Teenage girls, whether they’re spruiking bondage couture in Vogue or boffing men twenty years their senior in Woody Allen movies, are surely the most over-sexualised creatures on the planet.
“Girls get such mixed messages about sex, they can’t win,” says Catherine Manning the CEO of SEED Workshops, an organisation that delivers training to high school students on sex, gender and respectful relationships. “On one hand they’re told they should look hot and available 24/7, but on the other if they even dare to look like they might be interested in sex, they’re shamed and called sluts.”
It’s these mixed messages that lead Author and Sexpert Eva Sless to write ‘A Teen Girl’s Guide to Getting Off’.
“So much of the ‘progressive’ sex education we see in young women’s magazines is all about ‘how to please your man’ or ‘how to be noticed’ rather than ‘this is your body and look at why it can do’,” she says. “Girls are taught to be sexy in order to gain approval or popularity. We need to be teaching them that sexuality is not about how others see you, it’s about how you see yourself. Owning your own sexuality and pleasure is about self-empowerment, rather than a tool to gain approval or payment to exist in the world.”
The book covers everything from orgasms, pleasure and safety, to tips on health and relationships, all in the fun, matter-of-fact way of an older cousin at a sleepover.
In fact, Sless has been researching and writing about sex for twenty years. Now with a teenage daughter herself, she wrote the book because of the dearth of books for girls that weren’t purely biological, or whose underlying messages weren’t ‘be in a committed relationship’ or ‘must be troubled to want to do it’.
Teaching girls their pleasure comes first
Both Manning and Sless point out that although young girls are used to seeing themselves sexualised in the media, it’s always in ways geared toward male pleasure rather than they’re on.
“Despite what many young people are viewing online and throughout pop culture, sexual pleasure isn’t a one-way street,” says Manning. “Teaching girls to own their sexuality is as important as teaching them maths and English.
“When the girls in our workshops recognise that the male-centric ideals presented in the media ignore their own pleasure, they feel empowered to embrace sexuality on their terms.”
‘Boys will be boys’, but girls better behave
Culturally, we’re happy to teach girls that it’s ok for them to be sexualised for others’ pleasure in order to sell clothes, couture and TV shows, but for some reason the idea of a young girl taking ownership of her own sexual feelings is still threatening.
Perhaps when young girls aren’t made to feel insecure about their bodies and sex, they’re less easy to manipulate.
While we’re more than happy to laugh off teenage boys’ indiscretions as ‘boys being boys’, open and positive discussions for young girls about sex are seen as promoting promiscuity. But, says Manning, this is far from the truth.
“Empowered girls,” she says, “are far more likely to make good decisions when it comes to setting boundaries and choosing partners.”
“The biggest concern is what they’re NOT being taught,” Sless agrees. “Ignorance is deadly. Not knowing their anatomy and what it does has a huge impact on their sexual growth and self-esteem. I lso get letters from young women saying things like ‘I didn’t say no specifically so I don’t know if I was raped’, and then believing that being attacked is their own fault.”
What can parents do?
As horrible the thought of talking about sexuality with your daughter might be, ignoring it won’t make it disappear.
“The idea of ‘sexualising’ teenagers and children has made people afraid to even mention the idea of sex for pleasure around young people because they’re worried their kids are going to run off and become strippers or porn stars,” Sless writes in A teen girl’s guide to getting off.
“But kids who want to have sex will go and do it. But pretending their curiosity doesn’t exist is the first step to them being closed off and never coming to you. The last thing you want as a parent is to be the last to know when something happens that could have been prevented by open communication and education.”
Helping your daughters to dissect the images the imagery they’re seeing in the media is a good first step. “Our conversations need to remove the shame around female sexuality,” says Manning, “and challenge the culture that presents girls and women as mere vehicles for male pleasure.”
Truth bombs from ‘A teen girl’s guide to getting off’
“The thing about having penetrative sex for the first time is, and I’m going to be blunt, it’s probably going to suck a bit.”
“The clitoris is truly awesome, and getting to know it should be a priority.”
“Every single individual time you have sex you get to set the terms as to what you do or don’t do with your body.”
“The G-spot is one very cool part of your vagina that is, like the clitoris, all about pleasure. It can be a little bit tricky to find, but it can seriously lead to some amazingly intense sensations and orgasms.”
“Peer pressure can come in so many subtle forms that most of the time you don’t even know you’re being pressured.”
“One thing that can really help make orgasms more intense is a practice called edging. Orgasms are like a sneeze. There’s the “Ah Ah Ah” (the build-up) and then there’s the “Choo” (the climax). Well, with edging, you don’t allow yourself (at first) to get to the “Choo”.
“I’ve always found it a bit unfair that guys seem to expect a blowjob but are sometimes weirded out by the thought of going down on a girl.”
“It is NOT your fault if a male cannot control himself.”
“Slut shaming has been around for so long most people don’t even realise it is being done.”
“I also believe, when it comes to sex, ladies should come first.”