The first step? Stay calm.
Many movies and TV shows are full of sex scenes—if not explicit they are at least implied. A lot of parents would prefer scenes of violence, which seems paradoxical — after all, sex is something enjoyable and violence isn’t. The problem, however, is that sex shown onscreen is rarely a nice thing. In movies and TV (or other media), sex is usually presented as a substitute for what should be the most precious thing: love.
Children need a calm explanation
Although we should talk to our children about sex early on, depending on their developmental stage, parents often delay this mainly because of their own embarrassment and because they feel unsure about how to do it. This is why many children first encounter sexual images and phrases in school, on cell phones, or on other screens. At that moment, they’re faced with strong stimuli, which they often aren’t able to handle.
So what happens if there’s an explicit sex scene pops up in a movie you’re watching with your children? Natasha Ropret, a marriage and family therapist, advises us to respond calmly. Our children may be emotionally overwhelmed, because they may respond to the sexual content with strong emotions and denial, worrying that this content is forbidden yet attractive and exciting.
An appropriate and reassuring explanation that this is a relationship between two adults and that such content is not appropriate for their age will spare the children the shame and guilt that they could otherwise experience. Therefore, in the case of an unexpected scene of sexuality, let’s not panic, but talk to our children about their feelings and experiences.
Healthy sexuality, or just pleasure?
It’s important for children and adolescents to be able to critically distinguish between healthy sexuality—which enriches the relationship between two people, connects them, makes them happy, and gives birth to a new life—and sexuality that is only in pursuit of pleasure.
Natasha Ropret adds, “Early exposure to a distorted image of sexuality, which young people cannot put into a semantic context, while regulating their feelings and their bodies, can lead to sexual dysfunction in boys, discomfort in girls, and intimacy problems for both sexes, and even sometimes cause a dependent on pornography. Like any addiction, it offers an unhealthy opportunity to disconnect from the real world and to provides a drug-like experience to the often congested brain of adolescents.”
Pay attention to movie ratings
As much as possible, children and adolescents should avoid watching content with inappropriate sex scenes. In fact, this is also true for adults, since it hurts us as much as it hurts them. If it does arise, the best approach is to have a relaxed but intentional conversation. Children and teenagers should be told that sex is not something wrong or dirty, but neither is it what is generally portrayed in the movies.
“Healthy, peaceful sex between two people is a situation where we have to appear ‘naked’ before each other, as we really are, with all our fears, mistakes, and failures, as well as our inner beauty. It’s the intrinsic beauty between the two that creates a vulnerability that leads the couple to a deep and intimate connection,” says Ropret. She adds that any substitute for love, even if only seen in a movie, creates an unrealistic image in the mind.
Polona Šergon / Maria Veronica Degwitz
The article was first published in Naši družini, and was translated and adapted for Aleteia.
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