A “Shout Out” to Middle America
Thank you to those of you that have been reading this blog. I am grateful for the feedback you give. In communicating with some of the people reading my blog, one friend writes “Most of the people between NYC and Malibu are rather prudish by the coast’s standards. I’d soften it a bit so Middle America can be more accepting of the message¦. Perhaps it’s more of a difference between metropolitan, suburban, and rural areas but generally I don’t think Middle America is so different really.
I have been talking to lots of people about their conversations with their kids… People local to me here in the Bay Area and across the country. One old friend who lives in the Midwest just shared with me that he has talked to his children openly about sex from a very early age and get this: his nearly twenty-year old daughter wants to become a nun. I think this is a fantastic example of a young person educated in sexuality who knows herself and is empowered to choose her own path.
An OB/Gyn friend of mine and I had a conversation about talking to kids openly about sex. She has older, high school and college aged kids and these two girls sound like self-aware young adults. The high schooler sees and describes to her parents the behaviors she observes at the teen parties (the behavior which is shocking really considering the teens receive the usual abstinence only/reproductive-biology-as-sex-ed in high school, but that’s not my point here). Both of her daughters decided to wait until what is now older than the U.S. average for age at first intercourse.
It’s interesting because both of these conversations remind me of an excerpt from one of the first books I read for a class at the Institute. It’s a fantastic book by Judith Levine Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
Craig Long, a father I met in Chicago, had carried on a frank and continual conversation with his son, Henry, about sex since earliest childhood. Then, on his eleventh birthday, the boy asked shyly for a Playboy magazine. After discussing the matter with Henry’s mother, Craig gave him the magazine, accompanied by a small lecture. “I told him real women don’t look like the models in Playboy and they’re generally not splayed out for immediate consumption. After a few weeks, Craig checked in with his son. Had he been looking at the magazine? “Hmm, not so much. Was he enjoying it? “Hmm, not so much. Why not? “I don’t know, Dad, the boy finally said. “I guess I’m too young for this stuff.
I find these above examples fascinating: Does this mean children, given accurate information and mindful guidance from their parents, can make informed and mature decisions on their own about sex and their sexuality??
Abstinence Only Before Marriage (AOBM) sex education is pushed by the religious right. I think AOBM sex ed gives sex and sexuality a sort of taboo quality to it. Let’s think about what happens when something is made forbidden. Hello… apple tree in the Garden of Eden folks? I also think AOBM sex ed contributes toward the current phenomenon of booty calls, hooking up, friends with benefits, etc. There is a sort of dissociation between the act of having sex and the feelings associated with it. If you were not supposed to be having it in the first place, then why would you admit or connect emotionally with that partner? That’s not a scientific observation by any means. It’s just my opinion and I’d love to see research on it. I’d love to also see data on whether the people engaging in this behavior are the ones who are getting AOBM sex ed and nothing more. I think the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or in this case, the squeaky group gets their fear-based sex propaganda set as a national approach to sex ed. And for some reason some see Middle America as the hot bed (pun intended?) of these views. Ok, sorry for the rant.
Getting back to the Middle America, as I think I have shown above there are pockets of you out there that do speak openly about sex with your kids. I guess it all boils down to comfort level of each individual parent. Get over your OWN embarrassment already. Talk with your kids when you get the chance. Or better yet, take the chance to find out what they already know. You may be surprised. It’s up to each and every one of us to own and be the change we would like to see in comprehensive sex education.
Thank you again for reading. If you would care to share your successes (and disappointments?) on this topic with me, I would love to hear about them.