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With casual hookups and campus rape relentlessly in the news, parents can be forgiven for feeling anxious about their young daughters. They’re also fearful about opening up a dialogue. Not Orenstein. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times best-selling author of books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein spoke to psychologists, aca With casual hookups and campus rape relentlessly in the news, parents can be forgiven for feeling anxious about their young daughters. They’re also fearful about opening up a dialogue. Not Orenstein. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times best-selling author of books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein spoke to psychologists, academics, and other experts in the field and yes, 70 young women, to offer an in-depth picture of “girls and sex” today.


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With casual hookups and campus rape relentlessly in the news, parents can be forgiven for feeling anxious about their young daughters. They’re also fearful about opening up a dialogue. Not Orenstein. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times best-selling author of books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein spoke to psychologists, aca With casual hookups and campus rape relentlessly in the news, parents can be forgiven for feeling anxious about their young daughters. They’re also fearful about opening up a dialogue. Not Orenstein. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times best-selling author of books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein spoke to psychologists, academics, and other experts in the field and yes, 70 young women, to offer an in-depth picture of “girls and sex” today.

30 review for Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    2 1/2 stars. Warning: long, often personal review. This book does a lot of good. I mean, firstly, it is so readable and compelling that it is easy to speed through the chapters and finish the book in a day. Secondly, it gets its strength and arguments from a series of interviews and anecdotes that Orenstein has gathered from young women across the United States, which offers a personal, funny and often shocking look at the issues. Thirdly, the stories from these girls and women kind of prove what 2 1/2 stars. Warning: long, often personal review. This book does a lot of good. I mean, firstly, it is so readable and compelling that it is easy to speed through the chapters and finish the book in a day. Secondly, it gets its strength and arguments from a series of interviews and anecdotes that Orenstein has gathered from young women across the United States, which offers a personal, funny and often shocking look at the issues. Thirdly, the stories from these girls and women kind of prove what I think is our ultimate failure on sex - regardless of issues relating to sexual and hook-up culture - and that is our need for better sex education. I was pretty shocked when I came over to California (I know this differs a lot between states and schools) and discovered that a lot of kids didn't receive any kind of sex education until high school (at least age 14). I've always been dissatisfied with what we got in the UK, but I can at least say that we got the standard mechanics of sexual intercourse and safe sex methods by the time we left junior school (age 11). The truth no one wants to talk about is that a significant number of kids have had some kind of sexual experience before the age of 14. That being said, throughout all school, our sex education was limited to the fundamentals of heterosexual sex. There was no discussion about homosexuality, masturbation, foreplay, anal or oral sex. I consider my high school a liberal one (the sex education teacher stood at the front of the class and literally said "Sex is great. I have sex. I love sex. But you have to know how to protect yourself from STDs and unwanted pregnancy. This is a condom." - best message ever??), and we still got no mention of these important things - some of which the majority will experience at some point. The stories Orenstein shares show how we are doing teens a disservice by not educating them on sex and, by doing so, forcing them to find out for themselves on that completely reliable source of information - the Internet. That's the good thing about this book. The problem, however, is that Orenstein's research claims are a little sketchy and she doesn't cite references or use footnotes in the body of the text to make it clear where she's pulled her "facts" from. Maybe this is just something that bothers me personally, as a former Politics student, but I like traditional Harvard or Chicago styles of reference (with it clearly noted as and when it appears in the text), not just notes and bibliography in the back. Unfortunately, a lot of this book is the author’s own opinion, roughly backed up here and there by a quote from an educated, upper middle class young woman. And sometimes she seems to use a single girl’s testimony to draw a huge conclusion about the nature of sexuality and sexual relations. All experiences are, of course, valid and important, but just because I can find you a witness testimony of a Muslim committing a crime, or a self-proclaimed feminist hating men, it doesn't necessarily say something about the entire population of Muslims or feminists. Generalization is one of the oldest mistakes in the book. Some of her ideas about oversexualization are really interesting and I do think it's time to take a look at it again. Feminists today, myself included, have reclaimed sexuality and started the sex-positive movement. Why should we cover up?! If we want to wear short skirts and skimpy bikinis, then good for us! I think we're discouraged from considering why women feel the need to appear "hot" in a way that men don't; we're encouraged to not ask questions because "yes means yes" and I think there is room to question that ideology and wonder how much of it really is empowerment (not saying I agree, just that I think there's an opening for it). But, like most influential people and convincing politicians, Orenstein makes a lot of shocking, interesting and emotive points, and never backs it up with any real evidence. Kind of like Donald Trump. As I said, she makes many great leaps between one girl's story and her conclusions about society in general. And, for every horror story, I can come back with a very different tale from my own experiences. Because virtually all her points are based on anecdotal evidence, I’d like to reply with some of my own. There are many experiences out there, and you know what? I personally had very different ones. - Orenstein claims that men have expectations of girls when it comes to sex because they watch porn - in other words, they expect a blow job, expect a woman to objectify herself, and don't care if she has an orgasm. The thing is, I know guys like this exist. Yes, they really do. Me and my friends fondly refer to them as "assholes". But I, for one, have not had this experience with men. Growing up, during my first sexual experiences, I swear the guys were at least as nervous as I was. Maye because they'd watched porn and seen penises twice the size of their own and women screaming like banshees. I've never actually known a guy expect a blow job. And, generally, I've found from my own experiences and those of my friends, a lot of guys are more embarrassed by the possibility that they wouldn’t satisfy, than annoyed if the girl doesn’t get them off. - Orenstein claims that women feel the need to be sexual and embrace hook-up culture, though many don't really want to participate. Again, I'm sure this is true of some women, but I honestly don't think this is part of a bigger trend in society. To be honest, I think it strips a lot of women of their strength and agency, given that many young college women I know chose not to participate in hook-ups and no one gave a damn. Orenstein seems to underestimate girls' ability to say no, AND their ability to say yes and mean it. Because at the other end of the scale, you have one of my close friends from college who did participate in hook-ups and - she tells me and I truly believe - she did it not because she felt she should, or for some self-validation, but because she likes sex and wanted to. - Orenstein claims that women are more concerned about being sexy and getting sex "right" for men than actually enjoying the sexual experience. I think there's some level of truth to this, especially with early sexual experiences, but the author leaves it unexplored. I think both boys and girls are concerned about doing the right thing and getting sex "right" when they first start out. I don't believe it's gender-specific and it seems kind of natural. Plus, sex for me really is about two people (if it wasn't, masturbation is a much quicker and easier option). It's natural to want the other person to enjoy it, to find you attractive, to have your desire fuelled by theirs. Wanting to know how to do it "right" for them is not a bad thing. It's not something I've felt the need to do because "I'm a woman and I need to please a man". There is something extremely exciting about turning your partner on, and to turn that into a gender politics issue is a gross oversimplification of sexual desire. - Orenstein claims that these angry teenage boys and young men expect certain things from girls they hook up with. She cites one example of a guy storming out on a girl because she wouldn't give him a blow job. Again with those assholes - but can we really call this a societal trend based on a single (or few) bad experiences? I'll throw you back another anecdote of my own - this time, an extremely embarrassing one. It happened one drunken night in my second year of college (uh oh). I had been dancing with and kissing this guy all night, and afterwards he walked back with me (the assumption of sex was in the air). We got to my place... did I give him a blow job? Did I use my knowledge of porn to go through the motions of what is "right" to do? Ha! No, I threw up in my sink and passed out on my bed. And what did this angry young man with sex expectations do? He held my hair while I puked, pulled the bed sheet over me after, and left me sleeping. Then he texted me the next day to see if I was alright. Unlike the author, I'm not trying to draw sweeping generalizations from this. I'm not claiming this says anything about society and sex, or that it somehow undermines the negative experiences of other women. But I am showing how easy it is to throw out single examples on both sides - the good and the bad - and how there are many different experiences. Using one to make a statement about the whole of society is ridiculous. I also wish, for example, that she'd considered how porn is a way for some women to get sexual gratification, not just a way in which they learn to devalue themselves and get terrible sex tips. I really enjoyed reading the experiences of all these different women. It would be great to see a book that collected these experiences and didn't use them to (badly) make a point. I think a lot of them speak for themselves about our need for better sex education and more discussions about sex. But the book lost a little something when the author stepped in with her own dire monologues, constantly shaking her head at the Kim Kardashians and Miley Cyruses of this world. Her examples are interesting and they are shocking, but they don't add up to what she claims they do. And occasionally I stumbled across one that was obviously just stupid. For example, this is how she gives evidence for vagina-shaming in society: If that weren’t enough to plunge the average young woman into a shame spiral, heartthrob actor Robert Pattinson, whose fame and fortune were forged from the erotic fantasies of teenage girls, breezily confessed to Details magazine, “I really hate vaginas. I’m allergic to vagina.” Oh, hell. This was a joke that RP made when he posed with a bunch of nude models. The statement was so hyperbolic that it's really embarrassing the author tried to use it as "evidence". Orenstein is great at working her audience and keeping you hooked, but if you're the kind of reader who likes to look a little deeper and question things, it's likely you'll see right through this. Also: I really hate books, you know. I'm allergic to books. