Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grief

I read Fifty Shades of Grey to see what all the hype was about. I have to say that I found it disturbing. I have no argument with adults exploring their sexuality in whatever manner they agree upon. What concerns me is the message this book sends to young men and women-teens.
The book doesn’t depict a loving, healthy relationship but manipulating games. I don’t want young girls or guys thinking this is what sex is about. Healthy sex is so much better then the grief that comes from trying to live up to someone's demands. I’d hate to have teens think they have to be like these characters to be desired by another. 
In my opinion, great sex happens when two willing partners come to the encounter and each is as concerned about the other’s pleasure as they are about their own. That doesn’t occur in this book. Anastasia is manipulated into the relationship. She’s an innocent who is teased by Christian, baited, coerced and made over into who he wants her to be. She lives in constant fear of his wrath. She may have baled early on in the relationship if her friend didn’t keep telling her how hot he is and lucky she is. This is a common occurrence in violent relationships. Outsiders don’t see the dark side of the abuser only the facade. Victims don't want to admit how afraid they are.
It’s hard to end teen dating violence when the media glamorizes bad boys, the ones who are cold, withhold love and feel entitled to have everything their way. These are red flags we want our teens to recognize and walk away from. Like Anastasia, women are drawn in because their compassionate hearts want to heal the guy’s pain. She cannot. While hope that he will change holds her in the relationship, she is not the one who needs to do the work to change him. That’s his job. If he’s not willing to do it, he will not change. One of the biggest emotional shackle for women is that he often claims to want to change but can’t without her help. This is a lie to make her feel in control of his healing and stay. It’s his responsibility to work on his false beliefs and the many issues that cause his behavior. If he doesn’t, there will be no change.
Teens should know that in a healthy relationship both partners are willing to share who they are and how they feel and those feeling are respected. Like Anastasia, to be denied the pleasure of caressing and pleasuring your partner is denying you the enjoyment of expressing your love. Just because there is an orgasm, doesn’t mean the sex is healthy. He may know the mechanics to bring her to orgasm, but without a loving two-way relationship sex is hollow. How she feels after the encounter is important. Healthy sex brings you closer and fills you with joy. Mechanical sex leaves you empty. Lack of connection heaps unhealthy baggage on a partner by someone with a ton of his own. A woman doesn't need to start her sexual journey with someone who skews her understanding of what a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship is.
This book is fantasy. As adults we’ve been around the block enough to know fantasy from reality. I am concerned that young, inexperienced women will rush into experimenting with fantasies before they’ve built a trusting relationship with their partner. When fantasizing, you are in control of the situation. When another person is introduce into the fantasy, you are no longer in complete control. Having a partner that plays fantasies out with you is great; within a safe relationship where either can say “stop” at any time and know he or she will not be ignored or rejected for doing so. Playing out a fantasy with someone who is not trustworthy can be deadly.
Our teens are inundated with sex and stereotypes. Chances are your teen has already read the 50 Shades series. That’s why it is so important that you talk with your kids about healthy relationships and sex. You can use the 50 Shades books or the movie to point out the unhealthy and dangerous parts of the relationship. It may not be an easy conversation to have, but it’s important for your teen's safety.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Girl Claims Beating is Proof of Love

Dr. Phil aired an interview with an 18 year old girl who gives dating advice to others using Youtube. Seems she is very popular with younger girls. Deadly serious (deadly is the appropriate word here) she stated that a girl should be grateful if her boyfriend beats her. Why? Because he was taking his time to teach her how to behave better as his girlfriend. It means he loves her. Furthermore, she said he was investing his time and money in her so she should be grateful. In a later Youtube video she claims she broke up with the guy because he didn’t beat her hard enough so she didn’t think he loved her.
Yes, she really said the above. Worse yet, the first video received over 5 million views. 
With all the information out there on teen dating violence, it’s shocking to hear this. I’m sure that you are just as angry and horrified as I am at this girl’s misinformed, outrageous comments. There are so many wrong ideas included in her statements that I don’t even know where to begin talking about them. Let me try. She believes:
  1. He only hits her because he loves her. Someone who loves you would never deliberately inflict pain on you.
  2. His time is more important than hers. In her opinion, her time or pain wasn’t important enough to consider. She’s accepted a step down position in the relationship. In healthy relationships each person has equal value.
  3. He is entitled to make the rules for their relations. In healthy relationships each partner is as concerned for the other’s happiness and well being as they are for their own.
  4. Her assigned job is to be who he wants her to be. In healthy relationships partners are free to be themselves and are encouraged to pursue their passion in life.
  5. His opinions are more important than hersIn healthy relationships each partner’s opinion is respected even if it differs from the other’s opinion.  
  6. He has a right to hit her if she displeases him. In healthy relationships partners never inflect pain, humiliate, call each other derogatory names or intentionally hurt the other in any way.
  7. He is entitled to have everything the way he wants it. In healthy relationships, disagreements are negotiated. One person does not always have to kowtow to the other.
  8. She should feel lucky and grateful that he chose her as his girlfriend when he could have had anyone he wanted. In a healthy relationship each partner thinks they are the luckiest one and treats the other with care.
Dr. Phil, in his straight forward style, challenged her thinking, asking how she felt telling very young girls (who seem to be her biggest fans) something that could cause them serious harm? By this time I was on the edge of my sofa cheering Dr. Phil on. The girl steadfastly clung to her beliefs. She insisted that these guys love their girlfriends because by beating the girls, the guys risk going to jail. Dr. Phil outed her on the fact that she took a few thousand dollars from the guy to not prosecute him for battery. It was no surprise when she walked off the show. (You can see excerpts and a transcript from this show at Air date January 28, 2015.)
Was she just looking for fame? Most likely. However, the information she was willing to share is dangerous to our impressionable kids. 
To fight this sick thinking, we have to continue to get the word out to our teens, girls and boys. Relationships are based on mutual trust, respect and kindness. Someone who loves you wants you to pursue your passion and be all that you can be. They will be your greatest cheerleader as you are theirs. Jealousy, hitting and name calling have no part in a healthy relationship.
Each person is responsible to create a life using his or her own gifts and talents. When they choose to be together, their lives overlap creating a space where they nurture and build a solid relationship based on shared values, honesty, trust, love and respect. One partner’s life should never absorb and dissolve the other’s life. No one needs a partner to complete them. They are already whole.
It’s never too soon to start talking to your kids about dating violence and healthy relationships. Teach them the components of a healthy relationship so they have a measuring stick when they begin dating.
February is Teen Dating Awareness Month.