Have you ever talked to your daughter about sex? How about "hook up culture?" Or asked her what she thinks of Kim Kardashian's latest nude selfie on instagram? These are not easy conversations, but as parents it's vital to find a way to speak to our daughters about the changing attitudes and expectations they may feel in around sex in the age of digital pop culture.
Thankfully, there's help. Peggy Orenstein has written a whole book on why it is so important for parents to talk to their growing adolescent girls about sex in Girls & Sex
. Orenstein, a mother to a teenage daughter, interviewed more than 70 women aged between 15 and 20 to know their attitudes and early experiences with the full range of physical intimacy. She recently sat down with Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air
to talk about this complex topic.
Some of the revelations are shocking, but the conversation is an important one.
Listen to the full episode here:
*please note this may not be appropriate for young
Orenstein found that girls' conceptions of ‘hot’ is deeply influenced by pop-culture symbols, like Kardashian, which in turn influences the self-image, sexual relation, and confidence of young girls. She argues that this idea of 'hot' is so narrow, so commercialized, and so linked with porn that it teaches girls that— ‘you are your body and you have to present your body in a way that is sexually appealing to others.’
She explains: “One big disconnect when girls are constantly acting out sexy from a younger age is that they don’t connect that to their actual sexual development from the inside.” It has been found that in the sexual realm, girls who are self-objectifying and are constantly conscious of their bodies report less pleasure and less ability to communicate with their partners about their own desires and entitlements to sexual pleasures. One example Orenstein points to in her converation with Gross was that adolescent girls often give in to demands of oral sex (thinking it's no big deal), while boys have no problem asserting their desires without caring to reciprocate back. As a result, girls tend to measure their sexual experiences by a 'yardstick' of their partner's satisfaction, not their own.
One of our takeaways from the program: you—the parent—can be the catalyst of change in your daughter’s sexual development by talking to her about mutual pleasure, emotional intimacy, reciprocity and respect, and not just about pregnancy and abstinence. Orenstein tackles several tough issues concerning teenage sex problems like confusion over rape and consent and alcohol-fueled campus culture to help you understand and address.
It's an important subject, and this program offers a lot of real advice that could save you (and your daughter) some angst down the road.