Sex-Positive Parenting In A Not So Sex-Positive World

I think when people think of “sex positive parenting”, that those words bring to mind a parent who flaunts their sexuality, or rather, lives their own sex life out in the open in front of (not literally) their children.  That is not the case with me.  My private life is my private life, and she has no business knowing what I do, and I certainly don’t go recounting stories of it without some sort of relevance.  For example, if she asks for advice on something, or asks me what something is, etc, then I have no problem answering honestly and openly.  That being said, I also am not ashamed to laugh at sophomoric humor involving sexual innuendoes, or cracking my own jokes born of witty sarcasm.  You can’t pretend to your children that you’re perfect humans; angels devoid of any sexuality or less than “pure” thoughts and emotions, and expect that this will ensure you have a child become just that. In fact, I think you conjure the exact opposite.

My take on parenting is that your kids not only learn from your example, but that as with adults, whatever you insist they not do, rally against and restrict them from, is only going to drive them head-first, saddles blazing, towards that exact thing you so badly wanted them to denounce.  If you want a child that doesn’t swear, than don’t pretend you don’t.  You can’t scandalize your kids with streams of swear words from your lips when someone cuts you off in traffic, and then turn around and scold them for saying the “S” word.  Seriously, your kids don’t learn anything from that example except how to be a better hypocrite.  Likewise, don’t swear like a truck driver either.  Presumably, you have a more eloquent vocabulary with which to speak your disdain, so use it.

Everything in moderation.  This goes the same for drinking, sex, whatever thing you want your child to have respect for, have respect for yourself.  Don’t abuse it, either by excess, or denial of it.  Your children will follow your example.  My daughter is proof of this.

“Be what you want to appear” – Socrates

My daughter knows I write this blog, and she knows its basic theme is about sexuality.  She doesn’t know the specifics of it, nor does she obviously care to, and I don’t want her to either.  It’s not that I’m ashamed of who I am and what I’m discussing here, but rather that I understand parenting, sex-positively so, has boundaries.  Teaching boundaries is, in essence, teaching healthy sexuality.  I would never want to share the explicit and varied details of my personal explorations with her, unless she asked me for my advice or opinion.

She knows that I love to write, that I’m good at it, and that I am really enjoying the interactions and responses that have come from blogging my experiences, thus far.  However, I can sense her unease about the subject matter when I talk about the blog, or more so, that I’m enthusiastic about it.

When I was 16, I could not wait to get going; my engines were racing, and I wanted to explore the whole world right away.  Watching one too many afternoons of daytime soap operas after school is what my mother blames my curiosity on.  I blame it on the fact that neither she, nor my father, even attempted to have “The Talk” with me, let alone try to broach the subject with me to even see if I had any questions I wanted to ask.  The only thing I knew about was getting my period, and that was because my mother remembered how a girl in her 6th grade class in Catholic school got hers one day, it leaked onto her clothes, and she was horribly embarrassed because she had no clue what was happening to her body.  My mother did not want this to happen to me.  I guess I am thankful to her for at least that morsel of body education.

My daughter though is an entirely different story.  As open as I have been about sexuality as being a normal, natural part of life, to be enjoyed in a healthy, vivacious way without the trappings of it being called “wrong” or “immoral”, she really has no interest in it.  When she was 14 I told her that if she ever had any questions about sex, or any of the new “feelings” that puberty usually brings on, that she could talk to me, and ask me anything.  She told me, “Mom, I’m in middle school.  Kids talk.  I know everything”, and I said, “Kids usually talk about sex like they know what they’re talking about, but usually, they don’t know anything about it.  They just want everyone to think they do”.  That’s more like disinformation.  Can you imagine leaving your child’s sex education up to the information that gets leaked from peers?  The very thought makes me shudder.  She encouraged me though when she told me, very earnestly, that she had no interest in sex, and that she was “a kid, and wanted to remain a kid as long as I possibly can”.  You know, why can’t more kids have this kind of clarity and respect for their innocence, and how did I get so lucky!

I recently watched a documentary on the sex education and trends in our youth culture called “Let’s Talk About Sex”.  Compared and contrasted against the rest of the industrialized world, the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate.  And when I say high, I mean, drastically so in comparison.  According to the research from the film, every day nearly 2400 teens become pregnant in the U.S. , and nearly 10,000 teens a day contract a STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease).  The film goes on to illustrate how the U.S., compared to other countries, has a more contradictory viewpoint on sex and teenagers.

Despite the fact that sex is everywhere in he media, and aimed heavily at our youth, we have major hangups around just how to approach the idea of sex education with our youth.  While other countries seem to teach that it’s a natural and healthy part of life akin eating and sleeping, and as something to be respected, our country seems to hypocritically denounce it as “bad”, equating it with drugs and alcohol, as something that is harmful, and something to abstain from.  However, as can be gleamed from how other countries approach the topic of sex education, if you educate your children, age appropriately, about sex in an open and honest way as something to be valued and respected, you will have youth that respond in that manner.

