Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein tells the real story of what it’s like being a girl from middle school to college in today’s highly sexualized climate. Peggy scoured current research and had in-depth interviews with over seventy high school and college girls to compile this gripping and sometimes discouraging story. I first listened to the book on Audible prior to buying the physical cook for this summary.
- For this book Peggy interviewed more than seventy young women between the ages of fifteen and twenty, which is when most become sexually active. The group was diverse in terms of religion, politics, race, family composition, wealth, and sexual identification. They were, however, self-selected but all were hungry to talk about things like masturbation, oral sex, orgasm, and the complicated terrain of the hookup culture. Fully half experienced something on the coercion to rape spectrum.
- Despite seismic changes in expectations and opportunity, they are still subject to the same old double standard. Sexually active girls are “sluts” while boys are “players.” Good girls are shamed as virgins and prudes. Here the opposite of a negative is still a negative. Peggy found that the conversations changed her. In preparation she also reviewed the literature and talked to psychologists, sociologists, pediatricians, educators, journalists, and other experts.
1. Matilda Oh Is Not an Object – Except When She Wants to Be
- At least some boys are very abusive with language, social media use, and even physical touching. Authorities often make things worse with actions that blame the victim. Blaming girls’ clothing for the thoughts and actions of boys for example, is counterproductive and only a step from “she was asking for it.” Girls often engage in self-objectification, which can lead to depression and lower self-esteem. They learn that as females they need to project sex appeal. In addition to striving to be smart, nice, and friendly, they need to do it all while looking ‘hot’. As a man, Bruce Jenner used his body to win gold. As a woman, Caitlin Jenner displayed her body for attention.
- Girls are also more likely to use social media to show off their bodies with or without sexy clothing and are quick to tell each other they look hot. They are twice as likely to be coerced to send sexts as early as middle school, and many consider it to be safe sex. Thanks to celebrities like Kim Kardashian, the butt has become the latest body part to reduce women to objects. Unfortunately, Kim and her fellow divas encourage young girls to package their sexuality.
- The behavior of many popular celebrities like Miley Cyrus has lead to many young women dressing and behaving like the people they see on screen. Seventy percent of prime-time TV now contains sexual content. Movies also affect how girls and boys behave when they get together for parties.
- The role of pornography has also had an impact. Almost all boys watch it, which changes their expectations when it comes to having real sex. A lot of porn scenes feature the denigration of women as well. Like it or not, porn has a very large role in the sex education for this generation. For many it’s how they learn what sex is. To them, things like oral and anal sex are the norm. Porn also adds to the objectification of girls promoted by other media. Competing with porn stars can cause some girls to believe that they need to put on a show to keep a partner’s interest.