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Welcome to episode 29 of the Sexology Podcast, my guest today is Deborah Tolman who speaks to me about her research on adolescent sexuality, the double standards that exist between boys and girls around sexuality, female sexual desire and recommendations for parents to help their teenage girls through these challenges.


Deborah L. Tolman is a developmental psychologist and the co-founder of SPARK: Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge. She is the author of Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality, which was awarded the 2003 Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology. Deborah received her Ed.D from Harvard University in 1992. She is also the former director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality, and professor of human sexuality studies at San Francisco State University. Before relocating to San Francisco, she was a senior research scientist and the director of the Gender and Sexuality Project at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.


Deborah is currently a professor of social welfare and psychology at the Hunter College School of Social Work and the Graduate Center of CUNY. Her research on adolescent sexuality, gender development, gender equity and research methods has been funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Ford Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.


In October 2010, Deborah co-founded SPARK (Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge), an intergenerational “girl-fueled” movement building organization (with Lyn Mikel Brown) dedicated to challenging the sexualization of girls by engaging girls to be activists and working with partner organizations around the country. SPARK links academia to activism and demonstrates an alternative to the divisive “wave metaphor” regarding feminism.


In this episode, you will hear:


  • Details on her research on adolescent sexuality
  • The importance of differentiating teens and young adults in the research
  • How the results and language terminology differ between teens and young adults
  • The pressures teen girls and young women face around slut shaming
  • The double standards that exist between boys and girls around sexuality
  • How young women and teens are pressuring themselves to achieve “the perfect image”
  • The negative connotations that exist when trying to open up feelings around sexuality
  • The implications eating disorders can have on self-image and sexuality
  • Recommendations for parents to help their teenage girls through these challenges






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