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Sex in the CWU


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The presentation started late as Peggy Orenstein rushed back into the room. She made it up to the podium and explained how she wanted to be honest with us, remarking, “I forgot my notes.”

The light-hearted yet blunt speaker talked on the topic of her most recent book, “Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape.” This event was sponsored by both the Center for Diversity and Social Justice (CDSJ) and the Women and Gender Studies program.

One of Orenstein’s major sources of inspiration for pursuing this subject was her 13-year-old daughter. She published another book, “Cinderella Ate my Daughter,” based on her experiences with her daughter.

She talked with her daughter in the book about the meaning of sexuality, Orenstein also encouraged others to sit down and talk with their kids about sex instead of avoiding the subject. She also emphasized how the discussion about sex needs to happen in other relationships, especially with romantic partners

The focus of Orenstein’s talk was girls and women specifically, because her book is a collection of 70 interviews of mostly middle-class women between 15-and 20-years-old.

She found was, “this generation of women did feel entitled to have sex, but did not feel entitled to enjoy it.” The smart, strong image many women try to portray is not translating into their social lives and specifically not into their sex life. Orenstein emphasized that sex, “shouldn’t be something girls have to get over.”

Orenstein went on to describe other difficulties women face. “Our culture is littered with women’s body parts,” she said, “confidence comes off with the clothes.” Women’s bodies are being put up everywhere for advertisements and entertainment. Women feel like they have to have their outside appearance look good all the time. The effects of this porn culture is a rise in pubic hair removal and labia surgeries.

Another issue Orenstein described from her research was that 30 percent of women had pain in their last sexual encounter. Women are usually more worried about the man reaching orgasm than themselves not being in pain and their own pleasure. In some of the interviews found in Orenstein’s book, the girls felt they needed to make sure the guy was satisfied at the end of the night, and in order to avoid intercourse would give a blow job instead.

“In the baseball field sex analogy, the woman is the field to be played,” Orenstein said. But a better analogy she found was pizza. When two people get a pizza they discuss what the other one wants on the pizza. Both of their interests are important in this analogy. It is about, “balancing responsibility and joy.”

The audience had a positive reaction and many questions. One of the audience members was a mother who now taught her daughters the names of the different parts of their genitals, which Orenstein pointed out was lacking in teaching children about sex.

A college-aged man asked a question about a previous comment made by Orenstein when she said, “alcohol is the number one date rape drug on campuses.” He said that both parties are usually drunk and doesn’t that deter it from being a rape drug? Orenstein answered saying there are many tricky issues in those types of situations. Legally the boy is usually convicted, she said.

Another audience member asked if any of the women she interviewed had positive sexual encounters. Orenstein said that 17 percent experienced orgasms during hookups and 60 percent experienced orgasms in a long-term relationship.  

“I want sex to be enjoyable to women,” Orenstein said. I do not want to see women, “reduced to it,” and I want women “safe from cruelty… “Sex should not be something girls have to get over.”

The CDSJ sponsored this event with the Women and Gender studies program because they have been working along Women and Gender studies for a long time,” said Katrina Whitney, assistant director of Diversity. The issue of “women as a marginalized group,” is one of the big reasons CDSJ is interested in topics like the one presented by Peggy Orenstein. It is about “women’s identities,” Whitney said.

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Sex in the CWU