Journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers a clear-eyed picture of the new sexual landscape girls face, and how they are negotiating it.
A generation gap has emerged between parents and their girls. Mothers and fathers have little idea about the pressures and expectations their daughters face or how they feel about it. Drawing on in-depth interviews with young women and a wide range of psychologists, academics, and experts, renowned journalist and bestselling author Peggy Orenstein goes where most others fear to tread, pulling back the curtain on the hidden truths and hard lessons of girls' sex lives in the modern world.
In Girls and Sex, Peggy Orenstein opens up a dialogue and offers a clear eyed picture of the new sexual landscape facing today's teens - and reveals how they are negotiating it.
Peggy Orenstein 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, and the New Yorker. She has also contributed commentary to NPR's All Things Considered. She lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter.
Girls and Sex
Author: Peggy Orenstein
Question: What inspired you to write Girls and Sex?
Peggy Orenstein: First of all, I have a daughter; I'm a parent of a 13-year-old girl and I was hearing a lot from friends with older kids about binge drinking, the hook-up culture and sexting - my main response when hearing those things was to flip my ears and hum because I firmly believe that parenting from ignorance and fear is a viable strategy (laughs) … and I decided that perhaps wasn't true.
At the same time, I had been writing about girls for many years and my previous book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter was about the wave of the girlie girl culture of little-girl-hood which I call the -Princess Industrial Complex' which was teaching girls that the way they look was more important than who they were.
The final piece was when I was mauling over the information, globally and found that in developed countries we were having the discussion about sexual assault on college campuses. It is, of course, crucial that young people understand the ground rules but it felt to me like that was where the conversation ended and we weren't having very important discussions, with young people about what happens after – that's what I went out to investigate.
Question: Who did you write Girls and Sex, for?
Peggy Orenstein: I really wanted to write Girls and Sex for a few different audiences espeically the parent audience who is raising teenagers and are clueless about what this new generation are up to and what they need to know especially how things have changed from our generation.
I'm also finding that it's made a lot of traction with young women themselves who feel validated and seen by what I wrote in Girls and Sex.
Question: Can you talk about the research conducted for Girls and Sex?
Peggy Orenstein: The demographic that I was looking at was girls 15 – 20 years old; I did a lot of in-depth interviewing with 70 girls in that age range; they were a pretty broad group in terms of ethnic diversity but they were all college-bound or in college; I chose that group intentionally as I wanted to look at girls who we think of as having opportunity and being the real beneficiaries of the feminist movement. Those were the girls I felt like were so bright, so ambitious, so directed and leaning in all over the place with a toppling personal life; we can't deny that there are issues that need addressing. Underlining all of that were interviews with experts in the field and what researchers and academics had found.
I think what is really going on right now, if I was to boil it down to one idea, is that young women feel free to engage in sexual behaviour but they don't necessarily feel entitled to enjoy it; there is a real disconnect between the presentation of sex and what they feel in their bodies; it needs to be desperately addressed.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Girls and Sex
Author: Peggy Orenstein