|Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews|100 Things Guys Need to Know3 NBS of Julian DrewA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainAdolescent DepressionAfterAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAmelia RulesAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsArtemis FowlAssessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems, Second EditionAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBeyond Diversity DayBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBill HensonBipolar DisordersBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoyBoysBrandedBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingCan't Eat, Won't EatCatalystChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneConcise Guide to Child and Adolescent PsychiatryConquering the Beast WithinContentious IssuesCrackedCutDancing in My NuddypantsDemystifying the Autistic ExperienceDescartes' BabyDilemmas of DesireDirtyDoing ItDoing SchoolDying to Be ThinEating an ArtichokeEducating Children With AutismElijah's CupEllison the ElephantEmerald City BluesEmotional and Behavioral Problems of Young ChildrenEvery Girl Tells a StoryFast GirlsFeather BoyFiregirlForever YoungFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFreewillGeography ClubGeorgia Under WaterGirl in the MirrorGirlfightingGirlsourceGirlWiseGLBTQGood GirlsGoodbye RuneGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGrowing Up GirlHandbook for BoysHealing ADDHeartbeatHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHelping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHollow KidsHow Children Learn the Meanings of WordsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHug MeIntrusive ParentingIt's Me!It's Perfectly NormalJake RileyJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKeeping the MoonKilling MonstersKim: Empty InsideKnocked Out by My Nunga-NungasLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLearning About School ViolenceLeo the Lightning BugLet Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLittle ChicagoLord of the FliesLoserLove and SexLove That DogManicMastering Anger and AggressionMind FieldsMiss American PieMom, Dad, I'm Gay.MonsterMore Than a LabelMyths of ChildhoodNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNo Two AlikeNot Much Just Chillin'Odd Girl OutOdd Girl Speaks OutOf Mice and MetaphorsOn the Frontier of AdulthoodOne Hot SecondOne in ThirteenOphelia SpeaksOphelia's MomOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the DustOvercoming School AnxietyParenting and the Child's WorldParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerPediatric PsychopharmacologyPeriod PiecesPhobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and AdolescentsPINSPraising Boys WellPraising Girls WellPretty in PunkPrincess in the SpotlightProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Psychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsRaising a Self-StarterRaising BlazeRaising Resilient ChildrenReclaiming Our ChildrenRedressing the EmperorReducing Adolescent RiskRethinking ADHDReweaving the Autistic TapestryRineke DijkstraRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRunning on RitalinSay YesSexual Teens, Sexual MediaShooterShort PeopleShould I Medicate My Child?Skin GameSmackSmashedStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStick FigureStoner & SpazStop Arguing with Your KidsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStrong, Smart, & BoldStudent DepressionSurvival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar DisorderSurviving OpheliaTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTargeting AutismTeaching Problems and the Problems of TeachingTeen Angst? NaaahThat SummerThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Arctic IncidentThe Bipolar ChildThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Carnivorous CarnivalThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Dream BearerThe Dulcimer Boy The Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Eternity CubeThe Explosive ChildThe Field of the DogsThe First IdeaThe Identity TrapThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Little TernThe Mean Girl MotiveThe Men They Will BecomeThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Nurture AssumptionThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Order of the Poison OakThe Other ParentThe Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Shared HeartThe Spider and the BeeThe StepsThe Thought that CountsThe Unhappy ChildThe Vile VillageThe Whole ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreacherous LoveTrue BelieverTwistedUnhappy TeenagersWay to Be!We're Not MonstersWhat about the KidsWhat Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhen Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhere The Kissing Never StopsWhose America?Why Are You So Sad?WinnicottWorried All the TimeYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!You Hear MeYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
by Sharon Lamb
Free Press, 2002
Review by Janis S. Bohan, Ph.D. on May 15th 2003
The sub-title of this book provides
a concise summary of its key point:
Even "good" girls engage in sex play and aggression, and they
quite commonly feel guilty for doing so.
