Girls and S*x: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein

2. Are We Having Fun Yet?

  • When it comes to female anatomy, both parents and schools avoid mentioning the clitoris and its function. As a result, most girls don’t have positive feelings about their vulvas and many don’t even get out a mirror to see what’s down there. The fact that girls are expected to shave or wax away their public hair also promotes negative feelings. Most of the interviewees had shaved or waxed since they were fourteen. Few heterosexual women interviewed had ever had an orgasm with a partner but most faked it. Thirty percent masturbated regularly while half never did.
  • The baseball analogy has shifted so that third base is now oral sex. In prior generations, it came after intercourse and marriage if at all. Some girls feel empowered and others see it as lowering their self-worth. Some find it’s a way to avoid the slut tag applied to girls who have intercourse. Nearly every girl Peggy interviewed had experienced coercion or force regarding oral sex. Boys put a lot of pressure to girls to perform oral sex and girls sometimes give in to avoid intercourse.
  • There is even no agreement about if oral sex is sex. We can thank Bill Clinton in part as he said that he didn’t have sex after getting a blow job in the oval (oral?) office. This activity starts for many in middle school and boys usually don’t reciprocate. By ninth grade one in five girls has given oral s*x. By eighteen the number is two thirds. While it seems like safe sex, you can still get STDs from oral sex. Good luck finding that in your school’s sex-ed program.
  • Thanks to the fact it is disproportionally common in porn, anal sex has become the fifth base in the baseball metaphor. By age 24, 40% of girls have engaged in anal sex. Again it’s the boys forcing the subject. Seventy percent of girls find it painful.

3. Like a virgin, Whatever That Is

  • Since the 1900s, the federal government has pushed abstinence-only sex education. This means that sex education for some kids is encapsulated in the word don’t. The focus is on unwanted pregnancy and disease. On the other end, some schools pass out condoms and lube and some mothers take their daughters to sex stores to buy their own vibrators. Most mothers, overestimate the efficacy, openness, and comfort level of their sex ed discussions. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of teens have intercourse before college and the average age is seventeen. Over half were drunk the first time and it’s rarely pleasurable for girls.
  • There are four ways young people view virginity. One is the gift. This can lead to disappointment once the gift is given. The second is the stigma. Emotionally this can be easier since it’s something you want to get out of the way. Third is the rite of passage. It’s a sign of becoming an adult and also has positive connotations. Finally it’s a way to honor God. This is most likely for those who hold out until their wedding day.
  • There are organizations that have girls sign pledges and the numbers are about one in six. Pledgers are much more likely to engage in oral sex. Unfortunately, girls are more likely to be bullied and stigmatized for sexual activity, which puts them at risk for depression and suicide. The definition of virginity is a bit more slippery than you might think. The big barrier is the notion that oral sex isn’t sex. Some even think that you are a virgin until you have an orgasm during sex. Once a girl does have intercourse, the matter of the number enters the picture. How many boys can you have sex with before your number gets out of hand?
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One Response to “Girls and S*x: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein”

  1. Suzanne Witzenburg says:

    Doug, a very thorough review of an interesting and important book. As a former sexuality educator/ trainer
    I find it discouraging that so little has changed in the 25 years since I began talking to teens , parents and professionals about sexuality. In 2001, I went on a European Study Tour with Advocates for Youth to The Netherlands , Germany and France. All three countries had integrated sex Ed into their school curriculum and had a science-based approach to sexuality education. I’m afraid that in the U.S., we are still conflicted by our Puritanical heritage, hence the double messages so many young people receive.

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