Sex-Positivity: A Parental Superpower for Raising Happy, Healthy Kids

Don't worry - it gets easier! And as my recent radio guest Lea Grover pointed out, sex talk should go well beyond a single chat.

Don’t worry – it gets easier! And as my recent radio guest Lea Grover pointed out, sex talk should go well beyond a single conversation.

One of my favorite questions to ask radio guests and listeners is, “What did you learn about sex as a kid?”  In response, I usually hear some variation of “nothing” or “that it was bad.” Considering the little, if anything, most of our parents learned about sex growing up paired with the abstinence-only and fear of STDs approaches used in U.S. schools and society’s messages about sexuality, these answers aren’t surprising—but they are unfortunate and worth changing, no matter when you start.

Some of the reasons parental sex-positivity matters:

◊  Most kids learn extremely little or countless mistruths about sex throughout their lives, which raises their risk for depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more.

◊  Sexuality is a natural part of being human, from the womb on. Addressing kids’ natural curiosities truthfully, respectfully and in language they understand (but still using proper terms: vagina, penis, etc.) helps ensure body confidence and lets your child know they can trust and talk to you, without shame.

◊  When kids’ curiosities aren’t quelled, they seek the information elsewhere—namely the internet or their peers. This is why mainstream porn has essentially become our youth’s sex education, raising loads of risks.

◊  Talking to your kids about sex and their bodies in respectful, uplifting ways creates stronger child/parent bonds.

◊  Encouraging kids to embrace their sexuality paves the way for positive self-esteem, body image, growth and development and relationships throughout their lives.

It would be easy for me to say, “Come on, everyone! Raise your children with sex-positivity!” but I don’t have kids, and can only imagine just how complex and confusing doing so can become. That’s one reason I was thrilled to interview Lea Grover on Girl Boner Radio last week.

A writer and mother living on Chicago’s South Side, Lea says she waxes philosophical about raising interfaith children, marriage after a terminal cancer diagnosis and vegetarian cooking. She recently added sex-positive parenting to her article library, in a poignant piece published by the Huffington Post. I contacted her after reading it and learned that she’s also a fellow 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year! Her blog is as fabulous as she is.

Writer and sex-positive parent, Lea Grover

Here’s the opening excerpt of Lea’s article, This is What Sex-Positive Parenting Looks Like:

It happened yet again. As I was sitting at the table for dinner with my children, I noticed my daughter’s hand fishing around under her skirt.

“We don’t play with our vulvas at the table. Go wash your hands and finish your food,” I scolded. She nodded, ran off to wash her hands, and resumed picking at her dinner instead.

Small children, they touch themselves. A lot. It’s fascinating to them. And when you’re a small child, you have no sense of shame or disgust or fear of your body. Your body is what it is. It does what it does. And everything that it does is kind of amazing, because you’re not old enough for lower back pain. It’s not sexual, it’s just… fact.

The first time I caught one of my kids playing with their genitals, I said absolutely nothing. I was momentarily paralyzed with indecision. One thing I knew for a fact I did not want to do was to shout, “No!” or “Stop!” What good could that possibly do? Sure, I would be spared the awkwardness of catching my child playing with her genitals on the living room floor, but what kind of lesson is that? To fear or ignore your own vagina?

I thought about it almost constantly for two days, and of course she gave me a second chance to react.

“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.

“We don’t eat in the bathroom, and we don’t touch our vulvas in the living room,” became the new mantra. And yes, eventually it became, “We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.” To read on, visit this link.

To listen to our radio chat, click here: Sex-Positive Parenting: How to Raise Empowered Kids

You can follow Lea’s work as Becoming SuperMommy on FacebookPinterestGoogle+ and @bcmgsupermommy on Twitter.

For tips on how to talk to your kids about sexuality, read the post I wrote for the National Eating Disorders Association, Boosting Kids’ Body Image and Self-Esteem by Taking the Taboo out of Sex Talk.

To learn what my mom learned about sex while growing up in the mission fields of India, check out this Girl Boner Radio episode.

How do you feel about sex-positive parenting? What did you think of Lea’s insight—on the air or in her article? If you’re a parent, how does your child’s knowledge of sexuality vary from what you learned growing up? What do you wish you’d learned growing up? I love hearing from you!
Leave a comment

11 Comments

  1. Take the shame out of it and suddenly sex-positivity just becomes good parenting— teaching where and why, setting expectations and limits, setting the foundation for future good habits and choices… now the real challenge is balancing and responding in a sex-positive way against all the extreme puritan messages they get from relatives and church organizations and the extremely relaxed messages of media and advertising…

    Reply
    • True and well said! I wish we didn’t need to even use the word sex-positive — that it was a given. While we can’t change the world on our own, or collectively soon, we can change the microcosms we live in.

      Reply
  2. I read her post last week, it was so good! My parents were great, they taught us so much and made the conversations casual so we knew we could always talk to them. Safety was the number one concern with my parents, and I hope I have passed their lessons onto my own kids.

    Reply
    • Making the conversation casual is a fabulous tip. Glad you enjoyed her article too, and learned so much sex-positivity early on. Lucky kids, you have!

      Reply
  3. I would have loved it if my parents had discussed anything real about sex. All I ever got was a lot of innuendos. Great piece, August!

    Reply
  4. Best to be open and give answers to questions about sex that are age appropriate. Otherwise there is a lot of backtracking, story-telling and explaining — unnecessary. I tried to be accepting and accommodating with my kids — “Go to you room if you need private time with your body.” The downside was we hardly ever saw my son when he was younger.

    Reply
  5. Reblogged this on Trashy's Treasures and commented:
    I’m trying really hard to teach my daughter that touching herself is normal. This helps.

    Reply
  1. Sunday Links: August 31, 2014 | Stop, Drop and Blog
  2. Sex-Positive Parenting: How to Raise Empowered Kids | August McLaughlin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: