Do you remember when you learnt about sex?
I do. My cousin told me bits and pieces. I was young but not that young, maybe eight? The mechanics I kind of understood, the intricate parts I did not.
My sexual liberation, my freedom, my guilt-less being in the sexual world, the developing of my Erotic-Self is kind of a miracle given that I come from a very patriarchal and extremely conservative background and upbringing, but hey, I’ll take it, I’ll take two if I can! (wink). (I’ll write about this another time)
So the sex part, penis in vagina I learnt from my cousin. Why or what happened with that, I had no clue. It had something to do with babies, but it wasn’t very clear. I probably assumed the very medieval stance that the woman was just the vessel but had an absolute passive role in the subject, and it was the man who actually gave her the baby to carry. Sigh. I also didn’t know how babies came out.
Menstruation? Sheeesh, nothing. I saw the ads with this blue liquid that looked like diapers, I also saw women using the diapers and jumping on valleys into the sunset, or riding horses on the beach. I assumed these women felt really free since they didn’t have to interrupt their activities to go pee. Yes, I saw peeing as a hardship since I shared a bathroom with three dirty boys who didn’t raise the lid or flush.
Correct anatomy? Are you kidding? I had a pee-pee. As did my brothers. Mine was just a sad little slit between my legs, while they had this wonderful hose that allowed them to pee standing up. I had major penis-envy. No other words beyond pee-pee and tushi were named in our household (or school, or extended family.) (Yes, school. I had the unfortunate ultra orthodox biology teacher that ripped out the anatomy diagrams of male and female from our government issued books. I kid you not).
No more ignorance
Needless to say, I have educated myself and continue to do so. I am currently reading Amanda Laird’s book “Heavy Flow” and am fascinated by how little I know about something my body has been doing for most of my life.
I recently got my period post-partum and I was like “Now what the heck do I do? Pads? Period underwear? Where is my cup? Will it still fit? And so on and so forth”.
Anyhow, beyond my own continuous education, my kids have already learnt the correct anatomical names for their body parts.
Knowledge is power, and responsibility
Yes, the three and a half year old and my two year old know that they have different body parts which they very much enjoy playing with; with certain rules.
No, we do not touch your brother’s penis.
No, we do not put anything inside your vagina. You can use your hands. Only your hands.
Yes, that hole is called an anus, both you and your brother have it. Yes, that is where poop comes out.
No, you can’t be touching yourself all the time. Yes, I know if feels good. Those are private parts.
You can’t touch yourself everywhere, just in privacy.
Yes, bath time is fine.
Right now, not so much.
You want to touch yourself, go ahead, but wash your hands before and after.
And so on, and so forth.
I bought the book “It’s NOT the Stork!” since my eldest was born. I had been waiting for the right time to open that book up and now is the time.
Beyond learning anatomy and correct terms, it is actually explaining how our bodies work (yes, it talks about erections), and how babies are made.
“When grownups want to make a baby, most often a woman and a man have a special kind of loving called “making love” – “having sex” – or “sex”. This kind of loving happens when the woman and the man get so close to each other that the man’s penis goes inside the woman’s vagina”.
Children are much too young to do the special kind of loving – called “sex” – that grownups do.” (28-29)
So my three and a half year old now knows about the existence of sex. I am pretty sure that it is the first time she has even heard the word. (This amazing book also tells her about how some babies are made in petri dishes, or how sometimes semen goes in without a penis… it is incredibly inclusive).
I am finding it fascinating at so many levels.
First of all if we normalize sex, as I have been trying to do with adults, from a very young age, then she will have the freedom to explore and experiment without all of the ignorance and shame that most of us associate with sex.
I am certain that if she knows her correct anatomy, it will keep her safer. It also gives her autonomy and empowers her. If I call her vulva and vagina her pee-pee, the same as her brother’s, how is she to know that her body is magical and perfect and that it can do so many things?
The other fascinating part is that it has made me slightly uncomfortable that my young young dragon (even if she is the eldest of three) knows the word sperm and what it is, she knows the word scrotum and what it is, she knows she has a clitoris and a vulva, labia and a uterus.
It is as if my whole conservative upbringing is being called up, all of those little demons have woken up and are coming to the rescue of the conservatism I have shed off. They come and yell and tell me how wrong what I am doing is and how ashamed I should feel. They tell me she is too young.
Of course those voices are incredibly soft in comparison to what I know is the right thing to do by my children, but they exist, and, again, I find it fascinating that they are still there, dormant, waiting for the right moment to shame me.
Here I am, and here we are. Parenting is such an incredible experiment and I am so lucky I get to do it with such an amazing co-parent and husband who is on the same page as me (he, with a less conservative upbringing is not having those little voices asking him what the hell is he doing teaching his kid about sex).
I also know that kids learn sex so unbelievably early these days and I’d rather she have the correct information before someone comes in and tells her that our body has humours and one of those humours solidifies out of a man’s pee-pee it can become a baby, or some other nonsense of the sort.
Knowledge is power. And empowering my child in her sexuality is essential to her upbringing. (Even if it makes me slightly uncomfortable. Even if it makes me very uncomfortable to feel slightly uncomfortable).