There’s More! A Parent’s Guide to Alternative Sexualities

It’s well-known that LGBT youth often face challenges when they come out to their parents. And one of the best ways to support them is to offer parents accurate, non-judgmental information about sexual orientation and gender to help them deal with their reactions and fears so they can take care of their kids.

So I was really happy to see that Dr. Amy Marsh has written a guide for parents whose children have expressed an interest in alternative sexualities. Stereotypes and misinformation about BDSM, polyamory, asexuality and objectum sexuality make it hard for parents to set aside their fears and help their children find their way. And of course, many parents worry that they caused their kids to be “that way”, even though it doesn’t work that way.

I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Marsh about her guide, which is available for download for $7 on this site.

Why did you write this guide?

I wrote There’s More – A Parent’s Guide to Alternative Sexualities because even with my background I was struggling with a very visceral, instinctively parental and protective response to knowing my teenager was researching and seeking certain BDSM experiences. I really would have liked to be able to share this struggle with other parents I know, but the topic is utterly taboo. Furthermore, many people assume that a person who is into kink has been abused as a child. For a parent – especially one who has not been abusive – this is rather frightening. I think this is partly why the topic is still so closeted.

I know other parents must be struggling as well – not just with BDSM and kink, but with other kinds of alternative sexualities and relationships, such as polyamory or even asexuality.

There’s also a great need for parents to support and reinforce specific safety messages for young people who are expressing an interest in BDSM. If we can accept their interest and talk openly (without prying too much) – we let our kids know we value them as whole people and that we are concerned about their safety and well-being. Weird as it sounds, I’d like to see more age appropriate information for kinky youth – especially with regard to negotiations, boundaries, limits, knowing how to spot people who prey on “newbies, and how to distinguish BDSM from abuse.

I also want parents to understand that we probably didn’t “cause a maturing child’s sexual interests or gender expression. However, how we react to those interests (if we hear about them) really affects how that child will view and enjoy her/his/hir sexuality. We can inflict shame and self-doubt and screw up that young person who is emerging, or we can do our best to accept, support and love – even if we don’t understand this stuff ourselves.

What do you hope it will accomplish?

Ultimately, I want teenagers and young adults to have access to a fuller range of safer sexuality information – including information that pertains to alternative sexualities – and I want to help parents support them in that.

I’m hoping to bring this topic out of the closet, create a support group network, and other educational efforts. I am also inspired by the work my own kid did while he was still a teenager – he tried to communicate age-appropriate safety information to peers who didn’t have access to good information and who were trying things that were really dangerous.

I think parents of kinky children (including adult children) need a supportive forum for sharing their concerns and for educating themselves. We need to hear from others that our kids are really okay (hopefully) and that we can support and honor them as they move through life.

We also need to support parents who have a teenager or young adult who has been hurt through unsafe practices or encounters with people who are inexperienced or predatory. Right now, these parents and their kids have no supportive community and may feel alone, ashamed, confused and sad. There’s also a need to help parents with advocacy in this area too – especially if law enforcement or other helping professionals are not responsive and do not understand alternative sexualities.

Could it be useful for adults (or young adults) who are coming out to their parents?

I hope this handbook would be useful for that. I wrote it partly with this idea in mind. I am sure that we need more and better handbooks on this topic, but at least this is a start.

Where else can parents go for information about alternative sexualities? (Your guide is an excellent first step, but what comes next? Any books or websites to suggest?)

I’ve been meaning to read Dossie Easton’s book, When Someone You Love is Kinky. From what I’ve heard, this could be a possible resource – though not written for parents. Scarleteen is a good website and has some posts on BDSM. I really like Heather Corinna’s book, S.E.X. – The all-you-need-to-know progressive sexuality guide to get you through high school and college. There is some good information on BDSM and other alternative sexuality info that would be helpful for parents to read, as well as youth.

As aside from these, I’m talking with at least one other person about working on some podcasts. And I’d like to create an informational website and forum for parents and families. It might be called something like P-FOK – Parents and Families/Friends of Kink.


Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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