Image via WikipediaLast night, my friend, put together a group of women to meet and talk with Deborah Tolman, who wrote a book called Dilemmas of Desire, Teenager Girls Talk About Sexuality. Deborah has been doing research on sexuality throughout her career and is currently working on another book and teaching at Hunter College.
The book was published in 2005 but Deborah discussed with us how the information should be old hat considering the research took place in the late 90's (takes a long time to get a book together) but what she writes about hasn't changed. I wonder if anything has changed.
She interviewed girls ranging from 14-16 in inner city schools and suburban areas. Her conversations with each girl was basically about their sexual desires, experiences, perhaps their first time, their thoughts about sex and how they are perceived as sexual beings, etc. What is most interesting as far as women have come, there is still a double standard about sex. Girls that have frequent sex outside a relationship are "bad girls" and boys that have frequent sex outside a relationship are "cool boys". Girls might be wary of those boys but it is irrelevant. Sounds like the 1950's.
Tolman discusses the young women and their experiences but we do not know what happened in their household or how their parents raised them to feel about sex. I believe the question last night that everyone was thinking was how do we make sure that our sons and daughters feel empowered to have happy, healthy sexual lives that they feel good and comfortable about?
A very interesting topic. I found the conversations that were spurred on by Deborah reading and talking with us was the most interesting. Comfort level with your child, having conversations about feeling good about your body, how to say no and how to say yes, etc.
Our school does a good job about having conversations from 5th grade and on about sexuality. The program is called gender issues. Taught by the principal and also the head of the school which I think is pretty awesome. They embrace all forms of sexuality and by having the conversations with the kids at a young age has perhaps made each of these kids more comfortable with themselves and sex.
At the end of the day, transparency with your kids and the comfort to have conversations about sex are a good thing. After all, at one point, everyone is going to be having sex. The thing Tolman expresses is how important it is to feel good about the sex you are having, to be empowered to have the sex you want to have. To ignore those conversations with your kids is to ignore an important part of who they are. Don't live in a vacuum. After all, we are all sexual beings and we shouldn't be prudes about it.