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

6. Blurred Lines, Take Two

  • Attention to sexual assault over the past few years has been unprecedented. So just what is the definition of sexual assault? This can vary depending on who is doing the study. It’s hard to get good data, but people have tried. About 25% of college girls report that they either had unwanted sex or that someone had tried to physically force them. In most cases, the person was someone they knew. The term date-rape was coined in 1987. In spite of these numbers, 77% of campuses reported their number of sexual assaults at an implausible zero. By the spring of 2015 more than a hundred colleges were under investigation for possible mishandling of sexual assault.
  • All the attention to this matter may be the reason that yearly reports almost doubled to 6,000+ from 2009 to 2013. Peggy argues that sexual assault is even more common in high school. The difference is that high schools don’t have a duty to report it. An estimated 80% of campus assaults involve alcohol. Drunken boys are more likely to force sex and drunk girls are more likely to give in or be incapacitated. Some boys even see alcohol as a date-rape drug. One study where girls viewed training videos cut the incidence in half. Some states and schools have implemented a Yes Means Yes program where various sex acts need to be negotiated. Boys should also note that being an athlete or a fraternity brother predisposes one to be an assaulter.

7. What If We Told Them the Truth?>

  • This chapter starts with the story of a sex educator who travels from school to school in California telling kids the truth. She explains things like what the clitoris is and what makes it feel good. That’s right, she tells girls how to masturbate with boys in the room. The truth is that sex should feel good and both partners should enjoy it. Both boys and girls should feel responsible for making their partners happy and both should agree on what they will do. Decision making, personal responsibility, and gender roles are also covered.
  • The next part compares sex education and the results in the US and Holland. Over the years, the US government has spent many millions (Clinton $60, G. W. Bush $175, O’Bama $75 as part of Obamacare) on the abstinence sex-ed approach with dismal results in terms of unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and kids feeling guilt and regret after having sex for the first time. In Holland, sex ed is more like the California approach and parents generally support it. Fathers even tell their sons to make sure the girl has pleasure and agrees to have sex. While Dutch kids will talk about sex with their parents, kids in the US usually resort to sneaking around and outright lying.
  • Peggy also recommends that we give kids scenarios to work with and discuss techniques that are likely to feel good and maybe not so good. This can battle some of what kids might see as normal because they have been watching porn. There is also a summary of Amy Schalet’s The New ABCD’s of Talking About Sex With Teenagers.
  • In Conclusion, Peggy wants sexuality to be a source of self-knowledge, creativity, and communication. She wants girls to revel in their bodies’ sensuality. She wants girls to be able to ask for what they want in bed and get it. She wants them to be safe from disease, unwanted pregnancy, cruelty, dehumanization, and violence. Finally, if they are assaulted, she wants them to have recourse from school administrators, employers, and the courts. It’s a lot to ask for, but it’s not too much.

Peggy Orenstein

  • Peggy is the New York Times bestselling author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Waiting for Daisy, Flux, and Schoolgirls. A contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, she has been published in USA Today, Parenting, Salon, The New Yorker, and other publications. She has contributed commentary to NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter.
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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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