Sex education for parents
Speaking to our children about physically and Emotionally Safe Sex is exactly the opposite of doing “The Talk” with them!
Let’s FORGET about “The Talk”!!!
The whole idea of doing 'the talk' about safe sex has a strong subtext that says:
- This is a one-time event, I haven’t spoken with my kid about sex and having safe sex before that, and I don’t really intend for this talk to have continuity.
- The Talk is a serious, heavy, charged, one time occasion, in which I, the parent, allegedly the ‘knowing side’, is passing the knowledge and warnings to my adolescent son/daughter, allegedly ‘the not knowing’ side, and by giving them these guidelines for practicing safe sex I can mark a V sign on filling my duty as a responsible parent.
What is the outcome of all that?
I am mainly speaking instead of mainly listening.
I'm supposed to present myself as an authority and to say the “right thing”, which prevents me from being transparent and curious to their world.
I am actually trying to teach my kid what to think and how to behave in order to be protected, instead of teaching them how to think and make choices on their own that will be good for them.
This setting of "The Talk", has been mediated to us as one where the parent puts him/herself as a role-model which doesn’t show signs of weakness, meaning, doesn’t share from their own experience, their own mistakes, our own confusion or embarrassment.
This might result in 2 possible ways, both of them unwanted:
- My child will perceive me as a bigot who presumably did a lot of foolish things in my time and now, since I’m the parent, I pretend that it never happened and that I never was like that. Being the immediate suspect in hypocrisy pretty much blocks any chance that my child will come to me at times of trouble or perplexity.
- My child will truly believe I am the role model that represents all those right things I said. Once again, it assures they won’t see me as the address for sharing or consulting about the perils he/she go through, since I am such a Mr/Ms perfect and in their eyes there is no chance I could identify or understand what they are genuinely passing.
So what do we do? What can we do better?
Speaking to our children about physically and Emotionally Safe Sex is something we need to do on regular basis. With humor, not pathos, self-humor especially. We should start by admitting out loud that we are also unsure of ourselves, embarrassed and that honestly, we hold more care in our hearts than formulas in our heads on how to live right romantically and sexually. It is okay for us to not have all the answers!
We should be able to share our fear for them, our own troubled experiences, our doubts or insecurities.
If I wish my child will share with me those parts of his/her soul – I should be the first one to show how “signs of weakness”, natural human vulnerability -looks like.
I don't necessarily have to talk about clinical sexual practices, but I do need to talk about values of equality, listening, caring, communication, empathy, warmth and compassion.
When I speak about the conditions to a healthy relationship, I am actually giving Sex-Education to my child.
It should happen in the most trivial and prosaic situations:
While carrying bags from the grocery store. At the dinner table. When watching TV together.
Every time a sexist or chauvinist advertisement appears on screen, one that represents women bodies as an object, a commodity or just in a sexual way that has nothing to do with the product – we get an opportunity to start a conversation. To ask our son/daughter what do they think about those images? And by doing that, we both mirror everything wrong with the way humans are objectified and pass our own agenda about how sex, women and men should be perceived.
Educating our children for healthy respectful manhood and valued feminity should not be outside of our comfort zone.
The triggers for normalizing open conversations about sexuality are given to us, unfortunately, 1000 times a day by the media. We must use that and speak to our kids constantly. Silence is interpreted as consent and reasoning with the images shown. Silence is not an option for us as alert and proactive parents.
It may seem frightening, but is gets easier with practice. It is a simple T-crossroad: either to talk or to be silent. In our day in age we must speak up.
We no longer have the privilege our parents had – to not speak with us about sex. The world was romantic back then, before hard-core porn and sexualized images took over the media and became the main educators.
In this day in age, we can't stop technology, but we sure can educate to some basic, old school, human values of right and wrong, of healthy protected and respecting intimacy between two people.