Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen multiple discussions in the media regarding sex education for children. There were news articles on websites, documentary style shows on TV, and it was even mentioned on a “news” show called “The Project”. And in each one I am amazed to learn that parents have this fear of talking to their children about sex. On “The Project” one of the guest hosts, Fifi Box, mentioned that she didn’t know what to call her, “down there” area to which Carrie Bickmore said, “vagina”.
You can watch the piece here, it starts about 36 minutes in: http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/the-project/2015/11/17
I may not be a parent yet, that’s due to happen within the next few hours, but I can’t figure out why parents can’t talk to their kids about sex. Why are so many people squimish about telling their son that he has a penis, or telling their daughter that she has a vulva? There are so many delicate words to dance around the facts. I’ve heard words like flower, hoohoo, tinkle, front bottom, and the like used for vulva and willy, doodle, trouser snake used for penis.
My plan for my child(ren) is to be up front about it all. Dad has a penis. Mum has a vagina. Babies are made when dad puts his penis inside mum’s vagina during sexual intercourse and he ejaculates his sperm inside her. These sperm swim through the uterus towards the egg that is released from the ovaries.
But beyond just the facts it is so desperately important that we teach our kids about the emotional aspects of sex. People don’t just have sex to have children. They have sex for fun. People have been having sex for fun for as long as we can remember. Sex is also used as a weapon to hurt people. This includes violence through rape but it also includes things like sharing intimate photos or slut-shaming. Pornography is everywhere now (“why you think the net was born?”) and we need to teach our kids that pornography is not the same as sex.
My sexual education was done mostly through reading books. I remember as a teenager I was given some books called, “What’s happening to my body?” and “Where did I come from?” I am pretty sure these are the standard books that every kid of the 80s and 90s were given. And they taught me about the biology. But they didn’t teach me the important things. Things like what is consent? When is the best time to start having sex? How can I make sex more enjoyable, not only for myself but for my partner? Luckily for me I was growing up at the same time as the World Wide Web so I was able to search for the answers that at the time were primarily educational. These days the net has more porn on it and that porn is increasingly violent and unrealistic. It is definitely not a teaching material and will definitely have a negative affect on impressionable minds.
Society is to blame for this issue. The internet is full of porn, sex sells everywhere in movies and TV, magazines are covered in scantily clad women and yet no one wants to talk about sex with their kids. We seem to be in a position where sex is still shameful to discuss with the people who need to discuss it the most. Parents all seem to fear “the talk”. They’ll watch shows like “Sex and the City” or “Hung” or “Secret diary of a call girl” and they’ll discuss it with their friends but they’ll avoid their kids questions.
How can we change this? This is only what I believe and I’m sure a lot of people will disagree but I think our first step is to provide the factual information. Call a penis a penis. Call a vagina a vagina. I know a couple of toddlers and from day one their parents have taught them the proper names for their body parts. The kids feel no shame in telling people that they know what is what. It can even lead to humorous situations where my friend’s 3 year old daughter sternly told me that, “I mustn’t touch daddy’s penis”. She was telling everyone because the day before they had both been showering and she had asked her dad what that dangling thing was called and instead of making up a name he told her exactly what it was and that she shouldn’t touch it. He didn’t say it was bad, he didn’t shame her about her questions. He just told her what it was. Which is all she needed to know at that point. As she grows older she’ll learn that touching penises is ok and not something to be ashamed of and she’ll learn when it is appropriate to do so.
It’ll work the same way with my boy. He’ll see his parents nude. He’ll know what all the bits and pieces are called. He’ll know what they are for, both biologically and emotionally. He’ll learn to use sex for good and not evil. He’ll respect women. He’ll also respect men. And he’ll do all that because I’m not going to sugar coat the awkward parts, I’m not going to make him feel ashamed about his growing sexuality.
Will my vision for a well-educated, sexually informed adult ever come to fruition? I don’t know but I am going to do my best.