Monday, August 12, 2013

Talking about sex to our kids

I am a proud member of generation of students who received a comprehensive sex education in combination from my parents and from school.  While other states were debating abstinence only views, Nevada, which had my freshman year of high school one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation and a growing STD problem among young people, was educating us about the risks of sex and offering science based, clear information about safer sex and contraception.  Weird, right?  At home, sex wasn't taboo, and my parents never made the decision for me to have sex about them. They also realized that I would do what I was going to do, and that teaching me to be safe and responsible was better than trying to prevent me from having sex.

While the usual jokes about buying a shotgun were occasionally cracked, there was never any seriousness behind them.  My step-dad was a pretty peaceful guy, and he didn't like guns.  One of my employers wasn't so agreeable and threatened a boy who asked me for a walk with his.  In retrospect, that was likely a crime.  Nobody ever made me feel as though the decision to have sex wasn't mine, and that is something to cheer about.  In a society that allows rapists to walk free and blames women for getting pregnant, being raped, and even for being harassed for being attractive, that was pretty unusual.  I was taught to understand that I deserved respect, that I should make responsible choices, and that sex wasn't evil.

In the course of my life, I've also learned that sex and love aren't mutually inclusive (a mistake many women I know have made). Pleasure is something that both partners should expect and strive to give, and that asking for what I want isn't anything to be ashamed of.  I've been lucky.

It won't be long before it will be time for my oldest son to start learning a bit more about human sexuality.  We've already covered where babies come from (thanks to a friend with an advanced degree and a copy of Grey's Anatomy).  The kids are aware that man + woman isn't the only equation (Prop. 8 introduced this idea very early, and I think to great benefit for my kids), and body parts are just parts around here.  The hard part is teaching responsibility, safety, and respect in a world where many things are taboo and where so many people view their offspring's sexuality as something they can and should control for their children.  There are ideas about shame and guilt and blame that make talking about sex a mine field, especially if your family doesn't subscribe to any of the dominant moral or religious view points.

As I worry, well in advance of this "problem", someone else has written a really touching and amazing letter to his daughter about sex.  I hope you take a look: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/brand-dear-daughter-i-hope-you-have-awesome-sex/.

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