Sharon Lamb's aim in the book is to explore this notion, drawing on
interviews with 122 girls and women who talked with the author about their
childhood experiences of sexuality and aggression. Lamb elaborates on these first-person accounts through appeals to
relevant scholarly research, as well as to her own expertise as a teacher,
therapist, and clinical supervisor.
Lamb's novel offering is not
startling new information so much as new frames for exploring that
information. First, while the notion
that even "good" girls engage in sexual and aggressive acts may seem
mundane to professionals in the field, it may be less evident to lay readers. The easy manner in which Lamb (and most of
her participants) discuss these topics might do much to normalize sexual and
aggressive feelings in girls, providing adults in their lives with a healthier
attitude with which to approach the range of girls' experiences. Toward this end, both major sections--sexuality
and aggression--close with advice to those who parent and work with girls about
how to honor the fundamentally healthy motives that underlie their sexual and
aggressive acts and feelings.
Second, Lamb challenges certain
contemporary, extremely popular renditions of girls' experiences. In particular, Lamb encourages us to view
these childhood excursions into sex and aggression as meaningful in their own
right rather than as disguised manifestations of an underlying search for
connection. The argument that girls'
(and women's) behavior is fundamentally relational and that all experience can
be reduced to a relational dimension has been the mainstay of many recent
depictions of female experience. A
popular extension of this position argues that girls' mismatch with society
derives from their recognition that acceptance lies in subverting their own
needs to the formation of relationships.
This relational view of girls' experience is so familiar as to be
unquestioned in some circles; Lamb's challenge to it renders this book an
important stimulus to further conversation.
while the book provides considerable detailed description of girls' acts and
experiences, the point is less that even good girls engage in these behaviors
than that girls and women feel so guilty about them. Lamb repeatedly stresses
the point that girls' behaviors and feelings are typical rather than aberrant,
that they serve potentially important ends rather than foretelling pathological
outcomes, and that these healthy ends depend on their not being encumbered by
undue guilt. Lamb reiterates again and
again the importance of our finding ways to recognize and celebrate girls'
sexuality and aggression and to diminish the guilt they feel--all in the
service of nurturing the healthy outcomes that can stem from these
My single major criticism of the
book has to do with the section on aggression. I was far less persuaded by
Lamb's points in this section than I was by the section dealing with
sexuality. (As an aside, I read this
book in the midst of the movement toward and engagement in the Iraq war, and
the futility and immorality of aggression were much on my mind). There seems (to me) little argument against
our inviting and celebrating girls' efforts at exploring and claiming ownership
of their own sexuality. I am less
certain that we do girls or the world a service by encouraging aggression that
is explicitly intended for no purpose other than to experience one's power. It is late in this section when Lamb makes
the connection between opportunities to engage in guilt-free aggression and
valuable experiences of self-protection, self-assertion, and altruistic
interventions; the absence of a clear exposition of this linkage early in
Lamb's discussion of aggression makes her comments seem less well-grounded than
those about sexuality. Even so, I was far more comfortable with and clear about
Lamb's argument in the domain of aggression when I read the final paragraph of
the book. I close with that paragraph as a summary of key points of the book:
up to be healthy sexual adults, able to have and give pleasure, able to be
women with desires that they are not ashamed of, girls need practice. To grow up to protect themselves against
abuse, feel their physical strength, and use this strength wisely, they need
practice. To be fully empathic and
fight for fairness, they need their anger.
Our girls need to practice these feelings and emotions in spaces where
adults acknowledge them and help shape their development. We diminish girls when we restrain them in
conventional ways, preserve a fake ideal of goodness, and force them to lead
secret lives. We don't want to do that
© 2003 Janis S. Bohan
Janis S. Bohan, Ph.D, is Professor
Emerita (retired) at Metropolitan State College of Denver. She has published widely in the areas of
gender, psychology of sexual orientation, and history of psychology.