TODAY   |  March 04, 2014

Jane Fonda to teens: ‘Trust the person you’re with’

Actress Jane Fonda joins Matt Lauer to chat about has a new book for teens on sex and identity, called, “Being a Teen.” She also chats about her own struggles growing up.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> her remarkable career has spanned more than five decades, and she is still going strong .

>> clap, clap, clap --

>> the fitness guru, oscar-winning actress, activist and author. jane fonda has spent most of her career in the spotlight.

>> you will resign when i fire you.

>> most recently, she's played a tough as nails television executive on hbo's "the newsroom."

>> i'm the smartest person in the room.

>> but in real life , she continues to pursue a passion of helping teens. in 1995 while married to ted turner and living in atlanta, founded the georgia campaign for adolescent power and potential. and that work has led to her new

book, "being a teen: everything teen girls and boys should know about relationships, sex, love, health, identity and more."

>> jane fonda , good morning.

>> good morning, matt.

>> great to have you back.

>> i was going to describe the book. kind of party sex ed manual, body image manual, how do you describe it?

>> all that and more. it's, you know, adolescence is the gateway to adulthood. it wasn't recognized as a unique developmental stage in a person's life, it is now. and it's the time when a young person is developing their identity. and so i spent a lot of time talking about sexuality is part of a person's identity. the media has a huge effect on identity. so how to handle all that.

>> when you were a teenager, it was a tough time. your mom had passed away . your dad was busy an as actor. and you write you struggled to find answers to questions you had about a wide range of issues. sex, your body, but also depression, bulimia. how you could know what a good relationship was supposed to feel like and when you were ready to become sexually active. and how to say no without becoming unpopular. all the same issues that kids are dealing with today.

>> only today, it's even more difficult for kids because of the social media and cyber bullying and sexting and all this. it's very hard to be a teenager today and hard to be a parent of a teenager. and so i decided to write a book that addressed all the questions i would have wanted to have answered.

>> let's talk about sex. how do kids say i do not want to have sex even though my friends are telling me they're sexually active?

>> well, one of the things i say in the book is very often you hear -- they hear from their peers everybody's doing it. not true. in fact, more young people , more adolescents are not engaged in sexual activity.

>> they brag about things they're not actually doing.

>> that's right. i did. because i wanted to fit in. but, you know, the big thing is no is a complete sentence. and kids have to learn to say no. at any stage.

>> and i love this with you. you said whether while you're kissing, holding hands or having intercourse, you can say no and stop that act whenever you want to stop it.

>> that's right. boys and girls have the right to have agency over their bodies and say no.

>> you also want teenagers. i think girls, but also boys to understand their bodies that are changing as opposed to fearing their bodies as they're changing. what do you mean by that?

>> well, you know, we're such a strange nation. we're very puritanical on one level, and yet, there's a lot of sexuality in the media. girls supposed to look sexy and yet be a good girl. and so, you know, it's important to, you know, to own -- to have agency over yourself. over your body and not give it away. and too many girls say, well, i don't know, it just happened. we don't want sexuality to just happen. we want it to be between two people who trust each other and can communicate.

>> and you tell teens always talk about contraception every single time if you're going to have sex. you also talk about what it should feel like to be in a healthy relationship. and saz someone who has been in relationships, i'm sure some healthy, some not so healthy. what does a healthy relationship feel like? what should it feel like for a teenager?

>> it should feel, first of all, you have to be able to trust the person you're with. you should be able to feel that you could tell him or her, assuming heterosexuality, private things, personal things without them being used against you. you should be able to communicate. if you can't talk about sex, you shouldn't have sex. you should be able to communicate openly. you know, how far you want to go, have you been tested? have you been active with someone else ? and if so, you know, get yourself tested. communication is the bottom line.

>> when you were going through relationships, did you always learn something from an unhealthy relationship? or, you know, you hear often times people repeat their mistakes.

>> and you think the person is totally different.

>> right. or you can change the person.

>> and you discover that the underlying thing is often the same until you do a lot of work on yourself. all of these things could be taught. i wish they could be taught in school. including that one of the things that --

>> do you think they can be taught? i think you almost have to learn some of these lessons in the school of hard knocks .

>> that's true, but a lot can be taught. i've written this book for teenagers, it's not like i knew how to do this when my children were teens. you teach what you need to learn. but -- yeah, one of the things i wish i'd been told in school. i wish there'd been a class on relationships. and i've been told, one of the things to look for is kindness. you know, nobody tells young people . kindness, duh. but it's, you know, it's not what they look for.

>> you talked recently about your stage in life and that a lot of things make you sad these days. and even bring you to tears these days.

>> yeah. but tears for me come from joy. when i see something beautiful, i was at kerry washington 's baby shower the other day and i hadn't seen her since she was pregnant. and i just -- i saw her with her glorious belly and i burst into tears. that's not sadness. and i think as i've gotten older, i'm much more sensitive to something beautiful, something joyous as well as an awareness that time is precious, and i have to show up more in the presence.

>> when you say time is precious, do you -- i don't want to make it sound like you're old, because you're not old.

>> i am old.

>> no, you're not. do you deal with thoughts of mortality?

>> all the time. i think it's important to realize we're not going to live forever . and if you keep that in mind, then you really are alive. if you sort of want to imagine that you're immortal, you're not going to live every day as fully as you do when you know that it's finite. and that's okay. i'm not scared of dying. you know, some people interpreted that blog that i wrote, which is called crying, that i was real sad because i'm old and i'm going to die. that's not what it was about at all.

>> well --

>> and it's fun, i've written a book about aging, and now --

>> for teens. both ends of the spectrum covered.

>> it's fascinating.