over analyze there partners behavior or their inability to ask their partner to be freakier in bed. It’s just none sense

    • Astrodrmr

      Ahahahahaha- you sound ridiculous.

    • Toni Guy

      Will in case you didn’t know this, most of the time sex is engaged in for pleasure or closeness not pro creation. Ms Orenstein (showing respect) did not miss the boat she hit it dead center. Women’s pleasure in a sexual relationship matters. We are not just containers for men to inseminate. Thank you for this important information.

    • Mopsy Pontner

      If sex weren’t pleasurable there wouldn’t be life on earth as we know it.

      As to your comment on racism …well sure it is man-made – as is just about every facet of the lives we lead today. I’m not sure what you want people to infer from that. To me it means that this is a real problem that is up to us to solve.

  • Jonnie

    Do you really think you’re going to take Femi-Nazism into the bedroom…ain’t gonna happen. Behavior during heterosexual intercourse springs forth from the “lizard brain” of both sexes…it’s hard-wired and will never change as long as homosapiens inhabit the earth.

  • What What

    I’m 46 and it’s hardly much different than when I was a teen; “virginity ridiculed to shaping their self image in a world distorted by porn”(The porn was just not on a computer nor phone). Really, the only difference is the 24/7 access to porn, which falls to the parents to monitor and limit Internet use as much as possible.

  • Brux

    This is a pretty fascinating discussion. I’m wondering if the reality of sex globally is not “skewed” is that there is not normal. The “tyranny of hot” is kind of another way of saying that men are more aggressive and energetic … men are active in sex … by geometry.

    In one way, human beings need to build and develop a social and environmental infrastructure that meets all of our needs for security and to develop, and yet the way we have biologically and socially developed is to make men and women unequal in many ways.

    As a young man the women I met were very giving sexually and those who weren’t I just moved away from. Simply because men could do that. Women were great, it was what made them attractive and nice. Why would anyone want to have a sexual relationship with someone you have to constantly worry about or negotiate with. It seems women have to find ways to meet their own needs, and they also have to realize where a lot of men are coming from … that is the male dominated culture of porn and how men are socialized.

    Women’s bodies have developed to be attractive to men. Society should have some kind of discussion about how we want this to work, or perhaps can we have different areas or zones where different expectations are enforced. Women want to feel, look and attract male attention … but I resent being caught in the middle of someone else’s mating dance which I guess I and everyone else is supposed to pretend is not happening, and yet we are biologically programmed to react to as well.

    I think we do not know how to handle these forces, because we do not really know what they are or what social or legal weight to put on them, and that may take a very long time. In the mean time the bottom line has to be sorting out respect and what it is and what it means for different points of views.

    If women are presenting themselves as objects you cannot expect men not to see them as objects, especially when they do know them other than as objects.

  • Another Mike

    My grandmother married at 18; my aunt at 33 — although she had had her pick of men from 18 on.
    I kind of think the existence of hormonal birth control had something to do with this age-at-marriage difference.

  • Another Mike

    I have to wonder if Ms. Orenstein was hot, back in the day. Her hotness or lack thereof would inform the whole conversation.
    It may be significant that Ms. O believes that sexuality must be confined to an intimate relationship, and not placed on display.

  • Another Mike

    Apparently Ms. O did not have a variety of sexual experience.

  • Another Mike

    I have to correct an error, here: Lena Dunham’s body is not normative in any way.

  • Another Mike

    Men take responsibility for their own orgasm, while women… not so much.

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