Fifty Shades of Grey Isn’t About You, It is About Your Kids

Fifty will impact your kids more than it will ever impact you.

Fifty will impact your kids more than it will ever impact you.

The forest through the trees: One more comment on the Fifty Shades of Grey movie and how it impacts your kids, and then I need to get my head out of that space.

Whether or not you read the books or will see the movie really isn’t the point to us discussing this. My job, our job, is to understand how media impacts our kids – little and big.

Fifty *will* impact your kids for one very simple reason: It is making WAY too much money not to. The publishing industry and Hollywood aren’t big on original ideas right now (Fifty itself isn’t an original idea) and they like to go with and replicate ad nauseam what makes them money, honey.

Yes, there are young women out there who see right through all of this and they’ve done a great job communicating why to me. But these girls are also the ones who grew up completely immersed in the age of Princess Culture, when problematic stories like Beauty & the Beast and Little Mermaid were massive hits for Disney and those two princesses appeared on every product a child would touch during her girlhood. They came of age with Gossip Girl on tv and Twilight everywhere, with very little empowered stories about women’s sexuality in the media. Double down on that with zero comprehensive sex education in school and only 17% of parents talking to their kids about sex. So yeah, I can see where young women today think Christian Grey is Prince Charming.

Add to that, young men today face a very oppressing role of masculinity to live up to and would also have had zero comprehensive sex education in school and only 17% of parents talking to their kids about sex. Sexual relationships are confusing and comprehension takes a connection with our emotional selves, something our culture manages to kill in boys by the average age of 8. Boys are educated about sex/relationships by peers, media, and online porn. That doesn’t bode well for your daughters. Oh the stories I could relate that girls have told me of things they have done sexually out of ignorance and/or desperation to keep a boyfriend.

Media literacy isn’t about *your* kids, it is about ALL kids and their natural born right to be healthy and whole.

Can you really sit there and safely say “Well not my girl”? Consider this please – you have no control over what the current boyfriend learned from and had normalized by the girl he dated just prior to yours. So are you in the 17% having ongoing talks with your kids about sex? Or are you in the 83% who thinks they aren’t ready yet or they’ll just figure it out because it makes you feel weird discussing it?

I guarantee you your kids are paying attention. The question is, to whom?

See my post “Fifty Shades Is The Worst Of Us” for a deeper dive into the abuse-masked-as-erotica franchise and resources for parents/teachers.


Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009

Find her at You can read her blog at: or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

Amelia Gets Sexy

The photo I asked the PPBB Community to caption.

During our caption contest for the photo at your left there were a couple of comments about kids not noticing this kind of thing / don’t make a big deal if they don’t / don’t shelter your kids just talk to them / and one about packing up the kids to play at the park instead because they shouldn’t be at the mall anyway.  (Yes, you could have played along on our Bingo card and won several times over.

I don’t think removing children from public spaces meant for all ages is the answer. The existence of children is not the problem. The acceptance of sexualization of the female form as our status quo is the problem.

My kids and I had no choice but to walk past this on the way to the specialty store we needed to buy a gift at. I very rarely go to our mall, so I had no idea this display was waiting for us. Because of the way the window sits in the wall, from the direction we were walking a shopper cannot see the images until you are in front of them. And then you are in front of 8 feet tall porny banners for poorly made lingerie and sex toys. With your seven and four year old. You are fooling yourself if you think kids don’t notice these kinds of things. Eyes wide shut.

My seven year old daughter did notice the banners. And she did comment. And I did talk to her.

“Oh, those girls are pretty. I really like them.” -7yo Original Pigtail Pal Amelia

“What do you like about them?” -Me

“Oh, they are so pretty. Like Barbie.” -OPP

“I think you are pretty and I think I am pretty. I think these women are showing a different look. Why do you think they are dressed like that?” -Me

“Well, that is their fancy underwear and the man is trying to see their boobs.” -OPP  (See photo below)

“Remember the other night when you asked me what ‘sexy’ meant? These girls are dressed in a way that many people view as ‘sexy’. The underwear is called lingerie, it is only for grown ups. Their hair and makeup and poses, it is all meant to be sexy. They want the man to be looking at their breasts.” -Me

“Oh my god. I had no idea that is what it….Mom? Am I in trouble for looking at it?” -OPP

“No, you are not in trouble. There is no way for us to not look at it right now. But I want you to see the difference between being a beautiful, strong little girl in your own heart, and being a sexy grown up who wants men to look at your body. Being sexy is not for kids.” -Me

“Yeah. That isn’t appropriate for kids’ private parts.” -OPP

We walked into the store we needed to go to, ironically the University Bookstore right next door, and on our way out, Amelia said, “Mom, you should take a picture of me in the car like Ben because then people can see that I am a kid and that sexy ladies are for sexy ladies.”

So here you go. The photo of Benny (above) was taken in the moment, to show the juxtaposition of the children’s play space being invaded by sexualization. The photo of Amelia is staged, at her request, so that you can see that, in her words, “Sexy ladies are for sexy ladies, and not for kids.”

Amelia gets "sexy", and wanted to show you why it isn't for kids. C'mon People!

My first grader learned two new words at school this week, neither of which I am happy about. “Sexy” was one of them. The other was “asshole”. I always say that if the child is able to ask the question, she is ready for the answer. I don’t believe in sheltering my children, but I do believe in respecting their childhood. Our children have a natural born right to a childhood. I didn’t want to be explaining these concepts to her at seven years old. I am pissed that I have to.

Yet, I do have to. Or at least, begin to. This will be just one of many conversations about this topic as she matures. This wasn’t a commercial that I could turn off or something that I could have avoided. As is the case with so much marketing, there are very few ways to escape it. That is WHY they call it marketing.

Because I respect Amelia’s right to a childhood and her right to develop a healthy sexuality and sense of self-worth, she is now starting to understand “sexy”. I explained it to her in as best an age appropriate way as I could manage. I think she is getting, in a small way, what “sexy” might mean. The concept of “sexy’ isn’t a bad thing when introduced at an age appropriate time, and allowed to be explored when the person is ready. But I do have to say, the people who force this on kids and families really are assholes.


I’m really glad she didn’t notice or didn’t ask about the whip and tie. I can handle talking about a lot of things with my kids. BDSM less than ten feet from the kiddies rides is not one of those things.


Web shot of Spencer's window advert for their lingerie sale.

Window display at Spencer's, looking directly out onto the mall walkway and directly across from children's play area.















Here were my favorite captions :

Caroline Burkhart Askew: “Hop in, Mom! We’ve got to get away from this blatant display of sexism speedy quick!”

Theresa Costello: “Yellow Sports Car Ride: 25 cents. Soft Core Porn in the store window: Free. Your son leanring he has to pay more for a fake car ride then a woman’s dignity? Priceless.”

Daniel Singha:l “Mom, you can’t park in the red light district, lemme move the car.”

Christine Harris” “Bemused preschooler flees porntastic midwest mall in speedster hotwired by older sibling. News at 11.”