Act #128: Consider the messages when assigning shame and negativity to sexuality.
Someday I will teach my only son that sex is OK. Well, as long as it is consensual, and he is respectful of himself and his partner. And obviously only when he reaches a maturity level when he is able to fully comprehend and grasp the concepts of consent and respect.
This week Elizabeth Smart spoke to an audience about issues of human trafficking and sexual violence. She explained that some human trafficking victims don’t run away because they feel worthless after being raped, particularly if they have been raised in conservative cultures that emphasize sexual purity. Smart recalled a teacher who compared sex to chewing gum - once you chew it up, nobody re-chews it and you throw it away. In Smart's own words, "Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” For decades, public schools have been pushing for abstinence education - imparting a shame-based approach to genitalia and sexuality. Instead of teaching young people the facts they need to know to safeguard their health, abstinence-only curriculums create an environment where young people are embarrassed to talk about their experiences and feelings. Social psychologists believe that a more comprehensive sex education can prevent sex crimes by teaching children about their bodies and giving them tools to describe acts of abuse without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. It also helps elevate their self-confidence and sense of bodily autonomy.
My son is only 5, and yes, we are already having age-appropriate conversations with this innocent little creature about his sexuality. Why? Because one day he looked down there and discovered it! Apparently all boys have one of these - and because he is a human who has a penis and who, chances are, will grow up to have sex one day. He has been calling his penis a penis since he could talk - not a wee-wee, a wiener, a hot dog, or a boy part. A PENIS. Because that is all that it is - a body part that boys have. It is not a symbol of strength or prowess. It does not give him permission to exert power over anyone. It is not a dirty little secret that he has to hide or feel embarrassed to talk about. It is not a weapon. It is a part of his body that only he should have control over. It is what he uses to pee. And someday, if he is so inclined, he will use it to have sex. My real job as a parent is not to teach my son that sex is bad, but to bring him up with realistic expectations about his sexuality, and to impart in him a genuine sense of respect for himself and for others around him. Stay tuned for a future blog: Why I'm going to let my 16 year-old drink a beer at the dinner table.