Peggy Orenstein, renowned journalist, is the New York Times bestselling author whose books include Don’t Call Me Princess (Harper), Girls & Sex (Harper), Cinderella Ate My Daughter (Harper) and Waiting for Daisy as well as Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World and the classic SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap. Her latest, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent and Navigating the New Masculinity (Harper), released in January 2020.
In Orenstein’s hands cultural and current issues are never reduced to simplistic “truths;” rather, her powerful reporting opens up a dialogue on a potent, often silent, subtext of American life today—giving readers comprehensive and in-depth information with which to understand, and navigate, this complicated new world. Orenstein’s Girls & Sex broke ground, shattered taboos and launched conversations offering a clear-eyed picture of the new sexual landscape girls face in the post-princess stage—high school through college—and reveals how they are negotiating it. In Boys & Sex, Orenstein dives back into the lives of young people to once again give voice to the unspoken, by unraveling the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important realities of young male sexuality in today’s world. The result is a provocative and paradigm-shifting work that offers a much-needed vision of how boys can truly move forward as better men.
A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and AFAR, Orenstein has also written for such publications as The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Vogue, Elle, New York , The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and has contributed commentaries to NPR’s All Things Considered and the PBS News Hour. Her articles have been anthologized multiple times, including in The Best American Science Writing. She has been a keynote speaker at numerous colleges and conferences and has been featured on, among other programs, Nightline, CBS This Morning, The Today Show, NPR’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Her TED Talk, “What Young Women Believe About Their Own Sexual Pleasure,” has been viewed over four million times.
The Columbia Journalism Review named Orenstein one of its “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40 years.” She has been recognized for her “Outstanding Coverage of Family Diversity,” by the Council on Contemporary Families and received Books For A Better Life Awards for both Girls & Sex and Waiting for Daisy. Her work has also been honored by the Commonwealth Club of California, the National Women’s Political Caucus of California and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Additionally, she has been awarded fellowships from the United States-Japan Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council and been a grateful resident at Mesa Refuge and the UCross Foundation.
Orenstein resides in California.
Praise for Peggy Orenstein:
"Peggy’s visit to our school was transformative. She sparked conversations between kids and adults that have been incomplete, censored or missing. Students brainstormed how to talk to their parents about sex. Parents considered expanding the conversations to foster healthy relationships. Three days later, students are organizing open space dialogue to explore the intersections of sexuality and other identities with each other. Girls and boys feel empowered to openly consider their roles and how they reinforce or break societal norms.”
--Catlin Gable School, Portland, OR
"Our parents are hungry for Peggy’s message. Many said that she was one of the best speakers we have ever had."
--Marlborough School, Los Angeles, CA
“Peggy’s talk was everything we could have hoped for! Our community was so engaged - both during the presentation and after, talking to each other in small groups for a long time. We loved how she included the students' voices and how she listened so well to them.”
--Mountain View Los Altos Speaker Series, Mountain View, CA
“Our audience loved Peggy's engaging, informative and, at times, humorous talk. Her research, knowledge, and insights were so welcomed by our community. We could have gone on asking questions for hours!”
--Black Pine Circle School, Berkeley, CA
“Everyone felt Peggy’s visit was a total success, especially the students! Her message was perfectly prepared and directed for those in the room. She got terrific questions after her talk. And she stayed for at least 30 minutes after that to answer follow up questions and talk with students who didn’t get a chance to go to the mic. She was awesome!”
“She spoke plainly to students about sex in the voice of their hip and funny favorite aunt who wears cool jewelry and might have toured with a band."
“Peggy is a wonderful presenter! Very engaging. Material was extremely helpful. Her research is crucial to our better understanding of issues faced by girls. Wonderful keynote!!”
--Renfrew Foundation Center Conference for Eating Disorder Professionals
Quotes from audience members at the Renfrew Foundation Center Conference for Eating Disorder Professionals
"Found lots of ideas which I can apply to my own body image presentations and groups. Peggy is phenomenal!"
"This was fantastic! Dynamic, funny, informative, insightful about the current culture...and so much more!!! So important! So empowering! Thank you!"
"This was a great addition to the conference. Most of us have the opportunity to influence young girls and we need the tools to do it in beneficial ways."
"Peggy is a wonderful presenter. Very engaging. Material was extremely helpful. Her research is crucial to our better understanding of issues faced by girls. Wonderful keynote!!"
"Awesome! Fun to listen to. Crucially valuable information. So knowledgeable and well-spoken. Loved it as a professional therapist and a mother to two girls."
“Peggy Orenstein's no-nonsense message hit home with our students. That's not an easy task at Oberlin College. She spoke plainly to them about sex in the voice of their hip and funny favorite aunt who wears cool jewelry and might have toured with a band. They heard every word she said. Days later, students are still thanking me for inviting her.”
--Suzanne Denneen, Program Coordinator for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Oberlin College
Praise for Boys & Sex:
“Expertly written.... [A] candid and fascinating portrait of young American masculinity.”
-- Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Peggy Orenstein has done something rare. She has listened to young men in ways that have allowed them to speak candidly about the fraught world of their sexuality, and she has been true to the complexities of their experiences -- their hopes but also the fears, shame, pressures and angers that cause them to violate others and corrode their capacity for care and love. What they say is scary and heartbreaking and vitally important for us all to hear. This is a bracing, insightful, humane, engaging, invaluable book. And it charts the course for real change.”
