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Deborah L. Tolman is a developmental psychologist and the co-founder of SPARK, an intergenerational girl-fueled movement building organization (with Lyn Mikel Brown) dedicated to challenging the sexualization of girls in the media and beyond by engaging girls to be activists and working with partner organizations around the country. She is the author of Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality, which was awarded the 2003 Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology.
Tolman received her Ed.D from Harvard University in 1992. She is also the former director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality, and professor of human sexuality studies at San Francisco State University. Before relocating to San Francisco, she was a senior research scientist and the director of the Gender and Sexuality Project at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.
Her research on adolescent sexuality, gender development, gender equity and research methods has been funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Ford Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.
In October 2010, Tolman co-founded SPARK (Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge), an intergenerational girl-fueled movement building organization (with Lyn Mikel Brown) dedicated to challenging the sexualization of girls by engaging girls to be activists and working with partner organizations around the country. SPARK links academia to activism and demonstrates an alternative to the divisive "wave metaphor" regarding feminism.
In 2003 Tolman's book on adolescent girls' sexuality, Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality, was awarded the 2003 Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology. Tolman has written 60+ articles and book chapters on adolescent girl' and boys' sexuality, research methods and Tolman's work and commentary on adolescent sexuality and challenging sexualization has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and multiple radio, television and online venues, including New York City's Joan Hamburg radio show and Brian Lehrer Show.
- Tolman, Deborah (2002). Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01856-3.
- Orenstein, Peggy (11 June 2010). "Girls Playing at Sexy". The New York Times.