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10 Ways Every Grown-Ass Man Can (And Should) Model Sex Positivity For His Kids

Considering the harrowing stories we read all too frequently about sexual assault, not to mention the sexism that pervades every aspect of our culture like a miasma, encouraging sex positivity in the next generation is an important step in making things better. Here's a secret, though: it's not easy. You absolutely cannot skate by on lectures or constantly platitudes like, "Because I said so." You've got to embody these values. Fortunately, you are a grown-ass man, and there are ways grown-ass men can model sex positivity for their kids. It may take effort to incorporate them into your daily life but, eventually, it becomes pretty natural.

Whenever I talk about how important it is to be sex positive for kids, and that in order to do that you've got to start thinking about it when they're young, I feel like I get no small amount of side-eye. I get it, for the most part, because when you bring up the word "sex" alongside the world "children," regardless of context, it sets off alarm bells. In fact, I hate to be the one to tell (or more likely, remind) you that this is probably even worse for well-intentioned men who want to raise sex positive kids, since rape culture and toxic masculinity feed off one another, promoting the idea that men are simultaneously not natural care-givers and are hyper-sexual creatures. Of course, both the idea that sex positivity is somehow corrupting youth and the idea that men are incapable of proactively teaching children about healthy sexuality is absurd. Yes, there's a line between education and overexposure that needs to be carefully observed however, and fortunately, it's not a fine line. It's a pretty bold, obvious line most of the time.

The truth of the matter is that there are numerous, absolute ways to promote sex positive attitudes in children that, really, don't have all that much to do with sex. This means that when the time comes for you to get more specific about logistics (physical, emotional, and otherwise), they're primed to receive this new and important information with (relative) maturity and some level of understanding. Just remember that all of these thoughtful explanations of sex and sexuality aren't going to achieve their intended goal if you, an influential man in a child's life, contradict them with sex negative attitudes and ideas. Instead, try doing the following:

Don't Be Afraid To Show Affection To Your Partner

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On behalf of all children who were ever embarrassed by their parents PDA, rest assured that I am not advocating you go balls-to-the-wall on this one. Like, there's no reason to make a habit out of furious, hickey-inducing make-out sessions in the bleachers at your kid's little league game.

However, lingering kisses here and there, hand holding, snuggling on the couch? Go for it. Part of parenting with a partner is modeling a healthy romantic relationship for your child, and for most people that involves varying degrees of physical intimacy. Not everyone, of course, is comfortable with demonstrative displays of affection and, hey, that's fine, too. If this is uncomfortable for you, you don't have to go out of your way to have your kid see you kissing your partner. My point is don't feel like you have to hide it, because it's totally healthy, sex positive, and sort of cute for kids to see their parents show a little G-rated affection toward each other. It also highlights that there's nothing secretly shameful about it.

Have Clear, Physical Boundaries With Your Child And Respect The Boundaries Of Others

Consent is central to the idea of sex positivity, and while you're not going to have detailed discussions with your pre-schooler about sexual assault and rape culture, you can lay the groundwork for future discussions by emphasizing the importance of physical boundaries as soon as they reach an age where they can understand you.

For example, set and insist upon your own physical boundaries with your child and, in turn, respect theirs. If they are climbing all over you and you're completely touched out (we've all been there, usually several times a day), assert that they need to not touch you anymore because you said so and no one is entitled to your personal space but you. If they don't want to hug or kiss you goodnight, respect that (and try not to take it personally).

Of course, respect your partner's boundaries as well, and don't get, um, too demonstrative, especially if it's one-sided, since that walks a fine line between "affectionate" and "objectifying." (Seriously, partner, you don't have to grab my ass every single time you walk by me. It's not going to fall off.)

No Snide, Slut-Shaming Remarks Under Your Breath

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When raising sex positive kids, how you talk about others will be just as important as how you talk to and about them. Even if you have frequent conversations with your child about acceptance and body autonomy, if you're turning around and deriding Kim Kardashian for taking nude selfies, sorry, but that's not being sex positive. If you're not sex positive about everyone, you can't really be sex positive about anyone.

