I strive to raise sex positive children and as much as I strive for this, the reality is I don’t really know how. Contrary to what this blog may project…I am not a sex expert. The idea of being sex positive in general is relatively new to me so the concept of sex positive parenting is completely uncharted territory. However, it is not outside my experience and there are some resources like this piece by sex therapist Kristin Hambridge, Sex + Parenting. And this one, This Is What Sex-Positive Parenting Really Looks Like, that I can’t stop rereading.
My children are young, nine and four, as I write these words. Discussing anatomical names and physiological locations for body parts is easy, but what about everything else.
When I’ve asked people, mainly women, they tell me that sex education was largely absent in their upbringing. I believed I’ve mentioned before that my parents never talked to me about sex. Fortunately, I liked to read and had a keen curiosity when it came to my body and sex in general.
The first conversation I ever had about sex, I was in middle school with a group of high school aged girls who took it upon themselves to educate me once they noticed all of the attention I was getting from guys that were in high school.
Being a sex positive parent means giving my children the knowledge and experience I wish I would have had if I had it to do again. And taking all of the high energy experiences I appreciated having and gifting that to them as well.
Confounds of Conditioning
I speak very openly about my desire to educate my children without restriction when it comes to sexuality. There are few people who agree with my methods. I can confidently say, this is mainly due to their own conditioning. The same conditioning that teaches us that sex is mostly (or only) for a man’s pleasure. The same conditioning that accepts double standards as the standard. The same conditioning that teaches a woman that it’s ok for a guy to touch her, but it’s gross to touch herself, or that sex is something you do behind closed doors and you certainly do not discuss it openly. Yes, I experienced the same conditioning. Even though I did not subscribe to all of it personally, I was going right along with it.
However, this is not where I am coming from. First, I am actively questioning and revolutionizing every ideal within my awareness about sexuality (because there are things that I am still unaware of). I am deciding which of those ideals resonate with me, which ones are counter productive to who I am, and which of them are my own formed beliefs. So few of them are my own.
One of my friends said to me, “Victoria, for the sake of your children, I hope you are doing this right.” I’m sure they meant well but I didn’t hesitate to let them know that my decision to raise sex positive children is not about being right or wrong. My children are not some social experiment in a “Most Successful” parenting competition.
Life is about giving your children all the things you never had, right? (Maybe…) For me, I did not have the knowledge to make a well-informed decision when it came to my own sexuality or even the decision to engage in the act of sex, which has had some unwarranted effects on relationships that were very important to me.
I was not very sexually empowered and occasionally found myself in situations I had not been prepared to deal with. Of course this happens in life, but it happened significantly more often for sexual encounters. Situations I had not been prepared for and had not been taught to properly navigate.
I believe this is the most important component to raising sex positive children.
I walk around my home completely nude. Yes, in front of my children and so do my children. I can’t tell you how many people have gasped at this revelation. My son, who is four years old, occasionally plays with my boobs and crawls underneath my dresses. So did my daughter at that age. I mean, why not, it’s completely non-sexual: boobs are fun to play with and ankle-length dresses are like tents. When I was a child, I used to play with my dad’s boobs (Yes, my dad had boobs!), and I’ll hear you say that that’s different but only because we make it so.
My children love on my nudity all the time and I allow it because not only is it good for them, it’s also good for me. When my daughter runs her hand across my tummy, she doesn’t think how gross and ugly my stretchmarks look. She questions where I got them and when she might receive her own. This helps me recognize my own conditioning towards my postpartum body.
When my son nestles his face into my breast, it is simply his way of comforting himself. He nursed from my breast for the first thirteen months of his life, that memory is not so far away for either of us. Motherhood has helped me see that a body is not just reserved for sex. And of course, I knew that already but it was not a part of my conditioning. Therefore nonsexual bodily interactions that occur between me and my children are indeed normal however generally may be perceived by others as inappropriate.
Sexualizing children is one of my greatest pet peeves but it’s something we’ve been conditioned to do. We do it without a second thought as to the origins of such a thought.
Empowerment to the Children
Even though I found myself in those situations, I was thankful that my mom taught me that it is perfectly acceptable to say no in any situation. Although she did not say so explicitly, in my mind, sex was not different.
Now being in a situation where I didn’t know whether I wanted to say yes or no was a whole other issue and a bit trickier. No one ever taught me how to listen to my inner self to make these sort of decisions. That’s a post in itself though.
When I sit with women and talk about these things, most experiences are relatable however outcomes may differ. I try to figure out where our experiences diverge. It is through these conversations that I’ve learned so many women were not taught to explicitly say no. (And I’m still exploring the why of this: Why aren’t women taught explicitly to say no?)…and of course I’m aware of the whole, “Why is the responsibility placed solely on the woman?” I’m so there although I’ve learned to navigate this thing one question at a time…the overlap will eventually reveal itself.
It’s weird to have been taught to stand up for what you believe in and trust your intuition except when it comes to sex. I was always taught that your hormones will deceive you and your emotions will betray you. BLASPHEMY! I know that now.
I was not taught to acknowledge my body at all in any way. Perhaps if I’d been a dancer or an athlete that may not have been the case, however, that is not my story. I was only ever taught to hide and cover myself: skirts below the knee and shirts up to my collar bone. My physical and psychological pubescent changes were never directly acknowledged outside of my menstrual cycle. These conversations occur regularly now between me and my own daughter.
I want to empower my children to explore their sexuality however they choose. I want to teach them that it is perfectly acceptable to reject experiences that do not resonate within. If a thing does occur, willingly or unwillingly, it is not something you need to feel guilt or shame about.
Whenever I encounter bullies in my life, the first thing I’d do is tell somebody. Put them right on blast so everyone would know. I wish I had been taught to be so fearlessly open when it came to exposing the “bully” of conditioning in my own life. Hell, I didn’t even possess the awareness to be so vigilant. I would like my kids to have a different option. Does this mean they’ll make all the right and great decisions? I’m sure they won’t. But once again, that isn’t the goal.
I want my children to know that it is perfectly acceptable to challenge the status quo. You don’t need to go along to get along. Let’s talk about it. What’s done in the dark must be brought to the light or else people will go on just pretending it doesn’t happen. PERIOD.
I’ve had someone say to me, if you teach your daughter to be as sexually liberated as you are, aren’t you concerned about predators. Nope…they exist regardless of whether she is sex positive, sexually liberated, or totally oblivious. They may still come for her and while I cannot change others behaviors, I can make her aware of her every option and right as a human person.
Encouraging my children to use their words, to write what they cannot say, to draw what they cannot write, and to simply be still if they need to is so important to my endeavors of sex positive parenting. No form, of the way you choose to express yourself, is greater than another.
For me, this is so much deeper than intercourse. It’s about fostering healthy attitudes, and relationships, first with your whole self, in order to choose healthy sexual experiences and boundaries with others. By whole self I mean physical, psychological, spiritual, as well as sexual (which embodies all three).
I could go on and on because the freedom to explore one’s sexuality, openly and safely in the way that they desire, is so important to me. I desire for my children to find strength and sensuality in sex instead of shame, objectification, and health stigmas.
Yes, I could go on but I won’t. I’ll just stop right here and you can subscribe to keep abreast of my sex positive parenting adventures. After all, this is just theory.