Loomis Chaffee News: Cindy Pierce Discusses Healthy Relationships

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Loomis Chaffee News — Jan. 13, 2016

By Christine Coyle
Faculty member and Loomis Chaffee parent

Author, sexuality educator, speaker, and comic storyteller Cindy Pierce spent two days on campus this week sharing information and her perspectives gleaned over many years of interacting with high school and college students on the issues of sound decision-making and developing healthy relationships.

During her visit, organized by the Office of the Deans of Students, Ms. Pierce met with the school community in several forums with a message tailored for each group and delivered in a humorous, no-nonsense style that was well-received by students and faculty alike. She addressed the freshmen class, spoke at an evening faculty meeting, shared lunch with student leaders, and spoke at a convocation for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“Trust your gut. Trust time,” Ms. Pierce told students in her empathetic appeal to develop the “social courage” to follow their own compasses, rather than succumbing to the great pressure they may feel from peers, social media, and a “hook-up culture” to engage in sexual relationships before they are ready. Relationships and sex are much more fulfilling, both emotionally and physically, among partners who choose each other carefully, who respect each other, and who are not under the influence of alcohol, Ms. Pierce stressed.

Citing a comprehensive study, she shared that 53 percent of boys and 67 percent of girls who are sexually active and between the ages of 12 and 19 wish they had waited longer for their first sexual experience. The vast majority of boys and girls express a deep desire for an emotional connection with a romantic partner rather than a “hook-up,” she said. But the realities of the technological age, including texting, social media, and internet pornography, disconnect young people, making forging emotional connections more difficult and resulting in skewed expectations for social and sexual interactions.

Ms. Pierce shared with students some tactics and advice for countering the pressure, staying true to their values, and developing the social courage to make healthy life choices. She talked about the need for identifying a “healthy crew” of peers for emotional support and adults who will serve as anchors and can be go-to people for information.

“Take a break from the screen,” she also encouraged. Young people need to spend time talking to one another and interacting in person to learn to read social cues. This ability is especially important in sexual situations, where both partners should express affirmative consent before moving forward. If it feels awkward to ask for consent or give it when you are engaged in a physical relationship, she said, that is a clear sign that you are not ready to be in that position.

“I want you to go out into the world feeling ‘enough’,” Ms. Pierce said in her closing comments at convocation. That happens when “you step out of the box, detox from the messages, live by your own rules and when YOU decide.”

Ms. Pierce is the author of SEXPLOITATION: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn Driven World and is co-author of Finding the Doorbell. She has been honored as one of “14 Remarkable Women of the Arts” in New Hampshire magazine. She has spoken to students at New England independent schools, colleges, and universities for more than a decade.

Connect to Ms. Pierce’s website for more information.

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