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The Sex Lives of Teenagers: Revealing the Secret World of Adolescent Boys and Girls Hardcover – September 1, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author and adolescent psychiatrist, Lynn Ponton, M.D., unveils plenty of daunting scenarios in The Sex Lives of Teenagers. On these pages, we meet Naomi, a pregnant teen who wants to have her baby; Lara, who is infected with HIV; Tom, who is hooked on pornographic videos; and Angie, who was sexually assaulted after getting drunk at a party. Ponton also tells stories of teens struggling with sexual identity, curious about normal sexual function, and dealing with pressure to have sex before they feel ready. In addition, sprinkled throughout are the voices of parents who struggle to cope with their teens' problems and, for the most part, seek to offer guidance and support, though not always successfully.

At times, Ponton seems to dwell on the dark and disturbing side of teens and sex: the boy who is sexually assaulted by a priest; the mother who calls her HIV-infected daughter a slut; the teen who discovers that his father sexually harasses female employees. Some of these situations may discourage parents, who have educated themselves about more common situations and who simply can't believe these types of things could happen to their children.

The best course of action might be for parents to read this book together with their teens, and to use some of the stories as jumping-off points for discussion. As Ponton makes clear in the opening chapter, all teens have sex lives--whether or not they are sexually active. And despite the sexually charged culture teens are exposed to daily, sex remains a difficult topic for parents and teens to discuss openly. The Sex Lives of Teenagers may be just the tool to help parents open the door to that discussion.--Virginia Smyth

From Publishers Weekly

Respected adolescent psychiatrist Ponton (The Romance of Risk) effectively addresses parents' and teens' questions about sexual development in this down-to-earth primer. She finds that teenagers face the same issues and experiences as adults, but often struggle through them with less information and expertise. Making the case that all teenagers have a sexual identity and sexual life, even though it may not be readily apparent, Ponton shows that, if they are not coerced, expressions of teenage sexuality can provide important explorations of the self and relationships with others. She offers valuable suggestions to alleviate a shared sense of discomfort when parents try to talk with their children about sexuality, emphasizing the importance of using simple language, admitting to embarrassment when it arises. Drawing on her work with youths from all backgrounds in the San Francisco area, Ponton tackles a variety of tough topicsAfrom those that are often perceived as embarrassing, like masturbation and fantasies, to stigmatized ones, like bi- and homosexuality. The final chapters focus on the potentially devastating consequences of risky or forced sex (including HIV infection and abortion), and show how parents and teens can work on realistic parameters for sexual consent. She also includes fascinating descriptions of the therapeutic process, in which Ponton admits moments when she, like a parent, feels herself losing her connection with certain patients. Ponton remains warm, unsensationalistic and empathetic, always focused on the task at handAhelping teenagers and their parents develop the necessary skills to achieve healthier emotional and sexual lives.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; 1 edition (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052594561X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525945611
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, this kind of book--the therapist
generalizes his/her most disturbed teenage client cases into a
dire commentary on all youth--is becoming an epidemic. This
book is not a useful basis for understanding young people.
Rather, it is part of the professional sensationalism and denial
that helps make America one of the riskiest Western nations to
live in.
First of all, Dr. Ponton is both unfair and unscientific.
Suppose I culled some lurid cases of psychotherapists' sexually
exploiting patients and compiled them into a book, "The Sex
Lives of Psychiatrists." Such a book might depict modern
therapists as uniquely dangerous perverts the rest of us should
fear. Would that be accurate or fair? No. It would be an
example of what social scientists term as fallacious "selection
bias:" a grossly unfair smear on an entire group based on the
misdeeds of a few of its most disturbed number. Now, Dr.
Ponton, and readers and reviewers who seem to worship this
kind of book as "realism:" how is what she does to teenagers
any different?
Second, Dr. Ponton's comments on youth sexuality are
blatantly inaccurate. She claims that today's teenagers "are
taking greater risks" with sex than past generations. Not true.
The latest National Center for Health Statistics data shows that
teens today are less likely to get pregnant, less likely have
babies or abortions, and less likely to contract STDs today than
teens of 25 to 30 years ago. Further, teens who do get pregnant
tend to be older (more are 18 or 19, rather than 12-17) today
than back then.
Read more ›
1 Comment 58 of 69 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on March 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Reading "The Sex Lives of Teenagers", I recognized my own fears about sex. It is the first book that has talked about it like it really is, bringing up not only the fun parts, but the tough spots that I myself have been in. This book honestly discusses pregnancy, masturbation and questions about being gay. It has been really helpful to me and I recommend it to other teens.
Comment 15 of 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Although there is much of value to be gained from this book, including the list of suggestions for parents and teens at the end, the majority of the case studies presented are unlikely to serve the needs of most readers, as they illustrate unusual situations rather than common problems teens and their parents might face in communicating about sex. One presents a boy who has been caught masturbating with a vacuum cleaner, another a girl who faints when she has sexual fantasies, and others offer equally odd examples of the issues faced by teens as they struggle with burgeoning sexuality.
In addition, the author's psychoanalytic approach to counseling is off-putting to readers unfamiliar with the methodology and philosophy, and her references to dream analysis and like-minded Freudian therapies might not appeal to all readers, especially those looking for workable solutions to their own problems. Most parents are not going to have the time and finances to acquire psychiatric advice for their teens, and many of the author's approaches to dealing with teen sexuality offer this limited example of how it can be handled.
Furthermore, the examples of her therapy sessions with teens and the recreation of their dialogues often seem a little self-serving, presenting her psychiatric talents in a semi-self-congratulatory way.
Finally, there are many questions left unresolved. The chapter on masturbation does not offer many ideas for teens and their parents to communicate or deal with the issue, and the author herself seems undecided about how to counsel her clients and readers about this sensitive issue.
My suggestion: read the lists of ideas she offers in the back and skip the rest.
Comment 18 of 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book for its great stories about adolescents and their parents. The dialogue can be hilarious at times as these kids struggle to understand what's happening for them in the sexual arena, and Lynn Ponton seems to understand them at every turn where their parents can't. The subjects can range from "everyday" performance anxieties to questions about sexual identity, to wrestling with negative outcomes of sexual activity (pregnancy, disease), to finding oneself actually enjoying the pleasures of healthy sexual activity in the context of a healthy intimate relationship.
Lynn Ponton is nonjudgemental about many loaded topics. I know my own kids will benefit from my having read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Is it just me or is Dr. Ponton trying to give teenage sexuality a bad name? (Like we aren't looked down upon enough as it is!) Every chapter of this book is filled with sexual extremes, which many teens are smart enough to avoid. Dr. Ponton is not "revealing the secret world of adolestcent boys and girls," rather she is describing and analyzing the problems of unaverage teenagers that would need to see a doctor like her. The experiences in this book are uncommon to the average teen and therefore are hard to relate to. Parents gain no insight into teenage sexuality from this book either.
I gave this book two stars purely for the entertainment value of the anecdotes Dr. Ponton's patients presents. I hope she's paying them royalties, because their stories are the only thing selling her book.
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