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Savage Love: Girls and Sex 

Dear Dan,

My teenage daughter just came out to us as gay. We told her we love her and support her. As a heterosexual, cisgender mother, how do I make sure she gets good advice about sex? I don't want her learning from other kids or porn. Do you know of any good, sex-positive advice books for lesbian teens?

— My Inspiring Daughter Deserves Lesbian Education

"I wish every parent felt this way about their child's sexual development, regardless of the child's gender identity or sexual orientation," said Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. "All young people — girls especially — need open, honest discussions about sexual ethics, including talking about pleasure, respect, decision-making, and reciprocity, or we are leaving them at the mercy of the messages they get from both the mainstream and 'adult' entertainment industries."

Orenstein's book — required reading for parents of girls and boys — drives home the need for comprehensive sex-education programs emphasizing the giving and receiving of pleasure. In the absence of sex-ed programs that empower girls to see themselves not just as instruments of another's pleasure but as autonomous individuals with a right to experience sexual pleasure — with a partner or on their own — girls wind up having a lot of consensual but crappy sex.

That said, MIDDLE, one big takeaway from Orenstein's research should come as a comfort to you: Bi and lesbian girls enjoy an advantage over their heterosexual peers.

"In some ways, MIDDLE can feel more confident about her daughter as a gay girl," said Orenstein. "Lesbian and bisexual girls I spoke to for Girls & Sex would talk about feeling liberated to go 'off the script' — by which they meant the script that leads lockstep to intercourse — and create encounters that truly worked for them. I ended up feeling that hetero girls — and boys, too — could learn a lot from their gay and bisexual female peers. And I don't mean by watching otherwise straight girls make out on the dance floor for the benefit of guys."

Since gay and bisexual girls can't default to PIV intercourse, and since there's not a boy in the room whose needs/dick/ego they've been socialized to prioritize, queer girls have more egalitarian and, not coincidentally, more satisfying sexual encounters.

"Young women are more likely to measure their own satisfaction by the yardstick of their partner's pleasure," said Orenstein. "So heterosexual girls will say things such as, 'If he's sexually satisfied, then I'm sexually satisfied.' Men, by contrast, are more likely to measure satisfaction by their own orgasm. But the investment girls express in their partner's pleasure remains true regardless of that person's gender. So the orgasm gap we see among heterosexuals (75 percent of men report they come regularly in sexual encounters versus 29 percent of women) disappears in same-sex encounters. Young women with same-sex partners climax at the same rate as heterosexual men."

As for good, sex-positive resources for teens of all identities and orientations, Orenstein had some great recommendations.

"I'm a big fan of Heather Corinna's S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties," said Orenstein. "She also produces the Scarleteen.com website, which is fabulous. Other inclusive, sex-positive, medically accurate websites include Sexetc.org and Goaskalice.columbia.edu. And MIDDLE could think about giving her daughter a subscription to OMGYes.com, an explicit (but not tawdry) site that educates about the science of female pleasure. And finally, I think everyone who is a woman — or has had sex with a woman or ever hopes to — should read Emily Nagoski's book Come As You Are. Even if you think you know it all, Nagoski's book will transform your sex life."

Follow Orenstein on Twitter @peggyorenstein.

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