Wednesday, 12 July 2017

What I want MY kids to know about sex.

It seems everyone with a keyboard and kids is writing a ‘what I really want to tell my kid about sex’ piece. I immediately reject the ones which only really advocate for abstinence, any of the ones that make sex sound dirty or vulgar, and any of the ones that shame. They just don’t fit with my world view. But I read most because, like most parents, I don’t want to get this wrong with my kids. I want to make ‘the talk’ an ongoing conversation with my boys as they grow because there’s a lot of information to cover, a lot of questions to ask and answer, and a lot of awkward silences to work around. So far, I haven’t found one which ticks all the boxes. For one thing, most seem too heteronormative and, whether I suspect that my boys are straight or gay or somewhere in between, I just want their thinking about sex to be more inclusive and representative of the world around them. And furthermore, most of these articles are aimed at boys and, while they try really hard to teach boys to be gentlemen, they end up perpetuating the ‘girls as gatekeepers mentality’ and I hate that. The subject of consent, respect, and appropriate ways to treat women is important and correct but there needs to be a few clarifying statements made to ensure the responsibility for saying “no” doesn’t fall into the ‘pink job’ column in a kid’s mind. So anyhoo …… here’s my sex talk. Mostly because I want to have it to refer to when my mind goes blank as I stare into the eyes of my child and realize I’d better make my words count because he’s about to flee …. Either mentally or literally physically flee. Because ‘sex talks’ are hard and we’re going to need to have a lot of them to make sure it all sticks.
  1. You don’t have to have sex. Not ever. No one should ever make you feel weird or strange because you didn’t want to. It’s not a measure of your ‘manhood’ or ‘womanhood’ or whatever manufactured construct people want to label it. It is generally accepted that about 1% of human beings are asexual, meaning they have no sexual desires at all. That’s normal for them. It’s also normal to have all sorts of sexual desires and urges but just not want to have sex sometimes for any reason whatsoever, period. And you don’t owe anyone an explanation at all.
  2. People have sex because it feels good. You might as well know now. It. Feels. Good. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s nice.
  3. There are a few things, however, which can make sex feel lousy. If not during then after. Non-consensual sex is rape. Always. And it feels really lousy. Sex which is coerced or pressured feels lousy. Sex without enough communication will often leave somebody feeling unsatisfied and unappreciated, which is lousy. Sex without enough lubrication will probably feel lousy, if not during than later. And finally any sex which results in an unintended and preventable consequence like an unplanned pregnancy or a STD will most certain feel lousy after the fact. 
  4. Consent. As I said in point 3, Non-consensual sex is Rape. No one can give consent if they are inebriated, very high, or incapacitated in any way. So if consent is not possible then sex should not happen. Ever. Understand that consent can be given and then taken away. This means someone can change their mind and stop at any time. So then it stops. Immediately. If you do not know, trust, or understand the person you are about to have sex with well enough to feel comfortable with the clear establishment of consent THEN DON’T HAVE SEX WITH THEM. 
  5. Guilt is not foreplay and pressure is not arousing. When people have sex with each other then everyone should want to have sex with each other. If you’re trying to make someone feel attracted to you then try making them feel attractive, not compelled. And if that doesn’t seem to be working, take “no” for an answer without making them feel bad. There are a lot of ways to pleasure yourself alone, and a lot of nice ways to spend time with others that don’t involve sex. Keep it in perspective.
  6. Keep it honest. Keep it real. Not every act of sex needs to be an act of love. But be honest. Talk about what you want out of the encounter. If it’s just sex then that’s ok. As long as it’s what your partner wants too. Mutuality is important. Know each other’s expectations. Just sex? Just once? Ongoing? Open to a relationship? Open to an exclusive relationship? No judgement, just honesty. Respect and honesty are sexy. Just do me a favour ….. trust me when I say that sex in a loving, growing, committed relationship feels great. Your Dad and I have nurtured a loving relationship along for 25 years and counting, and it’s hard but it’s worth it, and sex is a big part of it. Be open to what the heart wants too. Be as honest with yourself as with your partner. 
