Teenagers are, by nature, curious. This means that whether we like it or not, teens may be compelled to peek at the book taking over today’s bestseller lists: Fifty Shades of Grey.
However, I don’t think we need to panic; while this series is not something we’ll ever be handing our teens and asking them to read, it might actually be an effective way to give teens a lesson on responsible sex.
Full of erotica, love, and psychological demons, the trilogy by E.L. James is everywhere. It’s sitting on bookshelves, waiting on nearly every woman’s eReader, and it may very well be in your teen’s hands. Typically staying away from “trendy” literature, my own curiosity eventually got the better of me (and I’m a far cry from a teenager).
At first, I was intrigued by the phenomena of it, but once I started reading, I was shocked to find I didn’t want to stop. Being an English teacher, I have all sorts of opinions on the literary merit (or lack thereof) of the series I consumed… but, really, who cares about that? I read it as a responsible adult, knowing full well what I was getting myself into. But what about the teenagers, most likely girls, who read this book?
The teacher in me couldn’t help but search for “teachable” moments in Fifty Shades. We all know that sex is already the main topic of conversation amongst teens, and if they’re reading Fifty Shades, those conversations are about to get weird. That’s where you come in. If you’ve discovered your teenage daughter has read the books, you can actually turn it into a positive experience if you TALK TO HER!
Let me rephrase that (in case you don’t like “shouty capitals”) – please, I beg of you, talk to her. Awkward, though, right? Well, what could be a very uncomfortable conversation can be less so if you know where to start. I’d like to give the author credit for making two teachable moments jump off the pages. (And no, I’m not talking about the “How To’s” highlighted in the Red Room of Pain.)
Here are two valuable lessons I believe you can give your teen about sex using literature’s latest heartthrob, Christian Grey:
Lesson #1: CONSENT
Christian Grey likes things a certain way. He likes control. He likes power. He likes pain. He likes to dominate his sexual relationships. What appears to be an anti-feminist part of the plot (this heartthrob of a man wants his women to want to be dominated in every way) has a silver lining. Christian Grey never touches a woman without her complete, undivided, conscious, sober consent. He does not take advantage of Ana when she’s drunk, and he divulges everything he wants in a sexual relationship before beginning it.
The types of relationships discussed in detail in these books may be foreign to most of us, and they aren’t likely to be what you want your teen to strive for. However, what your teen does need to know, and can take away from Mr. Fifty Shades, is that mutual consent is not an option – it’s a necessity. Our girls need to know that they should never feel pressured to get into any sort of intimate relationship that they are not completely, whole-heartedly comfortable with and ready for. A real man, even Greek-God-who-could-have-any-woman-he-wants Christian Grey, never forces himself on a woman. And our boys need to know that all women want a real man.
Lesson #2: PROTECTION
This topic is perhaps my favorite aspect of the series. Having read my fair share of romance novels, never before have I read a novel that emphasizes the condom as much as Fifty Shades. In the midst of the hottest, steamiest, most erotic love scenes, Mr. Grey always makes sure to use protection. That foil packet has such a presence in the novel, it’s practically a character in itself. And to parents, that should be a relief; in fact, you should be jumping for joy! Why? Because you can use this to show your teen the importance of using protection. Taking a second to put on a condom does not “ruin” a moment. Christian and Ana’s sex life certainly doesn’t suffer from it! If your teen has read this book, point out that safe is sexy, and that even Christian Grey brakes for condoms.
Listen, I know we might not want to think about our teenagers reading these books, but whether they’re sexually active or not, they do need to be prepared because one day they will be. This book so blatantly promotes safe sex and is such a huge hit right now, that I don’t think we can afford not to use it as a learning tool. Kids respond to trends. They want to be in the know, and it falls on us to make sure they know the whole picture.
As difficult as it may be, don’t turn a blind eye to the fact that your teen has read Fifty Shades, turn it into a lesson. E.L. James has already started the conversation; it’s up to you to bring it full circle.
Note: ModernMom does not endorse or advocate “Fifty Shades of Grey,” as it contains adult material and content not appropriate for all readers.