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Deborah Tolman

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Deborah L. Tolman is Professor of Social Welfare and Psychology at The Hunter College School of Social Work and The Graduate Center of The City University of New York, where she trains doctoral students studying women’s lives and sexuality-related topics.

In October 2010, Dr. Tolman and co-founder Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown started SPARK (Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge), a girl-fueled social movement to challenge the sexualization of girls. Through this work, she is building a bridge between academia and activism to create enabling conditions in which girls can develop healthy sexuality and well-being.

Dr. Tolman is a developmental psychologist whose research has focused on adolescent sexuality, gender development, gender equity and research methods Her groundbreaking book on adolescent girls’ sexuality, Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality, published by Harvard University Press in 2002 and released in paper in 2005, was awarded the 2003 Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology. 

Dr. Tolman is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and has received wide recognition for her contributions to female adolescent development. She was a member of the APA’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and an author of the report, which is the most frequently downloaded document on the APA website, which anchors SPARK.

She received her Ed.D. in Human Development and Psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1992. She has been a Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College, Professor of Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University and founding director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at SFSU.