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Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Empowerment: Two Feminists Explore the Concept


Although all feminists tend to value empowered female sexuality, feminists often disagree, sometimes heatedly so, about the definition of and path to empowered sexuality among adolescent girls. In this theoretical paper, two feminists, who have previously expressed differing perspectives regarding adolescent girls’ sexual empowerment (Lamb 2010a, b; Peterson 2010), discuss their disagreements and attempt to find some common ground in their viewpoints on girls’ sexuality. A critical question related to sexual empowerment is whether empowerment includes a subjective sense of efficacy, desire, and pleasure. In other words, are girls sexually empowered if they feel that they are empowered? The authors identify three themes that make answering this question particularly challenging—age differences, exposure to sexualized media, and the pressure to please a partner. Despite these challenges, the authors identify several points of consensus, including agreeing that adequate sexuality education and media literacy education are vital to optimizing adolescent girls’ sexual empowerment.

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The order of authorship is alphabetical. The authors contributed equally to this article.

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Correspondence to Sharon Lamb or Zoë D. Peterson.

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Lamb, S., Peterson, Z.D. Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Empowerment: Two Feminists Explore the Concept. Sex Roles 66, 703–712 (2012).

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  • Feminism
  • Empowerment
  • Adolescent girls
  • Sexuality