-- Richard Weissbourd, Senior Lecturer and Faculty Director of Making Caring Common, Harvard Graduate School of Education
“Masculinity doesn’t have to be toxic—but so much of what we communicate to boys about masculinity is just that. The amazing Peggy Orenstein does more than just document the atrocities. She listens to boys and bears witness to their efforts to free themselves from trap the culture sets for them. Boys & Sex is required reading for anyone who has ever loved, raised, been, or will become a boy.”
-- Dan Savage, bestselling author and host of Savage Podcast
“As a psychotherapist who's raising a boy, I can't think of a more important book for our times. Eye-opening and nuanced, this compassionate exploration of boys' sexual lives gives voice to their deepest struggles and should be mandatory reading for anyone who cares about the next generation--which is to say, all of us.”
-- Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
“Peggy Orenstein dared to do what so many of us are afraid of: actually ask boys about sex and then listen to what they had to say. She has given boys the opportunity to speak honestly about their feelings around sexuality, pornography, gender, consent and so much more. Their answers are illuminating, often times surprising—and essential.”
-- Nick Kroll, co-creator, writer, and star of Big Mouth
“Forget what you thought you knew about boys and sex. Here, at last, is an honest book about the sexual lives of boys and young men; the good, the bad, the endlessly complicated and emotionally fraught. Peggy Orenstein has peeled back typical male bravado and exposed the raw hearts of boys struggling to navigate a confusing sexual landscape. Boys & Sex is a crucial contribution to the long overdue conversation about masculinity.”
-- Michael Ian Black, author, comedian, and actor
Praise for Girls & Sex:
"With compassion and insight, Peggy Orenstein holds a mirror not only to girls’ experiences but to our own judgments. No less than the emotional health and physical safety of our daughters (and of our sons, by the way) depends on the kind of insight Girls & Sex provides."
--Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes
“Girls & Sex should be mandatory for anyone who cares about the present and future cultural landscape for girls, women, humans. I seriously want to quit my job and tour the country, furiously hawking Peggy Orenstein’s insightful, important book."
--Rashida Jones, actress, writer, producer
"Eye-opening…. Orenstein draws powerful, humane portraits of her interview subjects, self-reliant young women who find themselves trapped by sexist stereotypes about women’s bodies and women’s pleasure. [A] smart, earnest, and timely assessment.”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Accessible prose and narrative style will bring the work of many thoughtful experts to a wider audience…. Young adults, parents, educators, and activists alike will find this passionate work a timely conversation starter.”
"Orenstein has compiled an eye-opening study of the way that girls and women in America think, feel, and act regarding sex…. The abundant information she provides will give parents and young girls the power to make informed decisions regarding sex.”
Praise for Cinderella Ate My Daughter:
"Orenstein is such a breezy, funny writer, it's easy to forget she's an important thinker too."
-- Judith Newman, People (four stars)
"Orenstein has done parents the great favor of having this important debate with herself on paper and in public; she has fashioned an argument with its seams showing and its pockets turned inside out, and this makes her book far more interesting, and more useful."
-- Annie Murphy Paul, New York Times Book Review
"A feminist critique in the guise of a chat with a friend, Orenstein's book inspires parents to rethink girlie-girl culture . . . Orenstein uses a friendly, deceptively informal approach to present a well-researched case against fairy-tale-style femininity . . . Cinderella Ate My Daughter is entertaining as well as useful, not only for parents of daughters."
-- Christy DeSmith, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Orenstein consistently brings an opinionated, yet sensible sensibility to the hottest-button questions of contemporary feminism . . . in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, we see Orenstein at her genre-busting best -- and our culture's warped commercialization of girlhood at its worst. A memoir/journalism hybrid, the book intersperses Orenstein's poignant dilemmas as the feminist mom of a young daughter with facts, stats and Orenstein's self-questioning yet somehow non-self-deprecating reflections . . . Orenstein has no need to argue her case. The facts she unearths do the job."
-- Meredith Maran, San Francisco Chronicle
"In Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein wrestles with her own ambivalence about the princess culture . . . And that's part of the book's considerable charm. Her forays into the mysteries of child beauty pageants and toy design are often hilarious, sometimes troubling, always real." -- Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
"They're back! Peggy Orenstein reacts to her daughter's embrace of the sinister Disney-princess agenda by reporting on how retro-feminist attitudes of the 50s are being hustled to innocent girls in the blood-chilling Cinderella Ate My Daughter."
-- Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
"The cultural critic looks at how beauty pageants, Disney princesses, and Miley Cyrus are shaping young minds. Hint: it isn't pretty."
-- Karen Holt, O, The Oprah Magazine
"A gripping, hilariously horrifying account of battling for your child's soul in the toy aisle, one that excoriates consumer culture while sympathizing with parents trying to make sense of it all. As a mother of two young Barbie-loving daughters myself, I was riveted by Orenstein's blend of self-deprecation and outrage ."
-- Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon
"Reading Cinderella feels like what I imagine it might be like to sit at a cafe with Orenstein, whose writing style is engaging and conversational without being dumbed-down -- an ideal combo for taking on the cultural ills that threaten our daughters . . . There's real pleasure to be derived from reading Orenstein's sane and reasoned dissection of this phenomenon. . . . Orenstein is voicing more articulate, thoughtful, and better-researched versions of your own observations and concerns."
-- Myla Goldberg, Slate