“We don’t play with our vulvas at the table. Go wash your hands and finish your food.”
If those words were meant to shock, they didn’t have that affect. Not on me at least. After 16 years and three children, very little does. The Huffington Post piece entitled, “This Is What Sex-Positive Parenting Really Looks Like” popped up on Facebook yesterday. I began reading it, chuckling at the gratuitous use of the word “vulva.” As a writer, I get the notion. Use it enough and you’re bound to get a reaction. We’re like two year olds in that way. Negative attention is still attention. Affirmations of notoriety are just as effective as love when it comes to gaining an audience.
As I read, I was on the same page as the writer, even after the third or fourth vulva reference. Honest discussions about our bodies? Check. Proper terminology when discussing body parts? Check. Having sexual feelings is normal; sex feels good? Check and check. She lost me right around here:
There’s a lot of black-and-white comparisons when it comes to sex education. Some people think that once kids hit puberty, if they don’t have a strong fear of sex they’ll have as much as they can, as often as they can. There’s a lot of abstinence-only sex education, based on telling kids, “SEX IS SCARY! DON’T DO IT!” and it appears to be about the least successful program anyone has ever invented.
Telling children the truth about sex isn’t giving permission for them to have it — and this is the most important part — because when the right time comes, nobody has the right to deny them permission for sex but themselves.
And that’s the thing I try to keep in mind when I say things like, “We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.” Sex is something that ONLY happens when both people WANT it to happen. And that means that the only people in the entire world with any kind of say over whether or not my daughters have sex is them.
I don’t get to tell my daughters they have to have sex, but I also don’t get to tell them they can’t. They’re in charge. Your body, your decision.
I never want to be responsible for setting the precedent that another person gets to tell them what to do with their bodies, and especially with their sexuality. I don’t want to be the gateway for a manipulative, potentially abusive boyfriend.
With all due respect to the writer, I’m just going to go ahead and call BS. I’m the mom. It’s my JOB to say no. My daughters aren’t allowed to wear bikinis or use makeup or go on dates or have cell phones. You know why? Because they’re too young. They aren’t allowed to just willy-nilly “do things with their bodies.” That would include tattoos, body piercing, and, yes, having sex at will.
It’s entirely possible to teach our children to know and understand their bodies. It’s also pretty easy to teach them that sexual feelings are normal and that sex does, indeed, feel good. Because it does. It’s also ok to tell them they need to wait. Not because “I said so.” But because, like getting the chance to wear makeup or go on a date, the time to become sexually active isn’t when you feel the urge. Being physically ready is not the same as being mentally prepared for the monumental responsibility of sex. As the responsible adult in my children’s lives, it’s not only my right, it’s my obligation to “deny them permission for sex.”
This either/or idea about sex is ridiculous. I’m not teaching my children that abstinence is best because “sex is scary.” I’m teaching them that abstinence is best because sex is a really big deal. Having it is life-altering. The consequences can force a 15 year old kid into making very adult decisions. The “my body, my choice” mantra will get you about as far as the positive pregnancy test. And then we aren’t talking about one body any longer, are we?
Children can grow up learning that sex is a wonderful part of a healthy relationship. A date to the prom does not a relationship make. Teaching them to respect their bodies is just as important as teaching them proper terminology. Teaching them to understand the urges they feel are normal is just as important as teaching them that engaging in very adult behavior means not giving into every urge we feel.
As the mom, I get a say in what is appropriate behavior for my children to engage in. Especially when certain behaviors can land them in jail; like statutory rape, for example. (Please do try to use the “my body, my choice” line on the judge, though. That should be a hoot).
There are very simple rules my children must follow while they live in my home. No smoking. No drinking. No drugs. No piercings or tattoos. No sex. While I am cognizant of the fact that some of these rules will be broken, I will still enforce them. I, like the HuffPo writer, will still be there for my kiddos when they miss curfew or try beer for the first time. I will be there if they make choices that I don’t want them to. Because they will make choices I don’t want them to. They might even choose to have sex. And if they do, I will be there when they have to face the consequences that will come. I know they will come; not because I haven’t been there.
Because I have.