Sex Roles

, Volume 62, Issue 5–6, pp 307–313 | Cite as

What Is Sexual Empowerment? A Multidimensional and Process-Oriented Approach to Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Empowerment

  • Zoë D. PetersonEmail author
Feminist Forum


Theorists disagree about how to define the concept of empowerment. This disagreement extends to discussions of adolescent girls’ sexual empowerment. Feminists struggle with whether sexual empowerment should be conceptualized as a subjective internal feeling of power and agency or an objective measure of power and control. Defining sexual empowerment as a subjective state may mistakenly equate feelings of agency with cultural and institutional power. Yet, a subjective definition of sexual empowerment is advantageous in that it validates girls’ own experiences and perceptions. This commentary argues that sexual empowerment might best be conceptualized as a continuous and multidimensional construct. This would allow for the recognition of sexual empowerment as a developmental process, and it would allow for the acknowledgement of ambivalent empowerment.


Adolescence Sexuality Empowerment Desire Pleasure 



Zoë Peterson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology and Institute for Women and Gender Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Institute for Women and Gender StudiesUniversity of Missouri-Saint LouisSt. LouisUSA

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