Sex Talk 202: Raising a sex positive child
When you have children as young idealistic parents, you know there will be all kinds of unimaginable hurdles to get over, ideas to teach and concepts to instill in your children’s heads. You hope fervently that they will come out as good, kind people who can love others and be some sort of benefit to the world. You know that they will be looking at you as role models for many of their years, and rejecting you as “too old or “outdated at some points in their lives. But in all of your dreams, do you ever think about the fact that they will be learning about their own sexuality from you?
I know that I contemplated and watched plenty of funny movies about “the talk. You know the one, where you tell them what sex is? Of course, we imagine how uncomfortable that one might be, but is it ever more complicated than that!! Despite having grown up in this culture, the one that THROWS sex in your face every day through the media, I never really thought too hard about the fact that I would be responsible somehow for two young men and their ability to relate to sex in the world. I knew I would teach them the “what, but I never thought about the “how.
Well, it has recently become obvious to me, as my 13 yr old son gets taller than me, his voice deepens and pimples pop out on his face, that we must begin dealing with these issues. Plus, the girls texting him at school about who he likes and who he wants to “go out with also gets the idea into my head. I recently read a text conversation on his phone where a girl was saying all the 8th grade boys are perverts, and my son agreed. Next year, he will be one of those 8th grade boys!
In a recent conversation with a friend about this issue, he mentioned a story he heard about a mother coming to a group of older women and requesting that someone volunteer to teach her teenage son the intricacies of a woman’s sexuality and the “proper way to make love to a woman. My friend asked me if I would ever do this for my sons. My feathers got quickly ruffled, and I adamantly stated that of course I would never do this!! It was wrong, it was disgusting and it was unnatural! He challenged my beliefs. I have gotten over my initial reaction and my thoughts have evolved around this issue in several directions.
I am aware that in some cultures, there might be a tradition of pubescent children being introduced to sex by older people in the village. It is not a new idea. I believe that passing down knowledge from the elders of the community to the younger generation to be a beautiful concept. However, I posit that the younger generation needs to be ready to hear this information. To take that idea further, I would even want them to make the effort to seek it out for themselves from someone they trust. I also posit that if we were talking about a young teenaged woman, we would not be so eager to discuss an older man “teaching her the intricacies of a male body and how to properly make love to a man. I suspect in fact, that parents of young women would be rather put off by this idea. So why would one think it is okay for a boy?
I also find myself wanting to nourish and encourage the idea of the “normal teenage sexual experience. That fumbling around in the back seat of the car, or the garage, or the downstairs rooms of the house, I think it is also a beautiful, sacred experience, not to be disturbed by our grown up ideas about how it “should be. I really like the idea of the kids enjoying the excitement of being young and exploring their bodies together and learning about one another.
What I would want for them is perhaps more that they have a safe space, an accepting space, where they know they can explore each other’s bodies without the fear of a parent coming along and interrupting them and/or getting in trouble for these actions. I would like for them to experience being together and naked and enjoying one another as a sweet loving experience, rather than a forbidden act that might lead to punishment if discovered. I would like the exploration of their sexuality to feel positive from the start.
Rather than discussing older people in the village teaching the kids how it is done, we should be discussing how the older people in the village allow the youth the space to do this exploration together safely and lovingly. Who wouldn’t learn what to do to a female body if she were allowed a place to be heard, to feel seen, to be adored for simply being a young woman with wants and desires? I am intrigued by the idea that a young man might ask questions of her like “how does this feel? or “do you like it when I do this? THIS appeals to me. As the mother of young men, I am clear they figure out early what feels good to them, and I would want them to be able to ask for this from their girlfriends as well. I want them to have the experience of being heard and seen as a sexual being as well, not diminished because their needs and desires are so often viewed as demanding, forceful or even forced upon women.
I want also for them to know that this exploration does not have to occur ONLY with the opposite sex. Who says that my boys will only like girls? Who says that other girls might not want to explore with each other? And who says that my boys wouldn’t learn just as much or more about themselves from exploring their sexuality with other boys as they might from young women? Most of all, why would it matter to me? It doesn’t.
And in this experience, as they explore each other, I simply want them to be aware and protect themselves from serious consequences and be clear how they can be smart and avoid pregnancy or STIs. I also want them to know that feelings will come up, they will feel scared or they will feel desire or they will feel deep love and connection. I want them to know that they can say “no to an experience, a step, an action that feels uncomfortable. THIS is what I want my boys to learn. How to respect a no, how to ask questions before they act, how to ask permission to touch another person. Along with that, I want them to know how to recognize and name what they are feeling in the process, and feel comfortable asking for what they want. Moreover, I want them to feel safe to be who they are.
Ultimately, the question that I end up asking myself is “how involved should parents be in their child’s formative sexual experiences? I don’t want to be associated with my child’s first sexual experiences. I LOVE sex, but I am clear that my kids do not necessarily want to directly witness this part of me. And I think it is fair to say that I do not want to either be in charge of or witness that part of them either. I want both of my boys to feel like they went out into the world and explored their sexuality on their own and I want them to know that this is OKAY. I want them to feel positive about sex early on in their lives so they have a rich loving foundation for years of sexual satisfaction.