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Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  9,655 ratings  ·  1,343 reviews
With casual hookups and campus rape relentlessly in the news, parents can be forgiven for feeling anxious about their young daughters. They’re also fearful about opening up a dialogue. Not Orenstein. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times best-selling author of books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein spoke to psychologists, aca ...more
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published March 29th 2016 by Harper (first published March 1st 2016)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  9,655 ratings  ·  1,343 reviews

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Emily May
Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2016
2 1/2 stars. Warning: long, often personal review.

This book does a lot of good. I mean, firstly, it is so readable and compelling that it is easy to speed through the chapters and finish the book in a day. Secondly, it gets its strength and arguments from a series of interviews and anecdotes that Orenstein has gathered from young women across the United States, which offers a personal, funny and often shocking look at the issues.

Thirdly, the stories from these girls and women kind of prove what
Jessica J.
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
I came to this book fully expecting to love it and wanting to champion it—this is a topic that I have lots of capital-O OPINIONS about—but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Peggy Orenstein approached her work with her mind already made up and simply included whatever reinforced those beliefs without thinking about the subject as critically as she could or should have. Even though I tend to agree with much of what she says, the fact remains that this is opinion being passed off as fact.

One o
An enlightening and terrifying look at girls and sex. This is and isn't about research and statistics -- there are numbers and studies, yes, but the important takeaways come from the girls who were speaking with Orenstein throughout. They're knowledgable and ignorant about sex, and they're knowledgeable about their own ignorance.

The scariest takeaways here were about how much disservice we do to girls with sex education. There is none. Girls don't learn about their own bodies, about pleasure, o
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism
A well-intended book about a topic close to my heart: how we socialize girls to feel ignorant about and out of touch with their sexualities. Though Peggy Orenstein misfires on a few important topics, she accomplishes quite a bit of good with Girls & Sex. She sheds light on how patriarchal forces, including abstinence-only education, contribute to girls' confusion and lack of pleasure when it comes to sex. Orenstein argues that this lack of training concerning healthy sexuality and relationships ...more
May 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, laaadies
Anyone whose feed has been flooded with the shade I've been casting at this book knows I've had a complicated reaction to it. On the one hand, I am passionate about this subject matter, and Orenstein's writing often gives deft, fiery treatment to many of the issues facing young women; she interviewed young women, she listened to their words, and now she attempts to integrate it with research to say the things that need to be said, and I am *all about that.*

On the other hand, I don't think I like
Online Eccentric Librarian
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing

More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

So many books on this subject tend to gloss over or sanitize the reality in order to make it more palatable to parents or the readers. With Girls and Sex, author Orenstein lays it all down on the table: countless interviews with girls from teens to college age, getting honest answers about their experiences. While she does tend to provide a lot of her own personal viewpoints interspersed with her findings, there are v
Wren (fablesandwren)
This book was full of factual studies, interviews with all types of girls (sexual orientation, race, background, etc) and about their ignorance with sex. A lot of this book was just proving we need a lot more sex education when it comes to the female body and what goes on with you. As many people already know, sex education is something that is lacking in some educations and that is something that needs to be addressed since that is the age that people start feeling things and exploring with eac ...more
Giselle A Nguyen
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was thoroughly disappointed in this book. Peggy Orenstein comes across as incredibly out of touch, and her point of view is both condescending and alarmist.

The chapter about queer and trans issues was especially galling, given that Orenstein did not talk to a single transgender person, instead satisfied with speaking to one queer girl who thought she was trans and then discovered she wasn't. She seems judgmental of parents who support their trans children's early transitions, and offered no u
Krista Regester
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will probably end up digesting every word written by Peggy Orenstein. What I love about Girls & Sex especially, is that every time I thought to myself “I wish she would talk more about this...” she did. So many interesting, shocking, and infuriating topics can be discussed when talking about sex. Peggy does a great job sifting through them and actually letting you hear the voices of girls going through life.

