sex ed via pop music

So yesterday afternoon, we all piled in the car to run a few errands and grab some Friday haddock.

Short trips in the car frequently involve discussions and arguments about the radio. B and I normally enjoy car time to talk, but Hannah and Jack *love* listening to music in the car. B and I are pretty generous with our taste in music, the presets include rock, pop, country, hip-hop, and “easy-listening” stations, and we just run through them until we find something we all like.

Hannah and Jack would prefer we leave it either on the pop or hip-hop stations (frequently their playlists overlap), which is fine with us.

We have an ongoing fight right now specifically about the song “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper) by T-Pain and Mike Jones. When this song comes on the radio, I flip it, even if the station is playing the “clean” version (Wit a Dancer). Hannah protests (imagine whiney nine-year old voice): “Hey, I LIKE that song!!” Until yesterday, I would simply tell her that I didn’t, and that was that.

Yesterday when it came on B had run into some welder’s supply place for a second and we waited in the car. I flipped the station, and Hannah protested, this time asking me what my problem was with the song.

Great. Another lesson about sex borne out of pop music .

So I ask her, “Do you *know* what a stripper is?”

She reddens. “Yes.”

“Would *you* want your job to be showing your body to people for money?”

She begins to sink into the seat, her eyes willing me to stop. “No. God, Mom.”

At this point, B gets back in the car. “What’s going on?” he asks.

“I’m explaining to Hannah why I don’t like to listen to the stripper song.” I turn back to Hannah. “When I was younger, Hannah, I had a friend who had a baby–the baby was your age; we were pregnant together. When her baby was about a year old, my friend had no job and no money. She went to work at a club as a dancer. And while she made decent money–good money, even–it was a hard life. She was always worried about the way she looked, because if she didn’t look a certain way, she wouldn’t make as much money. She was always worried about the people from the club following her. And even though she worked at night so that she could go to school during the day and spend time with her baby, she ended up quitting school and having a lot of horrible surgery to change her body.”

Brian looked at me–he knew this friend of mine, too. He interjected: “Yes, but she made a choice to…do what she did. She didn’t have to work at that club. Strippers don’t *have* to strip, they choose to.”

Then, I went off. I talked about what *is* choice in a culture where the options are: sell what you’ve got, be homeless, or sell what you’ve got. That circumstances don’t always present themselves as options–that agency and the opportunity to make the “right” or “good” decision aren’t available to everyone.

When I came down from the tippy top of my soapbox, the family looked at me. It was quiet for a moment.

And then Jack, who’s 6, said, “They take their clothes off? I’d like to see that.”

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