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    I came to this book fully expecting to love it and wanting to champion it—this is a topic that I have lots of capital-O OPINIONS about—but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Peggy Orenstein approached her work with her mind already made up and simply included whatever reinforced those beliefs without thinking about the subject as critically as she could or should have. Even though I tend to agree with much of what she says, the fact remains that this is opinion being passed off as fact. One o I came to this book fully expecting to love it and wanting to champion it—this is a topic that I have lots of capital-O OPINIONS about—but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Peggy Orenstein approached her work with her mind already made up and simply included whatever reinforced those beliefs without thinking about the subject as critically as she could or should have. Even though I tend to agree with much of what she says, the fact remains that this is opinion being passed off as fact. One of the biggest problems is actually something that Orenstein acknowledges: her sample is hardly representative. Because the book is largely based on interviews with volunteers, it primarily reflects the experiences of liberal-minded, upper-middle class white girls from suburban areas. There are a handful of exceptions, but we’re still primarily getting the experiences of a very specific type of girl. A lot of their experiences reflect one another, and Orenstein seemed a little too quick to declare that those experiences therefore reflect the norm. Orenstein’s descriptions of these experiences tends towards overgeneralization, assuming that because this one girl’s story fits a specific mold it must mean that’s just The Way It Is. When she’s parroting studies outside of her interviews, Orenstein isn’t particularly careful about the way she cites those sources. I read a statement and wanted to find out where it came from…and it wasn’t easy. She doesn’t include in-text citations or footnotes, but she does list the source of some statements in the back, arranged by page number and re-directing readers to a sloppy “selected bibliography.” I was left with very little confidence that her sources were reliable or that her representations of their conclusions were accurately represented. I grew so frustrated with this book that I began skimming at about the two-thirds point and never really looked back. Orenstein is examining some incredibly important topics, but I felt that her presentation does them a great disservice. And that’s a shame, because I really do believe she did some extensive research—I actually recognized some of the names she dropped from my own professional experience—but I’m not entirely convinced that her research was unbiased. Something else that is missing from this book is also the boys’ perspective. I know that’s hardly surprising given that the title of the book is Girls and Sex, but here’s the thing: Orenstein makes declarations about boys’ expectations based on little more than talking to the girls about them. She states that young men have certain expectations of girls when it comes to sex because they watch porn and because pop culture treats female sexuality as a commodity, she repeatedly states that young men are interested in their own pleasure and not the least bit concerned about their partners’ experience, and she sorts of paints a sweeping portrait of the sexually active teenage boy as a hormone-driven cad out in search of orgasms and notches for his bed post without giving the teenage boy a chance to defend himself. In my experience, sexually inexperienced young men come to the bedroom with just as much nervousness and uncertainty as young women. There are assholes out there with very little regard for their partners and our culture does send men very different messages about sex than it sends to women, for sure. But if you’re going to say that a boy’s behavior left a girl feeling a certain way, then maybe it might be worth exploring what is going on in the boy’s mind that made him behave that way? After all, communication is the most important thing when it comes to sexual activity. If you want everyone to get on the same page, you have to consider everyone’s perspective. And so I was left largely pretty frustrated because I really wanted this book to be as good as the reviews are. Sex education in this country is pretty lacking—for both boys andgirls, though again, Orenstein doesn’t really examine the disservice we do to boys. More open and honest education is needed, as is more open and honest conversation. I just don’t think Orenstein’s providing that conversation here in an effective way.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    An enlightening and terrifying look at girls and sex. This is and isn't about research and statistics -- there are numbers and studies, yes, but the important takeaways come from the girls who were speaking with Orenstein throughout. They're knowledgable and ignorant about sex, and they're knowledgeable about their own ignorance. The scariest takeaways here were about how much disservice we do to girls with sex education. There is none. Girls don't learn about their own bodies, about pleasure, o An enlightening and terrifying look at girls and sex. This is and isn't about research and statistics -- there are numbers and studies, yes, but the important takeaways come from the girls who were speaking with Orenstein throughout. They're knowledgable and ignorant about sex, and they're knowledgeable about their own ignorance. The scariest takeaways here were about how much disservice we do to girls with sex education. There is none. Girls don't learn about their own bodies, about pleasure, or about how sex is a partnership. They're taught to be ashamed, taught never to look at themselves, let alone touch themselves or learn how their bodies work. They learn about all of the bad things that can happen, as opposed to discovering the amazing aspects of sex and pleasure. This wasn't surprising, especially as I had some really terrible sex education, but the way Orenstein pairs those observations with the girls' stories made it especially horrifying. This should be required reading for anyone who works with teens, and it's the kind of book I can easily see teen girls wanting to read, too. Girls deserve so much better. And when we're better about teaching them, of letting them know it's okay to learn about themselves, it's okay to be who they are, and it's okay to find pleasure in sex, then we also do huge service to boys in allowing them to learn to have really great sex. (I also appreciate how Orenstein takes great care to talk about heteronomativity, about the gender spectrum, about the spectrum of sexuality. She notes how much more knowledge today's teens have access to, thanks to the internet, but that that access isn't the same as education or acceptance.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A well-intended book about a topic close to my heart: how we socialize girls to feel ignorant about and out of touch with their sexualities. Though Peggy Orenstein misfires on a few important topics, she accomplishes quite a bit of good with Girls & Sex. She sheds light on how patriarchal forces, including abstinence-only education, contribute to girls' confusion and lack of pleasure when it comes to sex. Orenstein argues that this lack of training concerning healthy sexuality and relationships A well-intended book about a topic close to my heart: how we socialize girls to feel ignorant about and out of touch with their sexualities. Though Peggy Orenstein misfires on a few important topics, she accomplishes quite a bit of good with Girls & Sex. She sheds light on how patriarchal forces, including abstinence-only education, contribute to girls' confusion and lack of pleasure when it comes to sex. Orenstein argues that this lack of training concerning healthy sexuality and relationships often puts women at risk for sexual violence. She includes interviews with young women throughout the book as well as suggestions for how we can change our culture toward the end. I give Girls & Sex three stars because Orenstein tackles an often-stigmatized topic with passion, and I appreciate that her efforts will help us start the much-needed conversation about healthy sexuality in kids and teens. With these positives noted, I felt frustrated with Orenstein's lack of organization and sometimes narrow-minded view of issues surrounding sexuality. She does not include any in-text citations and the format of her "selected bibliography" makes it difficult to discern where she draws her information from. On a more important note, she often has a reductive view of what happens when woman express sexuality. For example, she derides celebrities such as Beyonce and Nicki Minaj for the sexuality within their dancing, outfits, and overall performance style. However, she fails to take into account that 1) these women have explicitly done so many things to empower women and by only critiquing their artistry because of its sexuality, she contributes to slut-shaming women, 2) she blames the individual artists for producing their work instead of the patriarchal and capitalist institutions that often govern their behavior, like sexist male executives, and 3) she only marginally discusses the misogyny that pervades male musicians' work, which is by far more damaging to boys and girls than most female pop stars' performances. The most glaring oversight in Girls and Sex stems from the lack of discussion on how boys and men and patriarchy contribute to problems within female sexuality. Yes, it makes sense for Orenstein to focus on girls, but she would often come to mixed conclusions (e.g., wearing revealing clothing is sometimes empowering to girls and sometimes not) that could have been fleshed out by addressing the male gaze, how we socialize boys to base their self-worth on aggression instead of nurturing, etc. This way, we can shift more of the responsibility and preventative work onto men, where it belongs. One quote that I appreciated, though I wish she included more on (maybe her next book will focus on this): "It's no longer enough simply to caution young men against 'getting a girl pregnant,' or, more likely in the current climate, to warn about the shifting definition of rape. Parents need to discuss the spectrum of pressure, coercion, and consent with their sons, the forces urging them to see girls' limits as a challenge to overcome. Boys need to understand how they, too, are harmed by sexualized media and porn. They need to see models of masculine sexuality that are not grounded in aggression against women, in denigration or conquest. They need to know about shared pleasure, mutuality, reciprocity." Overall, an informative book that I would recommend if you approach it with a critical perspective. For those who feel interested in this topic, I would encourage you to check out The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti, which approaches female sexuality in a way I find enlightening and necessary. With a US President that has openly supported sexual violence against women, we must work to fight the patriarchy more than ever and to improve the sexual health of our country's children, teens, and adults.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wren (fablesandwren)

