Raising Sexually Healthy Kids in a 50 Shades World

There’s no easy way to say it– our culture is sexually sick. When did we start celebrating sexual/domestic violence and paying $15 to go watch it with a bucket of popcorn? The infatuation with “50 Shades of Grey” is startling proof of where we are at as a society (100 MILLION copies sold??!).

As a parent, this makes me mad. It’s bad enough that I have to talk to my kids about pornography at such an early age. Add violence and abuse on top of that, and our kids are in danger of forming very twisted views of intimate relationships. Thankfully, there are many things we can do to help protect our kids from these harmful messages.


1) Teach Kids About Sex. Early.
Children must have a healthy understanding about what sex is and what it isn’t. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND watching every second of these outstanding videos. They teach:

WHY having frequent, open discussions about sexuality helps safeguard kids from immorality and pornography. Not teaching IS teaching. Not communicating IS communicating. Just in the wrong way. Our kids are being taught from many, many sources. Instead of cocooning them we need to ARM them with truth and doctrine so they can navigate through the mess.

HOW we should teach them– and help them to CLEARLY see the difference between a world-view of sexuality and a gospel-view of sexuality (this is really interesting!)

WHEN we should start teaching our kids. For example, the sanctity of the body, the importance of gender, modesty, etc.–all of which are connected to healthy sexuality– can all be taught to toddlers. And have you ever thought of this: LDS children are asked in their temple recommend interview AT AGE 12 if they are keeping the Law of Chastity. This speaks volumes about the Lord’s expectations that we teach our kids young.

HOW OFTEN we should talk. From toddler age on up, we layer the teaching on thick. Layer upon layer. And it’s not all always about sex, but it IS all connected! Modesty, dating, pornography, relationships, gender, pregnancy, babies, marriage, covenants, puberty, respect, self-mastery, love–it’s all connected!! And I want my kids to understand it as a whole–how it fits into the entire plan— and not as something naughty and mysterious that you can’t do until you are married.

My husband and I also use the FANTASTIC book, “How to Talk to Your Child about Sex” by Richard and Linda Eyre. Would you be surprised to learn the book suggests the “big” talk happens at age 8? Yep. Our three oldest children are (so far) completely comfortable asking us questions that occur to them, because we’ve been talking about this since they were each 8 years old.

2) Teach Kids the Truth About Violence and Abuse
As the National Center on Sexual Exploitation points out, most women in violent sexual relationships (like Anastasia in “50 Shades”) “end up in a women’s shelter, on the run for years, or dead.” It may seem silly to talk to young girls about abusive boys and men…but is it? How early is too early to teach our girls about unhealthy relationships? At the very least, we should be teaching them to observe which men and boys in their lives are loving, respectful, responsible, and protective- not only of their physical well being, but their virtue as well. Any man who manipulates a girl or makes her feel inferior is not a man she should invest in.

As for boys, I am hopeful that most understand it is not acceptable to physically harm a girl. Yet violence is something that is often glamorized and celebrated through mainstream media. The more our sons are exposed to violence in any form, the more they will become desensitized to its evil nature. They need to understand that violence is NEVER ok– not even in a private, intimate relationship. It’s abuse. Verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse are equally devastating. “50 Shades” sends the message that girls want a boy who “controls, intimidates, and threatens” instead of a man who cherishes, respects, and protects. With increasing escalation of this message in the media, our sons must understand that this is NOT TRUE and we should NOT SUPPORT the idea by watching it. (Read here for a real life example of how dangerous this type of relationship can be.)

Honestly, since reading up on what this book is about, I’m tempted to take all of my kids to volunteer in women’s shelters regularly. It’s a world they know nothing about, luckily, but I feel a need for them to understand its reality, ugliness, and effects.

3) Teach Boys To Respect Girls (Girls Are Not “Hot”)
In our family, our boys are not allowed to refer to girls as “hot.” I want them to know it is ok and perfectly normal to have a crush on a girl. But I ask them to use words like “pretty” or “cute” or “beautiful” instead. In my opinion, words like “hot” or “sexy”– even if used innocently or playfully– promote the disrespectful idea that girls are objects to be lusted after. All children (and adults) need to understand that “healthy relationships are characterized by warmth, open communication, respect and mutuality” (see this) and NOT someone’s physical body. Respecting girls begins with the way we think and speak about them.

4) Teach Girls to Respect Themselves
The best way for a girl to learn to love and respect herself is by gaining a relationship with her Heavenly Father.  When girls feel God’s love they feel confident and happy, and don’t need to look to outside sources to fulfill those needs. A girl who does not respect herself, or who feels distant from God, may easily fall victim to abusive friendships, boyfriends, and behaviors.

