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Report Examines Girls' Struggles With Sexuality, Peer Pressure, and Body Image

October 15, 1999

"Voices of a Generation; Teenage Girls on Sex, School, and Self," a new report released by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation (AAUW), examines girls' struggles with sexuality, peer pressure, and body image.

AAUW hosted more than 150 "Sister to Sister Summits" in 38 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico between November 1997 and July 1999. An average of 55 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 participated in each day-long discussion session.

While the report is based on a close reading and analysis of the responses from roughly 2,100 girls nationwide, the statistics reflect analysis of responses given by 730 participants whose applications were systematically coded.

Findings include:


Pressure to Engage in Sexual Activty

Sexual Harassment/Coercion

Body Image

HIV/AIDS and Other STDs

The authors feel that the wide range of responses has implications for school policy. "A 'one size fits all' approach to teen pregnancy prevention in schools is not likely to meet all girls' needs because girls' views of pregnancy and sexual risk vary according to social and cultural contexts," they said.

The findings suggest that the optimal timing of sexuality education and pregnancy prevention programs may differ by race, ethnicity, or other social background variables. In addition, conversations about violence and sexual standards may need to be initiated at pre-adolescent ages.

Participants offered their own recommendations regarding sexuality education including: "Make sex education more realistic, graphic, and honest"; "Initiate classes and programs on sex, pregnancy, and harassment at earlier grade levels"; and "Demonstrate the effects of teen parenting and pregnancy in realistic terms."

"Voices of a Generation" includes many direct quotations from participants in the "Sister to Sister Summits." These girls, ages 11-17, had a great deal to say about fitting in, sexuality, and what it is like to grow up in today's society. They also offer advice to peers, parents, and schools about how these things could improve.

Fitting In

Growing Up



For more information:

AAUW Education Foundation
1111 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202/728-7602
Fax: 202/872-1425
Web site:


"No Excuses: Sexual Harassment," a video and program by Human Relations Media, discusses sexual harassment in the school environment for grades 7-12. This program presents a range of examples from indirect forms of harassment (propositions, rumors spreading, and name-calling) to blatant kinds of physical blocking or touching. Real teenagers express their opinion about the fictional scenarios presented. A "Teacher's Resource Book" offers fact sheets, worksheets, discussion ideas, activities, and a list of additional resources. The program costs $189.

For more information:

Human Relations Media
41 Kensico Drive
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
Phone: 800/431-2050
Fax: 914/244-0485
Web site:

This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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