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Wired for Sex, Lies and Power Trips: It’s a Teen’s World

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Teensworld Productions
Directed by Lynn Glazier
DVD, color, 45 min.
Jr. High - General Adult
Adolescence, Popular Culture, Media Studies, Gender Studies, Women’s Studies, Psychology, Social Sciences

Reviewed by Maureen Puffer-Rothenberg, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA

Date Entered: 1/7/2011

Three groups of Toronto teenagers (aged 14-17) talk about “slutty” and/or harassing sexual behaviors they see in popular music videos and among their peers. These behaviors proliferate in photos and home videos teenagers make of themselves and post to social networking sites on the Internet. The Toronto kids consider whether girls invite boys to objectify them or consider them sexually available, and the girls acknowledge feeling pressured to define themselves in terms of their physical beauty and sexuality.

Each group was tasked with creating a film about sex and social media: “Assignment: Get Real about Sex, Lies and Power Trips in Your Teen World.” The resulting three films are excerpted in the program and included on the DVD as bonus features. In Under Pressure a group of girls use a cell phone photo to spread a rumor branding a friend’s innocent behavior as promiscuous; The Pursuit of Popularity shows how a teen girl’s behavior with boys is interpreted by other girls; in It Could Happen to You a young woman is drugged and raped.

These short films are excerpted throughout the main film, intercut with interviews, conversations and many examples of actual photos and videos teens have posted to Facebook, YouTube, and other Internet venues (with the participants’ faces blurred). Young women pose in underwear or dance in imitation of music videos; boys grope girls in home and school settings. In one video a girl is wrestled to the floor in what appears to be a classroom and a boy simulates (clothed) sex with her while others look on. Some of the girls in these clips respond with laughter; all behave in ways the male interviewees explain they perceive as compliant.

A small group of eighth-grade girls demonstrate a social networking site that allows classmates to post anonymous comments about each other. The girls talk about why they continue to use the site, even though the posts are sometimes cruel. Meeting with the older teen girls, they express how desperate they are to be popular and fit in at their school.

Filmmaker Lynn Glazier aims to spark discussion by presenting kids’ views as they explore their own sexual culture, eschewing expert commentators for a public health sex educator, a grandmother and a mom; in interviews and in conversation with the teens the adults talk about resisting peer pressure and the relative importance of sexual power.

The older teens conclude that they will stand against sexual harassment, and hope that younger kids will learn from their experiences. Their ideas and attitudes appear for the most part to be honestly expressed and not designed just to please the adults holding the cameras.

The film includes sexual content, footage of barely-dressed women and teenage girls, and profanity. A couple of slang references to sexual activity could raise questions for viewers unfamiliar with the terms. This is a good choice for instructors who want to lead discussions or create assignments dealing with the impact of sexuality in popular culture and on the Internet on teens, provided they feel comfortable presenting and discussing sexually frank material.