The Scariest Conversations


Take a journey into the hidden life of teenage girls. Peggy Orenstein asks the questions that you may not want the answers to, but desperately need to listen to anyway. Interviewing scores of girls across the country, socioeconomic status, race, and sexuality, Orenstein listens to girls who are unafraid to tell their stories, but unsure how to live their sexual lives. Prepare to be shocked, not by the sexual activity, but by the lack of fun that girls are having engaging in activities of great consequence.

As a parent, this book has pushed me to have difficult discussions with my own partner. If we can’t talk within our own adult relationships about desire and regret and pleasure and choices, how can we have these important discussions with our girls? Is discomfort with talking to young girls and teens about sexuality about protecting them, or avoiding our own past experiences? In order to create a better environment for girls and boys, we have to be honest with ourselves. Admitting to a child that the person who is their father is not the person with whom one might have had their first sexual experience is powerful information. What choices might teens make differently if they knew the facts, not just about anatomy, desire, and protection, but also about the choices of the people they love and look up to the most, even if it seems they don’t.

Addressing everything from virginity, to first experiences, to campus rape, to consensual bliss, to pornography, Orenstein explores what sexuality means to girls growing up in this age, and listens attentively to their voices. The second half of the book goes into ways for girls to find their voices, for boys to understand their part in sexual experiences, and empowers teens to make decisions they won’t regret, not matter what their boundaries or beliefs.

A powerful read for parents of girls AND boys, for educators, for anyone who is concerned about the next generation. Be ready to explore your own experiences and memories in the service of raising up a new group of teens who are having safe and pleasurable relationships on their own timetable, with parents ready and willing to support them no matter what.

Questions for Parents Discussion:

  • What was your first sexual experience? Was it something you are happy about? Something you regret?
  • What do you wish your parents had told you about sex?
  • What are you comfortable sharing with your children/teens about your sexual history?
  • How are you addressing discussion of anatomy and protection?
  • What do you hope for your child?
  • Have you talked to your child about sex? Why or why not?
  • Which partner do you want to talk to your child?
  • Is there information they might need from both parents?

Questions to Launch Discussions with Your Child:

  • Is there anything you are wondering about sex?
  • Do you know what feels good on your body? Sexual experiences should never hurt or be scary. I’m here to listen and answer any questions.
  • Is there anything you want to know about my experience?
  • Can I get you some books about your body and sexuality? I’m happy to answer any questions.
  • If you have something you don’t want to ask me, can you write me a note? I’ll write you back. We don’t have to say anything out loud.
  • What do you know about sex?
  • What do you think sex is?
  • Have your seen porn? Do you know that it is pretend?
  • Have you done anything that makes you uncomfortable? I’m here to listen and not judge.
  • Has someone done anything to you that makes you feel uncomfortable. I’m here to listen.


Published by

Christine Thomas Alderman

Christine Thomas Alderman is a writer and educator working in Texas. She holds a graduate degree from Harvard University. Her work was long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and included in their anthology: To Carry Her Home. She won the Cynthia Leitich Smith mentorship from the Austin Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Find her at

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