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cindy-pierceKnowing and being consistently yourself—in private and in public—is the key to making healthy choices, says Cindy Pierce, this year’s Margo Johnson Endowed Speaker.

Ms. Pierce, a social sexuality educator and comic storyteller, discussed the pressures that come with “hookup culture” on high school and college campuses, telling students they have the power to set boundaries and build healthy relationships that fit their lives, instead of focusing on meeting external expectations.

While social media can help young people forge strong connections—and has been a life-saving, positive outlet of expression for LGBTQ+ youth—teenagers may also use it to feed an unhealthy desire for peer validation of their appearances and social lives.

“The world is coming at you faster than it has at any other generation before,” Ms. Pierce warned students, regarding social media. “A lot of young people are spread too thin, using social media to present a view of themselves that isn’t real, just to feel like they’re enough. In a lot of cases, it’s not cruelty or outright bullying that makes for a negative social media experience. It’s a low-grade, constant reminder of what you could be, should be, or would be.”

Sorting the facts from the myths about sex can be challenging, Ms. Pierce said. She works with college-age men and women who feel overwhelmed by a false perception that everyone around them is having sexual experiences. Students should feel confident making healthy choices, knowing their own boundaries, and understanding what they want from a relationship.

“We’re told, especially as girls, not to take up space, not to be too complicated. Men, women, boys, girls: Take up space. Speak your mind,” Ms. Pierce said. “Your choices have to be yours. You don’t owe anybody any explanation for them.”

The Margo Johnson Endowed Speaker series honors Ms. Johnson’s legacy as a beloved leader of Milton Academy’s former Girls’ School. The series brings women to campus who are leaders in their fields. Ms. Pierce is the author of Sex, College and Social Media: A Commonsense Guide to Navigating the Hookup Culture; Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn Driven World; and the co-author of Finding the Doorbell: Sexual Satisfaction for the Long Haul.