My son is only 18 months old and I'm already thinking about the impending (and probably multiple) conversations we'll have about sex. Even now, when I'm changing his diaper or giving him a bath, I refer to his reproductive parts by their anatomic names. His penis is not a "pee-pee" and his butt, well, it is just a butt. He'll know what a penis is and what it can do and how he can use it, and the rest of his body, to express himself sexually when he is ready. In fact, I'd venture to guess he'll learn this all at an earlier age than most kids, partially because ~The Internet~ and partially (hopefully mostly) because he's growing up in a house where bodies and sex are just normal parts of what we talk about.
As a woman and a feminist, I believe it is important that I'm open, honest, factual, and stigma-free when it comes to sex and my son's sex education. I don't want him to view sex as a "scary" or "taboo" thing or anything other than a responsibility that he can take on when he is ready and when he is with a consenting partner (or by himself before that). I don't want to attach a sense of personal self worth to the idea of sex, or do anything that might otherwise perpetuate the idea in my son's mind that he needs to have a lot of sex in order to be considered a "man," or that women who have a lot of sex are somehow less than or worthless or "ruined."
See? I have a lot of bases to cover.
Which is why the "sex talk" will be extensive, informative and probably longer than my son will want it to be. However, as a feminist, I also know that what I choose not to tell my kid about sex is arguably just as important as what I do choose to tell him. With that in mind, here are a few things I won't be telling my child when it comes to sex.
"You'll Lose A Piece Of Yourself Every Time You Have Sex."
To me, it is imperative that my son does not relate sex to self-worth. I will not be telling my son that he will lose a part of himself, or give a part of himself away, or take a part of someone else with him forever, every time he has sex. Sex is something that you do, it is not something that makes you who you are, and my son will be no more or no less a person based on the number of times he has sex.
"You Shouldn't Have Sex Until You're Married."
I won't be telling my son that he should wait to have sex until he is married. First, it would be hypocritical of me, because not only did I have sex before marriage, I had my son before marriage and — gasp — I am still not married. Second, I don't think that a relationship is strengthened by abstinence, nor do I want my son to think that he is more "worthy" of a committed relationship if he is a virgin.
"You Can Tell If Someone Wants To Have Sex By..."
I won't be telling my son that he will be able to tell if someone wants to have sex with him by what they're wearing or how they look at him or subtle hints that they might be giving. No, the only way you know if someone wants to have sex with you is if they say, "I want to have sex with you," or some unquestionable form of "yes" when the question of whether or not they want to engage in sexual activity is posed to them. It's important to me that my son understand consent, and that he feels comfortable talking about sex or about having sex or about thinking about having sex, with any of his future, potential partners. There is no room for guessing when it comes to sexual activity.
"Sex Is Dirty And Shouldn't Be Talked About."
Sex is not dirty. Sex is normal and healthy and a wonderful thing when it is done consensually. I don't want my son to think that he can't talk to me or his father or his future partners about sex. The more he talks about it and feels comfortable expressing his thoughts, concerns, and anxieties, the healthier (and safer) his sex life will be.
"You Should Only Have Sex With One Person."
There will be no slut shaming in my house. The number of people someone has sex with does not define their worth nor value, so I won't be telling my son that he should only have sex with one person. He should have sex with consenting persons, and beyond that, hopefully people who will respect him. Other then that, the number of partners he has is up to him.
"You Should Only Have Sex With A Specific Type Of Person."
I don't care if my son has sex with women or men or any other identifier that an individual chooses to use. The only thing I care about is that my son is having safe sex with people who have agreed to have sex with him and whom he has agreed to have sex with. I really don't need to know his business beyond that. (No, really, Grown Future Son, spare your old mom the details.)
"Sex Is Something To Be Ashamed Of."
Having sex is nothing to be ashamed of, and I don't want to talk about sex in a way that makes my son view it as shameful and dirty. He shouldn't put his head down when he has sex, and he shouldn't puff his chest out either. Like, sex is just a thing that some humans do at different times with various partners, and it's not especially worth getting worked up over.
"Having Sex Or Not Having Sex Defines You."
Having sex doesn't make you a "man" or a "woman." Having sex doesn't make you "cool" or "popular" (or, at least, it shouldn't, and hopefully my kid will grow into the kind of young adult who seriously questions any person who decides someone's level of coolness based on their level of sexual activity or lack thereof), and it doesn't make you a better person. I don't want my son to think that having sex is a necessity, and I don't want him to think that having sex will change who he is as a person. Sex is nothing more than an act that he may or may not engage in. It is not a defining characteristic of any human being and it is not going to alter my son in a way that makes him unrecognizable. It won't fix mistakes and it won't hide who he truly is and, to me, it is important that my son realizes that as early as possible.
"Love Is The Only One Reason To Have Sex."
There are multiple reasons to have sex, and many people have sex for a variety of reasons. I don't want my son to associate sex with love because, well, they are two very different things. Of course I do not want my son to use sex to be mean or vindictive or hurtful, but I also don't want my son to use sex as a way to determine whether or not he loves someone. Sex is an act; love is an emotion that can be expressed in a variety of ways. Sometimes the two things are connected in certain relationships and situations, but not always — and the expectation of their connection can create problems.
"It's Bad To Want To Have Sex."
Eventually, my son will want to have sex. I don't know when that will be and I don't know who he will want to have sex with, but it will happen and when it does, I don't want my son to think that his desires are bad. It is normal to want to have sex and it's a natural, human feeling that my son should embrace instead of hide. There are right and wrong ways to express sexual desire and the only way my son is going to learn that is by first learning that sex is normal. And in our house, I'm hoping that's exactly what it is.
Images: Nadia Hatoum/Flickr; Giphy(10)