When Grace R. Duncan came up with this idea, the response was probably overwhelming. What a great idea. Dedicating an an entire blog hop to sex-positive ideas? Sign me up!
I’ll be honest here: I like sex. No, I love sex. I love reading sex, watching sex, having sex, and I love talking about it. Sex is right up there in my top five favorite things in life. Next to coffee, rainy days, books, and family. You’d think that would make picking a topic easy, but not for me. Too many choices! It’s all good! Porn? Love it! Erotica? Yes, please! Masturbation? That’s the closest I get to playing sports.
In the end, I finally landed on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: being a sex positive parent. It’s a hard one (sorry) to tackle, because like most parents, the idea of my kids actually having sex one day genuinely squicks me out. I’ve had conversations with my kids that have made me want to bleach my brain. But they’d never know that.
I think the first pivotal moment of how I would handle their sexuality came when (I’ve promised my kids I wouldn’t use their real names on my public blogs and such, so we’re going to go with the Borg naming system here) my oldest daughter, One of Four, was maybe three years old. I walked down the hall to check on the kiddos and found her in her room, on her bed, stark naked and drawing all over herself. Now, drawing on herself was nothing new. She did that all the time. This time, however, there was a rainbow line of ink from one leg, all the way up and then down the other leg. With lots of extra doodles around her bits. Hrm.
I wanted to tell her no, don’t do that, get in the bath. I cringed and clenched my jaw, felt the embarrassment and general ickieness of seeing her doing that… and then, in the flash of a second, a memory sprang to mind. I’m a little girl, around 5 years old. I’ve just gotten out of the bath and I’m sitting on the floor checking out my body. It’s not a sexual thing, it’s curiosity. There are places I can’t see unless I bend a certain way and, hey, what the heck is going on down there? I do a gymnastic-gold-worthy spread and shift around until I can get a good, upside down look. This is the exact moment my mother walks in and—horrified—yells, “Stop that! That’s nasty!” Seriously? There are parts of my own body that are nasty? I had no idea. Enter the shame. Shame that clings for years.
My daughter noticed me standing there and looked up. Her eyes were wide, like she knew she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t do. My God, had I already instilled a sense of shame in her about her body? I hoped not. I told her, “Even though those pens are non-toxic and kid-safe, the ink might not be okay for your skin down there. Please take a quick bath to wash it off. And, remember, you need privacy when you touch yourself or look at yourself down there, so please close the door next time.”
A look of relief flitted across her face, then she shrugged and said, “Okay, Mommy.” and got in the bath. That was it.
This is the same kid, who, not even a year later, asked me how babies are made. I told her in the kid-friendliest terms I could think of because I had always said if they were old enough to ask a question, they were old enough to get an honest answer. I told her about boys having sperm and girls having eggs. I told her the sperm fertilizes the eggs and the woman gets pregnant. God, she is a smart little thing and she saw the huge, gaping hole in my story. “How does the sperm get to the egg?” Oh, God. I told her in the vaguest terms possible. “But… how does the sperm get out of the boy?” COME ON. When we closed that conversation, I ended with, “Just remember, that’s something for grownup people, not little kids.”
Her question: “Not even for practice?” >__<
Anyway. My oldest daughter was the one who, early on, instilled the… necessity for sex-positivity in me. I didn’t want her thinking it was dirty or bad or wrong. I wanted her to know that there are some things that are appropriate for kids (exploring your body safely, being curious, asking questions) and the rest is okay when you’re older. Much older, please.
Over the years, sex-positivity has been my fallback, my go-to when dealing with these kids. I was grateful for that attitude when I found my (at the time) 13 year old son sexting (in a tween sort of way) with a girl who wasn’t his girlfriend. And when my 16 year old daughter (yes, the same one who asked me about practicing making babies) asked me questions about masturbation and told me some stuff that made me wish for the MIB memory eraser thing. I was even more grateful for it when my youngest—only 11 at the time—told me she’s a lesbian. My answer? “I’m so glad you told me.” I hugged her tight, kissed the top of her head, and that was it. Her sexuality was a non-issue. She could’ve told me she’s a boy and wants to look into surgery options for when she’s older, or pretty much anything else and my response would’ve been the same. My kids know that about me.
When puberty started to rear its ugly head around our house, I had a talk with the kiddos. They’re all pretty close in age, so I gathered them around me and told them that it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. They could ask me anything, tell me anything, and I would listen, answer questions, and help them find information if I didn’t already know. I told them that they couldn’t shock me. That was a lie, but I wanted it to be true. I told them that if I hadn’t done it, seen it, or heard of it, I probably knew someone who has or who could put me in touch with someone who has. Then I showed them all how to put a condom on a cucumber.
