Sex sells. How do you talk about sexy ads with your kids?

It’s everywhere.  Whether you’re watching TV, surfing the internet, reading a magazine, driving past billboards, or walking down the street, you’re likely to see sexy ads.  Women and men in very little clothing, sultry expressions, provocative text.  Your kids see it every day.

I know you’re doing your best.  The internet is blocked and monitored.  TV time is limited to a few favorite shows.  You’ve banned the magazine “Seventeen” from your home.  And yet, the billboards and the shop posters aren’t going unnoticed.  It’s unstoppable.

For every time you’ve told your child that beauty isn’t skin deep, they’ve seen a thousand ads suggesting that it is.  Your opinion counts more – of course it does! – but the media messages are relentless.  They soak in.  Here’s how it works:  If you know you’re fine as you are, you don’t need anything, so why would you buy?  The whole point of the ad is to plant the seed of uncertainty, creating the opportunity to sell you something – something to correct your flaws, give you confidence, or create a perceived advantage.

The only way to combat the onslaught is to acknowledge it.  Talk about it!  Help your child learn to think critically about advertising.

Here’s how to do it. 

Take a typical sexy ad:

Anya Manes - Talking About Sex - San Francisco

It might not cross your boundaries, but it’s still important that you talk about this ad with your kid.  I want you to get in the habit of asking yourself and your kids three questions: What does this ad want us to think?  Why?  Is it true?

For this ad, you might answer: This ad wants me to think that drinking Bacardi is sexy, or makes me thin, or makes me desirable – so that I’ll buy Bacardi.  It’s NOT true.  Drinking alcohol is bad for my health, and what makes me desirable is my kindness, my enthusiasm, my dependability, my sense of humor, my loyalty, my talents and abilities. 

Imagine having this discussion with your child.  You’ll have the opportunity to talk about your thoughts about alcohol as well as what’s really important in a partner.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to be having these deep conversations with your kids?  You can!  The prompts are everywhere!  Just find an ad!

 

Try this one:  What does this ad want you to think?  Why?  Is it true?

Anya Manes - Talking About Sex - San Francisco

I have to admit, this ad crosses my boundaries.  Do you feel outraged too?  Then talk about it!  I’d want my daughter to say to herself: This ad wants me to think that being sexy is more important than having skills, so that I’ll buy a Wonderbra.  It’s NOT true; my ability to take care of others (like by cooking for them) is far more important than how big my breasts look.

But my daughter won’t think critically about media messages and reaffirm her values unless we practice.  So ask your child, What does this ad want you to think?  Why?  Is it true? and coach them through their answers.

 

Ok – here’s the test.  What would you want your kid to say in response to this ad?

Anya Manes - Talking About Sex - San Francisco

Post your answer below.

In support of you,

Anya

 

P.S.  Want more practice with this?  Come to my workshop next week, Preventing Poor Body Image and Sexism in Kids & Teens.

7 Comments. Leave new

Holy crap! This ad makes me want to pull my hair out and poke my eyes out. I don’t even know where to begin.

Reply

Yeah, I know what you mean. That’s you feeling your boundaries being crossed, and when something makes you uncomfortable like that, you can’t stay silent! Do the 3 questions help? I hoped it would give you a place to start.

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But I really and honestly am not sure what I WOULD say about that ad. The truth is, as open as I am with my kids, I think I would HOPE they wouldn’t read too much into it (as I did). What would you have said using your 3 questions? I felt stumped. I wanted to have all sorts of judgment and express I was appalled, but that would not be a helpful conversation…

Reply

What does the ad want you to think? That by having these shoes, you’ll get more attention or be more attractive or have more sex.
Why? If you really think their shoes can make you more attractive, then you’ll buy them.
Is it true? No! What makes a person attractive is not what shoes they wear. It’s their confidence, their sense of humor, their achievements, their ability to handle tricky situations.

And then you can express your outrage! It IS totally appalling!

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I am very happy to sAy I showed those pictures to my step son and did discuss his feelings for most of the day today.

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That’s awesome, Erica! Sounds like it generated a lot of conversation!

Reply

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