    This book was full of factual studies, interviews with all types of girls (sexual orientation, race, background, etc) and about their ignorance with sex. A lot of this book was just proving we need a lot more sex education when it comes to the female body and what goes on with you. As many people already know, sex education is something that is lacking in some educations and that is something that needs to be addressed since that is the age that people start feeling things and exploring with eac This book was full of factual studies, interviews with all types of girls (sexual orientation, race, background, etc) and about their ignorance with sex. A lot of this book was just proving we need a lot more sex education when it comes to the female body and what goes on with you. As many people already know, sex education is something that is lacking in some educations and that is something that needs to be addressed since that is the age that people start feeling things and exploring with each other. This book does talk about rap, sexual assault, sex and has some cussing from the interviewees; but it was really enlightening and something I would suggest people read if they want to know that other people have went / are going through some similar situations that you might have. Orenstein talks about some really uncomfortable stuff, so I would advise a preparation of the heart and mind before diving into this book. - - - Okay... this was a needed read. Let me think about how to write a review on this. - - - Let’s talk about sex, baby. 🎵

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kaylie

    Anyone whose feed has been flooded with the shade I've been casting at this book knows I've had a complicated reaction to it. On the one hand, I am passionate about this subject matter, and Orenstein's writing often gives deft, fiery treatment to many of the issues facing young women; she interviewed young women, she listened to their words, and now she attempts to integrate it with research to say the things that need to be said, and I am *all about that.* On the other hand, I don't think I like Anyone whose feed has been flooded with the shade I've been casting at this book knows I've had a complicated reaction to it. On the one hand, I am passionate about this subject matter, and Orenstein's writing often gives deft, fiery treatment to many of the issues facing young women; she interviewed young women, she listened to their words, and now she attempts to integrate it with research to say the things that need to be said, and I am *all about that.* On the other hand, I don't think I like Peggy Orenstein very much at all. Labeling is not a neutral act. When you take it upon yourself to decree what is 'good,' what is 'nasty,' what is 'healthy,' what is 'normal,' you are doing so from a position of privilege. You are actively CREATING privilege by elevating yourself and creating that language, that taxonomy. The people with the privilege to judge and label others are certainly not those who have been historically disenfranchised or who could most benefit, or most suffer, from the impact of those labels. So she waves her rubber stamp around and casually passes judgment on women's bodies and women's sex, totally oblivious, arguing at once that "sex or not" does not define a woman's worth but also making it clear that women like Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj are slutty and nasty. Sometimes she addresses her own ambivalence on topics like girls' drinking and girls' subversion of dress code (which she interprets solely as self-objectification, missing out on the way fighting for tank tops and short-shorts can take the battle for bodily autonomy onto ground that even adolescents can access), but she does not engage profitably in her own contradictions. Since I'm sure many of us, especially of Orenstein's generation and projected readership, experience similar contradictions, actually engaging with and challenged her own shit would have strengthened this book considerably. If at any point in this book Orenstein had owned her own privilege as a well-educated, middle class white woman, then maybe I could appreciate what she tried to do here in spite of her endless editorializing, sloppy interpretation of research findings, failure to cite appropriately within the text, and outright racism about black bodies and black slang. But she doesn't. She doesn't acknowledge the shortcomings to her viewpoints or her own bias; instead she writes as if she is mother to us all, looking out for our best interests and helping naive young women cover up their sinful, asking-for-it bodies, because she cares about our health and our orgasms, and our insistence on taking shots and wearing crop tops are really interfering with that. We are having sex wrong, for the wrong reasons, and with her immaculate, omniscient vision, Orenstein is a prophet of Feminist Empowering Orgasmic Sex That Will Allow Us To Respect Ourselves, and she is going to show us the way, damn it. For me, a lot of her good intentions and valid points get lost in this overall tone. The strongest chapters were about campus sexual assault and sex education in schools; in the final chapter, she extensively details the curricula of a sex educator named Charis Denison, who I wish had written this book instead, which I greatly enjoyed and learned from. At her worst, Orenstein engages in body policing (with prettier language than slut-shaming but with a similar end result), misses out on major aspects of current issues like the battle for bodily autonomy that cannot be erased from modern feminist struggles, shames black sexuality and writes from an unquestioned white perspective, and offers what seems like apologies for rapists, who are poor boys just as damaged by porn and sexism as girls are and who do not know how to cope with acts that make them uncomfortable and the 'blurred lines' around consent. Orenstein's job with this book was not easy, and she did justice to some difficult topics with her skillful ability to weave anecdote and research together into a miasma of generalizations that read like fact. Her politics are passionate and I believe she means well; often I even agree with her; but ultimately, she fails as an ally to women and girls, especially those who aren't white, cis, hetero, or otherwise privileged. This is a thought-provoking read but, for me, an angry one. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have long conversations with me about feminism and what this book does well and how it fails. Otherwise, though, we would learn more if Orenstein spent less time on her interpretive soapbox and more time serving her stated objective: making the voices and experiences of young women heard.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Online Eccentric Librarian

    More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ So many books on this subject tend to gloss over or sanitize the reality in order to make it more palatable to parents or the readers. With Girls and Sex, author Orenstein lays it all down on the table: countless interviews with girls from teens to college age, getting honest answers about their experiences. While she does tend to provide a lot of her own personal viewpoints interspersed with her findings, there are v More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ So many books on this subject tend to gloss over or sanitize the reality in order to make it more palatable to parents or the readers. With Girls and Sex, author Orenstein lays it all down on the table: countless interviews with girls from teens to college age, getting honest answers about their experiences. While she does tend to provide a lot of her own personal viewpoints interspersed with her findings, there are very sound principles as well as blunt, eye opening perspectives. Readers are given both sides to many stories, from abstinence, to drinking, hooking up, and sexting. The book break down as follows: Chapter 1: girls as objects; Chapter 2: do girls enjoy sex as much as they should?; Chapter 3: what exactly is a virgin?; chapter 4: hook ups and hang ups; chapter 5: online and IRL; Chapter 6: substance abuse/rape; Chapter 7: telling them the truth. The above are my condensation of the chapter topics and not the actual chapter titles. The main discussion areas of the book are: presenting the truth about sex to girls, the problem with objectification/low self esteem/a male driven porn industry that prioritizes male satisfaction while ignoring a woman's, how drinking and substance abuse contribute to date rape the problem with reporting/policing it, what exactly does virginity mean these days when there is so much variety in sexual acts, and abstinence vs exploration. All of the topics are discussed in detail and various viewpoints and actual experiences are given. Orenstein is careful to not only provide factual backup but to also discuss the problems with the facts and how they can/are distorted, misinterpreted, or completely ignored. So yes, although she does interpose her opinions frequently, this does not feel like a one-sided discussion. This book is not alarmist, bra burning, feminist, or any other 'agenda' non fiction. Really, it's a discussion of the reality of girls and sex in this day and age. Ideal for girls, sociologists, and parents alike (though it isn't a clinical study nor a guidebook for raising a teen/being a teen) as an information piece that delves honestly and deeply into the world girls will face in the coming years. As more of an observation of the facts rather than an analysis of them, I do recommend Girls and Sex. There are some very important points here from voices that we don't hear enough. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Krista Regester

