By Ila Ananya
When journalist and author Peggy Orenstein was interviewing young girls between the ages of 15 and 20 on what they felt about their bodies and sex, she asked a young lesbian woman when she thought a girl loses her virginity. “You know what I think?” Orenstein says the girl told her, “I think a girl loses her virginity when she has her first orgasm with a partner.”
This idea of looking at virginity as there being multiple virginities fascinated Orenstein, whose New York Times Bestseller Girls and Sex is based on all her 70+ interviews with young women. She found that women were often caught up with navigating between what is considered “slutty” and too much sex, and being a “prude”.
We recently watched her TED Talk on her interviews with young girls in the US about sex. The odd thing about listening to it, is how familiar their stories sound to those I’ve heard in college and whispered among cousins at home–whether it was about consent, oral sex, body hair, and much more rarely, pleasure.
Some people, Orenstein says, believe that it’s completely alright for oral sex to just work one way (women giving it to men, mind you) — in school and college, young women used it as a way of getting men to not have sex with them, because at the end of the night, the guys expected to be “satisfied”. But at the same time oral sex threw up many other questions for those young women: Is it sex, is it not sex?
Listen to Peggy Orenstein’s talk on young women and sexual pleasure. She tells stories from her many interviews, building up to the idea that adults should have conversations with young women about sex (that isn’t only about contraception and birth control) but also about pleasure and joy. After all, it must mean something that most of the women Orenstein spoke to talked about sex in terms of just pain.