There are several conflicting issues affecting the lives of American teenage girls. Teenage girls are not able to make a clear cut for instance between being sexy and being sexual. In an attempt to impress and fit into society, they dress and behave in a manner that affirms the latter rather than the former. Teenage girls receive a barrage of “advice” from movies, magazines and music that leaves them confused and unable to make decipher what upholds their femininity and what does not. Culture demands that girls should dress decently and not exude slutty tendencies.
Deborah Tolman subverts the debate about sex being risky for teenage girls and focuses on the cultural and social forces that encourage teenage girls to responsibly handle their own desires. Tolman wrote the book Dilemmas of Desire after interviewing 31 girls between 15-18 years of age from two schools, one suburban and the other urban on their maiden sexual experiences. The girls feared their own desires would personally cause them to be branded sluts or bring them unwanted pregnancies. A case of double standard is where girls are supposed to be attractive to boys while they also need to be protected from boys because they are sexual predators. (Tolman 4).
Tolman highlights the pervasive social problem associated with the desires of teenage girls rather than on the social issues of pregnancy, dropping out of school, sexually transmitted diseases among others. The girls’ worries are on being branded sluts or being used as sex objects by boys while they do not express their own desires. Tolman advocates for girls to voice their concerns and get in touch with their own desires. This helps them make safer and healthier choices regarding sex. Double standard in regard to the sexuality of teenage girls exposes them to dangers such as teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (Tolman 27). The failure to discuss the girls’ desires and place them in the driver’s seat in matters about their own sexuality affects their education. They also lack to concentrate on building their future careers as they seek sexual identity.
The ramifications of double standards on the society include increased school dropout rates due to teenage pregnancies, increased hopelessness and desperation among teenage girls leading to suicides. Moreover, double standard in teenage sexuality influences their decisions regarding marriage setting a bad precedence for marriage and family breakups and divorces (Tolman 30). Teenage abortions and their implications later on in life cause family and ultimately societal strain. Moreover, Tolman addresses the societal issues that affect the sexuality of women especially drug and alcohol abuse. Teenage girls engaging in alcohol and drug abuse are in danger of more sexually related ills such as sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. This has the potential to ruin their futures and that of the society by extension.
Tolman encourages teenage girls to talk about sexual desires with their teachers, parents, and other girls without fear. This way the girls are able to make sound judgements on their lives and their budding sexuality. Girls ought to uphold their own respect and not present themselves as sex objects. The society should not encourage double standards in regard to teenage sexuality. Teachers and parents ought to encourage girls to voice their sexual desires and obtain clear guidance on how to overcome the challenges they face. This increases the level of teenage awareness and sets the society on a secure and bright future.
Tolman, Deborah. Dilemmas of desire: teenage girls talk about sexuality. Harvard University
Press paperback ed. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2005. Print.