    I will probably end up digesting every word written by Peggy Orenstein. What I love about Girls & Sex especially, is that every time I thought to myself “I wish she would talk more about this...” she did. So many interesting, shocking, and infuriating topics can be discussed when talking about sex. Peggy does a great job sifting through them and actually letting you hear the voices of girls going through life. There were multiple times through this text that I wished this was required reading fo I will probably end up digesting every word written by Peggy Orenstein. What I love about Girls & Sex especially, is that every time I thought to myself “I wish she would talk more about this...” she did. So many interesting, shocking, and infuriating topics can be discussed when talking about sex. Peggy does a great job sifting through them and actually letting you hear the voices of girls going through life. There were multiple times through this text that I wished this was required reading for anyone in school. What a different world we would grow up in if preteens/teens/adults knew this information. Even the college students interviewed were still so naïve in the worst sexual ways. It shouldn’t take over a quarter of your life to start learning your own body.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    Yeah, ahh, I don’t feel like I can honestly review this book without being heavily trolled. I bookmarked quite a few things, and I may try to make some points but I also may not. Social media has become an ugly place and this is a dangerous topic. I’m the mother of two children, one being a tween girl. While this book wasn’t what I was expecting (HELP navigating the landscape of girls and sex, relevant to today’s issues), I’d like to acknowledge that while some of it (the “data” and stories, par Yeah, ahh, I don’t feel like I can honestly review this book without being heavily trolled. I bookmarked quite a few things, and I may try to make some points but I also may not. Social media has become an ugly place and this is a dangerous topic. I’m the mother of two children, one being a tween girl. While this book wasn’t what I was expecting (HELP navigating the landscape of girls and sex, relevant to today’s issues), I’d like to acknowledge that while some of it (the “data” and stories, particularly around hook up culture) was outright horrifying, some of it was helpful, or at the very least, validating with regard to the importance of sex education and true discussion about everything from pleasure to assertiveness. Overall, the book seemed like it didn’t know what it wanted to be. It was all over the place, lacking cohesiveness and much more seriously without many source citations. I found that problematic because a lot of statistics were being thrown around. There was a pervasive feeling of blurred lines between opinions and facts. There was also the inclusion of an extremely insensitive and inappropriate comment about Afghanistan that caused me to both gasp and question how closely and by whom the book was edited. I don’t know about this one. I need some more time to reflect but for the most part, this was a miss for me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Giselle A Nguyen

    I was thoroughly disappointed in this book. Peggy Orenstein comes across as incredibly out of touch, and her point of view is both condescending and alarmist. The chapter about queer and trans issues was especially galling, given that Orenstein did not talk to a single transgender person, instead satisfied with speaking to one queer girl who thought she was trans and then discovered she wasn't. She seems judgmental of parents who support their trans children's early transitions, and offered no u I was thoroughly disappointed in this book. Peggy Orenstein comes across as incredibly out of touch, and her point of view is both condescending and alarmist. The chapter about queer and trans issues was especially galling, given that Orenstein did not talk to a single transgender person, instead satisfied with speaking to one queer girl who thought she was trans and then discovered she wasn't. She seems judgmental of parents who support their trans children's early transitions, and offered no useful insight into this matter, instead peddling tired old nonsense about "confusion". She also only touches on non-heterosexual sex in this chapter, but rather in a "coming out" way, or an acceptance of lifestyle, rather than anything about the complexities of physicality for young queer women, which was a huge oversight. I also took issue with Orenstein's portrayal of celebrity body image, and the completely shameful way she spoke about many overtly sexual public figures like Kim Kardashian. Yes, sexuality does not exist within a vacuum, but Orenstein seems to believe that there is no in-between - things are either "oppressive" and "empowering", and she doesn't leave much room for anything else. She seems to almost mock her teenage subjects for believing that they are empowered, which I found incredibly patronising and almost put me off finishing the rest of the book. What's more, there's an absolute bias in the celebrities she chooses to criticise - when a white writer is extolling the virtues of Lena Dunham and questioning Nicki Minaj's moral choices, that's a big red flag. Also, this entirely revolting sentence: You can shroud women from head to toe, forbid them alcohol, imprison them in their homes - and there will still be rape. Plus, you will live in Afghanistan. Whaaaaat? I will say that the chapter on rape culture was otherwise quite sound and informative. Look, I can see that Orenstein means well by writing this book - she wants to explore young female sexuality, has spoken to quite a few girls and is presenting her findings. But she comes across as someone who's entirely out of her element and speaking in a language she herself doesn't understand. If this book is aimed at older readers or parents, I can see its value (though seriously, just talk to an actual teen instead, rather than someone trying to - and failing - to interpret their world), but for a young woman who is a part of many of the groups she's talking about, I found it tired, ill-informed and actually pretty offensive. I'd recommend reading Emily Maguire or Jessica Valenti for a more well-rounded and informed take on young women's sexuality, and giving this one a miss.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    An important books for people with children. (Not just daughters. All parents.) If I had the money, I would buy a thousand copies and hand it out to every parent I know. It's a topic I've read about widely, so it didn't offer stunning new insights for me. But if you don't spend a lot of time reading danah boyd, Lindsay Doe, bell hooks, and Evelyn Resh, then it's an excellent introduction to the issue. Even for those, like me, who have spent a lot of time immersed in the issue, it was a tidy and An important books for people with children. (Not just daughters. All parents.) If I had the money, I would buy a thousand copies and hand it out to every parent I know. It's a topic I've read about widely, so it didn't offer stunning new insights for me. But if you don't spend a lot of time reading danah boyd, Lindsay Doe, bell hooks, and Evelyn Resh, then it's an excellent introduction to the issue. Even for those, like me, who have spent a lot of time immersed in the issue, it was a tidy and useful synopsis. Well structured, thoughtful, clear prose, with a nice balance between the personal interviews and the abstract analysis. The chapters on larger cultural issues were maybe the most useful, personally. My family doesn't listen to pop music, so the extraordinary sexualization of the teen pop stars and the blurred lines (ha!) between that and porn came as a bit of a surprise. The chapters on queer girls was very hopeful and even uplifting, in a way that the rest of the book was not. Most important, though, are the chapters on rape. These should be required reading for every goddamned parent in the world. Orenstein presents a thoughtful and reasoned middle ground between Jezebel's rageful third-wave idealism and Emily Yoffe's victim-blaming apologia. Yes, we should teach men not to rape, she says, and a woman is never to blame if she is raped. But we also need to teach risk mitigation and educate girls about the connection between booze and rape. We also need to teach them how to look out for predatory behavior for boys. If this book has a flaw, it's the complete exclusion of boys -- their motives, their lack of emotional self awareness, their toxic ideas and bro culture. I understand WHY she didn't write about them but boys and their culture are a big part of the problems surrounding sex and girls and I am hopeful that she will write a follow up book about boys. Of course, the fact that the rape chapters are the most important is, in and of itself, indicative of the larger problem. Her thesis is that we need to teach girls about enjoying sex and the pleasures of sex. She does have some good insights in there -- talk to your daughters about their clitoris, teach them that they should masturbate and know their own bodies before they have sex, discuss reciprocity in bed, educate them about the false world of porn -- but the points seem lost in the larger din of horrors. But I can't really say that's HER fault.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This is one of those books that every parent of a girl over the age of 10 should read. It's essential to understanding the things facing girl today. Things that weren't even on my radar when I was young are integral to the female experience today. I heard an interview with the author on NPR which is why I decided to pick this up. Although it's packed full of great information, I was disappointed at the lack of diversity in the girls she spoke to for this book. I think it could have benefitted fr This is one of those books that every parent of a girl over the age of 10 should read. It's essential to understanding the things facing girl today. Things that weren't even on my radar when I was young are integral to the female experience today. I heard an interview with the author on NPR which is why I decided to pick this up. Although it's packed full of great information, I was disappointed at the lack of diversity in the girls she spoke to for this book. I think it could have benefitted from more diverse girl voices. This book really reiterated to me the importance of talking to my daughter and my son about the things they will face when it comes to sex. The inadequacy of sex education alone is frightening to me. Kids need information and a place to talk about these things without judgment! I highly recommend this one!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    (4.5) Difficult but important to read as a parent of boys as well as girls. [Update: After further reflection and discussion with Julie, the biggest flaw is that this is marketed to, and speaks to girls and parents of girls. So much of this must be read by boys and their parents as well. Perhaps more so than girls even!] Saving grace was that my children are far from adolescence (as of this writing), so it wasn't quite as cringing and fearful a read as it could've been. We get deep and honest discu (4.5) Difficult but important to read as a parent of boys as well as girls. [Update: After further reflection and discussion with Julie, the biggest flaw is that this is marketed to, and speaks to girls and parents of girls. So much of this must be read by boys and their parents as well. Perhaps more so than girls even!] Saving grace was that my children are far from adolescence (as of this writing), so it wasn't quite as cringing and fearful a read as it could've been. We get deep and honest discussion about "hotness" culture, girls' self-objectification, drinking/drugs and sex, sexual assault. There is a lot to digest here, and thus the high rating. Not 5.0 because I really wish there was a lot more hope to offer in this book. I came away with a pretty bleak outlook on modern adolescence and what girls and women have to go through to simply make it to adulthood (where things certainly aren't perfect either). Perhaps she'll pen a follow up with a few more answers to the problems she's raised? Her main conclusion is to have and encourage frank discussion of sex with children/young adults--and not just about the risks, but also about how it can be a positive thing if fully consensual, reciprocal and meaningful. Neither easy said nor done.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    What a heartbreaking look at sex these days. I'm so sad for these girls. We've had many discussions around the dinner about sex, and my advice to the boy is always that there are 3 rules:. 1. Consent, 2. Safety (ideally condom plus another form of birth control), and 3. That she has as much fun as he does. After reading this book, I feel an even greater obligation to these girls to provide a young man who will be a generous lover. Sex Ed is overwhelmingly about danger and disease, and I agree we What a heartbreaking look at sex these days. I'm so sad for these girls. We've had many discussions around the dinner about sex, and my advice to the boy is always that there are 3 rules:. 1. Consent, 2. Safety (ideally condom plus another form of birth control), and 3. That she has as much fun as he does. After reading this book, I feel an even greater obligation to these girls to provide a young man who will be a generous lover. Sex Ed is overwhelmingly about danger and disease, and I agree we should focus on the pleasure. We need to do that to counter the pervasive and male-centered porn that saturates their screens. I fear my views are an anomaly among my peers, but frankly I'd rather the kids were having and enjoying safe sex than poisoning themselves by binge drinking and getting high. Seems the physical damage to the growing body and brain is harmed by alcohol and drugs more than safe sex...And for my tween, she hears it all from me when I talk to her brother! She will get more focused advice asap! Grateful to Peggy Orenstein for starting another necessary conversation!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bibliovoracious

