Monday, May 16, 2011

The Talk

Last term we had a sex education program visit the school.

The first session was for children Year 3 -6 about the basics of genitalia and reproduction. The second session, for Years 5 & 6, was about puberty and changes during adolescence. I attended the first with Clancy. Matilda (and her friends) didn’t want to go. Fair enough.
Some of the children clearly had no previous instruction on sex education. My friend had told me she wanted her children to keep their innocence as long as possible.
My favourite part the of the session was when a Year 4 girl covered her mouth with her hand and said ‘Oh My.’

It was a good session.

Others have been talking about ‘The Talk’. This from a mother who found The Talk didn’t go quite as she had hoped.

And resources for those who need a little help. This seems to be for older children. Might be best to get the facts out of the way before children become embarrassed about the conversation.

The tricky part for me is pitching the morality. What I’ve done. What I believe is healthy. What is safe. What is realistic. That the ideal doesn’t always square with the reality. That loving sex, or recreational sex, can end in disappointment and pain. Pregnancy or disease. That they need to protect themselves. That respect is key - even if that respect is to have sex and walk away. That what you do or don’t do is nobody else’s business (no slut or virgin shaming here). That sex is serious and not for children - that’s why there are laws around it. That more important than the conversations with their mother will be the conversations with their partners (but they can keep talking to their mother).

I can understand how much easier it must have been to say ‘save yourself for marriage’ - there’s a lot of protection from hurt in that, but I’m not married, and I’ve had sex (obviously), so I can just be honest. They’ll know the options and make their own way.

The reality - from the Guardian Weekly

The Obama administration released their report on the status of US women. US women earn 80 cents to a man’s dollar, are more likely than men to live in poverty, and are more likely to be stalked or killed by intimate partners. And marriage isn’t what it used to be. Fewer women are marrying, they are marrying later and for reasons other than having children. The more egalitarian the relationship within marriage the better. Couples and children are happier and healthier (and have more sex) if both parents work and share the caring (including housework) responsibilities. A college education for the woman has benefits all round; their children do better at school and they have fewer divorces.

And a book review

Sex Before the Sexual Revolution - Simon Szreter and Kate Fisher

This book focuses on the experience of marriage among the working and middle classes in Britain between the end of WW1 and the early 60s. The authors interviewed people who are now quite elderly, who always considered sex to be a very private matter, and struggle with the language with which to describe their experiences. The authors found the respondent saying they enjoyed sex all the more because of its very private nature. Innocence was highly valued. Knowledge of bodily functions was slim. Interesting is the criteria for attractiveness - good skin, a fine head of hair, cleanliness, smart clothes, and a sense of essential benevolence in a potential partner. Sex was about love. The giving of love rather than the receiving of pleasure. A sense of being cared for and confirmation of love.

And the context (always context).No recourse if things went badly. Exclusion of homosexuals, bisexuals, the upper class, and those who didn’t marry. But interesting, for what it is. And it would have been my parents’ experience.

A far cry from the way most people think about sex today, when norms are set by the pornograhy industry.

I’ve talked to my girls quite openly, answering their questions. Matilda was asking questions a few years ago. (This is a child who, at age four, asked ‘If Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, when is Santa’s birthday?) I stopped that initial conversation when I became uncomfortable talking about my own experiences. Some conversations since have been prompted by situations we see on tv. There’ll be many more conversations to come. We talk about it as we do everything else - just as situations arise, and questions are asked, while we’re doing other things, eating dinner, being together. And I’ll probably tell them to attend to their own interests even when they are concerned with what boys think of them.

Surely better than the sex education I had - from reading the World book Encyclopedia, watching Blankety Blanks and tv soaps, and the message of the Catholic Church.

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