Follow up: A Parent’s Guide to Using the Internet for Sex Ed

The other day, as I wrote the post to help parents with using online content to talk to your kids, I made a reference to Isabella Rossellini’s series “Green Porno”. While I was writing, Marcia, Cindy, and I watched probably 20 of the 28 videos together. The girls got a little bored and wandered off after a while. About 15 minutes later, Marcia came back into my room. She sat down on the foot of my bed and asked me,

“Mom, do animals have age of consent laws too?

Seeing that I was still sitting at my computer when she came back in, I paused for a moment and held my gut/initial response back when she asked the age of consent question.

I contemplated showing her the videos about bonobos from the Sex at Dawn website. I think I paused out of shame because the bonobos are pansexual; Children bonobos approach adult bonobos sexually and vice versa. As a parent, I have HUGE issues with pedophilia, hebephilia, etc and I know it would be a crazy moral leap to think that somehow that animal behavior gives permission or any acceptability to that behavior in humans. In that split second when I decided not to show that video I figured it was too soon to talk about that. However, didn’t I just say in the blog “when kids ask is when to talk to them about it”?  Ugh, what did I get myself into…

I stalled… “Um, I don’t know.  That’s a really good question.”  I took a deep breath and did the best I could by saying to her, “Animals don’t have laws the way people have laws. There is, I’m sure, an acceptable code of behavior and, I’m sure, animals know instinctively when other animals are “ready for courtship, mating, and sexual behavior. It may even be that they learn when they play.”

I was a bit shocked at the maturity of her question – she’s 9 years old. I couldn’t honestly recall when she and I would have had that conversation but taking a moment to process I think we started by talking about the ages teenagers and young adults have to be in order to vote, drink alcohol, and have sex. She understood the voting rule. The drinking thing and the sex thing seemed to puzzle her because she understands personal responsibility.

She was dumbfounded by the fact that there’s an age people are “allowed” to have sex.  This kid was the one to say to me  once not too long ago “Sex is not a privilege; it cannot be taken away from us. I don’t know where Marcia got it – because I never said this before to her – All I could think was “Oh honey.  I hope it stays that way.”  (She is aware of the efforts of some politicians and religious groups who wish to do just that – she is clear that they are doing this because they think that’s what God wants).

I guess this further reinforces the thought I had – I have always had – that children understand what you tell them.  And they will remember LONG after you forgot you talked about it.  Make sure you are honest from the beginning because, as evidenced here, it MAY come back to you.


The MamaSutra

The MamaSutra

Mother of two girls. Holds a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Certificate in Women's Studies from UW-Madison. Graduate of IASHS as Master of Human Sexuality. The articles you read here have goals in two main areas. 1) I strive to normalize conversations about sex and sexuality between parents and their children. To me this means helping parents accept and nurture their daughters' budding sexuality so they grow and learn to respect their bodies and accept their whole selves as they grow into strong, beautiful, powerful and healthy women. 2) Female Sexual Empowerment. Women deserve to learn about and explore the pleasure that can be felt through a full sexual life - however each of us may define that - without guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

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3 Responses

  1. Maddie says:

    Being  open and honest with our children and their sexual questions seems to be one of the truest gifts we can give them. It is a version or a part of our love for them and their well being manifested in action and words.

    All of my children know that I have a blog that deals with marriage and sex. I have not hidden it from them but don’t push it either, they get so much ( wrong) from other sources I feel very strongly about them having the right information.

    Even as someone who is sex positive it does sometimes take me aback when they ask questions that I don’t know even crossed my mind at their age. They hear so much now in the media  that I feel I owe them the answers.. we talk and then I do my personal processing later.

    It is a tough job but I would have it no other way!

  2. Joe says:

    Great writing!
    You have not written much of dating with children. You ought to write more to give others a chance to learn. It’s an area where there are no really good role models.
    Thanks again for your writing on a subject all around us which society chooses to ignore except for exploitation.