    Things are grim. Just as bad for the next gen of girls as it was for mine. Different, but you have to squint to see any real progress for women in their relationships to men, as manifest in early sexual relations (this book nods to non-cis-genders and queer girls but primarily focuses on male-female sexuality). I was hoping for more change, more hope. Nope. It's rough out there for young women (still). Things are grim. Just as bad for the next gen of girls as it was for mine. Different, but you have to squint to see any real progress for women in their relationships to men, as manifest in early sexual relations (this book nods to non-cis-genders and queer girls but primarily focuses on male-female sexuality). I was hoping for more change, more hope. Nope. It's rough out there for young women (still).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Excellent, must-read book if you have young girls in your life. They need us to talk to them, to listen to them, to be honest with them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Renae

    In her latest book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, author Peggy Orenstein discusses, well…girls and sex—young women and how they are affected by society and its attitudes towards sex and female sexuality. Backed up by statistics, research, and personal interviews (mostly with white, heterosexual, middle-class girls), this book offers a good overview of the subject from a variety of angles, without every becoming too academic or too commercialized. This is the sort of book In her latest book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, author Peggy Orenstein discusses, well…girls and sex—young women and how they are affected by society and its attitudes towards sex and female sexuality. Backed up by statistics, research, and personal interviews (mostly with white, heterosexual, middle-class girls), this book offers a good overview of the subject from a variety of angles, without every becoming too academic or too commercialized. This is the sort of book I recommend to any reader—especially college-aged women. It’s informative, thought-provoking, and insightful. And, aside from the fact that this is yet another exposé on millennials written by a not-millennial (some parts did make me cringe with their obvious generational disconnectedness), I find that the author, the mother of a teenage girl herself, did a pretty solid job with her topic. The book deals with a variety of subjects, but I’ll just touch on some of the main ones, and/or some passages that stood out to me. SELF-OBJECTIFICATION AND WOMEN IN POPULAR CULTURE Much of the beginning of the book talks not about how (presumably male) objectification of women is harmful (which is what you might expect), but how the objectification of women by themselves is harmful. Which, honestly, isn’t exactly a subject I’ve spent much time thinking of, considering how the most blatant and insidious things I deal with are male comments about my body/appearance, not my own comments when I look in the mirror. Yet, as Orenstein points out: Self-objectification has been associated with depression, reduced cognitive function, lower GPA, distorted body image, body monitoring, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, and reduced sexual pleasure. In on study of eight-graders, self-objectification accounted for half the differential in girls’ reports of depression and more than two-thirds of the variance in their self-esteem. Another study linked girls’ focus on appearance to heightened shame and anxiety about sexuality, discomfort in talking about sex, and higher rates of sexual regret. Self-objectification has also been correlated with lower political efficacy: the idea that you can have an impact in the public forum, that you can bring about change. This is all well and good, and the observations were apt. Makes sense, I agree, moving on. However, what really gave me pause in this section was the author’s critique on popular music artists who openly express their sexuality on stage—think Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus. Women in my generation, pretty much without exception, hail these women as role models, as strong women who are positive about their bodies and their sexuality. Not only that, Nicki Minaj and, say, Beyoncé are both excellent businesswomen, as well as women of color, in an industry that caters towards the white and the male. You don’t have to like their music to recognize that Nicki and Bey are kicking ass. Or…well, maybe not. Orenstein has something else to say about these women that counters this notion: The decision to twerk onstage, or twirl on a pole, or dance in one’s drawers around a fully clothed man, or to pose nude on the cover of a magazine is now a woman’s alone: rather than capitulating, they are actually reclaiming their sexuality. Yet those performers still work within a system that, for the most part, demands women looks and present their bodies in a particular way in order to be heard, in order to be seen, in order to work. Successfully manipulating that system to their advantage by, say, nominally reimagining the same old strip club clichés may get them rich, it may get them famous, but it shouldn’t be confused with creating actual change. Artists such as Gaga or Rihanna or Beyoncé or Miley or Nicki or Iggy or Ke$ha or Katy or Selena may not be puppets, but they aren’t necessarily sheroes, either. They’re shrewd strategists, spinning commodified sexuality as a choice, one that may be profitable but is no less constraining, ultimately, either to female artists or to regular girls. So the question is not whether pop divas are expressing or exploiting their sexuality so much as why the choices for women remain so narrow, why the fastest route to the top as a woman in a sexist entertainment world is to package your sexuality, preferably in the most extreme, attention-getting way as possible. I’m not going to lie, the first time I read that paragraph, I dismissed it as an “older” woman’s more traditional, Puritanistic values speaking. I scoffed and moved on, sure that some level of prudery was at work here. But reading again…I have to wonder. Honestly, I’m not sure; Orenstein makes some good points. But also…if you want to shake your naked ass onstage, do it. Maybe the patriarchy has made it so that “sexual” performances sell faster, but that doesn’t mean you can’t perform sexually if you want to. For me, it’s something to think about. Someone once told me that merely existing within patriarchy is enough—as women, we don’t have to take on every single fight we run into. These female artists are existing within patriarchy, and not only that, they’re thriving. And at some level, that’s pretty important, too. SEX EDUCATION I think pretty much everyone knows that sex education in the United States is…not great. Federally funded abstinence-only education spreads misinformation and fear, and also just plain old doesn’t work. Orenstein cites research that indicates that on average, teens who make “purity pledges” only delay their first intercourse by 18 months, compared to peers who did not make similar pledges. Plus, young adults who were raised in evangelical Christian communities are, actually, far more sexually active than mainline Protestant/Roman Catholic/Jewish peers, and are far less likely to practice safer sex methods (buying condoms beforehand might seem like a premeditation to sin, y’know). So, clearly, thumbs down to abstinence-only education. Even non-abstinence sex ed programs don’t cover everything they should, focusing mostly on the negative outcomes of sexual activity. These programs are especially detrimental to girls and their ideas about sex. Even the most comprehensive sex education classes stick with a woman’s internal parts—uteri, tubes, ovaries. Those classic diagrams of a woman’s reproductive system, the ones shaped like the head of a steer, blur into a gray Y between the legs, as if the vulva and the labia, let alone the clitoris, don’t exist. Imagine not clueing a twelve-year-old boy into the existence of his penis! And whereas males’ puberty is characterized by ejaculation, masturbation and the emergence of a near-unstoppable sex drive, females’ is defined by…periods. And the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. Where is the discussion of girls’ sexual development? When do we talk to girls about desire and pleasure? When do we explain the miraculous nuances of their anatomy? When do we address exploration, self-knowledge? No wonder boys’ physical needs seem inevitable to teens while girls’ are, at best, optional. Orenstein also adds: Women’s feelings about their genitals have been directly linked to their enjoyment of sex. College women in one study who were uncomfortable with their genitalia were not only less sexually satisfied and had fewer orgasms than others but were more likely to engage in risky behavior. The major takeaway from this section of the book? Teach girls (and boys) about the female body! Just some basic anatomy, people. Not too hard. HOOKUP CULTURE The section on college “hookup culture” was the one I was most interested in and expected to get the most from. Sadly, I didn’t get much from it. This was where the lack of diversity in Orenstein’s interview subjects really became apparent. The focus was entirely on hookup culture with the Greek sorority/fraternity system, with no discussion of what casual/recreational sex looks like outside that specific subset of college students. True, Greek like is the center of campus hookups, but drunken frat parties are not the only place they happen. Orenstein presents casual sex for college students as something that never happens sober, often leads to other risky behavior, and makes it easier for young women to