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

Abstract

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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Acknowledgement

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

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Correspondence to Zoë D. Peterson.

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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

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Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Sexuality
  • Empowerment
  • Desire
  • Pleasure