Girls also need physical and emotional contact with their earthly father. Research shows girls need physical touch from their dads. Read about it here. As for moms, let’s be super careful about the way we talk about ourselves in front of our daughters. Our example of self respect (or disrespect) will be mirrored by our girls. Read why one mom started telling her daughters SHE is beautiful.

5) Teach Kids About Pornography and the Brain
Kids need to know what pornography is and what to do when they see it. But they also need to know WHY to avoid it. Along with devastating spiritual effects, I like to talk to my kids specifically about what pornography does to the chemicals in their brains (hint: it acts just a like an addicting drug). That’s scary enough. But did you know that over 80% of pornography is violent in nature? Which makes it no surprise that sexual violence is creeping into our movies and books- and thus spilling into our military, colleges, streets, and homes.

Pornography can come in many different forms, with or without images. It is certainly present on the internet, in movies and tv, and in video games. But it also has a presence in animation, music, and books. Children need to recognize it for what it is, understand its dangers, and know how to react. (This website and this website are excellent resources. And here is an article on how to talk to your kids about pornography. I also love this book by Jill Manning.)

6) Teach Kids About the Color Grey

The color “grey” suggests an absence of “black and white” –or in other words, boundaries that are not clearly defined. The sexual violence glamorized in “50 Shades of Grey” touts that “anything goes.” Our kids must understand that there IS in fact a black and white when it comes to morality and violence. Safety and happiness can only be found when we stay within the Lord’s boundaries.A sexually healthy child is one who understands the doctrinal, sacred nature of intimacy and who feels comfortable discussing his questions with his parents. It is a child who respects the sanctity of bodies- hers and others- and who knows what to do when she encounters the lie of pornography. It is a child who learns to abhor violence or abuse in ANY form, even fictional. It is a child who understands the doctrine of the family— and why keeping the Lord’s standards keeps us happy and protected.

As this article explains, “one of the most powerful deterrents to adolescent sexual activity and drug and alcohol use is the firm communication of parental expectations to their children.” We must make every effort to ensure our children clearly understand what we and God expect of them– especially when it comes to living clean in a filthy, 50 Shades world.

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  • Connie Balciar - LOVE LOVE LOVE your article!!! THANK YOU!! I will share this EVERY day sooo people will see it and read it!!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - So much good stuff in here. Thanks for the thoughtful words, as well as the many links to helpful resources.ReplyCancel

  • Diane - Thank you for having the courage to share this. It is beautifully written. So thankful people are willing to take a stand. It also got me thinking about what more I need to do to teach and protect my children. Thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • RaeLynn - This is such a well-written and inspiring article. Instead of being scared and afraid of the world we live in, we need to proactively take the reins and arm our children with tools to help them (and ourselves)! Thank you for sharing and for all the links and references. There are more resources than I knew about!ReplyCancel

    • Whitney - I’m so glad- thank you, RaeLynn!ReplyCancel

  • Jami Wilkes - Thank you so much! I am so with you on this! 50 Shades is just plain wrong and I am so sad/mad that society thinks it’s ok. Thank you for sharing all of the great links and your thoughts. We need to take a stand just as you have!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa Windley - I’m sorry to sound harsh, but have you read the books? Your article is about teaching kids about sex and not sheltering them. I think your article is great and you have the same outlook I do on values. But I’m confused about the attack on this particular book/movie. I’m not promoting showing adult movies to children. But they will grow up. They will have sex. Some adults indulge in sexual activities that aren’t conventional. They may marry someone who was sexually abused or molested as a child who has unusual sexual needs or desires that they weren’t even aware of. That is what 50 shades is about. A little boy whose mother was a prostitute and what he witnessed growing up. He was adopted and then he was molested and raped by an older woman as a teenager. These things happen. Anastasia is a virgin when she meets him. The books explain that he’s 50 shades of messed up in the head. That’s what it’s about. It’s about her helping him figure out why he’s got these extreme sexual needs and realizing that he is capable and worthy of a loving relationship. He’s not abusing her. It’s consensual and it’s about trust and pleasure. Have you ever had a massage that hurt but that felt good?? The previews do look like they’ve made the movie all about sex. I don’t plan to watch it because it doesn’t look like it will be as deep as the book and I agree with you… It basically porn. But think outside the box as an adult and don’t knock the book unless you’ve tried it. We do live in a 50 Shades world. Most people are messed up in some way.ReplyCancel

    • LJ - It is absolutely abuse & gives women the mistaken notion that they can/should “fix” men like him.

