Kids and sex
Michelline sent me this article, which is a pretty standard article about explaining puberty to kids. There was one paragraph, though, which stuck out to me –
When a man and a woman love each other and decide that they want to have a child, they will do something called “sexual intercourse” or “having sex.” This is when the man lies very close to the woman and puts his erect penis inside her vagina. It feels good for both the man and woman. They will also hug and kiss and cuddle. This is a very special way of expressing how much they love each other.
I have two problems with this. First, it’s not true. Studies (not to mention common knowledge) show that the number one reason people have sex, particularly young people, is that they are physically attracted to a person. Sex isn’t something people just decide to do when they love each other deeply and want to perpetuate the species. Telling kids, even 8 and 9 years olds differently doesn’t do them any favors.
People would probably say that even if that’s not the way sex usually happens, that’s the way it should happen, so that’s what they want to tell their kids. Which leads to my second objection – there’s nothing inherently moral in saving sex for marriage or inherently immoral in sex without love. Thanks to our Puritan forefathers, our culture’s ideas about sex are seriously fucked up.
Sex, and sexual attraction are a fact of life starting with pre-teens and ending with death. Kids should be taught about the risks and pitfalls, but also be encouraged to embrace their sexuality when the time is right, and the right time is different for every person. As parents, the best we can hope for is that we’ve raised kids who are emotionally healthy enough to make the best decisions they can, and that they feel comfortable, not afraid, of coming to us for support. Yes, the risk of pregnancy and STD’s are real. But we can’t shield our kids from every danger as they grow up. Driving is dangerous too. Some of our kids are going to die because we let them drive. But we don’t expect them to wait until they’re 25.
I’m not suggesting that you sit your 8 year olds down and give them the ins-and-outs of college hookups. But there’s no need to plant this unrealistic version of human sexuality in their heads at such an important time of life. We’ve got enough of these horribly misguided abstinence programs out there to deal with, leaving guilty, ashamed kids in their wakes. What I expect, especially from medical and psychological professionals, is age-appropriate discussions of the dangers and the benefits of sexuality, without the harmful puritanical baggage.
On balance sex is not only a biological imperative, it’s a great thing, one of the joys of being alive. We should raise healthy kids who grow into emotionally healthy adults and are happy and sexually fulfilled, not ashamed and uptight.