Sex Roles

, Volume 62, Issue 5–6, pp 294–306 | Cite as

Feminist Ideals for a Healthy Female Adolescent Sexuality: A Critique

  • Sharon LambEmail author
Feminist Forum


This paper explores the ideals of healthy sexuality for teenage girls in the U.S. proposed by feminist theorists and researchers. Current ideals emphasize desire, pleasure, and subjectivity, and appear to be a response to three historically problematic areas for women and girls: objectification; abuse and victimization; and stereotypes of female passivity. There are, however, several problems with using these qualities as markers of healthy sexuality. This essay discusses these problems, including the rigid dichotomizing of subject and object, the idea that desire, pleasure, and subjectivity may have different historical meanings for girls from diverse backgrounds; and that using pleasure as a gauge for whether sex is “good” has moral implications that may undermine other important goals of feminism.


Adolescence Sexuality Health Desire Subjectivity Pleasure 



The author would like to thank Dana Becker, Nicola Gavey, Jeanne Marecek, Jeffrie Murphy, the editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling and School Psychology, Graduate College of Education, UMass BostonBostonUSA

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