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The Sexual Future of Women & Girls

Written by Tabby Biddle

This blog today comes with a lot of questions – questions about how we can raise a generation of girls to be comfortable and confident in their sexuality and sensuality as they develop into women.

On Tuesday night, I attended a talk by New York Times bestselling author Peggy Orenstein, whose latest book is called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. The book takes a look at the “princessmania” that has taken over a new generation of little girls (including her own daughter) and what this could mean for their identities and futures as young women. In the discussion Peggy brought up the entanglement of sexuality and sexualization of girls.

At the same time, I have been taking an 8-week class aimed at helping me, a 40-year-old woman, become comfortable with my own sexuality and sensuality. It’s called S Factor. Have you heard of it? Many people think it’s just about pole dancing, but actually it’s much more than that. Sheila Kelley, the founder of S Factor, created it as a way to help women take back their sexuality by feeling beautiful in their sensuality without it being for anyone else. Just for themselves. Imagine that.

As I’ve taken the Level I series, I’ve had some personal challenges surface. Most namely, the fine line between feeling sexy and feeling “slutty.”

Slut. There’s that word that stings a woman, young or old.

I had my first experience with that word in the sixth grade. An eighth-grade girl from my school shouted “slut” at me in a shopping center in Flourtown, Pennsylvania. She was apparently upset that I ‘broke up’ with her best friend’s younger brother. Even though I had never even kissed a boy at this stage of my life, let alone held hands, that word stung and I somehow believed it to be true.

Has anyone else had an experience like this?

Girls today are taught that in order to be popular they need to be “sexy,” but if they are too sexy, this can quickly cross the line into “slut” territory. The problem with all of this is girls aren’t being encouraged or supported to explore their sexuality from an empowered place.

So how can a girl naturally develop into a sexually-realized woman when she’s got the world “slut” hanging over her head?

As Peggy Orenstein pointed out, girls like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears went from wearing purity rings one day to dancing on the pole the next. I get her point, but does the pole have to be seen as a negative thing for a woman? Can’t a woman (young or old) explore her curves, her hip swirls, her cat crawls, and the playful freedom of swinging on the pole without being considered a “slut”?

We as women are divine creatures. We have the potential to give birth to new life. Yet, the elements of ourselves that are so integral to this new life – our sexuality, our feminine body parts, our juicy sensuality — are also what cause us so much shame. How can this be?

As a grown woman, I have struggled with owning my sexuality and sensuality in a way that is true and empowering to me. I have struggled with feeling comfortable in my own skin because of a latent fear of being too sexy. If I let that side of me out there in the world surely I will be admonished by other women. If these are the thoughts going on in my mind, I imagine there are other women who have these thoughts too.

How do we foster healthy sexual development for girls and women? I think as a society we need to discuss this more – and particularly as women we need to discuss this more. It’s our voices that reflect the pain and shame that run rampant in our society. If we give voice to this in honest reflection, instead of continuing the cycle of shame, there is an opportunity for healing.

The wound that is being created and perpetuated by our cultural distortion and commercialization of female sexuality needs to be and can be stopped. We have an opportunity today to hold the space and teach girls and young women that their bodies are special, sacred and beautiful. We have an opportunity today as women to use our voices to express our questions and doubts about the direction our culture is taking girls, and initiate public discussion on the topic, just at Peggy Orenstein is doing.

A friend told me today that her seven-year-old daughter asked if she could run through the backyard naked. My friend said ‘yes.’ Her daughter gleefully peeled off her clothes and ran through the yard leaping, twirling and shouting, “I feel so free. I feel so free!”

That’s what I’m talking about.

Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a writer, editor, and writing coach dedicated to empowering and amplifying the voices of women and girls. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post on issues affecting women and girls, and works with women on writing projects to help them communicate their message. Ms. Biddle’s work has been featured by the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, Current TV and other online media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband.

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14 Responses to The Sexual Future of Women & Girls

  1. Wendi Knox February 11, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    As usual, such a thoughtful post, Tabby. I totally relate to what you are saying about the fine line between slut and sensual. Unfortunately, so many times it’s other women’s influences that zip us up sexually—from jealous competitors to repressed mothers. Your honest sharing and vulnerability empower all of us. Thank you for being beautiful, sensual, brave you.

  2. Tabby Biddle February 11, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Hi Wendi,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. Yes, I agree — so many times it is other women’s influences that zip us up sexually — and that’s why I think this healing for ALL women is so important. It’s like until we all join in this together, it will keep us arm’s distance from our true feminine power. Disconnected from our Source.

    That’s why I like what S Factor is doing. It is a place for women to come together and experience their sensuality and sexiness in a way that is safe, fun, and empowering. It is a place where women can truly know themselves as full sexual beings, ultimately without any shame, guilt, or embarrassment. It’s a journey!

    Thank you as always Wendi for sharing your divine musings.

  3. Bonnie Samotin February 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    I really enjoyed your article. Well done! and thank you for bringing these important under-the-surface issues to light.