And I think that the trend we see with our youth and their abuse of alcohol, is actually a really telling correlation.  As we tell our kids “No” vehemently, and forbid it so staunchly, we actually create the desire in kids to want it.  They don’t know why they want it, except that it’s this “forbidden” thing, and so the power and mystery to this forbidden experience becomes just that: powerful.  What happens when you tell someone “No, you can’t have any”? Well, chances are, even if they didn’t want any to begin with, the fact that someone forbade them created an instant driven force towards the very thing they were denied.  When my parents would have wine with dinner, they would offer my brother and I a sip in a small glass.  Most often than not, we turned it down.  However the very fat that they offered it to us took that stigma of the “forbidden” away, so when we grew up and went to college, we didn’t feel the core-driven urge to get drunk and “party”.  I’m not saying we didn’t drink, but we didn’t go out and abuse it like so many kids do the minute they are out from their parents watchful eye.  We had respect for it, and honestly didn’t feel the need to use it to the point of excess because it was never something we were refused.

Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to have this foresight with discussing sex, and just assumed that if they didn’t talk about it, that we wouldn’t want to do it.  Wrong, wrong, so very wrong.

Photo Courtesy of Gstile

When I was in 6th grade and overheard a bunch of girls talking about sex while in the library studying, my immediate thought was, “Wait, these girls know about sex, and I don’t, and yet, I am so much smarter than them.  How come I don’t know about this, and they do?”  Well, that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  I headed straight to the medical encyclopedia of our middle school library, and checked out volume “S”.  That night, behind the closed-door of my bedroom sanctuary, I read what sex was in graphic detail.  I can tell you that none of those girls I had overheard knew what sex was either, but now I did.  I was 12.  My response to what I had just learned was “Ewww, I’m never doing that.  That’s gross”.

Two years later, I changed my opinion.  I still had no guidance from my parents.  There’s power in a mystery, and even more so when it’s peer-driven.  You’re vying so hard to find out who you are, and weighing yourself against everyone else.  If the majority of us are not receiving the information we need, well, I can tell you that is a whole lot of teenagers who want to discover just why you so adamantly rally against sex.  That is an inertia that is very difficult to fight.

You can make a difference as parents.  You do not want your kids learning from other kids about what sex is, and refusing to acknowledge what sex is, or just telling them “No”, is only going to make the very thing you fear as parents, reality.  As uncomfortable as broaching the subject with your kids may be, it’s worth a little bit of awkward to get accurate and positive information to them.  The alternative is much worse.  Talking about it with them will not make them want to go out and do it, in fact, taking an upfront and honest approach to the subject diffuses its mysterious charge.  Remember, what you resist, persists!  Don’t fight against educating your children in a healthy, age-appropriate way, fight for it!

How do you approach the subject of sex with your kids?

Tuned In, Tuned Out, And Turned On: Sex in Music Through The Lens of Childhood

When I was little there was always music playing in our house, or at least that’s how I remember it. My parents were older (my father 34, and my mother 39) when they had my brother and me, so I wouldn’t say that their tastes in music were the most progressive they could have been for the mid-1970’s, but regardless, they always had something on the record player, or in the 8-track. On any given day in our quaint suburban New York home, while some parents might have been heard playing The Beatles or spinning The Stones, mine were rocking out to the likes of Connie Francis (Lipstick On Your Collar), Peggy March (I Will Follow Him), or my personal favorite, the various sounds of Motown. Oh, and how could I ever go without mentioning the most popular band my parents cranked the stereo up to (inserting my tongue firmly in my cheek here); The Carpenters. Yes, I still remember all the lyrics to their smokin’ single, “Close To You”, by heart.

We had a huge wood burning fireplace with a large stone hearth which was about a foot off the living room floor, and when there wasn’t a fire burning, this was my stage. The fireplace faced directly toward the picture window in the center of our living room, so not only did I preside over our copper-colored shag carpeted, uber 70’s pad, but whatever world unfurled before me became my captive audience as well. Not like anyone was ever out in our driveway, and our neighbors yard beyond, watching me pretend to be the next Diana Ross, but you never know, it could’ve happened. I cannot possibly tell you how many countless hours I spent singing and swaying my little 5-year old, blonde pig-tailed, heart out into whatever my makeshift microphone of the moment was, atop that gray hearthstone. When I was little, I was all about the performance, and to this day it’s a wonder I didn’t turn out to be the next Madonna, or Lady Gaga, except for the fact that while I can definitely sing, and relatively well, still not well enough to become a platinum record recording artist.

