Sex Roles

, Volume 66, Issue 11–12, pp 703–712 | Cite as

Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Empowerment: Two Feminists Explore the Concept

  • Sharon LambEmail author
  • Zoë D. PetersonEmail author
Feminist Forum


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.


Feminism Empowerment Adolescent girls Sexuality 



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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling and School Psychology, College of Education and Human Development, UMass BostonUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, 325 Stadler HallUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSaint LouisUSA

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