Lauren Windle believes that Sam Smith’s latest video, and others like it, present a great opportunity to talk about sexual expression with your children.

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Dodgy music videos are nothing new. Growing up, we just had the standard five channels, but over at my mate Zoe’s there was a world of MTV Base and VH1 to be discovered on the small screen. She, and her Sky+ package, introduced me to some of the raciest music videos the world had to offer. The scantily clad women would perform all manner of gravity-defying moves that I wouldn’t attempt myself for fear of throwing my back out.

So, watching Sam Smith’s latest music video felt like a throwback to 2003 when Snoop Dogg turned up to the MTV Video Music Awards with two women in see-through mesh tops on dog leads.

Sam’s latest video is explicit in its request for a lover, not a friend. The short film, much like their single Unholy released four months ago, features dancers in bondage style leather costumes and women pushing their bums into the air in a suggestive thrust. It’s highly sexual and no attempt is made to hide it.

The key thing I want to tell parents about all of this is – don’t freak out. In an ideal world your teenagers won’t have watched it. They’ll be too busy climbing trees and begging you to let them sleep in a tent in the garden. In reality, they probably have and if it’s not this raunchy video, it’ll be the next one. Sadly, there’s no practical way of shielding young eyes from lewd content. But it does create an opportunity.

Opportunity to talk

A friend of mine overheard her teenage daughter making a joke to a friend about a dildo. She waited until the friend had left and asked her daughter, in a very open and non-judgmental way, what she understood by the word. It led to a really healthy conversation about masturbation and the tools some people use in seeking sexual pleasure. She was given the opportunity to explain her view on it and why sex is so much better when enjoyed between two people in the security of a life-long covenant.

She didn’t freak out or shy away from it. She treated her daughter, who was being exposed to adult material, like an adult and they chatted. I deeply respected that approach and in many ways I think it’s one that both Christian parents and Church leadership could learn from. There is no topic of conversation that is ever off limits in my view, but if you’re dragging me into the gutter, you better be prepared that I brought Jesus with me.

I love it when I’m asked about something that’s considered “too rude” for Church. I like that I can hear that person out and find out why that topic is on their mind. Then I can tell them what I understand of Jesus’ teachings and how I apply them to many situations in my life. I can explain the way my perspective changed when I found faith and started treating myself and my body with the respect and dignity that Christ says it has. I can explain why I don’t feel trapped by Jesus’ “rules” but liberated by the fact that I have guidance from a Father that will never do me any harm.

Explaining consequences

These are the kind of frank conversations that could have made all the difference to me when I was a teenager and I decided to leave church in favour of the seductive promises of the world. I didn’t need to be locked away or banned from watching music videos. I needed someone to lovingly explain the consequences of poor choices and to gently walk alongside me when I inevitably got it wrong.

So, if your family have been dancing along to Sam Smith or you’re worried they’ll be influenced by the explicit nature of the video, I seriously think you should just bring it up. Ask them what they think. Say that it’s designed to titillate but to you it doesn’t feel like a good representation of what sex is and should be. Ask what they think of this movement towards increasingly sexualising people and if they think it causes damage to the subjects and/or objects of that sexualisation. They may surprise you with how clued up they are, and if not – what a brilliant time to open the conversation!