Around the time I turned 6, I started watching what would become the most influential television show of my “pre” pre-prepubescent life, and my first ever career goal: Solid Gold. Solid Gold started in the fall of 1980, and was basically the predecessor to MTV (you remember, back when it actually had music on it), as it hosted live musical performances by artists like The Go-Go’s, Blondie, Olivia Newton John, Wham, Culture Club, and other assorted early 80’s pop icons. In addition, they also showed music videos, but what made it the most enticing and captivating show to me, was that it featured the Solid Gold Dancers; a set of scantily clad, male and female dancers who would do their own eros-inspired gymnastic dance gyrations to the Top 10 Billboard music countdown of the week. This would become my first dream job. Yes, I wanted nothing more in the world than to grow up and be a Solid Gold Dancer. Some girls wanted ponies, I wanted to be the tightly curled blonde diva wearing white hot pants with gold glitter accents, a gold sparkly tube top, and strutting the stage in a pair of matching high heels. This explains a lot, now that I think back on it. =)

Being 6, I was oblivious in my own rainbow-colored, Barbie doll and unicorn glitter sticker world, completely unaware of the connotations those sinuously sculpted, skin tight leotard wearing dancers held. And just as I was naive to what they represented, so was I to the lyrics of the songs that I so gleefully danced around in my silky Strawberry Shortcake nightgown to. I have to wonder what my parents, and the other adults around, were thinking, if they even bothered to listen to the words those pop music icons were singing through the television, and later, through the radio and cassettes in my lavender boom box. Were they just not listening, or did some of the lyrics go over their heads too? Things that make you go, Hmmmm.

In honor of the innocence of childhood, and with a hat tip to the fabulous Redhead Bedhead, whose own musical memory lane inspired this post, I give you…

ErogenoUS’s Top Ten Songs About Sex From When I Still Had No Clue What Sex Was

1) Olivia Newton John – “Physical” 1980

I took ballet classes starting at age 6. This was our warm up song for most dance classes. I begged, and I do mean, BEGGED my father to ask the teacher who sang it, so he could take me to Caldor after class and buy me the record. Yes, vinyl, bitches! I still own that album to this day! I was obsessed with this song. I played it all the time, until my mother was sick of hearing it. I always thought it was about gym class and working out, and that was back when I really liked gym glass, so this was like my anthem! Our school bus driver, Stanley, used to play the radio on the bus rides home. He turned it up the afternoon this came on, because the entire busload of elementary school kids was bopping up and down excitedly, and singing along at the top of their tone-deaf little voices! This clip is perfect because it features Olivia Newton John performing it on Solid Gold. Did I mention I was part of the Official Olivia Newton John Fan Club? I kid you not.

2) Culture Club – “Miss Me Blind” 1984

The second cassette tape I ever bought at the tender age of 7 was Culture Club’s Color By Numbers, and it should be noted that I did so with money that I got as a gift for my First Communion. Personally, knowing now that one of my favorite songs on this album, Miss Me Blind, was about hot gay sex, makes that little factoid even that much more tawdry, and therefore more enjoyable to me. I think my mom thought it was bad enough that the lead singer, Boy George, was really a man, despite the fact that he did everything to look like a pretty hot looking lady.

3) Sheena Easton – “Strut” 1984

I was originally going to include “Sugar Walls” here instead which Prince wrote for her, and is quite notorious for being blatantly referring to the “walls” of her vagina, but I have more personal connection to “Strut” instead. It’s more authentic to include “Strut”, as I can remember being in the car with my cousin, who was a year younger than I, and she and I were singing this at the top of our lungs, as her aunt drove us to the movies with our even younger cousin, who was maybe all of 5. We were 8 and 7, respectively. Some of the lyrics our cute little faces chortled out were:

“Come on over here, lay your clothes on the chair,

Now let the lace fall across your shoulder

Standin’ in the half light, you’re almost like her

Now, take it slow like your daddy told ya”

Hmmmm, sketchy. I can’t imagine what Aunt Sandy was thinking as we sang that.

4) Madonna – “Like A Virgin” 1984

Virgin? What’s that? Who knew at the age of 8, but who really cared either! I gave more impromptu dance performances on my front lawn, boom box blaring, to this song than any other! I gyrated, swiveled my hips, tossed my naturally wavy platinum blonde hair, and probably even rolled around on the ground too, just like Madonna did when she performed this song on the MTV Music Awards. I was too young to do so clad in lace clothing, but don’t worry, I totally rocked that look when I got to middle school, just a few years later. I remember once we went to visit my aunt and uncle who lived in Pittsfield Massachusetts, and I brought my trusty boom box and this tape with me. I gave an impromptu concert consisting of lip syncing and dancing to this entire Madonna album, to some kids in the neighboring backyard who were peaking over the fence behind their house. I was the best 8-year-old mini Madonna that the Berkshires ever did see!

