Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein

y648A thought-provoking if occasionally hand-wringing investigation. (New York Times Review, March 23, 2016)

The author spoke over three years to more than 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 about their attitudes and early experiences with the full range of physical intimacy. Orenstein recommends that parents examine the messages they send regarding girls and sexuality. She states that it is very important to be clear and honest in approaching daughters about their own desires and their own pleasures.

The more frankly and fully teachers, parents and doctors talk about sexuality the more sex is normalized and integrated into everyday life, the more likely kids are to delay sexual activity and behave respectfully and ethically when they engage in sex.

There are useful lessons from the Netherlands where parents and teachers there talk to kids about sex including pleasure and consent, how to say no and yes. They even endorse in-home sleepovers versus sneaking around. This is not easy to do.

Are we experiencing an epidemic of kids whose expectations around sex have been warped from being raised on porn and concurrent lack of discussion about safe sex practices, consent and what a healthy relationship – sexual or otherwise –should look like? Do we want youth to feel shame and embarrassment instead of a lifelong ability to make better-informed decisions about their health and their bodies?

So, to really fix things we need bigger solutions.