Book Review: “Girls & Sex, Navigating the Complicated New Landscape”

By Elena Epstein

parenting book

New York Times best-selling author and journalist Peggy Orenstein covers a range of important sexual topics in her new book. PHOTO BY MICHAEL TODD

Peggy Orenstein, a New York Times best-selling author, covers it all – sexual myths our teens believe, the effects of social media, the hookup culture, the role of drugs and alcohol and the realities of sexual assault – in this book that every parent should read. Orenstein is a journalist and a mom who shares her own concerns as a parent and tells us early on that the in-depth reporting she did for this book forced her to confront her “own biases, overcome discomfort, clarify my values.” As a mom of two daughters, that’s exactly how I felt after I finished reading this book.

Orenstein’s interviews with 70 young women ages 15-20, who share their most intimate thoughts and experiences about sex, send a powerful message to parents who are often afraid or simply unsure how to approach the topic of sex with our children.

For many of us, “the talk” we remember with our parents was either a one-time uncomfortable conversation that focused mainly on pregnancy prevention or there was no conversation at all.

We have to do it differently for our kids. In order to help our children make ethical, parenting bookresponsible, healthy sexual choices, we need to have open communication. We need to talk to them about all aspects of sex – the physical and the emotional. And this should not be just one “talk,” but an ongoing conversation from an early age. Orenstein gives us a compelling call to action: “Our children deserve better than the distorted, false voices that blare at them … they deserve our guidance rather than our fear and denial in their sexual development. They deserve our help in understanding the complexities and nuances of sexuality.”

She explains that if we, as parents, don’t share our values and views, society will. And the reality is that while our kids won’t show it, they do want to hear from us.

Orenstein sites a 2012 survey of more than 4,000 young people in which most said they wish they’d had more information, especially from Mom and Dad, before their first sexual experience. They particularly wanted to know about relationships and the emotional side of sex.

Read the book and begin the conversation. For more information, visit the book’s page on Amazon here.

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