Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

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.

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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.

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