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At age 76, Jane Fonda hasn’t slowed down one bit. She has a recurring guest role on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” she’s co-starring in a new Netflix comedy to be aired in 2015, her philanthropic activities are in full swing and she’s just released a new book. It’s called “Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Need to Know about Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity and More.” A discussion with Jane Fonda on the teenage years.
Jane Fonda joined Diane in August 2011 to discuss her book, “Prime Time.” During the show, she responded to a caller, a self-identified Vietnam veteran, who thanked her for her protests against the war.
During the interview, Diane asked Fonda about her decision to have plastic surgery.
Excerpted from “Being a Teen” by Jane Fonda Copyright © 2014 by Jane Fonda. Excerpted by permission of Random House Trade Paperbacks, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. At age 76, Jane Fonda has not slowed down one bit. She has a recurring guest role on HBO's "The Newsroom." She's co-starring in a new Netflix comedy to air in 2015. Her philanthropic activities are in full swing. And she's just released a new book. It's titled "Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know about Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More."
MS. DIANE REHMShe joins me from a studio at NPR West in Los Angeles. And you are invited to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Jane Fonda, it's good to talk with you again.
MS. JANE FONDAI'm so happy to be talking to you again, Diane.
REHMAnd it's good to be able to see you even though you're not in the studio with me today.
FONDAThe marvels of modern technology is so exciting.
REHMAbsolutely. You know, I think people have not been aware of the work you've been doing with teenage health issues. Talk about how you got into it.
FONDAWell, I've actually been working with adolescents for almost 30 years. When I was married to my second husband, Tom Hayden, we ran a children's camp in California for 15 years. And when I married Ted Turner and moved to Georgia, I -- at the time, it had the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the country.
FONDAAnd I founded an organization that, at the time, was called the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. We've since expanded our focus to include health -- physical health and healthy relationships. So we've kept the acronym, but it's now the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential. And I started the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory. I think I just I have a soft spot in my heart for adolescents. I had a difficult one myself.
REHMAnd I had the feeling that that's kind of what got that soft spot in your heart going, your own adolescence.
FONDAProbably. You know, it's easy to love babies, right? They're cuddly, and they don't talk back.
FONDAAdolescents are prickly. It's hard. You know, they act like they know everything. They talk back. They pretend like they don't want you -- you know, to hear what you have to say. They make parents feel like old fogeys. It's difficult. It's difficult for parents, but it's so difficult for kids. And it's more harder now than it used to be because this is this transitionary stage in human development, separating childhood from adulthood.
FONDAIt's when kids begin to figure out who they are, what their values are. They develop their own identity. And so it's fraught, and all the hormones are raging. And by the way you said in your introduction, my organizations are for girls. Actually, I work with boys and girls.
REHMAnd boys, absolutely.
FONDAIt takes two, right?
REHMNow, one thing, before we get started with talking about some of the wonderful thoughts and clear indications that you offer to girls and boys, talk a little about what you went through as a teenager, which I think is a contributing factor here.
FONDAWell, golly, my mother committed suicide when I was 12. And that, you know, that's very hard for a kid. And then I just never -- nothing seemed to be normal. Of course, I've discovered in writing the book, nothing is normal. Everything -- doesn't matter what's happening to you at all -- ends up being normal, even if it's different than other kids. I didn't get my period till I was 17. I was so ashamed. I was very, very shy. I used to pretend that I had my period, and I'd buy a Kotex and stuff like that.
FONDAAnd I would lie about things that I had done that I'd never done, like tongue kissed and things like that. I just felt I was really behind, and I didn't -- I mean, to tell you the truth, that was the time when Christine Jorgensen -- it was -- became publicly known. This was a man who became a woman. And I remember trying to look at my genitalia to figure out if maybe I wasn't supposed to be a boy because things didn't seem to be going normally.
FONDAI was really scared a lot of my adolescence. And I didn't know who to talk to. So when I was writing this book, I wanted to write all the things that I wished that I had known back then. Everybody always talks about the plumbing, and I do in the book, you know, what your reproductive organs look like, boys and girls and all that.
FONDABut really I think what -- and that's very important. But kids also want to know about feelings.
