Last week I wrote about a friend who had an upsetting (to me at least) lack of sexual education as a kid and it got me thinking about what sex-positive parenting really looks like.
And then, like a prayer, in came Lea Grover, to address that exact question.
“Sweetie, we don’t play with our vulvas in the living room,” I said. Which sounded ridiculous and strange, but nonetheless true. Why is everything with little kids “we” statements? “It’s OK to touch your vulva, but people are private, and it’s a private thing. The only places where you should touch your vulva are in the bathroom or in your bedroom. If you want to play with your vulva, please go to the bedroom.”
And she smiled and did, without question, because compartmentalizing where you do certain activities makes sense to little kids.
In a way thinking about sex positivity as it regards to children defines what sex positivity is at it’s core. Normalizing your body, how it works and what it does. No shaming, no yucking someone’s yum, no telling someone the right way to feel about or touch their body.
And, equally importantly, making clear that it belongs to one person and one person only.
Telling children the truth about sex isn’t giving permission for them to have it — and this is the most important part — because when the right time comes, nobody has the right to deny them permission for sex but themselves.
And that’s the thing I try to keep in mind when I say things like, “We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.” Sex is something that ONLY happens when both people WANT it to happen. And that means that the only people in the entire world with any kind of say over whether or not my daughters have sex is them.
I don’t get to tell my daughters they have to have sex, but I also don’t get to tell them they can’t. They’re in charge. Your body, your decision.
I never want to be responsible for setting the precedent that another person gets to tell them what to do with their bodies, and especially with their sexuality. I don’t want to be the gateway for a manipulative, potentially abusive boyfriend.
So I teach boundaries. Appropriate places. Hygiene. I teach my children that nobody is allowed to touch their bodies without permission. When we get in tickle fights and they say, “Stop!” I stop.
And when we talk about pregnant friends, we talk about uteruses and sperm and eggs.
And most of the time, it’s not uncomfortable. Most of the time, I’m verifying information and the conversation lasts 15 seconds.
And that’s the thing about discussing sexuality with kids. They’re kids, so they only care as much as a kid would care about anything else. They’re as amazed that their vulva feels good as they are that they can create poop, or that you can jump higher than they can.
So it isn’t complicated and it isn’t scary. What makes The Talk scary is that it’s something you’ve been avoiding and creating discomfort around all these years and suddenly you’re going to pull the switch after all that bait.
I’ve had talks with lots of other moms about having “the talk.” I don’t think my kids and I will ever have that particular talk, because they already know. And we talk about it often — kids are obsessive creatures. We read Where Did I Come From? and What Makes A Baby, which together cover every aspect of the subject. We can talk about IVF and C-sections, because both of those are part of the story of their births, and we can talk about the fact that yes, mommy and daddy still have sex regardless. And when they’re older, we’ll start talking about contraception.
Plus, making it something that you talk about together early and often, makes it something you can talk about together forever and always.
…I like that when that time comes, I’m part of the “we.” Because if I can tell my girls, “we” have to be careful, they’ll know that no matter what happens, I’m still in their corner. I’ve still got their backs. Even if “we” make bad choices, I’ll still be there to help make things right again.