  7. “Let’s talk about sex” isn’t just the Salt’n’Pepa masterpiece on Mommy’s nostalgic playlist. It’s something I want you to do, often, and with confidence. And I don’t mean crude, disrespectful, or demeaning statements about sex and certainly not about sexual partners. Please be better than that. What I mean is don’t have sex with anyone you haven’t spoken to about sex in advance. After the honest conversation (see number 6) about what your heart wants (or doesn’t want) then there is some stuff you need to talk about. In detail. What is happening to prevent STDs? What is happening to prevent pregnancy? If either of those measures fail what’s the plan? How does each participant in the sex plan on dealing with a STD? Or if the sex you are having could lead to an unplanned pregnancy then how will the other be contacted and what will everyone’s responsibilities be? Just to be clear, in the case of pregnancy it’s her body so it’s her choice but if you were there when it started then you need to support her in whatever she decides. All this talk not sexy??? Uncomfortable? Embarrassing? Scary? Well suck it up buttercup, because if you can’t have the conversation about everyone’s responsibility during and after the sex then you shouldn’t be having the sex. 
  8. Sex isn’t a video game. There’s no levels. There’s no points system. There’s no passport to collect stamps in. Within the spectrum of physical intimacy and sexual intercourse there are limitless possibilities.…. you don’t have to get to them all. Might I suggest quality over quantity as an excellent rule of thumb, as it is for most things in life really. But especially for sex. You don’t have to be good at all of it (trust me at first you won’t be) but endeavour to be better, for yourself, for your partner. Variety may be the spice of life but mastery gets you a PhD. Sex is best as a physical embodiment of a human emotion. Whether the sex you are having is an act of desire, or passion, or curiosity, or friendship, or urgency, or comfort, or love, try to be in tune with the other person (or people!!). Laugh when it’s funny or awkward, smile when it brings you joy, express yourself when it brings you pleasure, and leave room for your partner to do that too. You don’t have to work your way through the Kama Sutra like it’s a 2 week tour of Europe. Some people will feel comfortable and fulfilled with a very narrow repertoire and others will search and explore further to keep happy and interested. The range and scope of what human beings do sexually is vast and it’s ok if you feel you need to explore that. It’s ok. But, seriously, you don’t need to plough through the possibilities like Ferdinand Magellan with a teleporter. Or maybe you do, but make sure each new discovery moves you closer to the real you, the you-est you. Take a compass and check in with true North often. Sex can make you feel happy, proud, virile, adventurous, or loved, but it can also leave you feeling very empty and lonely. I hope you always consider where the journey is taking you.
  9. Porn. Sigh. Yep, we’ve got to cover porn. It’s not real. Nothing about it is real. I don’t want to inject judgment and shame here. It’s only sex. But I want you to know there are some people involved in those scenes that will be harmed by the work and some will be empowered by it. I don’t want to go on a feminist diatribe right now but just know that. And more importantly porn will set you up with very unrealistic expectations for real life sex. If I could wish anything for you it would be that you can be someone who can appreciate the beauty of a real human body and all it’s potential and vulnerability. When you became attracted to someone I hope it’s about more than superficial beauty. I hope you are attracted to their mind and heart and sense of humour and the way they smell and the way they laugh. I hope they make you feel great about yourself and the way you can talk about anything with them. I hope you find these qualities are what attracts you to a person. I hope, one day, you even fall in love for the same reasons. Porn won’t help on that journey so just make sure it doesn’t actually hurt that journey. Ok?
  10. Sexuality is a spectrum. It’s ok if you know if you’re gay or straight. It’s ok if you’re not sure and have to explore to find out. It’s ok if you settle in the middle. It’s ok if you change your mind as you get to know yourself better. It’s ok. Just treat others well and honestly along that journey and you’ll have nothing to be ashamed of.
  11. Sometimes you will be really attracted to someone and they won’t feel the same. Rejection hurts. It hurts a lot. But don’t let it change you. And don’t change yourself because of it. Be yourself and you’ll attract people who like you for you. Oh, and remember how it feels when it’s your turn to reject someone. Be clear. Be kind.
  12. Dad and I are here for you. Anytime. Have a question? Ask. We might have to google it, but we’ll find the answer. Want to share a fear or worry? We’ll listen. Maybe we’ve felt that way too. Felt embarrassed? Get it off your chest. Growing into a sexually competent adult is a dance and nobody starts as Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers …… more like Mr. Bean. And that’s ok too.

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