Wellesley Centers' Author Launches Book on Teenage Girls' Sexuality: Developmental Psychologist Breaks New Ground
November 13, 2002
Wellesley, MA – Developmental psychologist Deborah Tolman has spent years researching the uncharted terrain of teenage girls’ sexuality. The resulting work, Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk About Sexuality, should spark intense discussions from classrooms to dinner tables as parents and teenagers of both sexes hear the frank responses of adolescent females about desire, and read Tolman’s analysis of what this means for our society.
Tolman, who is an Associate Director of and Senior Research Scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, spent years researching the topic after initially becoming interested during thesis work at Harvard University. She discovered that, with all that had been written about female teens and sexuality, no one had ever explored the element of sexual desire amongst this group, as if it did not exist. When Tolman launched this task, she found that her teenage study subjects had a lot to say on the topic, and that they had powerful messages to deliver to sex educators, parents and even each other. By discovering that most girls felt that their desire or lack of desire was a “personal problem” and something that they felt they had to keep to themselves, Tolman was more convinced than ever that this subject needed attention.
Tolman notes, “Most of these girls were afraid to discuss their sexuality and desires with even their closest friends for fear of being labeled a ‘bad girl’. I hope that my work will start a dialogue among parents and teens of both sexes about girls’ developing sexuality.” She continues “My book in no way encourages teenage girls to have sex, but rather, I hope will educate them and other key figures in their world to begin a dialogue on this topic.”
Tolman continues her research on this subject at the Wellesley Centers. Her most recent work focuses on the media and how it affects adolescent sexuality of boys and girls in both negative and positive ways.