That's how I felt when I read Peggy Orenstein's Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. As her daughter came into adolescence, this feminist writer decided to find out what sex meant to her generation. She interviewed some 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 and reports what they said.
What they told her reads for me as if very little has changed since the mid-60s when it comes to young women feeling empowered and happy about their sexual desires. Oh, there are obvious differences: porn in many guises is everywhere and the poor things think they have to shave their pubic hair to be attractive. But the underlying dynamic seem to work just as it did when I was young: girls believe they must put out in order to get or keep the attention of young males -- and young males think they have a natural right to have girls provide them with sexual pleasure. Neither partner much gives a damn about, or even expects, girls' pleasure.
Some snippets from this book:
Orenstein points out that giving blow jobs can and does pass around STDs among teens, leading to rising rates of gonorrhea and herpes.
Orenstein does report that under some circumstances, giving oral sex offers young women a feeling of power.
Well at least she gets one sort of sexual pleasure. I would wish she were able to enjoy sex a little more whole-heartedly.
These are young women who have grown up expecting equality with boys. They often excel as much or more than their male peers in school and intend to undertake difficult career paths. So Orenstein challenged them:
Obviously these young women aren't "putting it that way."
Orenstein theorizes that, like generations past, these girls have internalized a sense that their genitals are "icky". Most don't masturbate, so they know little more about their bodies than the boys do. For some, "absence of pain" is about all they expect from a boyfriend.
The book ends with an indictment of most sex education. Orenstein asks: can't we just teach both sexes that sex is for their pleasure and to enable intimacy between equal partners? The Dutch apparently do, according to her research.
But in the land of the religious right, "abstinence-only," and prurient sexist adults, that's apparently not yet possible.
Or is there more to this story? This childless old lesbian can't claim to know.