The amazing thing about having that kind of attitude is… they talk to me. They tell me things. They listen to me. And, honestly, they teach me things. My oldest daughter schooled me about asexuality. I had a hell of a time wrapping my head around it—I love sex, remember? But she told me that she had expected better of me when I said, “That’s not even a real thing.” Shame on me! And good for her for calling me out on it and then educating me. That moment in time showed my daughter that I still have things to learn and it showed me that I still have attitudes that need to be adjusted sometimes, which I hadn’t realized until then. The whole conversation is precious to me because I got to see firsthand the kind of person my daughter is. She is bright, she is open-minded, and she is not afraid to tell people what’s what.
I got the same experience just a few nights ago when my mother was watching something on TV and someone said something about “all the genders” and my mother reacted the way most baby-boomers probably do. “There are two! What does he mean, all the genders?”
My youngest daughter—now 12—said, “Um, excuse you? There are two sexes, there are many genders.” I don’t think my kids would have the courage or even the knowledge to stand up and teach us these things if they hadn’t been given the tools and the freedom from an early age.
Two of my kids are now older than I was when I started having sex. That’s enough to add a few gray hairs to my head, but it’s reality. Kids have sex.
For a parent, it sucks. Sex is one more thing to worry about. When they were little, I worried about them falling and cracking their head open, eating dish soap, getting sick. I worried about predators and bullies (That fear never goes away, btw. They’ll be in their 40s and I’ll still make myself ill worrying about other people doing them harm.) and I worry about whether or not I’ve completely fucked them up. But worrying about them having sex? That’s a tough one. I don’t want to think about it. But… I want them to have full and happy lives. I want them to find partners who will treat them with respect, love them, support them. I want them to—above all—be safe.
And safety, when it comes to sex, means condoms. It means honesty. It means knowing yourself and letting your partner(s) know you. How do you teach a kid that? My best guess, my only answer, is to raise them to be comfortable in their own skin. To not take shit from anyone. To be honest with themselves and others. To communicate. To laugh. To have fun. And to always remember the golden rule: Don’t be an asshole.
That’s what I hope they take away from all those awkward conversations and all those squicky moments of terror. I hope they remember that they have the right to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. I hope they remember to let others do the same. I hope they remember that it’s okay to have their own boundaries and that it’s okay to firmly say no. But, that it’s okay to say yes, too. If that’s what they want. If it’s within the legal limits. If it’s within their comfort zone. I hope they remember that their rights—sexual and otherwise—begin and end with themselves. I think they get that. I think they understand, feel it deep in their bones. I think they own who they are and what they want. And I hope they surround themselves with people who do the same.
Bottom line: I believe having a sex-positive attitude when raising your kids spills over into every aspect of their lives. Why? I think being sex-positive means—in part, at least—allowing yourself to be who you are and allowing others to be who they are.
Meet the younglings:
One of Four; 16 years old: My oldest daughter is questioning her sexuality. She’s learning who she is and what she wants. She’s changing her mind every day. I’m letting her do what she needs to do. She’ll figure it out one of these days, and there’s no rush. She is an artist and a writer and she is a force of good in this world.
Two of Four; 15 years old: My oldest son is a gamer. He’s also a feminist. He is often the only person speaking up against a very loud crowd of online—and sometimes IRL—assholes who are spewing hate toward women or the LGBT community. I’ve seen him in action and it is brilliant, beautiful. He’s already a better man than a lot of adult guys.
Three of Four; 13 years old: My youngest son is autistic. Sexuality hasn’t come into his world yet. The most I’ve had to deal with is “It’s okay to touch yourself, but you need to go to your room.” I’ll deal with the rest as it comes up, just like I’ve done with the others. His journey will be unique and I’ll probably have to learn even more than I have already. And that’s okay. I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He is our gift, our golden boy. My other kids are already fighting over who “gets him” when I die. We have a strange family.
Four of Four; 12 years old: My youngest daughter is a proud, happy lesbian who has (thankfully) been loved and respected by everyone she’s come out to so far. From her best friend’s Muslim family, to her Christian teacher, to her own diverse family, she has been welcomed just as she is. Like her sister, she is an artist, she is a firebrand, and she is the first person who will say “You are beautiful” to literally anyone because she thinks we all need to hear it more often.
So, in closing, be yourself, allow others to be themselves, and—because Four of Four is right—remember that you are beautiful.
I hope you all have a great weekend and be sure to check out the other stops on the blog hop!