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More Than Just a Good Read?

Why Peggy Orenstein’s Girls and Sex continues to prompt conversations long after students have finished the book.

During community time on October 31, a small group of students and teachers were sitting around a table, pizza boxes and lollipops scattered across the surface top. Each person in the room listened, captivated, as individuals shared stories and feelings about one of Packer’s more taboo topics: hook-up culture and the role gender plays within it. This was the Girls & Sex Book Club, a club which aims to provide a safe space where students and faculty can approach the topic of sex, without the stigma and feelings of discomfort that these conversations typically elicit.

“I think that the space [the club] provides is a good, safe learning environment where people can voice their concerns and opinions regarding gender and sex, and all that comes along with it,” said Bella Pitman (‘21), one of the club leaders. “It’s like no other place in Packer, especially because it includes all grade ranges and teachers.”

The club was founded to read and discuss New York Times Bestseller Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein, which was written last year to “[pull] back the curtain on the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important possibilities of girls’ sex lives in the modern world.” Even after finishing the book, the Girls and Sex book club continues to meet, because the topics raised in the book nowhere near exhausted.

These talks, despite the misleading name of the club, are not only intended for Packer’s female population. “One of our biggest conversational goals is to have conversations which represent the opinions and experiences of the Packer community,” remarked Millie Howard (‘21), another club leader. “Of course, the more diversity of opinion and experience, the more we can have conversations that accurately represent the community.”

“We want to debunk the myth that these types of conversations are just pertaining to girls,” added Bella. “We are trying to get everybody involved in these conversations because there is more than one view. Some boys are deterred by the name of the club, but all these issues affect them too and we want them there. Everyone is encouraged to come and just be a part of the conversation.”

However, despite their messages of inclusion, most of the members of the Girls and Sex club are girls. On Halloween, during a meeting discussing hook up culture, there was only one boy in the room. However, the lack of diversity did not make the meeting any less impactful for those in attendance.  

“I loved it. I was in love with every second of it,” commented Ethan Paul (‘21), the lone male attendee. “I attended this last one was that it came right after our health class, in which the grade was doing consent training, and I found our discourse around consent really problematic and I wanted a space where I could talk about that.”

As Packer concludes it’s consent training program, these conversations are cropping up more than ever; and ultimately, Millie revealed, the club meets and will continue to meet because “these conversations pertain to topics that are really really relevant in the packer community. Many Packer students could tell you that they have had negative experiences in moments that could have been prevented by open conversation.”

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