Peggy Orenstein, New York Times bestselling author of Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, visited Marlborough on Tuesday, Jan. 17 to talk to upperclassmen and parents about the ways in which gender inequality impacts teenage girls’ attitudes towards sex.
To write Girls and Sex, Orenstein interviewed over 70 young women about their understandings and experiences of female sexuality. She found that girls and women who excelled in social and career environments still faced the pressures of patriarchal sexual expectations. She said that while privileged young women may be empowered publicly, they were still being treated unequally in private, even in consensual relationships.
Orenstein first spoke in a panel format to juniors and seniors during a combined class meeting about the destruction that high school “hookup culture” can have on girls. Students said her talk came as a welcomed change, and felt that the issues Orenstein brought up had been largely absent from the Marlborough sex-ed curriculum thus far.
“I think that what she had to say about girls and ‘hookup culture’ was very empowering and true. Sometimes Marlborough doesn’t acknowledge the fact that [students] hook up with people and they don’t talk about issues that could come up relating to that,” Veronica ’17 said.
Teachers and faculty said that they think creating a new dialogue about sex at Marlborough is important.
“I think being able to speak openly about sex…is an important skill [for students] to have,” 12th Grade Dean and mathematics instructor Alison Moser added.
Administrators also said that they felt Orenstein’s talk was more inclusive than many that have taken place at Marlborough, by talking about same-sex relationships in addition to opposite-sex ones. Other students said that they valued what Orenstein had to say, but felt that her argument was reductive.
“She made a generalization that boys just don’t treat girls with respect and I think that isn’t necessarily true,” Abby ’18 said.
Head of School Dr. Priscilla Sands said she thought that Orenstein’s visit was important, and hopes that the relationship between Orenstein and Marlborough will continue.