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Your Daughter’s Bedroom – Book Review

By Joyce T. McFadden.

In a word, the impression that this book leaves is bold. It is a rare treat to read something related to parental sex education that doesn’t pussyfoot around the tough parts. It just demands we step up to the plate, face the hard balls flying at us and send back a winner.

Delving into the book, though, I was initially given the sense that it would be yet another manifesto on recognising female sexuality. The introduction had much of the same material that sets the framework for your typical women’s sexuality or female psychology paper: Freud, Kinsey, Masters & Johnson, the pill, yadda yadda. It certainly can be fascinating for a novice, but it hinted at being a rewrite with a new dressing – it being spoken from mother to daughter.

A few chapters in, I was thrilled to be woken from my cynical haze, as this book blossomed into a sex education jem. Of course, there are libraries full of books that teach sexuality accurately and that adapt themselves to the pecularities of the group that they are targeting. Even with the plethora of resources that speak to kids, teens and young adults, each linguistically and graphically adapted to the audience, there is something in Your Daughter’s Bedroom that goes beyond what the others do.

Based on McFadden’s qualitative study of American women of all ages, this book zones in on the aspects of mother-daughter dealings widely related to sexality, from menstruation to sex and relationships. While the study that she planned and ran is ostensibly the core of this book, there is little background information on the study and there is a great deal of input that came from her 25 years of clinical practice as a psychotherpist. From time to time, it is not clear what is the source of the author’s statement.

What I loved about Your Daughter’s Bedroom was the detailed and specific tutorial it gives on speaking about sexuality with one’s daughters (and most if it is just as relevent to sons), from toddlers to teens. It provides the reader with a refresher on what is going through her daughter’s mind and heart at each stage of development, and inspires the former to recall her own experiences in order to share them and to learn from them.

Important to any parent who is not a sex educator, this book recognises the tension and embarassment that arise from discussing sex inter-generationally. Far from the usual expectation of the parent to be “adult” and just deal with it, McFadden listens to the voices of her interviewees who tell her how they avoid talking to their daughters and how they place the responsibility on the school system. She shows mothers how to talk despite their awkwardness, by acknowledging discomfort and then providing the structure of the conversation. It does not lay out a word-for-word speech, but does include explicit points and mentions what to avoid saying, so that each mother can understand exactly how to express herself, using McFadden’s phrases, if necessary. Best of all, it does not leave the reader feeling that she needs to take a biology class before broaching the subject. Rather the book explains that she needs to look into her personal understanding and feelings, sharing what she is comfortable with and teaching the intrinsic right to privacy which will protect both sides from feeling threatened in all discussions on the subject.

The boldness which I so admire in this work is its dealing with masturbation. Many sex education resources slide over it with supposed tact in order to avoid offending various authorities and intimidating the teachers/parents. But by doing so they extort a price from their children in understanding and trust, which McFadden explains well. She is so thorough in her insistence on including self-pleasure and solo relief in any sexuality discussion, that she manages to make it feel obvious.

Although the writing is coherent and convincing, there are some anecdotes included that did not mesh successfully with the argument. While tales from the therapy room usually add colour to the discourse, there were other stories from unrelated contexts which simply swept over the text without making the connection they sought to make. This made we wonder what their point was, but in no way degraded the value of the advice the book imparts.

Features

    • Written by a psychotherapist
    • Based on auther’s own qualitative research and clinical experience
    • Book covers mother-daughter relationship regarding sexuality
    • Explicit intructions for inter-generatinal sexuality discussion
    • Age-appropriate principles written in point form
    • Intended to help parent to understand their own experience
    • Includes verbatim responses of interviewees
    • Includes the 20-page study questionaire

 

Publisher

Palgrave Macmillan; 2011

 

Dinah Rates      


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