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Cindy Pierce Visits The Circle

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Cindy Pierce Visits The Circle

Carly Bowman '17

Carly Bowman '17

Carly Bowman '17

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On Tuesday, October 18, Ms. Cindy Pierce, a speaker, author, and educator, visited the Circle to speak to the entire student body on the topic of social pressure regarding sexuality and technology. Ms. Pierce, a self-described “social sexuality educator,” hopes, in her own words, to “relieve the perceived and real social and sexual pressures from the wider culture beyond Groton.” She addressed both Lower Schoolers and Upper Schoolers in two separate sessions.

Ms. Pierce is the author of Sex, College and Social Media and Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World, and the co-author of Finding the Doorbell. She was recognized in 2012 by the Center for Women and Gender at Dartmouth College because of her work on sexual assault among college students. She has spoken at an extensive list of schools, private and public, including Hotchkiss, Northfield Mount Hermon, Deerfield, Proctor, Springfield High School, and The Hill School.

Her perspective on these issues is different from much of the sexual education that children receive from adults in their lives in that it focuses on modern problems. Ms. Pierce’s work focuses mainly on how sexuality has become far different with the advent of social media and technology that fosters constant contact.

Ms. Pierce has spent years interviewing teens, although that was not originally her career plan. Eventually, however, she found that young people were “desperate for a new lens.” Ms. Pierce uses humor with the goal of normalizing and furthering discussions about “sensitive and serious issues,” attributing her talks’ successes with students to their “humorous and non-judgemental nature” She talks constantly to people from ages fourteen to thirty-four about sex, and includes their experiences and perspectives in her writing and speaking.

“Teenagers today,” she says, “experience significantly more intense feeling of an internal void needing to be filled. You are constantly reminded that you are not enough. The messaging from the culture gives you a steady dose of what you could be, should be and would be if you had, if you did and if you bought the things that are offered as a bottomless pit of options. It takes a conscious effort to not buy into the unrealistic expectations fueled by marketing campaigns, Internet porn and social media.” The second part of her work that is unique is her humor, as she also is a comic storyteller. Though she identifies as an “educator first,” she says that that fact does not impede her engaging audiences with comedy.

And she lived up to her promise of comedy: the audience of students and faculty responded with laughter and tremendous applause to Ms. Pierce’s modern perspective on hookup culture, body image, and other pervasive prep school issues. Peer Counselor Ben Milliken ‘18 said, “I felt like she was really entertaining and down-to-earth, and kept me interested throughout the talk.” She spoke highly of the idea of “social courage”, or the idea that people, especially teenagers, must develop the courage to do what is right in social situations although it may not be easy. Despite the lofty theme, she nevertheless engaged the audience as equals. Rohan Varkey ‘18 attested to this: “She was a good speaker to have in our community, and I really liked how she didn’t talk down to us.”

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