My mom and I still laugh about that time I got "The Talk." Please allow me to set the scene: I walk in from school and wanted to go play, but my mom said, "No. I need to talk to you. You're not in trouble, we just need to talk." Ummm... OK. But we don't talk in my room, or the living room, or kitchen, which are the three places it would make sense to have a discussion. We talk in my older brother's room, which was covered in Kiss posters. Literally. Posters were tacked up floor to ceiling, and the ceiling had Kiss flags pinned up to create a tent effect. (Dude was really into Kiss.) Why? Because his room has a VCR. This will be a clutch detail.
"What do you know about sex?" she asked. She spat out the sentence in a rushed exhale, the verbal equivalent of ripping off a Band-Aid to get it over with. My heart stopped. Something inside of me was set on fire, but not in a good way. It was like an embarrassing and mischievous leprechaun snuck into my body through my ear, ran to my core, doused it in gasoline, and lit a match giggling.
Which was true. But not as true as I wanted it to be while talking to my mom, who had never said a thing to me about sex until this moment. Like many 8-year-old girls, what little I did know had been the subject of discussion, conjecture, and awkward Barbie games with my friends for a while now. I was convinced my mom had somehow found out about all this and was about to confront me about it.
She had not and was not.
She went on to say, in one mortified, jittery sentence, what a period was, where babies came from, and what maxi pads were. She was so nervous that none of it made sense. Oh, but don't worry: She had a video. A special cartoon made for kids to explain these things called Where Did I Come From? So I sat and watched all 27 minutes of naked cartoon characters, surrounded by the painted faces of Kiss and Gene Simmons' horrifying tongue.
As funny a memory as all this now, I never want to have "The Talk" with my son and daughter. I want discussion of sex, bodies, consent, and health to be within the wheelhouse of things it's always OK to speak about honestly and routinely. When my kids have questions about any of these issues, I don't want to push it to the side until one designated "sex talk." I want to give them straightforward, accurate information so that when they go out into the wide world they can approach sex without shame or misinformation, both of which make for not only horrible sex but dire consequences.
Of course, there are those who consider any discussion of sexuality with kids and young adults, at any level aside from "don't do it" as perverse and wrong. Here are some of the common ones sex positive parents have to deal with...
"Aren't They Too Young To Hear About This Stuff?"
There are age-appropriate ways to talk to your kids about sex at any age. Obviously a four-year-old doesn't need a crash course in BDSM or even condom use, but they can begin to know some of the basics of where babies come from, the proper names for various body parts, and appropriate and inappropriate touch.
"What If They Repeat That To Someone?"
Well, with any luck, whatever they say will not be newsworthy to an adult, so it shouldn't cause too much alarm on that end. If they repeat it to another kid... honestly I don't care too much. Does that warrant a "sorry not sorry"? Because I'm really not. Look, like I said, I'm not going to be explaining deviant sex acts to my children, so it's not like I'm corrupting them and then they will corrupt your children in turn. I'm giving them basic, age-appropriate, accurate information about their bodies and sexuality. I can't understand how that's threatening. What's the alternative? Lie? No thanks. Not talk about it? I invite you to think back to your own own childhood — you were almost certainly curious about and discussing these things with your friends, too. (Who didn't mash Barbie and Ken's non-genitals together at some point, right?)
They're going to talk about these things. Better to have them equipped with accurate information so that they don't start espousing weird-ass ideas, like how my classmate Ken S. thought girls peed out their butts — when we were in 7th grade. We don't, Ken. We don't pee out our butts. We pee out our urethras, the same as you.
Really? Because I find keeping children and young adults intentionally and completely ignorant about basic facts of life that will affect their sense of self and future interpersonal relationships vulgar. So... shall we call this one a tie?
"Aren't You Just Encouraging Them To Have Sex?"
Did anyone have to tell you you wanted to have sex? Probably not. It's really something you tend to figure out on your own. Sort of like knowing you're really craving pizza or knowing you're tired and want to go to bed. But by providing a framework to talk about sex as something that should be done safely, responsibly, and in a way that does not make them uncomfortable in any way, sex positive parents set their kids up to make informed decisions when they're ready.
"OK, So You're Not Encouraging Them, But Aren't You Sending The Wrong Message?"
Let me check...
"Sex is not something you should take lightly. Really take the time to decide if you are physically and emotionally ready. You can always talk to me or your dad if you want. If you decide you are ready for sex, use protection. That is non-negotiable. If you need help getting said protection you can always ask me, or you can go to Planned Parenthood or a local health clinic. If you or your partner says to stop, you stop. If you even think someone wants you to stop, even if they don't say it, you stop."
Nope. I think I'm on message here.
"Do They Really Need To Know All This?"
YES! Because whether or not we like it, they're going to be learning something about sex as they get older. From fellow kids, media, and even — horror of horrors — the Internet. Go ahead and just Google "vagina" or "sex." I'll wait. Yeah. Are those the messages you want your curious and unknowing child to be receiving as an introduction to the topic? I didn't think so.
Look, we sex-positive parents aren't encouraging our teens to go get all the P-in-V they can as soon as possible. We aren't giving our school-age children more than general information unless we're asked to be more specific, and even then we gauge what to explain and how to explain it. We're just hoping to give them the basics and to set the stage for them to ask us questions when they have them. It's as much about creating an atmosphere of non-judgmental openness as it is about giving information. So don't be scared to talk to your kids about sex... or, if you won't, just keep your thoughts to yourself when I talk to mine.
Images: Pixabay; Giphy (6)