      • Heather Hunt - Thank you for posting that link. I’ve never read the books, because I consider them porn, but I assumed it was a love story with skanky violent sex scenes. Imagine my shock when I read that blog and realized she has romanticized an abusive relationship with a malignant narcissist. I’m actually appalled to see so many women saying he is the perfect man. No, he’s abusive, in EVERY way and you can’t FIX these guys.ReplyCancel

    • Whitney - Yes, Melissa, I agree that we all have personal issues to work through. This main character obviously has an unhealthy view of sexuality, which as you said, stemmed from his upbringing. He may be a victim, but in my opinion, his actions as an adult are still wrong. It’s my job as the mother of my children to make sure they understand what is right and wrong, true and untrue when it comes to sexuality- according to the dictates of my own conscience. My concern is raising kids with a healthy view of sexuality so THEY don’t end up with a head full of “50 shades of messed up.” Thanks for your comments! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Joe - I think this is a great post. I know that my wife and I had a lot to learn when we got married, and some stuff that needed to be unlearned.

    I would just add that girls need to be taught to respect boys, and boys need to be taught to respect themselves. Two categories that I feel are mostly ignored when these subjects are being talked about.ReplyCancel

    • Whitney - I totally agree, Joe! There is something that really bothers me about the men/boy bashing culture that we women and girls can sometimes get sucked into. It’s not respectful, in the name of equality, to put make men/boys look stupid or inferior. Don’t like it! And as for boys respecting themselves, that’s why I feel so strongly about teaching my boys about how damaging pornography IS to them. It hurts their brains, their relationships, their self esteem, their relationship with God, and their dreams. You can’t get anymore disrespectful to yourself than that! Thanks for the thoughts- so much to discuss.ReplyCancel

  • Annie Berry - I haven’t read the book. I have to say though that I’m less worried about my daughters reading a fictional romance novel and thinking that they must be in a bd/sm relationship than I am worried about them being bombarded with what I was bombarded with growing up.

    If anything gave me an unhealthy view of sexuality and relationships it was the preside/hearken wording in LDS doctrine, as well as in the temple covenants. I absolutely took those words to heart, and even though my husband was/is not abusive, I absolutely felt as though I was not a good wife or daughter of God if I did not give him something he wanted sexually or even relationship-wise, solely because of the harmful “gospel” teachings I received growing up, and the wording in sacred temple covenants. The often quoted “Don’t Be Walking Pornography” talk given by a prominent church leader did not help. I truly saw my body as a sex object because of this and many talks from my parents. By the time I was married I was well conditioned to understand my body was less for me to have control over and feel joy about, and more for the men in my life to control and enjoy. For the first several years of my marriage I was so psychologically messed up by what I had been taught growing up that I could not enjoy sex. Because of all of this, and the “multiply and replenish the earth” wording in my marriage covenant, I believed sex was a responsibility–that I was duty bound to provide sex for my husband, as well as children, else I would not be found worthy to return to my Heavenly Father. Honestly, Dominant/Submissive vs. Preside Hearken…what is the difference between the words? They are synonymous. Learning about the BD/SM dynamic made me realize exactly why the Preside/Hearken wording always disturbed me so much. At least BD/SM couples aren’t teaching their children they must enter into a BD/SM contract in order to be celestial and accepted back to live with God.ReplyCancel

    • April - This is the best comment I’ve read in response to 50 shades on a religious website! Bravo!!

      And as someone who has read the book, and enjoys a BDSM lifestyle, I think the people who believe it to be abusive and demeaning to women are closed minded and uninformed. We are not pressured into this lifestyle, and not everyone who practices it is doing so because they have ‘daddy issues’ or were abused as a child. Personally, I found the lifestyle as a way to overcome the emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex husband. It is empowering, and brings stability to my world. The submissive partner has all the power, not the dominant…or in true BDSM relationships that is the case.

      Different people are aroused by different things, there isn’t always an explanation for why this is.

      Don’t demean or criticize something simply because you don’t understand it.ReplyCancel

      • Whitney - Hi April! You are correct; I do not understand your lifestyle. All I know is it is my job as a parent to teach my kids about sexuality according to what I feel is morally right and wrong. I completely respect your right to choose your lifestyle, and I will also respect my children’s right to choose as adults. But while they are young I will teach them what I feel is right, as I’m sure you are doing with your children. Thanks for your comments!ReplyCancel