FONDAYou know, you have all these new feelings. You don't need to act on them. And how do you know when you're -- it's okay to start having sex? And how do you know if you're in a good relationship? And what happens if you're depressed? All these kinds of things that I just didn't know the answers to.
REHMAnd the concern is always, will there be an adult nearby to whom a boy or a girl can turn to? But then there's the reluctance issue, the reluctance to share feelings, questions, you know, adolescent doubts, scaredness, (sic) everything with that adult.
FONDAYeah. Combine those adolescent fears with the parental nervousness about talking about all these things.
FONDAYou know, I've been very gratified in finding out that adults are buying the book and actually learning a lot themselves, but finding it a way to open up a dialogue with their adolescent children that they might not have had. They read it with the kids, but they also -- adult couples are reading it for themselves.
REHMDo you remember all those movies when you and I were growing up and the adult would say, now, let's have a talk about the birds and the bees? And the child would say, oh, Mom or Dad, you know, I know all about it.
REHMAnd usually what they learn is from their peers and not so much from adults.
REHMSo if you can open a dialogue between parent and child or adult and child, you've really done a service.
FONDAYes, I think so. I'd add to that, they not only get their information these days, if they're parents or adult figures aren't ready or able to talk to them, they get their information from the media. And I write a lot about that because I think the media plays so huge a role in influencing children's identity, what they think they're supposed to be, girls, for example.
FONDAThe media's telling them they should be sexy. They should be thin. They should be this. They should be that. And yet societal values tell them that they should be virgins until they're married. There are so many double standards. So sorting through all that is critical. And, you know, the big talk, the birds and bees talk that you mentioned, we should try to do away with that. Rather than sort of stiff upper lip, sitting down and having the big talk, which is scary, it's better if parents start early and make it a natural part of life.
FONDAUse all kinds of -- you know, even bad things on television, you know, talk to your -- use it as a learning opportunity. I remember a -- not that "Sex in the City" was bad, but a father once told me he used to watch "Sex in the City" with his daughter to open up a discussion with her about relationships and sexuality.
FONDAI thought that was a really good example.
FONDAI -- you know, I have a ranch. I spend time in nature with my grandkids, so I use, you know, the rut, the season where, you know, ungulates, like elk and deer, mate. I use that as an opportunity to talk about reproduction with my grandchildren. I did not...
FONDAOh, another reason I wrote the book is 'cause I didn't do a very good job with my own children when they were teens.
REHMWell, maybe that's what makes you capable of doing it now. You know...
FONDAYou teach what you need to learn.
REHMExactly. Jane Fonda, her new book is titled "Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know about Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More." And you dedicate an entire section to sexual orientation and gender identity. Why do you feel that's so important here?
FONDAIt's -- I think it's the best chapter on that topic that I've ever read for young people. I'm really, really proud of that chapter. You know, I spent 20 years in Georgia. I saw so many young people who were gay or lesbian or questioning or trans suffering because of homophobia, suffering because of being teased in school, suffering because they just didn't know how to handle all these questions that they had.
FONDAI have a lot of young friends who are going through this, and so I decided to, you know, to really write about every aspect of it, as clearly and honestly as I could. And I -- you know, I hope that it will help young people who are questioning. I think that it will. I'm really proud of that chapter. I'm glad you brought it up. You're the only person that has.
REHMDo you think that's because people would rather not hear you or anyone else talk about it?
FONDAYes. I think it's a -- still, in spite of everything, it's a difficult topic for people to talk about. And I think it's very difficult for parents. I mean, you know, you give birth to a child that you think is a daughter. And then you learn that this daughter really feels that she should be a -- that she's a boy. She was born into the wrong body. It's such a difficult thing for the child and for the parent.
REHMJane Fonda, her new book, "Being a Teen," everything boys and girls need to know about their sexual identity and adolescence. Short break here. We've got lots of callers waiting. Stay with us.
REHMAnd here's our first tweet for Jane Fonda, whose new book is titled, "Being a Teen." It's from Dee. She says, "It's a fantastic subject to conquer. Jane needs to speak in schools, to boys, girls, staff. You are a smart lady, Jane." Do you have plans to speak in schools?