Avoid concern-trolling, judgmental attitudes about what other people choose to do with their bodies. If you can do that (and I know you can) you will send a message to your children that such topics do not warrant commentary a) because there is no inherent moral value related to consensual sexual expression of any kind and b) that it is no one's business.

Use Correct Terminology For Human Anatomy

Because if you can't bring yourself to say "penis" or "breasts" without blushing, what are you conveying about those body parts? C'mon, dude. You've really gotta be a grown-ass man about this one. Bonus? Seeing a little kid say "testicles" is pretty funny. (Yeah, externally be a grown-ass man, but internally we're all secretly 12, right?) Double bonus? When they get to be school aged and the rest of the class is tittering over the word "booby," your kid will be the one in the class not laughing, because they will not see what's so hilarious, and the teacher will be like "Oh, thank God, at least that one is keeping their sh*t together and making my life easier."

Be Inclusive In Your Discussion Of Love And Romance

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An important aspect of being sex positive is not insisting on a prescriptive, narrow view of what constitutes good, acceptable, or valid sex and romance. This includes aspects of human sexuality that society may perceive as axioms; so, basically, we simply take their truth for granted, i.e. heteronormativity.

Presuming universal (or near universal) cisgender heterosexuality is a mistaken perception of reality at best, and an overtly exclusionary and suppressive act, at worst. Avoid this jiggery-pokery by:

-Using gender neutral pronouns when talking about hypothetical couples

-Not predicting your child's romantic destiny ("when you get married" or "someday you're going to meet a wonderful man/woman")

-Speak openly about same-sex couples right the same way you would about heterosexual couples

Don't Describe Sex Simply As Reproductive

You guys, if I got pregnant every time I had sex my uterus would have packed up and left my body, like, 15 years ago. Furthermore, not everyone who has sex has the chance of getting pregnant. I've known countless gay couples who have been together for years and, despite noble efforts, none have ever gotten the other pregnant.

The narrative that sex is exclusively for reproductive purposes is disingenuous and props up a heteronormative (and, frankly, tremendously bleak) world view, not to mention a pretty narrow view of what sex even is.

Answer Their Questions About Sex Honestly

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As with issues of consent, this isn't to say you have to tell them absolutely everything, all at once and regardless of their age. Sometimes, and with little kids in particular, just a bit of information will satisfy their curiosity and you can leave things there for a while.

Still, there's no need to demure conversations or keep information completely hidden. For sex positive, grown-ass men, it's not so much that there's ever one single "sext talk," but more often it's an ongoing conversation with ever-increasing levels of detail from the time they're little.

Talk About Birth Control

Sex isn't just for procreation, so birth control is going to come in handy very often. It's obviously also worth noting that birth control can also double as STI prevention, and safety is right up there with consent as being an important part of the sex positivity philosophy, so that's going to be pretty clutch, too. Talking about birth control, not just to your children but in general, promotes the idea that this is just an aspect of one's health and sex life that people take into account and need to think about.

Don't Perpetuate Double Standards About Sex Based On Your Child's Gender

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Again, if you can't be sex positive in regard to everyone, you really aren't all that sex positive. So all those "jokes" about greeting your daughters dates with shot guns? Not letting her date until she's 35? Yeah, you can save 'em. They're perpetuating the idea that there's something broken or dirty about women who engage in sex (which pretty much translates to the great majority of adult women, incidentally).

Even when you don't want to think about your child as growing up, even when it's uncomfortable, this isn't an aspect of parenting you get to ignore or leave to her mother. Similarly, not-so-subtly implying that your son should be out chasing skirts because LOL, "boys will be boys" (and, of course, all boys are heterosexual)? That's just as damaging. As a sex positive parent, it is incumbent upon you to be proactive about fighting stereotypes wherever they rear their ugly head.

Call Out Sex Negative Nonsense

Because someone has to, for goodness sake, and this is where the boys are separated from the grown-ass men.