    • Whitney - I’m so sorry you feel that way, Annie! I agree with you- there are two sides of unhealthy sexuality. One side teaches us to feel like there are no boundaries and sex is ok anytime with anyone for any reason. The other side teaches us to feel that sex is bad and naughty and is only to be used for certain ways and at the enjoyment of certain people. Both are wrong. That’s why I want my kids to have a HEALTHY view of sexuality. It is a good, wonderful gift from God that is being abused by the world. In fact, I refer to it as “the most wonderful thing in the world” to my kids because I want to them to believe that. It IS the most wonderful thing when we use it as God has designed- which is for the (non-abusive) emotional and physical fulfillment of BOTH husband and wife, along with the beautiful opportunity to create families together. I’m so sorry for the pain which your view of sexuality has caused you in your life. That’s why I feel strongly about this topic! Thanks for sharing. xoReplyCancel

    • Kayla - Annie, I grew up in the church and never ONCE felt that way. I agree with Whitney that this idea is the other negative of the sexual spectrum. I want my kids to know that sex is normal, healthy, beautiful, and sacred. To be used to benefit both husband AND wife. I was never taught that I had to submit to my husband to attain celestial glory. That is a very foreign concept to me. I can hardly comprehend that idea. I’m also sorry your parent’s teaching about sex (or non-teaching) caused you such pain. I know that is not what Heavenly Father wants for his daughters what-so-ever. He wants us to benefit from such a wonderful gift as well. For me, sex was not talked about, so I never learned that it is a sacred thing. If kids don’t learn it is sacred, they will learn it is dirty and they will learn all the lies about it as well.ReplyCancel

    • William - There is a new book about teaching children about sex from an LDS perspective that is incredibly positive and uplifting. The author emphasizes how wonderful sex is and that in teaching children there should not be very few “no’s, do not’s, and can not’s.” You can read some reviews here: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Children-About-Sex-Temple/dp/1462115497/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427221345&sr=8-1&keywords=cherri+brooksReplyCancel

  • Cara - Excellent!!! Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • april - Kayla, I feel the exact same way! Well said! I was also raised in an LDS home and was raised to believe that sex is beautiful and sacred thing, not a device to please your husband. Thank you for compiling this wonderful article! I absolutely love it! The Eyre’s wrote a book that goes with this perfectly. I use when I talk to my kids about sex.ReplyCancel

  • Vicki - I’m sorry you guys think this way. BDSM is a beautiful sexual exprience and definitely NOT abuse. Abuse is against someone’s will, and not pleasurable. She was free to go at any time. I know plenty of people who prefer this kind of relationship, and it’s not because they are messed up. She could have moved on and let him be with a woman into that sort of thing. I know the story showed a man who was emotionally disturbed, but not all of us are, or are we? Who knows, but it’s the most fulfilling sexual experience I’ve had, and in no way is it abuse.ReplyCancel

  • Pierre - lust was bad. What is your definition of lust? All-consuming seaxul desire, coveting another, objectification?Jonalyn posted some excellent articles on lust from a woman’s perspective, though there doesn’t seems to be any reason both sexes wouldn’t benefit from it. One of the things she talked about was inviting Christ into her struggle with lust (she explains it better than I can).One of my professors told me that the purpose of law was to bring us to Christ. The law reveals the truth of the human condition, that not one of us can be truly loving, patient, or free from lust all the time. The space between love your neighbor as yourself and what humanity actually does, is where Christ fits in. That is where grace comes into play. Christian does not equal perfect/victorious. If any one of us were perfect, there would be no need for God and Christ.I have no advice on how to stop lust. I have been fighting lust for as long as I can remember, and I still lust. Frankly, I am a better Christian for struggling with it because now I need God’s grace desperately, and He has humbled me greatly. I cannot claim to be victorious. The movie Amazing Grace summed it up nicely Though my memory is fading I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. If anyone conquered their sins by sheer will power, who would that be a testament to? God or that person? 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 really seems to say the weaker and more screwed up, the better. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christi may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Fight lust, but do it with God. Do it with the knowledge that every person in the Bible had some SERIOUS issues, but that did not prevent God from working in and through them. Their brokenness made God’s work in them all the more amazing. Solomon had a sex addiction and occasionally worshipped other gods, David had several affairs with women (one whose husband he killed) and was such a horrible father that son raped daughter, and son killed son. Abraham lied about his marriage to Sarah to save his own skin, which resulted in her sleeping with the Pharaoh.Martin Luther really had the best response to sin of any kind (google sin boldly Luther):If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary butthe true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear thetrue, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are onlyimaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but letyour trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is thevictor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while weare here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We,however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a newheaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices thatthrough God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away thesin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were tokill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you thinksuch an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meagersacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.So by all means, stay strong for God. But don’t think that God isn’t strong enough to carry you in your weakest state.ReplyCancel

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