There were multiple times through this text that I wished this was required reading fo
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio
Yeah, ahh, I don’t feel like I can honestly review this book without being heavily trolled. I bookmarked quite a few things, and I may try to make some points but I also may not. Social media has become an ugly place and this is a dangerous topic. I’m the mother of two children, one being a tween girl. While this book wasn’t what I was expecting (HELP navigating the landscape of girls and sex, relevant to today’s issues), I’d like to acknowledge that while some of it (the “data” and stories, par ...more
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
An important books for people with children. (Not just daughters. All parents.) If I had the money, I would buy a thousand copies and hand it out to every parent I know.

It's a topic I've read about widely, so it didn't offer stunning new insights for me. But if you don't spend a lot of time reading danah boyd, Lindsay Doe, bell hooks, and Evelyn Resh, then it's an excellent introduction to the issue. Even for those, like me, who have spent a lot of time immersed in the issue, it was a tidy and
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that every parent of a girl over the age of 10 should read. It's essential to understanding the things facing girl today. Things that weren't even on my radar when I was young are integral to the female experience today.

I heard an interview with the author on NPR which is why I decided to pick this up. Although it's packed full of great information, I was disappointed at the lack of diversity in the girls she spoke to for this book. I think it could have benefitted fr
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-kindle, parenting
(4.5) Difficult but important to read as a parent of boys as well as girls.

[Update: After further reflection and discussion with Julie, the biggest flaw is that this is marketed to, and speaks to girls and parents of girls. So much of this must be read by boys and their parents as well. Perhaps more so than girls even!]

Saving grace was that my children are far from adolescence (as of this writing), so it wasn't quite as cringing and fearful a read as it could've been.

We get deep and honest discu
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a heartbreaking look at sex these days. I'm so sad for these girls. We've had many discussions around the dinner about sex, and my advice to the boy is always that there are 3 rules:. 1. Consent, 2. Safety (ideally condom plus another form of birth control), and 3. That she has as much fun as he does. After reading this book, I feel an even greater obligation to these girls to provide a young man who will be a generous lover. Sex Ed is overwhelmingly about danger and disease, and I agree we ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, parenting
Why yes, I am raising a pre-teen daughter who's beginning to ask questions about sex and sexuality. Why do you ask?

Grade 7 seems to have been a turning point. I don't remember much of my adolescence when it came to the finer details of puberty and sexuality. But that doesn't seem to matter since the landscape has changed drastically since I was a youth. Now I am learning about things like hookup culture and the regularity of oral sex and I'm trying my best not to flail and hide under my blankets
Jun 14, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
Somewhat mixed feelings on this one. I thought it was incredibly readable, and covers a topic that I care a lot about, specifically how women and girls are socialized when it comes to sex. I thought the chapters on consent and sexual assault were particularly strong, and I appreciated that the author spoke to many young women and shared their stories throughout. I did feel that the inclusion of more marginalized identities--queer, trans, POC--were pretty weak overall, which wasn't exactly surpri ...more
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Things are grim. Just as bad for the next gen of girls as it was for mine. Different, but you have to squint to see any real progress for women in their relationships to men, as manifest in early sexual relations (this book nods to non-cis-genders and queer girls but primarily focuses on male-female sexuality).
I was hoping for more change, more hope. Nope. It's rough out there for young women (still).
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent, must-read book if you have young girls in your life. They need us to talk to them, to listen to them, to be honest with them.
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
In her latest book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, author Peggy Orenstein discusses, well…girls and sex—young women and how they are affected by society and its attitudes towards sex and female sexuality. Backed up by statistics, research, and personal interviews (mostly with white, heterosexual, middle-class girls), this book offers a good overview of the subject from a variety of angles, without every becoming too academic or too commercialized.

This is the sort of book
Hanna Anderson
Jan 03, 2022 rated it did not like it
Nope nuh uh. This is not it. I stopped about 2/3 of the way through when, after feeling weird about a previous section where Orenstein misgenders Caitlyn Jenner several times, I got to the section on transgender kids, and the way Orenstein misgendered a first grader and then literally goes “no offense” but she’s too young to know if she’s transgender, I just couldn’t power through any more.