FONDAWell, I used to speak in schools a lot when I lived -- I wasn't acting anymore. I had left my profession and I was living in Georgia. And I did a lot of speaking. I think it was that, those years, those decades of hands-on experience with teenagers. I would meet with boys in one group and I'd meet with girls in a group and I'd meet with parents. But I'm acting again. And so I don't really have time to speak in schools. I miss it anyway.
REHMWe're very happy you're acting.
REHMBut I do agree with Dee that this is the kind of thing that you, with your persona and your own background could really help young people understand. Your discussion in the book about sex includes the word pleasure. Do you think that that might just push teens to experiment?
FONDANo. In fact, there's been a lot of studies done about this. Because, you know, there has been -- not so much now, but especially when I lived in Georgia -- pushback against, you know, really truthful, medically accurate comprehensive sexuality education and any discussion of pleasure because people said it would encourage teens to become sexually active. The truth is, the studies show it's the opposite.
FONDAThe more young people understand about sexuality, the more girls can own their pleasure, cannot feel ashamed of feeling pleasure, the more she is protected from risky behavior. When we deny girls the right to feel pleasure, we deny them the ability to know what they're feeling. They end up doing things to please other people rather than understanding what pleases them. A girl who knows what she wants also knows what she doesn't want.
FONDAIt's easier to say no if you know how to say yes. Talking about pleasure protects boys and girls, but particularly girls against inappropriate, risky, sexual behavior.
REHMAnd your chapter on sex also emphasizing setting boundaries and communicating and really telling the truth about what you're feeling. You have written about the sexual exploits that your first husband, French filmmaker Roger Vadim, had you engaged in, including threesomes, foursomes. You said you didn't really want to participate but you didn't know how to say no.
FONDANo. I was brought up to be ashamed about sex, like a lot of girls of my generation. Well, it's still going on today. And I didn't have self-esteem. I didn't have agency over my body, so I just didn't feel I had the right to say no. I didn't think I was good enough. So, yeah, I -- a lot of girls would ask me in the days when I did speak in schools, how do I know if I'm in a good relationship?
FONDAAnd, you know, the answer is, can you communicate honestly? You know, you don't get taught when you're looking for who to get married to or who to have a relationship with. Look for trust. Look for can you communicate? I wouldn't have married my first husband if I'd been thinking in those terms. You've got to be able to talk about -- if you can't talk about sex, like, here's how far I'll go. I don't want to do that.
FONDAI want you to use protection, so forth. If you can't talk that way, then you can't, you're not ready to have sex. If you don't trust the person you're with, it's not a good relationship. There should never be pressure or abuse or force. No is a complete sentence. I mean, we've got to keep saying this to our girls and boys.
REHMJane, do you -- are you surprised that kids 10, 11, 12 are becoming sexually active?
FONDAWell, the big view is that fewer young people are engaging in sexual activity than before. I know there's a lot of kids being told, everybody else is doing it, why won't you. But the fact is, everybody else is not doing it. It is slightly going down. And adolescent pregnancy is going way down. We reduced it by 50 percent in Georgia. But, you know, let me talk about sexual abuse and I have a whole chapter about that in the book.
FONDAOne out of three young girls are sexually abused, one out of three. This affects every aspect of their life, including their ability to say no. One of the -- I mean, I know this in my DNA. My mother was sexually abused as a child and that explains so much about her life and including why she killed herself. But if a girl has been sexually abused and most of the girls that we ended up working with in Georgia we found out had been sexually abused will become promiscuous.
FONDAAnd so, sexual abuse is one reason that young girls will give themselves away because, for them, saying no doesn't mean anything. They've been brainwashed to feel the only thing they have to offer is sexuality. So in that, you know, that's part of why -- if you see a girl younger than 15 who's sexually active or pregnant, you can bet your bottom dollar she's been a victim of sexual abuse.
REHMYou know, it's fascinating to me that recently I spoke with former President Jimmy Carter whose new book is...
FONDAI can't wait to read it.
REHM...is all about how the abuse of women sexually in terms of violence, in terms of financial power, he regards that as one of, if not the biggest problem has to deal with. So it seems to me it goes right along with your book hand in hand, providing the instructions to young people as to how to care for themselves.
FONDAYeah. We have to let the young people know how to care for themselves. But the book doesn't deal with a whole other thing. I can't wait to read Jimmy Carter's as we have to make societal changes. We have to make it so that men don't think it's okay. They don't feel entitled to have terrorism against females, girls and women. And that's a big societal change that has to happen and that's slowly beginning to happen.
