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.
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?