Female sexual development focuses on a girl’s menstrual cycle and her breast development. Menstruation is the process by which the female body anticipates the possibility of conception and pregnancy. Women’s non-sexual natures makes them natural child-carers and also means that women (but not men) can hug and kiss each other without anyone assuming that there is a sexual context to the relationship.
During adolescence girls are increasingly attracted to the idea of being a mother. Girls from the age of 15 or so start to talk of the man they might marry one day and the children they hope to have. This interest in a prospective family is not focused on a particular male. But once she has a boyfriend a girl tends to think often of the longer term. This contrasts with boys (and men) who are much more short-term in their thinking and who often want to keep their options open. Girls do not admire or obtain nude images of anonymous males. Nor do they anticipate intercourse explicitly by becoming aroused by sexual activity that is compatible with a sexual relationship. Very few girls are interested in masturbation.
Puberty is not just about physical changes. Girls start to become acutely aware of their bodies because of the special attention they receive from boys. A young woman first becomes aware of herself as a sexual being when men start commenting on or admiring her breasts. Inevitably there is competition between girls to be the most attractive, not just in looks but also in behaviour. Girls feel pressured as much as boys (perhaps more so) to be accepted as part of the social group.
Women have different experiences of their monthly periods. Some women have pains and pre-menstrual tension (PMT). Some women are laid up in bed with stomach cramps for days while other women feel nothing. A woman’s period involves losing the lining of cells that builds up in her womb each month in preparation for pregnancy. So her period is not liquid blood but more like gelatinous clots. Women use sanitary pads (similar to the towels were used centuries ago). If a girl wears a supportive bra she may avoid getting stretch marks. It is quite common and perfectly normal for a woman’s breasts to be different sizes. The nipple stands erect when it is cold. Otherwise it may be inverted, particularly in younger women.
Some girls develop a negative view of themselves. Anorexia and bulimia are both nervous disorders that
occur because a girl has a distorted view of her body. When a girl’s figure changes she may feel that she is getting fat. Instead of the straight legs of a child, she develops larger thighs and wider hips. This is quite normal for a woman. The pelvic development of the hips and buttocks is in preparation for pregnancy when a woman has to carry the weight of a baby in her abdomen. One consequence of a wider pelvis is that women’s hips may sway as they walk (called a ‘bum wiggle’). Naturally men find this movement attractive and women wear high heels in part to accentuate this movement.
The first time a girl has to touch her vaginal area is when inserting a tampon. Tampons are cylinders of compacted cotton wool that expand on absorbing moisture that are inserted into the vagina (sometimes a hollow cardboard applicator is used). Many women continue to use an applicator so that they can avoid touching their genitals. This reflects women’s dislike of genital anatomy. The vagina is similar to the mouth being a moist orifice. It is no more ‘dirty’ than the mouth. But women have an impression that the vagina is unclean because it is close to anatomy such as the anus.
When a girl is first told about intercourse she can’t imagine why anyone would want to engage in such crude sexual activity. Without the emotional impact of a romantic attachment, sex does not make sense to a girl. She doesn’t experience arousal on seeing male nudity or by thinking about sex as boys do. Only men have a drive to engage in intercourse. When she has intercourse a woman appreciates that it is not a graphic act from the female perspective. She can hardly feel or see anything. She can interpret the act as a man making love to her. The man does all the hands-on work. She just has to give him access to her body. The less she knows about it the better.
Most men are not aroused by pre-adolescent girls. The main differences between girls and women comes down to curviness. Girls have figures that are similar to boys. Women have wider hips and breasts. Men notice this change and start to pay attention to the post-adolescent girl. Beast development is a major part of signalling a woman’s reproductive maturity. Female breasts have nothing to do with a woman achieving orgasm any more than the male breast has anything to do with male orgasm. A girl doesn’t view her own body as sexual. But it becomes evident that men do. Women may be flattered by the attention they get from men but they do not understand men’s focus on the private parts of their bodies (breasts and vulva). Women react to male lust for their bodies with varying degrees of embarrassment, and even shame. Women are not aroused by men’s bodies.
… the capacity to reproduce is not synonymous with the capacity to be aroused erotically and to respond to the point of orgasm … (Alfred Kinsey 1953)