FONDAI'm going to be writing a book about men and masculinity, toxic masculinities with Michael Kimmel, I don't know if you've ever talk to him. But it's a subject that interests me a lot. I'm also writing a novel, by the way, that touches on some of this.
REHMReally? You are a busy woman, Jane Fonda.
FONDAI love to write, it turns out.
REHMYou love to write and you love to act. And you're going to be doing this new thing for 2015. But what about the HBO series you're doing right now?
FONDAWell, it's -- we haven't started filming yet. It's the third season and, unfortunately, it will be our last season. It's, you know, some people are just addicted to "Newsroom."
FONDAAnd I absolutely love it. I love playing Leona Lansing. She's so much fun. And we're going to be shooting starting very soon.
REHMNow, someone has asked whether you've written this particular book "Being A Teen" on your own or whether you had a co-writer.
FONDANo, I did not have a co-writer. I've -- so far, everything I've written has been myself. However, I do tremendous research. I spent three years writing the book, talking to people all over the country that are experts in adolescent development, in adolescent sexuality. I quote some of them in the book, but I wrote it myself.
REHMWhat about this need for thinness that is somehow beginning earlier and earlier among, not only girls but boys as well?
FONDAWell, it's terrible. The media has -- plays a big role in that. It's a very complicated issue that, you know, I can't begin to try to define right now. I suffered from eating disorders as a child, and I know how it can take over your life. I think that it's very important for parents starting early on to never ever talk about diets. Don't ask your child to go on a diet. Set good examples.
FONDAEating healthy, cooking healthy, fresh food, vegetables, chicken, fish, non-fatty, non-sugary foods. And then exercise as a parent. Even if you can just go for a walk, show by example to your children how to be in good physical health and then love them unconditionally. But don't talk about, oh, my God, you're too fat, you've got to get thin, go on a diet.
REHMYou actually battled anorexia as a young person.
FONDAAnd bulimia, yes.
REHMAnd bulimia. And how did your -- the adults who were around you -- what did they say? How did they deal with it?
FONDADiane, I went through three husbands who never knew.
REHMWho never knew.
FONDAWho never knew. You know, it's like -- I mean, unless you become a severe anorexic, which I never was. But bulimia, it's like alcoholism, it's a disease of denial and a disease of secrecy. You hide it from your loved ones, people don't know and yet it completely absorbs your life. And you can't really be in a true relationship if you are addicted to food.
REHMWhat about your father or your brother?
FONDAWell, my father would always let me know I was fat. He would never tell me directly, but he would have his wife tell me that I shouldn't wear such small bathing suits or such tight belts or such short skirts because I was too fat. And I think that that is one of the reasons that I developed an eating disorder. It was also the absence of a mother and fear of being a woman and a lot of other things. Food addictions are never about food, never about wanting to eat.
FONDAIt's all about a spiritual, an emotional lack at the core of your being that you're trying to fill using food. Some people do it with gambling or alcohol or sex. You know, mine was food. So you have to find out, what is the real thing that you're missing which can be authenticity. Girls, you know, it's interesting that the eating disorder start with girls when they enter puberty, which is happening earlier and earlier, which is the time when girls very often lose their voice.
FONDATheir voice goes underground and they become what they think other people want them to be. And they fill that vacuum where their real selves used to be with food.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jane, the last time you were here with me in the studio, you are still quite slim, beautifully slim. How did you finally get hold of the anorexia and the bulimia?
FONDAI was in my mid-40s and I realized that I was going to die. If not actually physically die, I was going to be incapable of living the life that I wanted to live. I was a successful actress. I've won two Academy Awards. I had a family. I was involved in social activism. I could not -- I knew I couldn't continue doing that and continue to suffer my eating disorders. And so I stopped cold turkey. I should have gone this, what, 12-step program. I wasn't smart enough.
FONDAAnd it was like going into war. It was really, really hard. It took me, I would say, a year or more before I could sit at a table in front of food and not feel anxiety. Then I started the workout. And working out and having that business and teaching gave me a control over my body that really was great deal a part of my healing. Now some people can continue to be anorexic or bulimic and exercise obsessively.
