The Sex Lives of Teenagers: Revealing the Secret World of Adolescent Boys and Girls

Lynn Ponton, Author
Lynn Ponton, Author Dutton Books $24.95 (285p) ISBN 978-0-525-94561-1
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Hardcover - 285 pages - 978-0-452-28260-5
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Respected adolescent psychiatrist Ponton (The Romance of Risk) effectively addresses parents' and teens' questions about sexual development in this down-to-earth primer. She finds that teenagers face the same issues and experiences as adults, but often struggle through them with less information and expertise. Making the case that all teenagers have a sexual identity and sexual life, even though it may not be readily apparent, Ponton shows that, if they are not coerced, expressions of teenage sexuality can provide important explorations of the self and relationships with others. She offers valuable suggestions to alleviate a shared sense of discomfort when parents try to talk with their children about sexuality, emphasizing the importance of using simple language, admitting to embarrassment when it arises. Drawing on her work with youths from all backgrounds in the San Francisco area, Ponton tackles a variety of tough topics--from those that are often perceived as embarrassing, like masturbation and fantasies, to stigmatized ones, like bi- and homosexuality. The final chapters focus on the potentially devastating consequences of risky or forced sex (including HIV infection and abortion), and show how parents and teens can work on realistic parameters for sexual consent. She also includes fascinating descriptions of the therapeutic process, in which Ponton admits moments when she, like a parent, feels herself losing her connection with certain patients. Ponton remains warm, unsensationalistic and empathetic, always focused on the task at hand--helping teenagers and their parents develop the necessary skills to achieve healthier emotional and sexual lives. (Sept 18)
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