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Book Recommendation: Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein


Book: Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
Author: Peggy Orenstein
Genre: Nonfiction

Why You Should Read It (In My Humble Opinion): You may have recognized the name Peggy Orenstein from a previous book review (read the Cinderella Ate My Daughter review here) and she may now be one of my favorite nonfiction authors. She's a journalist who has dedicated her writing to girls' issues and while Cinderella Ate My Daughter was a book delving into the Disney princess phenomenon, Girls & Sex is Orenstein's ode to understanding girls and their thoughts, views, and practices about sex in this digital age. Orenstein interviewed dozens of girls about their ideas about sex, sexuality, relationships, all in their day to day life. Their responses are varied and bring to light new questions and a myriad of answers. We learn that each girl has their own definition of what sex really is, and Orenstein questions them on their thoughts about virginity, their own sexuality and understanding their bodies, dating, the hooking up culture, sexual harassment, body image, the media, and rape.

The answers and stories can be hard to read, because the girls Orenstein interviewed (all names have been changed for privacy) answered truthfully and with an emotional honesty that only teen girls can give. Orenstein writes with a swift, humorous, and intelligent hand, never judging the girls' activities and thoughts. You can tell that she has bonded with her young interviewees, and they trust her, which makes the material much more insightful.

The end of the book focuses on sexual education/sexuality classes that includes both girls and boys, which adds another important point to the book: both girls and boys should be educated together about sexuality, and most importantly, consent. The group discussions and commentary from the teacher of one of the classes that Orenstein transcribes is incredibly enlightening and shows a possible, better way method for teaching kids about sex and their own (and others') well being.

Even though I have left my teen years almost ten years ago (dear god, I'm old), I can sympathize and empathize with all of these girls, with their confusion during this hyper-sexual age. Your morals, your choices are always being judged. You're either a prude or a slut, and while you may think you're in the middle, no one else thinks that. Orenstein wrote the ultimate book about girls and their sexuality, one that every woman, girl, mother, and teen should read. In her writing she urges girls to understand and discover their sexuality, not to be ashamed, but celebrate it and find out what feels good for the girl. That sex and relationships aren't just about giving, but receiving, and that consent and safety is key to healthy relationships and life in general.

I wish that I had had a book like this to read when I was younger, but after reading Girls & Sex, I had one question I want to ask Orenstein: Can you please write a sexual education book for girls, with your witty and engaging writing, your understanding and patient compassion, and honesty? Because that's the kind of thing our young (and older) girls need to hear and be reminded of. But for now, I'm just happy that you wrote this book and will continue to sing its praises.

Stay Weird,
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