FONDAFor me, it was a -- I'd already stopped and it was a healing process. But it took a long time.
REHMYou now have three children. You said, you did not do the kinds of things with your children that you wish had been done for you. Do you think it just took longer for you to mature into a place where you could talk to your children about things like sexuality?
FONDAYes. I have two biological children. I was not prepared to be a parent. I was not prepared to have these kinds of conversations with them then. I have an adopted child. I was older. I was healthier. I was better with her in terms of talking about the kinds of things that I talk about in the book.
REHMBut, you know, you declare that you are a Christian. Do you think there is any conflict in talking and writing about these things, especially the idea that teenagers do engage in sexuality? Do you think there's any kind of conflict between your own Christian beliefs and talking and writing about these subjects?
FONDANot at all. And I think that my friend, a big C Christian, I'm a small C Christian, we'll get into that in another conversation. I think Jimmy Carter who's a Baptist would absolutely agree that giving young people accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality information is a very Christian thing to do. I think the book is written with great compassion. I wrote it with Christian parents in mind.
FONDAI mean, I'm grateful for my 20 years in Georgia because it made me very aware of the fact that one has to talk in a way that can be accepted by all kinds of people and not, you know, just Hollywood or New York people. You know, people who are more conservative. And I try to do that in this book.
REHMAnd, of course, you're going into sexually transmitted infections, STIs. I'm sure an awful lot of parents would rather not confront those, but at some point with sexually active teens, that may be something they'll want to talk about directly. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll open the phones, take your calls, your email. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, Jane Fonda is with me on the line from NPR West in Los Angeles. And we're talking about her new book. It's titled "Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know about Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More." And, you know, Jane, during the break, I was remembering back to my own adolescence and thinking about how schools attempted to teach us about sexuality.
REHMThere were slideshows for girls and slideshows for boys. I'm just looking in your book, and I see a drawing showing the fallopian tubes, the ovary, the uterus, the vagina. And that's about it. That was what we got. We never got much more than that. So with this book, I think you are doing absolutely a superb job. I'm going to open the phones now. First, let's go to Jerry in San Antonio, Texas. Jerry, you're on the air.
JERRYHi, Diane. It's good to have you back.
JERRYYeah, yeah, I was -- every time I hear about, you know, these adolescents and the therapeutical situations, you know, it always hits me. I work at an outdoor wilderness therapeutical behavioral camp where we, like, cut down our own trees, skimmed them, shaved them, made our own shelters. And, you know, the majority of these -- and it was all boys, and there were four different camps, you know, consisting of 12 boys for each camp, you know, 48 kids.
JERRYAnd we had our showers in the school and the office, you know, up top, we called it, and then, like, a mile in each direction where the camps were that we all slept. And, you know, we brave the heat, the, you know, the cold air and everything. And when you take technology away, it really enables these children to look at themselves. You know, I always say it was the best and worst job I ever had. I've got scars to this day from restraints, you know.
JERRYAnd -- but when you see a child finally understand, you know, that it wasn't his fault, it was, you know, a bad choice, you know, and then when these children are sexually abused, it's because -- I mean, when they're sexually abusive, you know, to a cousin, a sister, a neighbor, whatever, it's because they've been abused themselves. And I always said you had to have been through the fire to help someone through the fire.
REHMThat's very interesting. What do you think, Jane? Has your own experience really informed your own ability now to write this book as frankly as you have?
FONDAYes. It's my experience with young people and my astonishment and bewilderment about the level of misinformation and ignorance. It's just beyond comprehension how we can let young people grow up not understanding how their bodies function, girls thinking, if they have sex and then stand up, they won't get pregnant, drinking automobile acid to try to abort a child if they're pregnant, I mean, just terrible...
FONDAJust 'cause kids don't know enough. But when I ran the camp in California, we would have outdoor wilderness experiences because, you know, what the gentleman just said is so true. When you put kids in front of a natural obstacle, like a huge mountain, it teaches them so much. It's like, don't let them look to the top 'cause that's too scary but, straight ahead of them, one step at a time, one finger hold at a time, how they can master things.