be raped. (The author doesn’t victim-blame, but she does point out that scantily-clad, drunk girls roaming campuses at night are probably excellent targets for entitled, drunk men.) All that the book discusses is probably true—but only about Greek students. Surprise, surprise: other students do engage in recreational sex, and they’re not always drunk, and they don’t always go on to do drugs, etc. or rape/get raped in the process. So I guess I was just miffed by the limitations of the author’s sample-size. However, I did like this quote on “having it all”, which really challenged some of my own ideas about sex/romance and academics/ambition: Hookup culture, then, acts as a kind of buffer, a placeholder until the time for more official adult partnerships begins. The girls I met often claimed to be too “busy” for relationships. On one hand, it was heartening to hear that their lives didn’t revolve around men. Yet it was also hard to imagine a time when that “busyness” would abate—it would arguably become more intense after college, when they’d be career building or attending graduate school. What were they so busy doing now, anyhow? …While I was all for broadening possibilities, the idea that romance and ambition were mutuall exclusive troubled me. It sounded a bit too redolent of “you can’t have it all,” a phrase that blames individual women rather than structural inequities for our struggles at work and home. BASICALLY, READ THE BOOK So, this review probably gives a pretty solid overview of what you’ll find inside Girls & Sex. There’s also discussion of LGBTQ+ teens, campus rape, other countries’ approach to sex education, and some other things. I’ve highlighted and outlined only what was most meaningful to me, of course. It’s a good book, made absolutely stronger by the inclusion of firsthand accounts and interviews from real girls, even if they all had similar social/economic/ethnic backgrounds. As I said at the beginning of this, if you’re a young woman, sexually active or no, this is worth a read. Or, if you’re an older adult and you wonder what’s going on with “kids these days,” you can read this for some rather accurate and on-point information. 📌 . Blog | Review Database | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Why yes, I am raising a pre-teen daughter who's beginning to ask questions about sex and sexuality. Why do you ask? Grade 7 seems to have been a turning point. I don't remember much of my adolescence when it came to the finer details of puberty and sexuality. But that doesn't seem to matter since the landscape has changed drastically since I was a youth. Now I am learning about things like hookup culture and the regularity of oral sex and I'm trying my best not to flail and hide under my blankets Why yes, I am raising a pre-teen daughter who's beginning to ask questions about sex and sexuality. Why do you ask? Grade 7 seems to have been a turning point. I don't remember much of my adolescence when it came to the finer details of puberty and sexuality. But that doesn't seem to matter since the landscape has changed drastically since I was a youth. Now I am learning about things like hookup culture and the regularity of oral sex and I'm trying my best not to flail and hide under my blankets when my daughter starts asking me questions. This book does little, initially, to assuage any of my fears. It starts off parading women like Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian on stage as examples of women who control and profit off of their sexualized images while loudly proclaiming their feminism. Orenstein points out that these women are doing this within the patriarchal constructs of our society. Her distaste for what she seems to perceive as a contradictory message is apparent in the first chapters, and she does continue to focus on body image as she continues on, without ever quite acknowledging the concepts of choice and body positivity. After the first few chapters, I wondered at the need to continue listening to the audiobook, as read by the author. How many more details and statistics regarding teen sex did I need to hear to get the point across? The numbers and demographics were appalling, though not particularly surprising. But it's not until much later that Orenstein points out that these numbers and instances aren't necessarily the norm. At the very least, she does regularly identify that the majority of the negative issues and perceptions regarding teen sexuality tend to focus on white, upper-class kids. But she doesn't spend much time interviewing any outside of this demographic, except the one self-proclaimed "unicorn," a young, gay woman of colour. Once she gets over the shock value chapters, the book becomes a bit more relatable. She covers several issues, including campus rape culture, gender roles, media representation, pornography, the state of sex education (in the US), and LGBTQ issues. Once again, her unicorns come into play when it comes to the latter. The story she details of one particular young woman was moving, but it was one story. The landscape of gender identity and sexuality is far more than this one story. But this chapter is a start in a potential greater conversation. And ultimately, that's what this book is. The start of a necessary conversation. Like me, Orenstein has a daughter as well as nieces for whom she repeatedly expresses concern. She has done extensive research on this topic (though her sources and the context of her quotes and samples require readers to dig a little deeper), and clearly has her own, thinly veiled biases--some of which she admits to, while others she may not quite be aware of. But she seems to still be questioning it all as a mother who must have these conversations with her daughter and potentially her nieces. That conversation is the key and it is the place where our society is failing our children on many, many levels when it comes to sexuality in particular. If a child or teen can't come to their parents with questions about sex without their parents either shutting them down, freaking out, or showing intolerance, where should they turn? Towards the end, Orenstein turns her focus to the ignorance that prevails within our society and how it fuels the problems we have with sex and sexuality at all ages. Education systems in many states still focus on abstinence-only programs, advocating the moral high ground of ignorance. In Ontario, our health education curriculum is finally changing to reflect today's world, but there are many who oppose it because they are afraid of what sinful sinningness will be taught, leaving their kids few options but to feed their curiosity through good old professor internet. Yes, this is a book about girls and sex, but this is really a topic that needs to cover boys as well. She does offer some thought on this: "It's no longer enough simply to caution young men against 'getting a girl pregnant,' or, more likely in the current climate, to warn about the shifting definition of rape. Parents need to discuss the spectrum of pressure, coercion, and consent with their sons, the forces urging them to see girls' limits as a challenge to overcome. Boys need to understand how they, too, are harmed by sexualized media and porn. They need to see models of masculine sexuality that are not grounded in aggression against women, in denigration or conquest. They need to know about shared pleasure, mutuality, reciprocity." But as with other topics, it is only glossed over in favour of the focus on (pretty) cis white girls. And overall, Orenstein's bias on how boys are ruled entirely by their sex drive is glaring. She momentarily spells out the demographics of frat boys/athletes who often seem to be the ones most involved in issues of campus sexual assault, but there are other boys, many of whom are just as curious about sexuality as girls but are also drowning in insecurity and the pressures of society's gender conformity. This is not a bad book by any means, though. I view it as an introductory read that offers some useful insights and inspires some interesting discussions. I was particularly interested in her descriptions of classes taught by Charis Denison, an advocate for teenagers who doesn't sugar coat or skip over the details of sex and sexuality and keeps her door open for students with questions and concerns. Orenstein also speaks here about the sex positivity of the Dutch way of life. At this point, while I appreciated Orenstein's praise for Denison and the Dutch culture, I got the impression that Orenstein deeply wants this to be our reality, but is still grounded in many of our society's prejucides and fears. Which furthers my belief that this book is less her making a conclusive statement about any topic she's presented than her trying to figure out how to, well, navigate the landscape. Through reading reviews of this book from others, I've discovered recommendations for The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti and books by Emily Maguire to further my understanding of what the hell I'm getting into as a mother of two girls. The one thing I am happy about is that the book reinforces the notion that I'm actually doing okay. I've tried my best to keep an open door, open ears, and open arms for my girls so that they can feel comfortable coming to me with anything. I'm still going to flail a bit when they are out of earshot, but I'm feeling pretty confident that we're going to be just fine.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emma Chang

    finished in the waiting room of a doctor's office where i proceeded to get high fived for being a virgin this late in the game. pretty funny tbh finished in the waiting room of a doctor's office where i proceeded to get high fived for being a virgin this late in the game. pretty funny tbh

