Lisa Ling grew up never talking about sex so when she went to a Los Angeles high school sex education class she was very uncomfortable. You can see her discomfort in the premiere episode of her CNN show This is Life with Lisa Ling titled Sexual Healing.
The teacher is asking the class to name body parts including a woman’s sexual organs and Ling is giggling and looking around. As awkward as it was, Ling knew that it was important for viewers to see that scene because other people could relate to what she was feeling.
“How kind of sad that a 44-year-old is sitting in that high school classrooms and the kids knew more than I do about my body,” she said during a phone interview this week. While sex education wasn’t anything she was taught growing up, doing the episode made her even more aware that kids need to have sex education in schools.
Statistics bear out that the states where kids don’t have access to sex education have higher rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. She wants to have an open dialogue with her girls, who are 4 and 1-year-old, when they are ready.
“I think that not having an outlet to talk about these things adversely affected me and I do not want that to happen to my girls. And now with social media and the ease of access that kids have to sex related photos or websites or media, I want to preemptively have that conversation before she finds out about it from her peers.”
It’s not just that episode of the CNN series that she feels strongly about. In one episode she’s embedded with a militia in Arizona. She has very different political views than the people she met, but they were able to find common ground. And that’s what she wants to do with the show is get people talking and listening to each other.
“At the end of the day we all want the same things. We all want to be safe. We all want to provide for our families. We all want our kids to be educated,” she said.
“There are ways, if you stop and spend time with people, to find common ground.”
I met Lisa years ago before she had kids. I asked if she does her job differently or looks for different stories now that she’s a mother. She lives in Santa Monica with her two girls, Jett, 4 and Ray, 1 and her husband, radiation oncologist Paul Song.
She said that the types of stories she wants to report are the same; she just wants to do more of them. Kids are growing up in a time of ugliness and vitriol and political partisanship and doing stories that expose the humanity of people you may not have thought about before is a good for everyone.
“This idea of trying to promote tolerance and compassion for people who are different than you is something that I love doing and I take the responsibility very seriously.”
The new season of This is Life with Lisa Ling premieres on CNN Sunday, October 1st.