Episode 2: Today’s Not So “Liberated” Sex Culture

Featuring Peggy Orenstein

This is the second part our two-episode series with Peggy Orenstein. Peggy is the author of the New York Times best-seller Girls & Sex, as well as Cinderella Ate My Daughter and Waiting for Daisy. In 2012, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) named her one of its 40 Women Who Changed the Media Business in the Past 40 Years.
The second part might be even better than the first ;)

In the second part of our conversation with Peggy, we analyze the negative effects of media and pop culture. We talk about how the over-sexualization we see in media-  from commercials, to movies and music- is always framed with the purpose a performance, rather than an authentic experience or feeling, which perpetuates misleading ideas about what female empowerment and feminism actually means. You girls learn to imitate what they see, without knowing that it’s simply a facade.  

Not so “Liberated”

The Netflix’s movie, Liberated, dives even deeper into this idea of the media’s effects on young girls and women, and the toxic hookup culture it cultivates. We come back to the idea of “entitled to engage but not to enjoy,” and the idea of a sexual self-objectification in young women’s minds that is a tricky bait and switch. Some young women in the movie, for example, feel that they need to live up to the new wave of feminism and should be having casual sex to be cool and shouldn’t have too many feelings about it, but in the end they aren’t really staying true to themselves. The movie also touches on the fact that men are also facing this problem- of trying to live up to what they think it means to be “cool” and “desired,” even if they don’t feel like it is true to who they are.  

“There is this incredible sexualized culture where the ultimate thing is to be hot and that is the ultimate validation- and that has assaulted girls as THE form for sexual empowerment and sexual expression”.


Highschool girls are dealing with contradictory messages about what empowerment and feminism is- from their clothing to the role models that pop culture is offering to them- and as a result end up questioning their self image. Who defines the “right” body and under what circumstances?

“The confidence comes off with the clothes”
The media has sold the idea that the dressing scandalous and being down with casual sex represents self-confidence. But in many of these cases, the confidence comes off with the clothes. This is where research finds high rates of depression, anxiety, and “guest spectatoring,” which is where instead of being present during sex, girls tend to watch themselves from outside- and sex becomes about judgment and performance, not about self-embodiment and feelings.

“I wanted to create a window and a mirror, so boys and girls could look into it and see other people’s experiences and also see their own experiences reflected”  

Wonderful sexual ethics resources

“Ideally, to change the script you are not starting when your kid is already 17 or 18 years old; you are starting when they are born and you are naming their body parts”

Coffee table book recommendations: “Moan: Anonymous stories of female orgasm”  

“Dutch boys assume their natural capacity for love. Meanwhile, boys in the United States think they are the exception among their friends- (there’s something wrong with them)- if they want love, not just a hookup.”

The Dutch boys book: “Not Under My Roof” from Amy Schalet.

The Language of Sex in Movies

Hollywood needs to come up with a new way for showing sex that is healthier and more authentic.

In some SexEd classes they break down sex scenes to help teach kids to recognize the misrepresentations- e.g. Animal House and the scene about consent.

Recommendation: The sexiest sex scene, in the movie “The big easy”

On changing the script: “Stop talking about girls as victims- and start talking about them as agents of their own sexual pleasure.”