Half-day workshops for young women
Girls and women are sexualized in the media and in real life; it’s impossible to escape. Some guys talk about their sexual encounters with girls and women as “scoring,” They ask—and sometimes relentlessly pressure girls and young women—for nude photos that they then may distribute to their friends or post as revenge porn after a breakup.
Lost in the shuffle are ways that girls and women can develop their own values and goals about their bodies and their sexuality, how sexuality fits in with their self-concept. As Peggy Orenstein and others have chronicled, if girls and young women don’t dress and behave in an overtly sexual way, they risk being labeled as a prude (or worse), and if they do dress and behave in an overtly sexual way, they may receive attention, but it’s a fine line over which they are labeled as a “slut” and experience slut-shaming or having their intimate images and words disseminated outside of their control. On the one hand, some parts of the culture tells females that they are “owning their sexuality” and being “empowered” by dressing or behaving like Beyonce or Miley Cyrus does onstage. On the other hand, other parts of the culture tell females that such “sexual objectification”—treating women’s bodies simply as objects to be admired or panned”—is disempowering and such women are catering to men’s desires at significant cost to themselves.
Layered on top of this is the push to decrease the risk of sexual assault against women, and increase female power in a different way: through affirmative consent, in which each partner must activity say “yes” to confirm their consent. To have affirmative consent, girls and young women must learn to find their voices—to say “yes” when they mean yes, and “no” when they mean no. This can be a daunting task, especially when the heat of the moment, peer pressure, cultural pressure like the ones mentioned earlier, or substance use are added to the mix.
My Body, My Voice, offers a 3-hour, age-specific empowerment skills workshop for young women so that they can look at themselves and their sexuality anew, and develop ways to strengthen their awareness of what they do and don’t want in encounters—and how to find their voices to say what they want and don’t want.
Here are some thought questions from the workshop:
1. How does our culture lead girls and women to think about their bodies? about sex?
2. What do you see as the function of hook-ups? Does one person benefit more than the other? (If so, which one and why?)
3. Suppose a girl gives a boy sexual pleasure but the boy doesn’t reciprocate. Who do you think has the “power” in that situation and why? Why might the girl not ask for him to reciprocate?
4. What do you think is the difference between being the “subject” in a sexual interaction versus being the “object” in a sexual interaction?
5. If someone’s partner expresses feeling strongly about her and so wants to deepen the relationship by doing “more” sexually than she feels comfortable doing, do you think it’s a good idea for her to do it? Why or why not?
6. What would be the pluses and minuses of a girl deciding in a advance how “far” she wants to go in a sexual encounter?
7. Do you think that “no” means no? If a girl says “no,” do you think she wants the other person to push her into saying yes? If yes, why might that be? For you, does “no” sometimes mean “yes”—and what prevents you from actually saying “yes”?
Robin S. Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist, has worked with women on issues related to body image and sexuality for many years. In addition, she writes college-level psychology textbooks and has taught psychology classes at Lesley University and Harvard University. She also writes for a general audience. For more information go to www.DrRobinRosenberg.com.
Note: The information provided on this website is not intended to replace professional consultation and mental health services, nor does it imply a professional relationship between Dr. Robin Rosenberg and the reader.