FONDAIt teaches them tremendous confidence. Any -- one thing that parents need to do is encourage passion in their kids, passion for -- whether it's a sport, something involving teamwork or horseback riding or music, writing. Children who have passions tend to stay out of trouble.
REHMAll right. To Ruthina in Syracuse, N.Y. Hi. Go right ahead.
REHMYes. Go right ahead, Ruthina.
RUTHINAI'm glad I got through. I tell you, the conversation that's going on here between you and Jane is very interesting. And she's hitting all bases with the sexuality, with male and female. Jane, I just want to say that, keep up the good work.
RUTHINAAnd I just recently, in the last week, we saw "Barefoot in the Park."
FONDAIt still holds up, doesn't it?
RUTHINAOh, my gosh. You know, I've always liked the old classics to my girls, which they're now 21 and 31, and, you know, yeah, we all go through this -- there were hurdles of raising our daughters. I -- well, I had two daughters, no boys. And, yeah, we've all gone through the experiences of what you've gone through, you know, raising children and whatever. But I'm so glad that you overcomed (sic) your difficulties, being from a wealthy family of status.
RUTHINAAnd, you know, your father, I'm a great admirer of him also. I...
FONDAYou know, I thought, gosh, if it was hard for me coming from privilege the way I did, I kept thinking, imagine for kids that are -- that don't have the advantages that I had, how much more challenging it is.
FONDAThat's another thing that motivated me to start the organizations that I did in Georgia.
REHMAll right. To Kirk in Pensacola, Fla. Hi there, Kirk.
KIRKHey, guys, wonderful program, thanks to both of you.
KIRKI had my question, and it was probably the most salient thing for me. And that was, growing up and finding the most valid leadership -- and I really liked -- I mean, you know, I go to -- I would think of long-term relationships as valid. But I had my grandparents, and I wish I still had them with me today.
KIRKBut whenever things -- I tried to find my own way. And whenever things went really, you know, bad and up, I could always go back to my grandparents. And there were two of them, and they stuck together. Whatever they said, they meant. But...
FONDAYeah. God bless grandparents.
REHMWell, and the value of having long-term relationships as examples can certainly help. But, unfortunately, that doesn't happen for everyone. That's all there is to it. Let's go now to Teri in Cleveland, Ohio. Hi there, Teri. You're on the air. Go right ahead.
TERIHi. It's great to talk to you.
TERISo I have had a lot of experience with sexual abuse. I had two very different episodes, one being that I was abused at the age of five, once by a male cousin, and then later on in my life, I spent several years with someone who was 27 years older than I was, recently following his divorce. I met him -- well, anyway, he was around. But I've -- everything that's being discussed here is so important.
TERII'm really happy to see the normalization of this kind of conversation because without being given the vocabulary and being educated on what to expect in different kinds of situations -- you know, often, we have this concept like sexual abuse or rape is -- the only real kind of rape is somebody climbing through your window at night holding a knife. And that's often not how it is at all.
TERIAnd with our chance to, like, touch base with kids and get used to talking about this with them, not to say to not respect boundaries because we still need to understand that it is an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people, but that doesn't mean it should just be completely ignored, but that we can reach out and kind of cast a wide net and allow the kids around us to know that they can come to us and that -- demonstrate to them what a healthy conversation about it looks like. Because if someone is...
TERI...trying to deceive them and pull them into a situation that's uncomfortable, they're not going to admit it.
FONDAYeah. Boy, you are smart. I just I want to tell you I'm so sorry about your abuse at five years old. I just want to say that I'm so sorry. I know what happens. When you're a young child, you're developmentally incapable of blaming the adult. Always, children blame themselves. It must have been my fault. I'm a bad person. Oprah's talked a lot about this. She herself was abused as a young child.
FONDAAnd that distorts your life. I mean, you sound wonderful. You sound like you've learned from your experiences and have, you know, have really grown. And I congratulate you for that. But, boy, it's not easy and...
REHMIt's not easy at all.
FONDANo. And one of the things that I say in the book is, if this has happened to you, it was not your fault, no matter who it was, no matter what, no matter what you had on, no matter if you enjoyed it. Sexual abuse is never okay.
REHMJane, talk about attitudes toward homosexuality because I think we hear and read more and more that young people are, you know, coming out as young teenagers and yet very afraid to come out as young teenagers and feel abused themselves.
