Sex is a Lifetime Conversation

All of existence, at some level, is part of a sacredness of the cycle of creation and destruction.  The very act of be-ing is sacred.  The body is sacred, sex is sacred, joy, pain, anger, hope…the earth, the land, the sea, the sky…each other.

We are sacred.  Children of the gods, of the Divine, of the Earth, or of the Universe…whatever you want to call us.

(me)

The Hubby and I don’t believe in The Sex Talk.  We believe in talking to our kids about sex (and gender and sexuality), we just think it should be a life-long conversation.  We think its so important, that we took the time to discuss these ideas while the kids were still in the womb, and its been an ongoing conversation behind the scenes too.  It seems odd to me that we (as a culture) would leave this sort of topic to just a talk…we wouldn’t teach children to read in a single lesson, we shouldn’t teach them about their bodies and their hearts that way either.


(better than nothing, I suppose)

I suppose it is better than leaving them in the dark completely, or worse, that its deviant or evil or unclean.  I’ve met those people,  in my official capacity when I was a corpsman in the Navy and unofficially when I overheard a conversation in the hallway at college or the mall…people who didn’t know how they got an STD, or why their behavior was risky…people that had never been taught to use a condom properly, or taught how to get a partner to use one, or taught about how their body actually worked, or how their partner’s body actually worked.   And that scares me…ignorance is how diseases spread, it is how people get pregnant before they are equipped to handle it, how people end up taking advantage of a drunk partner, and how people end up feeling shamed and guilty when they are raped.  It seems just as odd (though understandable) that we would not teach our male children the same thing we teach our female children and our female children the same things we teach our male children–there is a good chance that our children will need that information when they consider their partners later on, and even if they don’t, they might need that information for their own opposite geneder children or friends later on.

In our family, we’ve made the body, including its reproductive capabilities, and healthy relationships, including sexual ones, an ongoing discussion in our family since the kids could talk.  Chickadee is six, and so far (because she has expressed an interest), she knows where babies come from, the biological differences between males and females, that some people might be biologically male and feel female on the outside (and vice versa), and the general mechanics of what sex is (Sharkbait is 4, and he just could care less, so he pretty much knows his own anatomy and that his sister doesn’t have it).  And guess what?!?The more Chickadee (and eventually Sharkbait) knows, the less impressed she is by any of it, and the more she understands about her own body and how it works (and how it is hers).  She also knows that families are all different, that some are two women or two men (her best friend when we visit Grandma has two mommies, as she says), that some are grandparents, or a mom without a dad, or a dad without a mom, etc.  Kids are smart, and I don’t think that for most children, it is too much of a stretch to expect that they will put those things together.  Personally, I would rather have built the “street credit” with my child before hand.

I was lucky enough to have that kind of upbringing (albeit on a more limited basis that what we envision for our children), my husband was not.  Growing up, I would never have wanted to talk about sex with my dad.  In fact, at my wedding (after having lived with The Hubby for about six months), my dad (jokingly) said “So……..you’re still a virgin, right?”.  My response was “Dad, even when I pop out a grandkid, I’ll still be a virgin just so you don’t have to think about it!”  His response was “Thank god, because I’d have no idea what to tell you if you were” followed by an awkward pause and “You are on birth control, right? You will have a better relationship if you wait a couple years.”

Good advice, but still…thank goodness my momma was a nurse and they had decided to put her in charge of my sex ed.   Even then, it was entirely about heterosexual sexuality, and mainly in the context of the mechanics of sex for the purpose of preventing pregnancy and STD’s.  My mom was a nurse, and I don’t ever remember not knowing about what sex was, even if I didn’t know about the variety of sexual relationships until much later.  I vaguely remember this book, called Where Did I Come From (and really, its decent).


(the video is the animated version of the book)

In an open and encouraging family where sex and sexuality is treated as something normal, I’m hoping that we, the parents, are where these conversations start (and where they end up) before (and after) the big wide world has had its chance at misinformation.  (I might add that means we actually need to know what we are talking about when we start talking about sex…and that we need to be modeling the tone in a relationship that we would like for our children to experience as well)

I think that it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children the biology of their body and the mechanics of sex and preventing pregnancy and disease.  But that isn’t our only responsibility to our children.  We also need to make sure that our children know how to use that knowledge, that they are self-aware enough to understand if they are not ready (and when they are), that they value themselves enough to be able to say “NO” under pressure from someone they love.  We need to make sure they have enough knowledge to enjoy it (if we are all honest, we all know that it takes some work to get it spectacular) and that they know it is okay to enjoy sex with a consenting (and hopefully committed  partner.  We need to teach them about masturbation and heterosexuality as part of the norm of human sexuality and not something to be ashamed of.  As a Pagan (in a way that I don’t think I would have, were I still Christian, even the liberal and progressive sort of Christianity of my youth) I want my children to know that their bodies are precious, and that they are sacred…and that covering them up (or not) is their choice.

