Sex Positivity and Parenting

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.

Gender, Sisterhood

Mommy Works Too

This morning I got a frantic call from a friend of mine who has two precocious and wonderful daughters aged 3 and 5. Her husband works a normal 9-5 job and she’s a freelancer. And when asked what mommy does the girls reply “Yoga.”

So she asked me for advice. “How do I show my girls that I work? I’m really upset and offended by the fact that they don’t get that.”

So here are my tips for her specific case.

  1. As freelancers we often say things like “I’m at the armory 6-11 today and the school 9-4 tomorrow.” In front of the kids let it be “I’m at work 6-11 today and again 9-4 tomorrow.” Let them ask you why you don’t work regular hours. When Dad works he just calls it work. You can too, no qualifiers needed. “Where is Mommy?” “She’s at work.”
  2. Define what it is to work. Going to an office is clearly work but dancing is something they do for fun, make it clear that when you do it it’s difficult and took training and makes money, which qualifies it as work. Tell them you’re exhausted from it and that you’re glad to come home and see them after working so hard.
  3. Every day your kids interact with people who they don’t know are getting paid to stay with them, most of them women. Working with kids is hard work, maybe your kids should see you paying the babysitter and asking her how work was today. Let the kids know what kind of training makes your babysitter or teacher qualified and what that means as far as payscale.
  4. Introduce them to other women who work. I’m a big believer that as soon as kids can form complete sentences they can be spending time with your friends. Ask your female friend how work is going and to explain what they do, what kind of hours they work, are the freelancers too, what kind of lifestyle does working that job afford them? Does it mean they tour or travel a lot?
  5. Why do you like your job and why do you dislike it? Tell them why it’s stressful but also important to go.
  6. Ask them what kind of career they’d like when they grow up. And be very clear that princess is not an option and why.

This Porridge Is Just Right

Goldie Blox reached their funding goal and are now open for pre-orders!

I tend to have a problem with the pinkification of girlhood.  It’s not that I hate the color (I’m actually learning that a nice hot pink can be good for my skin tone) it’s that usually pinkification means either a) that this toy comes in FOR GIRLS or FOR BOYS or b) that the girls get the dumbed down/less educational version.  A good toy teaches you something by the time you’re done playing with it.

Goldie Blox may be pink but it fits into neither of those categories (well, I hope.  I haven’t played with the thing).  It may be pink but it’s fun and educational and hopefully will inspire a new generation of girls to take on butt-kicking, high-paying, world-shaping jobs.  So lets get on with inspiring our daughters!

For the older set check out Danica McKellar’s books on math and adolescence.  Maybe you should show her some Wonder Years first so she can fall in love with Danica via Winnie.  That’s a pretty fool proof plan.


Boys, Well, Boys Want Both

This came out a while ago but I just came across it again and I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted it here yet.

What I love is how it completely boggles her mind.  She’s like Doctor Donna.  She sees everything and then must explode.

…because girls want superheros and the boys want superheros and the girls want pink stuff and the girls… and the boys want… and the boys don’t want pink stuff… (gently shaking her head back and forth)

Her Dad corrects her, saying “Boys, well, boys want both…”

But her Dad is wrong.  Boys in the U.S. are taught from a very early age to avoid everything associated with girls.  Being called a “girl” is, in itself, an insult to boys.  And the slurs “sissy” and “fag” are reserved for men who act feminine.  So, no, boys (who have learned the rules of how to be a boy) generally reject anything girly.  [x]

No surprise, considering

“What’s the worst thing you can call a woman? Don’t hold back, now. You’re probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt (I told you not to hold back!), skank. Okay, now, what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. I’ve even heard the term ‘mangina.’ Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally fucked up.”

-Full frontal feminism: a young women’s guide to why feminism matters, By Jessica Valenti

What’s that Doctor Donna?  You like this post?

Thanks Donna!

Gender, Hope, Intimacy, Menstruation, Obedience, Sex

A Few Good Sons Continued

I wanted to mention this in the last post but thought it might be upsetting if you had images of your underage sons in your head.

On top of being good people, can we raise our boys not to think that girl’s bodies are gross?

Just imagine how happy your daughters would be then!

“Males as a group have and do benefit the most from patriarchy, from the assumption that they are superior to females and should rule over us. But those benefits have come with a price. In return for all the goodies men receive from patriarchy, they are required to dominate women, to exploit and oppress us, using violence if they must to keep patriarchy intact. Most men find it difficult to be patriarchs. Most men are disturbed by hatred and fear of women, by male violence against women, even the men who perpetuate this violence. But they fear letting go of the benefits. They are not certain what will happen to the world they know most intimately if patriarchy changes. So they find it easier to passively support male domination even when they know in their minds and hearts that it is wrong.”
— bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody
I say let’s fix this.  I want men who are worth Lysistrata-ing others for.
Gender, Hope, Media, Obedience

I’m Looking For A Few Good Sons

I read an article the other day about how the most recent feminist wave is presenting feminism as the cooler option mainly because the feminists are against the people who are against having more sex.

And another article about how men and boys have to be part of the feminist community in order to have progress.  A concept I fully support because patriarchy hurts men too.

So, a plea to the people entering their fertile years.

Please, please, please, raise smart sons.

