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“Whereas earlier generations of media-literate, feminist-identified women saw their objectification as something to protest,” she writes, “today’s often see it as a personal choice, something that can be taken on intentionally as an expression rather than an imposition of sexuality.” Her investigation into the sex lives of teenage girls finds plenty of evidence to suggest that the confidence and power conferred by “a commercialized, one-dimensional, infinitely replicated, and, frankly, unimaginative vision of sexiness” is largely illusory.This generation of girls, she argues, has been trained by a “porn-saturated, image-centered, commercialized” culture “to reduce their worth to their bodies and to see those bodies as a collection of parts that exist for others’ pleasure; to continuously monitor their appearance; to perform rather than to feel sensuality.” As a result, they are eager to be desired, but largely clueless about what their own desires might be, or how to satisfy them; they go to elaborate lengths to attract male sexual interest, but regard sex itself as a social ritual, a chore, a way of propitiating men, rather than as a source of pleasure.Nor is learning to be sexually desirable the same as exploring your own desire: your wants, your needs, your capacity for joy, for passion, for intimacy, for ecstasy….
(According to one study she cites, girls are four times as likely as boys to consent to sex they don’t want.) Among the girls she interviewed, the most common reasons given for doing so were a fear of being considered “uptight” and a desire to avoid “awkwardness.”History has taught us to be wary of middle-aged people complaining about the mores of the young.
The parents of every era tend to be appalled by the sexual manners of their children (regardless of how hectic and disorderly their own sex lives once were, or still are).
By some measures, girls appear to be faring rather well in twenty-first-century America.
Teenage pregnancy rates have been in steady decline since the 1990s.
Orenstein, it is worth noting, is not concerned about the quantity of sex that young women are having.
(There is, she points out, no evidence to suggest that rates of sexual intercourse among young people have risen in recent decades.
And neither of them can be dismissed as a sexual puritan.
(They are not troubled about teenagers leading active sex lives, they assure us, only about the severely limited forms in which female sexuality is currently allowed to express itself; they are not even against casual sex per se, just eager to ensure that there should be, as Orenstein puts it, “reciprocity, respect, and agency regardless of the context of a sexual encounter.”) Even so, neither of their books entirely avoids the exaggerations, the simplifications, the whiff of manufactured crisis that we have come to associate with this genre.
(Rather like Ruskin, whose ideas about the naked female form are said to have been gleaned from classical statuary, modern porn-reared boys expect female genitalia to be hairless.)She also notes that, in the years since the Internet made hardcore porn widely accessible to teenage boys, anal sex has become a more or less standard feature of the heterosexual repertoire.
(In 1992, only 16 percent of women aged eighteen to twenty-four had tried anal sex; today, the figure has risen to 40 percent.) Despite the fact that most girls report finding anal penetration unpleasant or actively painful, they often, Orenstein claims, feel compelled to be good sports and submit to it anyway.
Every girl who isn’t that girl secretly hates herself…. A number of the girls she meets vehemently reject the notion that they are oppressed or objectified on social media.