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Girl Constructed in Two Nonfiction Texts

Sexual Subject? Desired Object?

Mary Ann Harlan

In 2016 two nonfiction titles exploring girls and sexuality and presentations of the sexual self received extensive media attention, thus shaping a construction of girl in popular media. In this article I examine how Nancy Jo Sales’s American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers and Peggy Orenstein’s Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape construct girls as sexual subjects and desired objects. In a close reading of the texts I consider how the authors constitute girl and the ways in which girls navigate society’s expectations and constructions of them as sexual subjects. I use the words of girls themselves to examine the dissonance between authorial constructions and the post-feminist culture that emerges in the texts on the one hand, and the girls’ language on the other.