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Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality Paperback – November 30, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0674018563 ISBN-10: 0674018567 Edition: 10.1.2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 10.1.2005 edition (November 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674018567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674018563
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For all the panicky ink devoted to teen sex, until now there has been no academic study on what teenage girls actually want. Tolman, an associate director at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College, fills that gap by focusing on girls' desires, rather than on the social ills they're usually quizzed on-pregnancy, disease and dropping out of school. The teenage voices she has collected are articulate and refreshing, though many of the stories are depressingly familiar. Nearly all the girls surveyed worry about being branded sluts, and many grapple with the pressure to be sex objects for boys while expressing no desire of their own. Tolman also makes a convincing case for why we should listen: girls in touch with their own desires make safer, healthier choices about sex. She advocates making it easier for girls to talk about their sexual wants-whether with parents, teachers, or other girls-without fear of repercussion. This is an excellent candidate for a gender studies textbook, and will also be of interest to parents, educators, and teenage girls themselves.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"Girls are the objects of boys' sexual desires and have no desires of their own." In this provocative study, Tolman, a researcher at Wellesley College, turns this notion upside down. Basing her research on extensive interviews with both suburban and urban teens, Tolman investigates how young women's first sexual experiences may be influenced by societal pressure to dissociate from their own bodies and desires; many women said of their "first time" that "it just happened," for example. Tolman shows the chilling dangers--for individuals and society--when girls are afraid to take ownership of their sexuality, citing soaring rates of teen pregnancy, STDs, violence, low self-esteem, and more. And she offers ideas for how change can happen. The language in this volume is both more scholarly and more radical than that in other recent titles on the subject. But parents and teachers alike will find much to contemplate and borrow from in this fascinating account. See the Read-alike column "Girl Talk" in Booklist's July 2002 issue for additional titles on the subject. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
The book is well written and an easy read.
pink lover
And if I ever have adolescent children, boys or girls, I will discuss this book with them so they hopefully do not make the many mistakes I made.
One More Option
Good girls are only supposed to desire emotional relationships.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Frenchmix on June 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a brilliant look at adolescent female sexuality and our society's double standards. I would suggest it for anyone going into motherhood, teaching, or counseling for examinations of how our girls are being taught to be objects of desire for boys without having any desire of their own. An absolutely fascinating book for anyone interested in female sexuality.

A note of caution: The researcher spends most of her time discussing the patriarchy and problems of the "heterosexual" social construct. While she does discuss how this affects sexual desire for bisexual girls and lesbians, how society forces the heterosexual romance upon girls who may want a multiplicity of options, and has three case studies that include those of GLBT orientation, most of her focus is on heterosexual girls and boys. Those looking for a discussion on female GLBT sexuality may want to look elsewhere.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Heather Corinna on June 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've worked with teen women and sexuality full-time for close to ten years now. For nearly that many years, I've entertained ideas about trying to get an anthology of teen girl narratives about just these topics published, but have been perpetually shot down by publishers because the subject is seen as just too provocative and just too volatile, no matter how vitally important it is for young women's voices to be heard on these issues.

I was elated when I found Dilemmas of Desire, because it was clear that Deborah had not only done exactly what I was hoping to do, she did it brilliantly (I feel comfortable saying more so than I could have), within a fantastic context, and with incredibly apt and brave observations and analysis. However astute and important her observations are -- and they are -- they also do not overwhelm the important narratives of the young women she spoke to.

Picking up this book was fortuitous: I'd not only wanted a book like it to exist, I found it at the end of a very long editorial process for S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College, my own book, when I was in need of something to remind me that all the work I'd done and do was of some import (nothing like months and months of editing to wear that right out of a gal). I read it on an airplane, and ended up disturbing my fellow passengers with my out-loud, "Yes...yes...YES!" that I just couldn't keep to myself, seeing her words and those of the girls echo so truly what I'd observed -- and find myself troubled so much with daily -- over the years in my own work.
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Format: Paperback
When I find ideas that are new to me, well phrased, or worth remembering, I underline or highlight. I underlined a lot in this book. The underlining became a little humorous at one point, when my pen kept returning to the page, underlining almost every sentence from pages 16 through 22. If you are trying to measure how much weight to give my praise of this book, I encourage you to read my other reviews on other books and media on these topics - to determine for yourself if I am just weird or well informed (or both).

This is a book discussing teen girls' dilemmas of desire involving relationships, identity, socially acceptable behaviors, sexual feelings, and sexual activity. In the first 20 pages this book pleasantly surprised me by capably explaining diverse concepts about gender and compulsory heterosexuality, emphasizing that careful consideration of those core INDIVIDUALLY DEFINABLE characteristics is key to starting discussions on female sexual and mental health.

The book suggests female sexual desires are healthy in adolescence and adulthood, and when society frames them as selfish, perverted, wanton, non-existent, to-be-silenced, man-dependent, marriage-dependent, or gender-limited, then those societal forces often have a disabling effect on women mentally and physically. And the author suggests most men and women (and especially teenage girls) don't see, perceive, or understand how their limited definitions of: a) gender roles, b) 'appropriate' relationship boundardies, and c) 'parameters of pleasure' can negatively effect women, both young and old.

The book primarily focuses on teen girls discussing their desires, "something quite courageous, their willingness to speak out about a part of their lives that is, essentially, unspeakable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By books4parents on April 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
A 17-year-old girl reports that her first sexual experience "just happened." She says "He was kissing me," not "We were kissing," or "I was kissing him." She was completely passive. The author interprets that choice of words not as expressing a lack of volition, but as an expression of the cultural taboo against girls having and expressing sexual desire.

A U.S. Surgeon General said: Sexuality is important throughout life, not just during the reproductive years. The author asserts that girls are capable of strong sexual desire, and that such desire is life-sustaining. But many people think of sexuality in youth as strictly a danger. We don't provide young girls with any guidance on accepting their natural sexual desires. For adults to do otherwise would require "a shift in mindset."

Society treats boys' sexual desire very differently: it is considered normal, inevitable, overpowering, and virtually excuses boys from sexual aggression. A girl is expected to appear seductive: she is supposed to stimulate a boy's sexual desire, but she isn't supposed to have any sexual desire of her own. Good girls are only supposed to desire emotional relationships. Good girls are de-sexualized and disembodied. Rarely does a young girl admit: "I wanna have sex so bad!" A girl saying that publicly is considered pornography.

Some adults claim they merely want to "protect" girls from the risk of negative outcomes. But if that were true then girls would be encouraged to engage in self-masturbation or mutual masturbation to avoid disease and unplanned pregnancy. In reality female sexual desire itself is considered the monstrous "danger."

The negative aspect for boys is that whenever sex "happens," it's considered the boy's fault. No good girl "wants" sex!
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