I think this is especially important when it comes to bodily autonomy, which is a problem for all children, male and female, gay and straight. Raising children with fuzzy ideas of bodily autonomy puts themselves and others in very real danger.  We live in a culture that has perverted the images of health and beauty, that has glorified rape, that has pigeonholed gender roles, and that shames women for daring to enjoy sex.  If we don’t start this conversation now, and lay the foundation for our children to have a healthy attitude towards their own bodies, someone else will teach them to be ashamed of themselves, to live fearful of what others might do to them, and worse, to think they deserve it.

So readers, what about you, what are your own plans with your children (whether you have any yet or not)? OR, what how have you handled this already, for those of you with older kids?  Is their an age that you thing it *should* be brought up? Or do you think it should wait until they bring it up? Are their subjects that you think are taboo? How would/did you broach topics like homosexuality, masturbation, fetishes, birth control? How do you handle nudity in your home? How do you handle your teen age daughter wanting a vibrator (a conversation I overheard at the store once)–or son wanting the male equivalent, or either a girl or a boy being open about wanting porn (personally, I thought it was pretty impressive to see that sort of honest and comfortable relationship between a parent and kid at that age)?  How do you think your family’s religion and spirituality should inform ideas like body image or sexuality?

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About thalassa

I'm a occasionally-doting wife, damn proud momma of two adorable children, veteran of the United States Navy, part-time semi-steampunk hausfrau, a bohemian beach addict from middle America, Civil War reenactor and Victorian natural history aficionado, a canoeing and kayaking and paddleboarding fanatic, a Unitarian Universalist and pantheistic Pagan, and a kitchen witch, devotee of various aquatic deities, and practitioner of Spiritual Bioregionalism. View all posts by thalassa

8 responses to “Sex is a Lifetime Conversation

  • mamaraby

    Great post! We’re on much the same wavelength. I had a better education than my husband whose mother waited to try and have “the talk” with him on our wedding day. I think she really believed that she had raised someone that naive. He had such a terrible childhood in that regard (they literally tried to control his every waking moment because they believed that would keep him from having sex) that it became the primary driving force in his mind for what *not* to do. Of course, no longer being Christian helps with that quite a bit even if there are some who manage to address it better as the progressive types.

    We’ve approached things in very similar ways being careful to frame everything in a “this is what we do, but some people do things differently and you might choose to do things differently when you grow up.” We try to give the why behind choices and we try to be clear that there is a wide variety of things that is normal for our species and that just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong.

    We’ve done quite a bit of reading on the different kinds of families, that some boys wear dresses (and that’s ok), etc. My favorite go to book is called “It’s So Amazing!” Which is wonderful in all respects, but does address gender in a binary way. I blogged about it…somewhere…hmmm…

    It’s kind of nice to read your post. The last time that someone found out (in a secular homeschool group no less) that we talked about these sorts of things with our young children they made me feel like I was somehow harming them by doing something that was wildly inappropriate.

    • thalassa

      Thanks!!

      I totally understand where you are coming from there regarding other parents. I’ve heard commentary to the same effect. I think…some people just don’t think that there can/should be another way–its just another version of “this is how it has always been”. And, I think that is really unfortunate for those kids. I know enough people that had horrible experiences growing up regarding their experiences of their sex and sexuality, I can’t imagine wanting to perpetuate that for my child. If my job as a parent is to teach my kids the skills they need to navigate through life as the most whole and healthy person possible, then I would think that they need to start learning now about themselves, including their body. I can’t think of anything worse than teaching our children to be ashamed of their bodies and of their hearts, or of whom they want to share them with once they have the capacity to make that decision.

  • aegoddard

    “We live in a culture that has perverted the images of health and beauty, that has glorified rape, that has pigeonholed gender roles, and that shames women for daring to enjoy sex.”

    We need more statements like these out there. I’ve been labeled and gossiped about because American culture teaches that any woman who enjoys sex is “loose”, or “bisexual” (not sure how that works), or some sexual deviant. We also need to really drive it home that unless someone makes it our business what happens between two consenting adults is no one’s business. Also, we need to teach how to address people who decide to act in this way when they’re uncomfortable with their own sexuality.

