Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: The Secret Lives of Teen Girls (What Your Mother Wouldn't Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know)

Teen sexuality is a sensitive, private, and controversial subject in sexuality. Often it is surrounded in silence and malnourished information or discussion.

Which is why I believe this book by Evelyn Resh is so important. And on top of that it is just a stellar book: well written and practical. Resh goes after the tough questions and answers them with compassion and tenacity worthy of such a far-reaching matter in women’s sexuality.

If you’re looking for a guidebook on what to tell your teen girl so she will “behave” and abstain, this book will disappoint. If you are looking for a multi-dimensional look at teen sexuality and how parent’s (in particularly mother’s) attitudes and behaviors play a role in their teen's sexual development, this book will certainly deliver.

The essence of this book is best summarized in the author’s opening line: “The Secret Lives of Teen Girls is my attempt to better understand how the sexual feelings, experiences, and education of adolescent girls I treat as a midwife relate to the sexual, emotional, and physical problems of the adult women I advise in my sexuality counseling practice.”

She goes on to say, “sex is more important to teen girls than we think or say it is, and their experiences in adolescence correlate with and influence their feelings and decisions about sex throughout adulthood.”

I am not a teen girl nor a mother of a teen girl but I still learned a lot about my own sexuality. Because Resh addresses teen sexuality as an important stage in a woman’s overall life, the book offers insights and guidance for adult women and mothers of teen girls as well as for helping develop a healthy sexuality in teens. Indeed the author shed light on some of my early sexual experiences and shame that I had not been able to put words to.

There are seven excellent chapters, but in particular I appreciated "The Unspoken Meaning of Teen Body Speak," "The Hidden Costs of Just Saying No," and "The Foundation of a Healthy Sexuality."

These chapters discuss aspects of body image, viewing sexuality as something to enhance your life, and the pleasures within. How a mother speaks about her own body and makes healthy decisions will be absorbed by her teen girl and will impact the view her teen has of her own body.

The author also offers a chapter outlining risks and facts about STI’s and pregnancy, though she is clear that she is offering the information for empowerment and the ability to make healthy decisions, not to scare you with terrible “what ifs” or consequences to sex.

At the end of each chapter is a “Questions to Ask Yourself” segment that frames the information and scenarios offered in the chapter in a way that you can apply them to your life. There is also a fantastic resources section at the end that highlights books, websites, and film in the realms of body image, sexuality, eating disorders, contraception, and teen relationships.

Overall this is a brilliant blend of the author’s personal experiences and professional expertise: I laughed out loud at some of the stories and situations the author lays out regarding raising her teen as well as things that happened to the author in her life. Indeed she emphasizes the need for humor in a healthy sexuality and in raising a teen girl. The author also lays out real-world examples and difficult situations from her work and guides us through them with information and advice that is genuinely helpful.

This is a strong sexuality resource, especially for mothers raising teen girls. I readily recommend this book to mothers, and women who are grappling with sexual issues rooted from adolescence. This book has a proud, permanent home on my bookshelf. You may visit the author’s web site at


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