#MediaMondayTip: How to have “The Talk” with our girls in the age of #MeToo

5 min read

By Clare Reynders, MEDIAGIRLS Editorial Volunteer


“The Talk,” or discussing sex and romance with your girls, is often fraught with anxiety and awkward moments for parents, educators and, of course, girls. But at the end of the day, we need to educate kids and keep them safe as they grow up. The #MeToo movement has completely shifted the cultural conversation around dating, romance, and sex, and it’s clear we need an overhaul of sex education for both boys and girls. In this post, we focus on girls because, well, that’s our specialty. Every girl is different, and you will, of course, make the call of exactly when to have these discussions, and what feels appropriate to share. Below is the information we think young women most need, and we’ve included songs, TV shows, and movies to accompany each lesson. Far from being the enemy, media content can be an incredibly useful way to open conversations.

 

  1. Focus more on “yes.”

Discussion about love and sex should start with safety and anatomy, but it should go well beyond that. Even when our girls are in the kissing-only stage, we need to teach them how to think about what is a “yes” and feels right. In so many #MeToo stories, we’ve heard about how difficult it is to speak up during an intimidating situation. All the emphasis is on girls and women saying “no,” which is important; but another mindset that’s more positive and specific is “yes means yes!” Anything but an enthusiastic yes should be considered a “no” by both parties involved. With that, we need to teach girls how to identify and ask for what they want to say yes to!

 

So many stories in pop culture show girls in junior high and high school figuring out how to land and please the “hot” guy. We hardly see any role models of girls speaking up for what they want (i.e. “I like to be kissed more like this”). Girls need to understand that they are allowed to, and should, figure out what they enjoy physically. This can even start with something as innocent as, “I like holding hands like this,” or “I like kissing when it’s softer/firmer/whatever.” How is their partner supposed to know what they like if girls don’t even know themselves?

 

Girls should be empowered to know and say what they want without worrying it makes them “aggressive” or “bossy,” or even “slutty.” Doing so will help them become more empowered and confident as they get older and become sexually active. This will also help turn the tables to even out any power imbalance that exists in male-female interactions.

 

MEDIAGIRLS convo-starting recommendations:

 

Song: “Love Myself” by Hailee Steinfeld, a pop song that lets girls everywhere know that they should be their own No. 1 priority.

 

TV show: “The Fosters” (available on Netflix), in which teen girls like “Callie” and “Marianna” regularly consider what feels right them for sexually in realistic ways.

 

  1. Let’s introduce joy to the conversation.

 

Although learning about the dangers of pregnancy and STDs is an integral aspect of sex education, it shouldn’t be the only one (just like we shouldn’t always focus on “no”). Sex education at many schools, if even offered, is often a “scared straight” program, in which girls hear about teen pregnancy horror stories and scary STD symptoms.

 

Girls should instead be taught that, although there are dangers and risks involved in romantic encounters, it’s not all negative and should be positive. Young women should be secure and confident in the fact that romantic encounters can be fun, intimate, and feel good, especially if one is safe, paying close attention to how she is feeling, and choosing partners that feel trustworthy. Learning about safety precautions should not be anxiety-provoking; it should instead give them the security to enjoy themselves.

 

MEDIAGIRLS convo-starting recommendations:

 

Song: “Confident” by Demi Lovato, in which Demi sets an amazing example by taking control of the conversation and celebrating who she is and what she wants.

 

TV show (for older teens): “The Bold Type,” a fun teen dramedy for older teen girls that features open discussions about the importance of female pleasure and a powerful final episode about sexual assault.

 

 

  1. Keep “the talk” ongoing in your house.

 

Girls should know that being intimate with a partner when they’re older is a choice that comes with many emotions and feelings. Sexual activity, especially for women, has often been associated with shame, and we should teach our girls that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, they should be confident enough to discuss it with their future partners and be honest about what they want. It’s important to let them know how to have open, honest communication with their partner, and that type of conversation can be practiced with you.

 

What girls want, and don’t want, to do in terms of intimacy will change over time; and so should your conversations. Talking openly with girls (even if it means you taking several deep breaths) encourages them to be curious, participate in the conversation, and ask questions, much like they would be when learning about any other subject. There should no longer be “The Talk,” but a whole series of talks. That’s how we will get young women to participate regularly with both young women and young men in the cultural conversation surrounding sex and romance.

 

MEDIAGIRLS convo-starting recommendations:

 

Song: “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa, a great throwback tune (sampled by more recent artists) that celebrates honest discussion about relationships.
TV show: “Jane the Virgin” (available on Netflix) features a strong, honest, admirable protagonist, who engages in frank talk about sexuality from a female perspective, and strong mother-daughter relationships.

TV show: “Gilmore Girls” (available on Netflix): While critics argue that mom “Lorelai” is sometimes too enmeshed with teen daughter “Rory,” there is no denying the power of the open, support conversation these two characters showcase.


Clare Reynders is a junior at Vassar College majoring in Media Studies with a minor in Women’s studies. She loves singing in her a cappella group, reading books, and, of course, empowering young women.


This piece was originally published on MEDIAGIRLS.ORG and is republished with permission. Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.

She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.


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