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Do you have girls/boys, teens, tweens, any young men or women you care about who are growing up in this day and age, or do you just care about how sex fits into the ongoing sexual dynamic of women and men. Where we've gone wrong (hint: little, none, or inaccurate sex ed) and where other countries have taken a different avenue with very interesting results. The author talks to and interviews girls and young women from high school through college, sex educators, and discusses the rise in risky beh Do you have girls/boys, teens, tweens, any young men or women you care about who are growing up in this day and age, or do you just care about how sex fits into the ongoing sexual dynamic of women and men. Where we've gone wrong (hint: little, none, or inaccurate sex ed) and where other countries have taken a different avenue with very interesting results. The author talks to and interviews girls and young women from high school through college, sex educators, and discusses the rise in risky behavior, campus life, binge drinking, dress codes, and a host of other factors in the complex world young women are navigating through today. It's scary to read in our Puritanical society, but unless we start reading & talking, nothing will change.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tera

    I recommend this book for women, adolescent girls, parents of all adolescent people, and anyone who plans to ever have sex with an adolescent girl or a woman. What a great deal of useful information and thought-provoking questions for us all to consider about the cultural issues relating to sex especially for young people. It's a great tool for talking to our kids of both genders about sex, what they might run into socially, and what they can strive for when it comes to health, safety, and pleas I recommend this book for women, adolescent girls, parents of all adolescent people, and anyone who plans to ever have sex with an adolescent girl or a woman. What a great deal of useful information and thought-provoking questions for us all to consider about the cultural issues relating to sex especially for young people. It's a great tool for talking to our kids of both genders about sex, what they might run into socially, and what they can strive for when it comes to health, safety, and pleasure.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    Orenstein provides extremely important data about how girls (and boys) perceive sex in our culture. She discusses extensively the problems with porn culture, ignoring rape, and generally how society as a whole does (or does not) talk about sex. I whole-heartedly agree with her that parents need to develop relationships with their children so that when their children do have questions they feel comfortable talking to their parents. Of course there are several points in this book that I do not agr Orenstein provides extremely important data about how girls (and boys) perceive sex in our culture. She discusses extensively the problems with porn culture, ignoring rape, and generally how society as a whole does (or does not) talk about sex. I whole-heartedly agree with her that parents need to develop relationships with their children so that when their children do have questions they feel comfortable talking to their parents. Of course there are several points in this book that I do not agree with, but that does not diminish the importance or the necessity of understanding her research.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Pfeffer

    Girls & Sex is an engaging book. So much so that, while reading it, I often had to stop and gather my emotions, which came in great variety. I would be by turns anxious, enraged, hopeful, shocked, stupefied, inspired. This is because Peggy Orenstein takes us on a tour through the sexual landscape, which seems more like a wilderness filled with thorns, gullies, sinkholes, without any elysian fields or safe harbors, with unblinking frankness and honesty. Orenstein, who is a journalist and not a so Girls & Sex is an engaging book. So much so that, while reading it, I often had to stop and gather my emotions, which came in great variety. I would be by turns anxious, enraged, hopeful, shocked, stupefied, inspired. This is because Peggy Orenstein takes us on a tour through the sexual landscape, which seems more like a wilderness filled with thorns, gullies, sinkholes, without any elysian fields or safe harbors, with unblinking frankness and honesty. Orenstein, who is a journalist and not a social scientist, and therefore not afraid to take sides, talks to girls between the ages of, say, twelve and twenty-five and lets them come through just as they are, without censoring, moderating, or moralizing. The picture she presents does not leave one with good feelings about the sexual revolution some fifty or more years after it began. Orenstein is not exactly a fan of hookup culture, which she says dominates the lives of young women, and presumably their male counterparts, from middle school to college graduation and beyond. She identifies the main factor of hookups as sex without emotion, without any kind of commitment, affection, or bonding. That at least is the way the youngsters approach it, and in large part it seems to work. But the problem with hookup is not just that it is a kind of unofficial official term for casual sex, which has been around far longer than hookups. The problem is that it has in effect ruined sex for young women, especially high school and college women. They may not come out and say it, but they hate hooking up. This is shown by the fact that, almost universally, they drink themselves into oblivion before hooking up so they do not feel the pain, the hurt, the humiliation, the grotesque indifference to who they are as persons required by hookup rules. What hooking up means, at its best, is satisrying guys wherever and in any way they want. It's all about the guys, never about the girls. This comes down mainly to oral sex, which none of Orenstein's girls said they like in itself, or for the pleasure it doesn't give them. Because it gives them no pleasure at all. The only satisfaction they get from it is satisfying the boys. But why worry about satisfying them when the whole point of hooking up is that the girls care no more about them then they care about the girls. The upshot of all this is that young women are, in the twenty-first century, more passive receptacles for the male sexual drive than they were even in the darkest days of patriarchal domination. Why girls allow this to happen mystifies Orenstein. It doesn't make sense, she says over and over, for the most assertive, vibrant, independent, confident, career-oriented group of women in all of history to turn around and become passive objects of male pleasure as soon as sex enters the picture. How can this be, and why? Orenstein lays the blame at least in part on what is called sex education. Whether administered by "Conservatives" or "Liberals," it does only harm, not good. Conservatives stress abstinence. But virtually no one follows genuine abstinence. As a result, because these young women know nothing about contraception or their own sex organs or how anything works, much less that women can feel sexual pleasure, they blunder into the brutally misogynistic frat boy culture clueless, and as a result wind up with more pregnancies, STD's, complaints of assault and other ills. By the same token, liberal sex-ed hammers home the idea of protection, emphasizing the use of condoms, pills, instructing girls about abortion, but never telling them that sex can, and should, involve their own pleasure and emotional development. Sex thus becomes a kind of orphan, existing in a no-woman's land where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. The last thing it involves is satisfaction for the women, because neither sex educators nor, God help us, young men, know or care if that exists. It's no wonder that recent surveys show that many women are turning away from sex altogether. It has no benefit, only pain and unpleasant consequences, so why not just get it out of your life and go on with your careers, your friends, and your interests? Toward the last third of her book, Orenstein begins to discuss solutions to what seems the dead end of sex in America. She even has a one word answer for those who think the situation is hopeless: communication. This for her is not some vague injunction to talk to parents, teachers, counselors, each other, whomever. It means discussing sex specifically, in all its aspects, from early childhood right through college and after. It means answering all questions, responding to all concerns, never expressing shock or dismay at questions that might dismay some older adults. Orenstein wants sex to be presented as both inevitable and interactive, and not to be shunned by parents and other adults no matter how young the child who asks about it. Orenstein's formula for coming out of the wilderness is what she calls affirmative consent. This involves "an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity - a clear, enthusiastic 'you bet' either verbally or throgh body language." If GIrls & Sex has a hero, it's Charis Denison. She is a sex educator - but really much more comprehensive than that - who has conceived the novel and radical idea of meeting young people, both male and female, where they are rather than where adults thing they should be. If where they are is routine blow jobs in sixth grade because that's what guys demand from girls with no reciprocation, then Denison will engage with that topic as with any other. This is something even the most progressive parents don't like to face, or even think about, but it's today's reality, and without discussing such topics no one will ever emerge from the sexual thicket we have created. As Denison moderates these groups and answers any and all questions, young people gradually begin to communicate with each other, to respect and get to know one another, to have sex in the context of some kind of human interaction. That at least is Orenstein's hope, and in Denison's and similar formats it does seem to be evolving, even though frat boy culture does everything possible so ensure it does not. Girls & Sex is thus oddly hopeful in the end. It leaves the reader with the feeling that the sexual morass of today may exist because we've thrown over all the old rules without coming up with new ones. But such movements as genderqueer, where sexual categories like heterosexual and bisexual are not rigidly objecified - the whole idea of nonbinary gender - may presage a new world that is alrady with us in nascent form. The #MeToo movement, which began just after Girls & Sex came out, is at last a deterrent to male patriarchal empowerment, which hookup culture has inadvertantly raised to new, even frightening heights. Orenstein's concept of affirmative consent, which involves much more than the rather mehanical "consent" now pushed by progessives as the central feature of sexual relations, offers the way. That and the abolution of the fiction that withholding sexual knowledge from young people, male and female, somehow leads to sexual respect, responsibility, and the thing that is most often overlooked, mutual pleasure and emotional growth. This is a provocative, disturbing, at times alarming book that nonetheless points the way toward solutions. Because Orenstein is not shy about expressing her opinions, it's impossible not to get involved with one's own emotions as one reads it, whether in agreement or dissent. Girls & Sex is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand American culture, where it's heading and how we might improve it to make life more satisfying for everyone involved.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ynna

