This book, by Laura Sessions Stepp suggests that sex on college campuses for young women today means joyless encounters devoid of pleasure, leading to cynical and depressed young women. Her conclusions are supported by interviews with young women and stories about nine girls over the period of one year. The thing that all of these young women have in common is that none of them seem happy, fulfilled, or even very much in touch with what it would mean to have an intimate relationship. As I read this book I was profoundly sad, for the young women, for the mothers of the young women, and finally, for the author, who listened to tales of sadness, anorexia, depression, binge drinking, and rape.
I think every parent with teenage daughters should read this book, to remind ourselves about what we need to be talking about with our kids, and how to prepare them for college, particularly if the scenario described by this author is one that they will find themselves facing. Ms. Sessions Stepp seems to suggest that the sex education our children are not getting, along with messages from parents that downplay intimate relationships in exchange for competition, good education, and career goals, is creating a generation of young women who not only feel entitled to immediate gratification, but are trying to pursue love through sex, and failing miserably.
The young women having multiple sexual partners were getting sexually transmitted infections, but there is very little mention of how often they were being tested, using birth control and/or using condoms. In addition, maybe the most disturbing part of the book for me, was how little these women expected from their sexual partners, how little "getting to know you" time was expected, and how poorly they allowed men to treat them. We as parents are failing miserably if we are not giving our daughters the skills to identify disrespectful, emotionally abusive, and unfulfilling relationships, as well as the understanding that their bodies are their own and no one can enter their bodies without being invited, under any circumstance.
I was also struck by the fact that these young women seem to be approaching everything in their lives with the same "lack of self-reflection." Their work ethics, sports, bodies, friendships, school performance, family connection, and sexuality seem to all be missing a depth and sense of connection to the world around them that may be indicative of a much larger social ill - a lack of connection, in exchange for control, physical sensation and monetary gain, that would make true satisfaction, with any aspect of their lives, impossible.