From the beginning, I wasn’t into it. From the get go, she basically just repeatedly slut shames girls who
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Do you have girls/boys, teens, tweens, any young men or women you care about who are growing up in this day and age, or do you just care about how sex fits into the ongoing sexual dynamic of women and men. Where we've gone wrong (hint: little, none, or inaccurate sex ed) and where other countries have taken a different avenue with very interesting results. The author talks to and interviews girls and young women from high school through college, sex educators, and discusses the rise in risky beh ...more
Oct 03, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq, self-help, _audio
I loved the 2020 "Boys & Sex" that followed this 2016 Girls' version. All boys and girls should read them both! This Girls one was a bit scary with the truths about how girls are treated by guys. It is a significant wake-up call. "What if we told them the truth" final chapter concludes with the power of proper sex ed.

A common thread with the problems here are caused by the guys. There is simply too much 'boys will be boys' acceptance in every aspect of relationships today (here in the USA). It b
Cátia Vieira
Another amazing feminist book!! Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein had been on my wishlist for ages (I wanted this specific edition, btw it’s gorgeous!) and it was such a sensational read. I am happy I prioritized it! It’s amazing how I keep reading books on this topic and I keep learning and learning!

Girls & Sex, as the title suggests, offers an in-depth picture of girls and sex today. Orenstein talked to psychologists, academics, experts and several young women about their sexuality and everything
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book for women, adolescent girls, parents of all adolescent people, and anyone who plans to ever have sex with an adolescent girl or a woman. What a great deal of useful information and thought-provoking questions for us all to consider about the cultural issues relating to sex especially for young people. It's a great tool for talking to our kids of both genders about sex, what they might run into socially, and what they can strive for when it comes to health, safety, and pleas ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Orenstein provides extremely important data about how girls (and boys) perceive sex in our culture. She discusses extensively the problems with porn culture, ignoring rape, and generally how society as a whole does (or does not) talk about sex. I whole-heartedly agree with her that parents need to develop relationships with their children so that when their children do have questions they feel comfortable talking to their parents. Of course there are several points in this book that I do not agr ...more
Emma Chang
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
finished in the waiting room of a doctor's office where i proceeded to get high fived for being a virgin this late in the game. pretty funny tbh ...more
➸ Gwen de Sade
Apr 04, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2022
3.5 Stars

I found the stories of the young women very interesting. I myself am over 30 and yet I notice how internalised the beliefs described in the book are. It really shocks me how the next generation has to struggle with the same problems and we haven't learned that much. I can recommend it to everyone from that aspect. Reflect on what you perceive and filter out what you have been taught.

What I didn't like at all, however, was the feeling that a lot of the author's opinion went into it. It o
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very quick read as it is littered with a number of unbelievable statistics, interviews and stories that sparked outrage, shock and sadness as I read. This was another instance in which timing affected the way I felt and interpreted the book, as I read it cover to cover on a bus coming home from the Women's March on Washington. The biggest takeaway I gained from reading Girls & Sex, besides my life philosophy that boys are gross, was I am completely and utterly terrified of becoming a p ...more
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
A few years ago I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, an excellent book on the rise of “girlie-girl” culture and its effects on young girls. In Girls & Sex, Orenstein moves on to the next age bracket: adolescent, teenage, and college-age girls. Her focus is on how prevailing cultural norms, laws, and education affect the sexual health and development of burgeoning young women.

A Brief Outline

Obviously, there are many factors that go into
Katie Jo
May 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One review of Peggy Orenstein's Girls & Sex said, "buy two copies: One for yourself, and one for the teenager in your life". A more accurate one might have said "for the white, straight, cis, upper-middle class teenager in your life". I'm not suggesting those opinions don't matter, but for that to be the core demographic (of the mere 70 women she interviewed) on a subject so broad and complex, she really didn't reach for the stars. Orenstein seems to have a good heart (whatever that really means ...more
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Peggy Orenstein is a best-selling author and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. Orenstein has also written for such publications as The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Elle, Discover, More, Mother Jones, Salon, O: The Oprah Magazine, and The New Yorker, and has contributed commentaries to NPR’s All Things Considered. Her articles have been anthologized multiple times, incl ...more

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