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Nothing polarizes the women of America quite like a woman shaking assets and crotch-grabbing.
The Super Bowl Halftime show featured celebrity goddesses Shakira and J.Lo in all their glory—skin, sparkle, and femininity. The debate proceeding the performance has been sheer gold, so rather than debate the morals of debating their morals, I’m going to pivot and say:
Parents of America, this is a teaching tool. Take it.
Was the halftime show “family-friendly?”
Depends who you ask. To say it was not family-friendly implies that children should not see sexuality expressed in adult women. To say it was family-friendly is to say that children are capable of learning about female sexuality without becoming “sex machines” themselves.
So, which is correct?
When it comes to children we shouldn’t rely on flippant opinions—mine or otherwise. So, let’s look at the research:
Exposure to sexuality through comprehensive education reduces instances of assault.
This study done by Columbia University found that teens who had been exposed to comprehensive sexual education, including consent education and STI prevention, were less likely to be assaulted during college than those who received abstinence-only education. In fact, abstinence-only, or avoidance education actually had no effect in reducing instances of assault later in college.
Abstinence-only education leads to an increase in teenage pregnancies compared to comprehensive sexuality education.
This study presented by SIECUS found that those children who received comprehensive sex education, including consent, healthy sexuality, and pregnancy prevention, experienced decreased numbers of teenage pregnancy, while abstinence sex education had zero effect on reducing teen pregnancy rates.
You see, people tend to think that exposure to sexuality makes kids have sex. However, this is simply not true. In fact, avoiding the topics of sex and sexuality actually leads to kids having sex earlier, and also more likely to be assaulted. I’ll say it one more time:
Exposure to education about sex and sexuality, which includes consent, safety, and enjoyment (but not solely abstinence), leads to kids choosing to wait longer to be sexually active, and also to report more satisfying relationships, and be less likely to be assaulted when they do become sexually active.
Not sure where to start? Use the halftime show as a teaching tool for the following:
1. Good touch/bad touch:
This show provided a wonderful example of the difference between consensual touch (such as the J.Lo crotch grab), and bad touch (unsolicited touch).
2. Cultural norms:
This show included a phenomenal display of Latino/Latina dancing. Take this opportunity to explain the importance of dance in culture, and how dance varies across cultures.
3. Age-appropriate sexuality:
This show provided a wonderful, concrete tool of an “adult” expressing sexuality through outfit and movement, while her daughter, a child, was clothed conservatively. Take this opportunity to show a concrete example of “adult sexuality” versus child sexuality, and why the two vary greatly. Explain to your child why and how sexual expression blooms with age.
4. Mutual support of self-expression:
Whether you agree with or disagree with the artists’ chosen self-expression is irrelevant. Take this opportunity to show your children that it is okay to acknowledge sexuality, and that you support self-expression. By observing your acceptance of other women, your children will learn not only to feel supported speaking to you themselves, but will also be more likely to uphold others around them.
Inhale the research; exhale the worry. There’s no evidence to believe that exposure to, and age-appropriate conversations around, sex and sexuality harm your children. Instead, by modeling acceptance of sexuality and using this as a tool for communication and teaching, it teaches them. It empowers them. It builds them.
May we continue to walk this journey of observation, acceptance, and communication—ass shakers, crotch-grabbers, football players, parents, and children alike.