    • thalassa

      “We also need to really drive it home that unless someone makes it our business what happens between two consenting adults is no one’s business. Also, we need to teach how to address people who decide to act in this way when they’re uncomfortable with their own sexuality.”

      This! More people SO need to learn this…

  • Charlotte

    I completely agree.
    I was actually just talking to the husband about how dissapointed I am in the HPE classes at schools…the way they just play sport and don’t learn about bodies, nutrition, self defence, exercise, sleep, hygeine and so on. I think the same has been done to sex and sexuality. It has been trimmed down to a trailer-length version of the entire essence of life! I know that with our kids we usually discuss this in connection with chatting about self respect, modesty, biological bodies, first aid and philosophy…..it just isn’t something that floats out there, unconnected with the stuff of life. It is life! It is a big thing so it shouldn’t be made small – sex and the universe, that’s my take!

  • Pixie

    Wonderful post, I completely agree. You are one of my parenting role models – not that I have any kids, but for future reference. I think, for girls at least, if it hasn’t come up explicitly in some way, having a talk when you see their body changing would have been helpful. My grandma was on top of it when she noticed I developed body hair during the summer leading up to third grade, but a lot of my friends who also developed “early” were left a little unprepared for the mechanics of periods. I never thought it’d be an issue with boys until my husband told me the first time he ejaculated it was by accident in the shower and he really thought he had hurt himself. His family was very unhealthy sexually and while they did not practice what I’d consider good or healthy boundaries in regards to the sexuality they exposed him to, they also taught him his body was shameful and dirty. He was so afraid of touching himself he didn’t wash himself until he was a teenager – and even now he has body shame issues as a lingering result. Talking about sex though, mechanics etc., I agree it’s a normal and natural lifelong conversation.

    I think the discussion about porn is interesting because I have a couple of issues with that. First and foremost let me point out that I don’t think porn is *bad* per-say what I do think is problematic is looking at porn and learning about sexuality and what to expect/what is permitted sexually from porn is bad. Now, I believe we should teach our children everything they want to know and it’s not a good idea to lie to kids or prohibit them from having something, like porn, but if I did allow my child to have something I’d try to make sure it wasn’t like Hustler. Not that there’s anything wrong with Hustler for grown adults who already have a few sexual experiences (that were consensual and hopefully positive) under their belts, but it’s not the place to set expectations for sex. That being said, when I was a teen my “porn” came in the form of erotica, vintage postcards I found on the internet, and anime. (Yeah, I really did just admit that.) I will say that while I didn’t ever outright have a discussion with my mother about it, she did buy the books.
    However, as a young woman I remember I could always tell the guys who watched a lot of porn when we were messing around – and it wasn’t a positive thing. A lot of time they tried to tell me how something was supposed to feel that it was “good,” “girls like that,” etc. … I didn’t appreciate that and would like to avoid any sons I might have, or young men I love, having similar ideas of what is pleasurable for a lady. (I’m also not sure where they learned you can tell a girl, or anyone, what they are feeling.)

    • thalassa

      Thanks!

      I have to admit when I mentioned porn, I was more thinking about pictures, magazines, etc, rather than movies. Even so, I think that in an environment where sex is an ongoing and developing conversation with the goal of fostering a healthy sexuality, that there is room for (and even necessity for) the role of porn as an outlet for fantasies that aren’t sexually PC (and not as an instructional guide!).

      …this would probably be a really interesting conversation to have. Maybe I’ll see if you can mess with the wordpress age settings for individual posts…I think that might be a topic to stick behind an extra screen for access!

  • Spring=Change, & Musings | musings of a kitchen witch

    [...] We are watching the neighbor’s baby, which has brought out Chickadee’s desire for a baby sister.  The hubby and I are pretty sure we are done–we’ve replaced ourselves, and I tend to think that environmentally, that is enough.  Still, sometimes I get the urge to have another cuddlebug…and while that could probably be a blog post all on its own, what I was really going to mention was the conversation that just came out of this event. It went like this: Chickadee: Mom, I want a baby sister. Me: Babies are expensive and a lot of work. Chickadee: Well I can feed her, and rock her, and make sure she doesn’t choke. Me: They are still expensive. Chickadee: Well that’s not fair! Babies should be free! Why does it cost so much to buy a baby?!? Me: Phee, you don’t buy a baby! They don’t come from the store! Chickadee: Well, duh! They come from your va-GI-na. But you still have to pay to get them out. I have to say, I’m a pretty darn proud feminist liberal momma at the moment–my six year old not only realizes that affordable medical care should be a “duh” idea, but she ALSO uses the correct terminology for lady parts (all my fault, with help from the hubby). [...]

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