As Fifty Shades Darker is released this weekend, many parents have questions or concerns about the film. Do they talk to their daughter about this movie? What do they say, if anything, about it?
It’s probably a given that your teen is well aware of the movie and has talked about it with her friends. The trailer has been shown on major networks and the movie is making headlines in media news (and has so for months). Many teens have read the book series and it’s likely, at some point, your daughter may see the movie. A local retailer sells blindfolds with excerpts from the books on the packaging in their aisles. In reality, teens will be exposed to this movie and it’s themes in some way.
Movies can be a wonderful springboard for conversation. Understandably, sex is a topic that many parents (and often teens), may shy away from discussing together; however, it’s a conversation that should be happening. Although parents may think their opinions may not matter, many studies have shown that a teen strongly values their parents’ views on many significant issues in life – sex included. It’s important to have these conversations because your teen is listening and you should be as well.
A way to start this conversation is to ask your daughter about the movie. One of the best ways to understand how your teen thinks and feels about a topic is to ask them open-ended questions. To keep them talking, just listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t insert your own opinions or thoughts until you fully hear them out. Sometimes, interruptions are interpreted as invalidation by your teen and can stall, or potentially, end a conversation.
There are many questions you can ask your daughter. To start with, you may want to ask her what are her thoughts about the film. What does she know about the movie? What does she think about it? What messages does the film send about relationships and sex? Does she view the relationship between Ana and Grey as healthy?
While you talk to your teen, there are several points that are important to discuss and explore. These topics can relate to all relationships, but also touch on some issues specific to the movie.
- Love is about equality. Love isn’t about power or dominance. Love does not require submission and certainly doesn’t involve a contract. As teens are first learning about romantic relationships, they may confuse submission with love. Help your daughter to understand that in a healthy relationship, there is equality and that she should be treated with respect.
- Sex is portrayed very differently in film than it is in reality. The American Psychological Association has estimated that teens are exposed to 14,000 sexual references and innuendos per year on TV. In life, sex often involves emotions. Sex also involves consequences that can impact a person life long after a relationship has ended. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 4 out of 10 sexually active teen girls have an STD that can causes serious health consequences, including death and adolescents (defined as ages 15 to 24) represent close to half of the 20 million newly diagnosed STD cases yearly. While teen pregnancy rates have been on a decline, it’s important to talk to your teen about the realities of sex and steps they can take to protect themselves.
- Sex should be about intimacy and not about power. In the National Youth Risk Behavior Study (NYRBS), they found that 1 in 10 high school students experienced physical violence from their romantic partner and almost 30 percent of youth ages 12 to 21 experienced psychological abuse. Based on the NYRBS survey, roughly 10 percent of high school students were coerced or pressured to engage in sexual activity (from kissing to intercourse) against their will. Teens need to be reminded that a healthy relationship does not involve abuse, humiliation or coercision of any kind.
- Healthy relationships are about transparency and care. Healthy relationships don’t involve secrecy and lies and should be about mutual respect for the other person. Relationships are about a desire to share about yourself and to know the other person. Teen girls sometimes struggle with setting boundaries; sometimes letting others in too quickly. Help your teen daughter in understanding what healthy boundaries are and define her own limits and expectations from others.
Although this may be a difficult or uncomfortable conversation with your teen daughter it’s important to open the lines of communication. Letting your teen know that you are willing to talk about sex and relationships, will also help your teen feel more comfortable in approaching you about this topic when they do have questions.
Talk to your teen about sex, because the media most certainly is.