    This is a very quick read as it is littered with a number of unbelievable statistics, interviews and stories that sparked outrage, shock and sadness as I read. This was another instance in which timing affected the way I felt and interpreted the book, as I read it cover to cover on a bus coming home from the Women's March on Washington. The biggest takeaway I gained from reading Girls & Sex, besides my life philosophy that boys are gross, was I am completely and utterly terrified of becoming a p This is a very quick read as it is littered with a number of unbelievable statistics, interviews and stories that sparked outrage, shock and sadness as I read. This was another instance in which timing affected the way I felt and interpreted the book, as I read it cover to cover on a bus coming home from the Women's March on Washington. The biggest takeaway I gained from reading Girls & Sex, besides my life philosophy that boys are gross, was I am completely and utterly terrified of becoming a parent of a teenage girl!!!! There is so much filth in the world directed toward young women and so many issues that we have yet to properly address, however some things were very black and white: 1) We need to change the way we talk to girls and boys about sex and not just intercourse. Teens and young adults are getting the majority of their information about sex from the internet and primarily pornography. Because of the rampant violence and degradation of women in pornography this is not good. Young women have skewed ideas of how they should be during sex and what is expected of them and young men have skewed ideas of how a woman should act during sex and what is expected of them (spoiler alert- not much). Also, sex is not just intercourse. Spoiler alert- teens are doing really intimate things with each other, really often and really early and it is not labeled as intercourse. 2) A lot needs to be done in our judicial system about rape- how it is reported, viewed in the media, handled on campuses, how we treat survivors, etc. etc. etc. Right now it is a rapist's world that we are living in. There was a lot more that Peggy Orenstein covered, but again, these issues were not so black and white. It was also interesting for me to read this book, think about the way I was raised in a conservative Mormon household and how this book suggests we should address sexuality with teens. I find myself wrestling with personal and religious beliefs which is emotionally exhausting, but intellectually stimulating.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    A few years ago I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, an excellent book on the rise of “girlie-girl” culture and its effects on young girls. In Girls & Sex, Orenstein moves on to the next age bracket: adolescent, teenage, and college-age girls. Her focus is on how prevailing cultural norms, laws, and education affect the sexual health and development of burgeoning young women. A Brief Outline Obviously, there are many factors that go into A few years ago I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, an excellent book on the rise of “girlie-girl” culture and its effects on young girls. In Girls & Sex, Orenstein moves on to the next age bracket: adolescent, teenage, and college-age girls. Her focus is on how prevailing cultural norms, laws, and education affect the sexual health and development of burgeoning young women. A Brief Outline Obviously, there are many factors that go into healthy sexual development. Each chapter hones in on a specific issue. • Chapter one is about objectification and the difference between expressing sexuality and performing sexiness (what Orenstein refers to as “the incessant drumbeat of self-objectification”). • Chapter two is about early sexual experiences, the double standards young women face, and the complete disregard so many sexually active high school and college-age boys have for female pleasure. • Chapter three is about abstinence pledges and the concept of virginity: What is it? Who defines it? And why are people so obsessed with it? • Chapter four dives into the thorny topic of college hookup culture and its implications for women’s safety and sense of self-worth. • Chapter five focuses on girls who identify as LGBTQ and the unique challenges they face. • Chapter six is about rape culture. • Chapter seven is about sex education–what’s wrong with it and what quality sex ed might look like. Continue reading my review here...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Britta

    I know that people will read the description of this book and choose to internalize the description as political and not read it. If you are a parent or ever plan on being one, read this. Or even if you work with youth or want greater education on this topic read it. We have a serious problem in the United States that needs to be addressed. Many people can't clearly define sexual assault to the point that they may not realize that they've been assaulted, or worse - that they've pushed the limits I know that people will read the description of this book and choose to internalize the description as political and not read it. If you are a parent or ever plan on being one, read this. Or even if you work with youth or want greater education on this topic read it. We have a serious problem in the United States that needs to be addressed. Many people can't clearly define sexual assault to the point that they may not realize that they've been assaulted, or worse - that they've pushed the limits. The US federal government did not provide federal funding for comprehensive sex education until 2015 and prior to only (slightly) funded abstinence only education. Today, only 14 states require that sex ed be medically accurate. 14 STATES, that's it. It was only in 2015 that a judge first ruled against a school system for actively teaching misinformation regarding sex education. Some people may see this as fine because they feel this is not the schools job, but to draw a comparison to the Netherlands where comprehensive and even candid sexual education begins in kindergarten their teen birth rate is 8 times lower, first sexual experiences occur later and people have fewer partners in their lifetime. Obviously this is a topic I feel strongly about, but I absolutely believe we have a problem with ignorance and sex ed in the United States and I especially believe we need to make an effort to become better educated as individuals in this country.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cátia Vieira

    Another amazing feminist book!! Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein had been on my wishlist for ages (I wanted this specific edition, btw it’s gorgeous!) and it was such a sensational read. I am happy I prioritized it! It’s amazing how I keep reading books on this topic and I keep learning and learning! Girls & Sex, as the title suggests, offers an in-depth picture of girls and sex today. Orenstein talked to psychologists, academics, experts and several young women about their sexuality and everything Another amazing feminist book!! Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein had been on my wishlist for ages (I wanted this specific edition, btw it’s gorgeous!) and it was such a sensational read. I am happy I prioritized it! It’s amazing how I keep reading books on this topic and I keep learning and learning! Girls & Sex, as the title suggests, offers an in-depth picture of girls and sex today. Orenstein talked to psychologists, academics, experts and several young women about their sexuality and everything that’s behind it. Girls & Sex explores a wide range of topics like body image, masturbation, nudes, sexting, rape culture, social and gender expectations and so on. The fact that shocked me the most (yes, I still get shocked by these things) was that 1 in 3 college men would rape a woman if they could get away with it. This book reads so well and quickly since the language is super accessible. If you care about gender equality (and I hope you do!) or if you want to understand more about this topic, please, pick up this book! It’s so enlightening!! For more reviews, follow me on Instagram: @booksturnyouon

  28. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    “I want sexuality to be a source of self-knowledge and creativity and communication despite its potential risks. I want them to revel in their bodies’ sensuality without being reduced to it. I want them to be able to ask for what they want in bed, and to get it. I want them to be safe from disease, unwanted pregnancy, cruelty, dehumanisation, and violence. If they are assaulted, I want them to have resource from their school administrators, employers, the courts. It’s a lot to ask for, but it’s “I want sexuality to be a source of self-knowledge and creativity and communication despite its potential risks. I want them to revel in their bodies’ sensuality without being reduced to it. I want them to be able to ask for what they want in bed, and to get it. I want them to be safe from disease, unwanted pregnancy, cruelty, dehumanisation, and violence. If they are assaulted, I want them to have resource from their school administrators, employers, the courts. It’s a lot to ask for, but it’s not too much...” “It’s a lot to ask for, but it’s not too much...” couldn’t have said it better if I tried. Orenstein’s writing could become boring and overly wordy. However I did enjoy this read, mainly because I too am a modern woman with a progressive way of thinking. I have read other reviews pointing out the authors bias writing. Although I agree with this statement it didn’t bother me because my opinions mirrored hers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jolynn

    I think all parents of teens should read this book. I also think all teens should read it but realize every parent may not agree. Understanding what is going on culturally for girls today seems imperative if we want to provide helpful information and comprehensive education and guidance that will allow them to make safe, informed choices they feel good about in the arena of all things sexual. This book is anecdotal and not overly scientific, (along with review of current literature/studies, auth I think all parents of teens should read this book. I also think all teens should read it but realize every parent may not agree. Understanding what is going on culturally for girls today seems imperative if we want to provide helpful information and comprehensive education and guidance that will allow them to make safe, informed choices they feel good about in the arena of all things sexual. This book is anecdotal and not overly scientific, (along with review of current literature/studies, author interviewed 70 plus teenage girls) but for what it purports to do, it does a good job.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    An amazing look at sexuality through the minds of actual teenaged girls. Orenstein interviews dozens of teens to find out about their education, thoughts about and experiences with sex. What she finds is not surprising, but it's sad. We need to do so much better talking with our kids about sex, removing shame and embarrassment from lessons and conversations, and providing support as our kids turn into adults. An amazing look at sexuality through the minds of actual teenaged girls. Orenstein interviews dozens of teens to find out about their education, thoughts about and experiences with sex. What she finds is not surprising, but it's sad. We need to do so much better talking with our kids about sex, removing shame and embarrassment from lessons and conversations, and providing support as our kids turn into adults.

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