I want to preface this by saying that I am not about to hate on Pretty Little Liars. I mean, I just watched the entire the first season in a week and am counting down the days until the second season starts streaming on Netflix. So I’m a fan. Okay?
That being said, I do have one major issue with this show: the way it handles relationships between high school girls and adult men. I’m not talking about a 16 or 17 year old dating someone that just graduated from high school and turned 18. I’m talking about 16 year olds dating, making out with, and having (implied) sex with men who are old enough to have graduated from college.
Two of the show’s main characters, another supporting character, and the “dead girl” have all been linked with adult men - whether it’s just a kiss, making out on the couch, or buying lingerie for a “romantic” evening. But only once, maybe twice, in the entire first season of the show were these relationships brought up as being inappropriate for what I think is a very obvious reason: it’s illegal and oh yeah - gross.
Aria (the one shushing in the photo) is dating her high school English teacher. Okay, yes - she met him (in a bar!) before they both knew what was up, but the only reason they’re scared of being caught is because he’s her teacher. Oh … not maybe because she’s 16 and he’s in his early to mid twenties. This isn’t some college student dating her professor affair. It’s a minor having make out sessions with a guy in his apartment who could easily be getting women his own age. One of my sisters loves the character of Ezra (English teacher), but I just can’t. Every time I look him at I think, what is wrong with you? Yes, Aria is gorgeous and smart, but dude - she’s a kid!
Another character, Spencer (far left in the photo), has a knack for making out and pursuing relationships with her older sister’s boyfriends. Jenna (not in the photo), the one buying lingerie, is dating a cop. Seriously???
This show, which is watched by all of my sisters - the 15 year old twins included, and probably every other tween and teen girl out there, is saying to them that it’s perfectly normal to engage in these so obviously not okay relationships with older men. What sort of message (to sound all soap box-ey) are we sending to our young girls?
Because you know what? It’s not okay for girls my sisters’ age to think that having much older guys hit on them and pursue whatever it is they are pursuing with them is the norm and that it’s okay. They need to know that:
- It’s creepy. Guys in their twenties who pursue high school girls are disgusting.
- They’re taking advantage of you. Not to sound all I’m an adult and learn from my experiences, but … I had no clue about anything at 16. You’re not an adult and shouldn’t be asked to act like one. Date guys your own age who know just as little about life and sex as you do.
- It’s dangerous. More likely than not, young girls dating adult men will find themselves in situations that make them uncomfortable and won’t feel like it’s okay to leave or say no. FYI: It’s always okay to leave and say no.
I’m really hoping that in season two there’s more of a this is really why this may not be the best idea type of mentality when addressing these types of relationships. But I’m not keeping my hopes up.