5) Cyndi Lauper – “She Bop” 1984

Santa brought me this album when I was 9. I always thought this song was all about dancing, and how “she bops, he bop, a we bop, I bop, you bop, a they bop”, but apparently while my cute little 9-year-old self thought that meant that everyone was getting down and getting funky on the dance floor in some club I wouldn’t get to go to until I was an adult, in reality, it meant they were getting down with themselves in bed. Oh, Cyndi, I loved you when I was 9 for your awesome neon clothes, rainbow-colored hair, and hip thrusting dance songs, but I love you so much more knowing that you sang songs championing the joys of masturbation, and cleverly disguised it for us kiddos! You are my hero!

6) Prince – “Little Red Corvette” 1983

Horses? Pocket sized-horses at that! Little girls love horses! And red corvettes were my favorite car at that time! Alas, Prince was not making reference to My Little Ponies, all bright and colorful, and he wasn’t really talking about her car being “so smooth” that it’s a limousine either. Still, this was a favorite song to play that summer during pool parties and family BBQ’s, and yet none of the adults told us to turn it off. Were they listening, or do you think they just thought it would do what it did, and go innocently over our heads?

7) Journey – “Any Way You Want It” 1980

Thanks Solid Gold again for introducing this song to me, but it wouldn’t be until 80’s music hit the now “classic rock” station, that I would learn that the lyrics were all about sex, sex, and more sex, apparently just like Burger King, made your way, right away. =) It was somewhat embarrassing to sing vocals on this as my 13-year-old daughter banged out the percussion for the track on her Rock Band drums, driving our homemade Wii band home to 5-stars, all the while knowing that she must be thinking, “my mom is singing about doin’ it…heehee”.

Now we move to the more blatant, ‘how can you possibly not know”, songs on my list. These all came out as I was approaching the age where I knew that sex was “something” involving touching without clothes on (Thank you, afternoon soap operas), but still for all intents and purposes, completely clueless that it had anything to do with inserting Part A into Part B. Ah, innocence! Those videos in Catholic school mentioned nothing about just how that semen got into that vagina. Thanks for that, Sister.

8) Samantha Fox – “Touch Me” 1986

I was totally obsessed with this song, and so was my younger female cousin. 11 and 10, respectively, we were both in Catholic school at the time, and this was the song we blared from the speakers of my lavender boom box in her quiet upstate New York suburban driveway, as we held our own dance-off concert, complete with half-shirts and undulating hips. Interestingly enough, her mom, and then she and her sister, eventually all converted to being Baptists, and were “Born Again” about 2 years after this. Samantha Fox, they had to pray the sin out all because of you! My fate would fare much better, and in 1987 my Very Catholic Mother would take me to my very first rock concert; Samantha Fox! Touch me now! Err, I mean, pinch me!

9) George Michael – “I Want Your Sex” 1987

There’s no guesswork about the subject matter of this song! No, no mincing words with George! The aforementioned cousin and I were on a camping trip for Memorial Day weekend in the woods just surrounding Lake George, and as kids do, we brought things to entertain ourselves. So, there we were, in our tent together playing a pretty cut-throat game of Uno, and playing this song at a reasonable level on my boom box, when all of a sudden this huge heated debate starts when my mother’s boyfriend’s son, then probably in his early 30’s, gets his panties in a bunch that we’re playing such sexually explicit music, and starts demanding we turn it off. It’s “inappropriate”, he says. I find it really funny how, looking back on it now, it wasn’t my Very Catholic Mother starting this campaign of musical censorship. Lucky for us, my mom said, that while she agreed that it was indeed “inappropriate”, that we could keep it on as long as we lowered the volume. I think we lowered it for all of maybe, 10 minutes, and then turned it right back up again. It should be noted that this music video was also responsible for my intense love of lace lingerie and garters, mildly bordering on complete obsession, which began shortly after viewing it on MTV. Yes, I was 12.

and finally, we’ve come to…

10) Salt N’ Peppa – “Push It” 1988

I was 13. By the time this song made it onto my radio I had read the Medical Encyclopedia, Volume S, to finally know just what this “sex” thing was all about. You know, I think I still wanted to hold onto my innocence despite my nearly unrelenting desire to be “grown-up”, because while I knew this song was about sex, I don’t remember making that big “Ah-ha” connection between “pushing”, and what that was all really about. I find it interesting how we have this almost innate failsafe inside of us that, as we are overlooking the precipice of puberty, encourages us cling to that veil of innocence for just a little bit longer.

And there you have it, a musical biography if you will, of the ecstatic expression of the joys of sexuality, as seen (or not, as the case may be), through the eyes of my innocence and youth.

What do you remember about your own childhood, the music, and the lens of innocence?