FONDAIt's very hard for young people. You know, it's one of the reasons I put so much time into the chapter on sexual orientation. I don't want to single out Georgia. But there is a tremendous amount of homophobia there. I think it's higher in some parts of the country than in others. And in those areas, the suicides, the depression, the cutting, the damage to self for young people who question their sexual orientation or know they're gay but are afraid to say so is absolutely heartbreaking.
FONDAIt's just heartbreaking. And, you know, I think, slowly, the more we can talk about it, the more we can understand, as I say in the book, this is not a disease. This is not an aberration. This is not a choice. This is -- it's just like some people are born with blue eyes. Some people are born liking people of the same sex. Some people are born into the wrong apparent gender. They appear to be one gender, but everything about them knows that they're really another gender.
FONDAAnd, you know, we have to understand that. And more and more young people are actually -- I mean, really young, like four and five years old, are saying to their parents, I'm not a girl or I'm not a boy. I won't wear those clothes. And it's hard to know how to handle it. And I write about that in the book, and I give resources where young people and their parents can go to get help with these very complex, very, very challenging issues.
REHMJane Fonda, her new book is titled "Being a Teen." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jane, I wonder what you think about adults encouraging pledges of abstinence.
FONDAWell, I think that's fine. It's just, as I say in the book, the young person has to ask themselves -- I mean, this is what adolescence is about. My parents tell me to do this. Or my church tells me to do this. What do I feel? I mean, I know that some adults listening to this may feel they're too young to ask themselves those questions. But, in fact, the whole purpose of adolescence as a distinct stage in human development is to begin to define for themselves their identity, their values, and to begin to separate from their parents.
FONDASo perhaps, for some people, young people, a pledge of abstinence is good. It will encourage them to hold back. Since people are marrying later and later and the hormonal influx of testosterone and estrogen starts happening earlier and earlier, we're looking at a large span of time, you know, 15, 20 years maybe when we're saying to young people, remain abstinent.
FONDAThat's a lot. You know, my personal attitude is, instead of saying, take this pledge to be a virgin until you're married, instead, teach the young person how to know when it's right to begin to dip their water into sexual -- dip their toe into the waters of sexual activity...
FONDA...how to know if you're with the right person, and then how to protect themselves because, you know, I know -- the abstinence pledge is very common in Georgia, and I know a lot of kids who take it and still don't remain virgins. And then they feel guilty. We don't want guilt in our young people. We want them to lead healthy lives. And sexuality is part of humanity.
FONDAWe're born sexual beings. You know, you can tell with little children, the sensuality of, you know, of touching and of everything about humanity is sexual. We can't deny that. It's keeping it safe. It's keeping it pleasurable. It's keeping it open and not something to be ashamed of. I think that's what we have to work towards as parents.
REHMJane, you recently wrote a blog post about aging called "Crying." You said you are wonderfully, terribly aware of time. You and I are almost the same age. We talked about this before. What did you mean?
FONDAObviously, I wasn't clear enough because some people interpreted it that I was crying because I'm old. I'm not crying because I'm closer to death.
REHMAnd you don't feel old and don't look old.
FONDAWell, thanks. My body lets me know that I'm the age that I'm at. But I'm not afraid of dying. I work hard to be prepared for it and to feel -- I don't want to die without having lived, and I feel I'm living. But what I mean is, as you get older and there's more time behind you than there is in front of you, you become, even in spite of yourself maybe, much more aware of time and how precious it is.
FONDAAnd you notice things more. I make a big effort to live very much in the present. And so you -- you know, stopping and smell the roses is the cliché, but I do. I cry at a beautiful flower. I cried at Kerry Washington's belly 'cause she's about to have a baby. I cry more at joyful and beautiful things. They touch me more deeply than they ever did before.
FONDAI also cry at, you know, cruelty to animals and cruelty to children. You know, I try to stay very, very open, and I find, as I've gotten older, it's easier to stay open.
REHMJane Fonda, her new book titled "Being a Teen," recommended not only for teenagers but for the adults who love them. Thank you so much for being with me. I've so enjoyed it, Jane. Next time, come to the studio.
FONDAI will, and thank you, Diane. I love being with you.
REHMI love being with you. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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