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.
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Zoë Peterson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology and Institute for Women and Gender Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis.
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Peterson, Z.D. What Is Sexual Empowerment? A Multidimensional and Process-Oriented Approach to Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Empowerment. Sex Roles 62, 307–313 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9725-2