Kind, aware, and unafraid of a new definition of masculinity.

“Our work of love should be to reclaim masculinity and not allow it to be held hostage to patriarchal domination. There is a creative, life-sustaining, life-enhancing place for the masculine in a non-dominator culture. And those of us committed to ending patriarchy can touch the hearts of real men where they live, not by demanding that they give up manhood or maleness, but by asking that they allow its meaning to be transformed, that they become disloyal to patriarchal masculinity in order to find a place for the masculine that does not make it synonymous with domination or the will to do violence.”
—bell hooks, The Will to Change,

Especially if you think you’ll want grandchildren one day.

Gender, Sexuality

Cinderella Sexualized My Daughter

I just finished a fantastic book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter which I recommend to anyone who doesn’t have a young daughter.

The book was written by Peggy Orenstein who was raising a young daughter while writing the book.  It seems that one of the biggest lessons she learned while writing it was that there isn’t really a perfect way to raise your girls.  You can’t deprive them of Sleeping Beauty.  She’ll just watch the movie at someone else’s house and then accuse you of trying to make her into a little boy.

As a non-parent the best advice I can give to parents is this to keep in mind:

‘This is not the worst thing you’ll ever do to your kid.”

Let’s say that your kid falls off a swing at the park and you’re freaking out because you’re that bad parent who let their kid fall of the swingset. Tomorrow your kid won’t even remember going on that swingset and in 15 years that kid is going to be resenting you for something that certainly isn’t ‘Mommy didn’t care enough when I got a booboo.’

So while this world is going to thoroughly mess with your children, relax.  At least it won’t be your fault.

I’d much rather blame Bratz.

Abuse, Friendship

If You Liked Me You Wouldn’t Do That

Because anyone who knows me well knows about FemaleGazing it seems I’ve become the place where all my friends dump their upsetting feminist-y articles/pictures/news for me to comment on.

The other day someone left this at my front door (proverbially…okay, fine, it was just my facebook).

The Queen of the Couch apparently has a little princess she wants to learn about domestic abuse at the ripe old age of 10.  I think this is fabulous.  I’m a big believer that children can understand much more complicated concepts than we give them credit for (If James Deen knew he wanted to be a porn star in kindergarten then why not teach your daughters not to accept abuse from the get go?).

The Queen’s stance was simple.

I am sure every girl can recall, at least once as a child,  coming home and telling their parents, uncle, aunt or grandparent about a boy who had pulled her hair, hit her, teased her, pushed her or committed some other playground crime.  I will bet money that most of those, if not all, will tell you that they were told “Oh, that just means he likes you”.  I never really thought much about it before having a daughter of my own.  I find it appalling that this line of bullshit is still being fed to young children.  Look, if you want to tell your child that being verbally and/or physically abused is an acceptable sign of affection, i urge you to rethink your parenting strategy.  If you try and feed MY daughter that crap, you better bring protective gear because I am going to shower you with the brand of “affection” you are endorsing.

These ‘playground crimes’ contribute directly to the boiling frog phenomenon that makes rape so hard to prosecute, domestic violence and emotional abuse so prevalent, and girl’s self esteem plummet.

Let’s teach our children that those ‘minor offenses’ are indeed offensive, that they do not mean that the offending party cares and that acts like these are only carried out by people who do not have your best interest at heart.  I’m sure that would lead to more warm-n-fuzzy feelings per capita than this event which made me want to die.

Deviant/Default, Media

I Wanna Be Like You-Hoo-Hoo

Men are the default.

Men are normal and women are…other?  Crazy?  The people who make men crazy?  Want some more examples of this?

But if you know me then you know that I hate people who complain for no reason without any intention of fixing the problem and no desire to get to the root of it.

So lets get to the root of the problem.  Let’s at least talk about what the root could be because honestly I really don’t know what the root is.  So lets explore this together.

Who writes these signs?  Let’s go ahead and say men.  Because lets face it the majority of people with paying jobs in this country are men so that’s a pretty safe assumption.

Alright so it’s not about the guy who writes the signs.  It’s about the companies who make the…stuff that the signs are directing us to.  They think that women (or girls) can’t use anything unless it’s pink?  Men (or boys) can’t use anything pink (or it’ll flip the magical gay switch)?

Even though I don’t so much mind Little Tikes telling me that I need to use a different product than you (well I do actually but not nearly as much) the problem is that yours is the regular and mine is edited (read: pink) for my specific needs.  Yours is normal.  Because you’re normal.  And I’m not.

My question is this: If we keep telling our sons that they are people but women are…something else, how does that shape their vision of women as they age?  Does that directly contribute to the othering of women?  Is this toy part of the reason why men yell at me from their cars?  They think that because I’m not like them I don’t have the same feelings as them?

Little Tikes has given me some pretty good memories so I’m hesitant to blame them entirely for my sad face.

But this isn’t about complaining or placing blame.  This is about fixing the problem.  And I guess all I can do about that is to say I’m not so different from a guy.  I can do homework.  I can fix a shower.  I can caulk a window.  I can move my furniture around.  I can drive and check someone out at the same time.  And I don’t need everything I own to be coated in Pepto-Bismol pink in order to do it.

Do you need everything you own to be covered in taxidermied animals for you to successfully be a man?  If you do…well that’s a whole separate problem.