    • Tabby Biddle February 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

      You are so welcome Bonnie! Thank you for acknowledging the importance of this issue and for sharing your voice.

  4. Reagan Vincennes Scanlon February 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Tabby: I liked the article. Way too often do we have to walk the fine line of being sexy or boxed in by society’s definition of slutty. IMO, I think we’re programmed to be less, like good girls, in order to keep us a bit docile. I really believe you can be powerful, smart and sexy without having to be defined by everyone’s expectations. By the way, I hope you enjoyed your classes, they look like they would’ve been a lot of fun.

    • Tabby Biddle February 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Right on Reagan! By the way, did you ever read the book “The Curse of the Good Girl,” by Rachel Simmons? I loved it. It addresses what you said really well: “I think we’re programmed to be less, like good girls, in order to keep us a bit docile.”

      And YES, I highly recommend S Factor. While I had quite a few things come to surface, I also had a TON of fun. It’s really an amazing offering that Sheila Kelley has put together for women.

  5. Lotta Alsen February 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi Tabby,

    I loved this post, both because you dared to be vulnerable and because it’s so darn important! I believe that as women we won’t ever claim the White House, if we can’t claim our juiciness and our sexuality without feeling shame. I will retweet this post!

    • Tabby Biddle February 13, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      Hi Lotta,

      I agree with your statement — “I believe that as women we won’t ever claim the White House, if we can’t claim our juiciness and our sexuality without feeling shame.” — by way of the fact that being in a half-relationship with our sexuality dampens our power. I believe we need to be in full ownership and rightfulness to be who we are as women to be the true leaders that we are. I think we are getting there day by day as we each claim our wholeness.

      Thanks for sharing your voice on this important issue — and for retweeting!

  6. Amanda Young February 15, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Thanks for writing this Tabby! It can be scary to reclaim our sensuality. Unfortunately although every young girl has this pure sensuality in an un-selfconscious way, it seems like a right of passage that we must go through in our culture to experience some sense of shame or danger about it. This power that we have which we don’t quite know what to do with yet. A Persephone type submersion takes place. In order to take the throne as a true Queen we need to reclaim this Aphrodite energy in it’s pure unadulterated form. I have a very clear memory of being about 6 years old and my mom chasing me around the backyard as I ran naked away from her feeling so free! We had a lot of Aphrodite awakening at our workshop in Costa Rica! Keep this dialogue going!! SO Important!!

    • Tabby Biddle February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am #


      I feel like you have so much wisdom in this area. I can see how your Goddess Retreats would allow women the space, permission and freedom to awaken Aphrodite within themselves. I love what you are doing — helping women explore and reclaim all the aspects of the Goddess to reclaim the wholeness of themselves. Thank you for your beautiful work in the world.

      Yes, let’s keep this dialogue going! I think our communities of women have a lot to learn and share with each other.

      Thank you for sharing your voice on this topic Amanda.


  7. Amanda Young February 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Yes Tabby Let’s keep the dialogue going! Our communities have a lot to share. I just noticed one of the Goddesses from my retreat in Costa Rica wrote a comment! That’s right Reagan! No more being a good girl! 🙂 Smart, sexy and powerful- that sounds like you!
    Thanks again Tabby for writing about something so important to bring in to discussion.

  8. Lisa Faulkner April 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I love this post, especially the image of your friend’s 7-year old running naked and free through her back yard. It reminds me of when I was a counselor at a sleep-away camp for girls the summer before college. Two cabins (10 girls & two counselors) each had a chance to sleep under-the-stars one night. Because I was a swim instructor the highlight of our night was to go skinny-dipping in the lake. I loved the sensuality and freedom of it. So much, I thought it would be the first of many skinny dipping nights during my life.

    Sadly, I’ve never been again. I always thought I’d have a pool in my backyard one day and would make it a nightly summer ritual. I think it’s time to find a safe way to skinny dip again…. In fact, it’s my 45th birthday in May – might make an awesome present to myself.

    I think it’s important to continue to build a strong feminine culture and value and celebrate our emotions, sensuality and sexuality.

    Your book list looks good, I haven’t heard of some of those, will check them out.

    I started a new blog recently and have been thinking and writing about similar issues lately. Here’s a link in case you’re interested:

    • Tabby Biddle
      Tabby Biddle April 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for sharing your reflection about your summer camp experience and your connection to your sensuality at that age and for sharing where you are today. I love your idea for your birthday present to yourself this year! What a beautiful gift!!!

      “I think it’s important to continue to build a strong feminine culture and value and celebrate our emotions, sensuality and sexuality.” Yes, yes. I hear you with your strong words of Truth. Thank you for this.

      I am excited to check out your blog! I love the title: Pole Dancing Professor.

      I look forward to keeping in touch!

      — Tabby


  1. Tweets that mention The Sexual Future of Women & Girls -- - February 11, 2011

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