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Vampire fantasy can spark real-life dialog

T he fourth movie in the “Twilight” franchise, “Breaking Dawn — Part One,” just opened to sold-out audiences across the country. Although the series is built on vampire lore, the true impetus behind the plot is the love of vampire Edward and human Bella.

Twi-hards everywhere will tell you that Edward and Bella are this generation’s Romeo and Juliet. Their love is forbidden and even life-threatening, and much like Shakespeare’s original lovers, Edward and Bella seem to be characters from a different era. Moms and daughters alike are flooding the theaters bonding over a dose of fairy-tale love.

However, whether you were camping out with your daughter outside the premiere, or just watching all the hoopla with amusement, I encourage you to take advantage of the “Twilight” hype to seize some teachable moments with your daughter. Some amazing and meaningful conversations can occur when you ask the right questions about a topic that inspires them.

For instance, consider that Bella really has zero control in the relationship. Edward doesn’t allow Bella to make any decisions within their relationship, even when it comes to her own desires and her own future. She has no interest in marriage, yet he pushes this idea and insists they must be married before they are sexual.

Talk to your daughter about the idea of a boy wanting to wait for marriage. Does she know guys who feel that way? How does she feel about the right time? Have you told her your beliefs on when the right time is? Do any of her girlfriends feel pressure one way or another? Is there a way to be physically close, in a safe way, with someone you love while still waiting for marriage to have intercourse?

Bella has no goals beyond being with Edward. Talk about obsessive teenage love! Bella lies to her parents, hides her relationship and cuts all ties with her friends when she gets in deep with Edward. She doesn’t want to go to college, and she has no career goals. And Edward has all the power in a physical sense (he is a vampire, after all), and Bella willingly submits to the risk (and the numerous injuries) involved.

Ask your daughter about that. Share your hopes for her future and learn about her goals. What would she give up for love? Has she ever thought about it? This would be a great time for a conversation about the importance of completing oneself rather than imagining you’ll ever be “completed” by someone else.

Bella’s first time is perfect. Not only is the first sexual encounter wild and out-of-control, it also is mutually fulfilling and downright epic. There is no awkwardness or uncertainty, or any other semblance of reality, even though this is Bella’s first time (and Edward’s first time in decades).

There is nothing wrong with Hollywood fantasy, but I fear that young girls out there are going to have unrealistic expectations of how first-time sex really is. Ask your daughter if she thinks the love scene is realistic. What has she heard about what sex is like? Use this conversation to discuss the right time and place for sex, and what realistic expectations might be. Discuss the gift that sex is (under the right circumstances and the right person). And, in my opinion, this also is a great time to start talking with your daughter about discovering her own body and pleasure. I can assure you that if she owns her own sexuality, she will be much less likely to be swept away and make impulsive and unhealthy decisions later.

If you pay attention, you will find teachable moments all around you. Dive into the media your teen consumes. Once you enter their world, you will find wonderful opportunities to have these important conversations in a language your teen can understand and appreciate.

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