Sex Positive Parenting

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Everywhere you look online, you will find the phrase ‘sex positive’. What does this mean and how can a parent instill sex positive thinking in their children.

Sex positive is the ideology that sexuality is not taboo. Up until now, sexuality, gender, and even the act of having sex has been topics too racy to discuss in public. And most parents dread any conversation with their children about sexuality. It does not have to be a scary thing.

Before, parenting around sexual topics was limited to the ‘birds and the bees’ conversation and the ‘what now’ conversations with young girls when they begin their menses. Sex Positive parenting proposes that sexuality should be an ongoing and evolving conversation with children starting from a young age.

Toddler – Preschool Age

During these years, children learn about their own anatomy. Often they are exposed to the anatomy of another gender. These differences will not go unnoticed and often children will ask questions.

“Why does daddy pee standing up?” or “Where do babies come from?”

At this age it is not necessary to go into the long biological aspects of sexuality. What is important is to give simple answers. Research shows giving simple, correct information is best.

Some examples are:

  • Using the terms for anatomy, such as penis, vulva, or breasts.
  • Keep calm and do not assume questions mean anything other than simple curiosity.
  • Use simple explanations for differences in behavior. Do not overemphasize socially constructed differences between boys and girls.
  • Be prepared for repeated questions of the same topic. And the question, “Why?”

School Age (K-5)

As children enter school they will be surrounded by other children raised differently and exposed to streams of conflicting information. It is important as a parent to find a balance between learning from peers and feeling comfortable asking their parents for information. School age children will often hear terms which they are unfamiliar. Parents should use this time to give their children an accurate understanding of sexuality terms. Use online resources to aid in explain terms that are unfamiliar. Answer in a clear and excepting tone. Children of this age should not find shame in their curiosity. Parents should be their go to source of correct information.

Some examples of questions to expect at this age may include:

  • What is an erection? This should be answered with simple anatomy, the penis is often soft, yet at times it gets hard and stiff, this is called an erection. If the child has a penis, this may be an appropriate way to explain that often it is beyond their control, and that is OK.
  • What is a blow job? It may be proper to explain that this is referring to oral sex, this will depend on the age of the child and earlier education. Be simple and straight forward. This is also the perfect time to introduce the concept of consent.
  • Can two girls have sex? (or two boys) The simple answer to this question is that any two people can engage in consensual sex. Children will often try to visualize how this works if they have a good understanding of sexual anatomy. Be prepared to explain that sex is not always penetrative. The most important thing to remember is to instill an accepting, non-judgement tone with the child. They are impressionable and will take on the tone of this conversation.

Preteen – Middle School Age

This age is perhaps the age of most input from peers. School buses, playgrounds, and lunchrooms are filled with children sharing information. Due to the hormonal changes that occur during this time, sexuality and gender are common topics. Comparisons with other children can cause anxiety and confusion at this age.

It is important to explain that individuals mature at different rates. The young girl who left fourth grade may return to fifth grade with breasts. The boy who had the high-pitched voice at the beginning of the year may grow 6 inches and have a deep voice by winter break. Young teens often need to be constantly reassured that no matter where they are in their development, they are normal. Children this age will often begin to question their sexuality in comparison with media and other relationships that they are exposed. They are trying to figure out who they are in reference to the world around them. Instituting an open-door, all questions are welcome stance will help parents to have an integral role with their children.

Parents should reflect on feelings and experiences they had at this age. Sharing these stories with children will help them to not feel alone in their confusion or curiosity.

Understanding consent is paramount at this age. Enthusiastic consent provides children with the power to protect themselves and others. Consequences of nonconsensual behavior should be discussed at this age. As well as consequences of behavior, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Children this age should learn the differences between biological sex, sexuality, and gender. Here is a simple explanation of these terms:

  • Biological sex – the biology with which an individual is assigned at birth.
  • Sexuality – the preference of whom someone is sexuality attracted; homosexual is someone attracted to individuals of the same gender, heterosexual is someone attracted to individuals of the opposite gender, and pan sexual is someone whose attraction is not based on biological sex or gender, sometimes called attracted to head and heart
  • Gender – the performativity of ones sexuality. Gender identities can range anywhere on the spectrum from masculine to feminine or none at all. Cisgender is someone who identifies as their sexuality they were assigned at birth, often based on biology. Transgender is someone who identifies as something different from the sexuality they were assigned at birth.

Teen – Young Adult

Teens and young adults are often still trying to figure out their sexual and gender identities. As parents, it is important to be supportive of what choice teens and young adult make as long as they are being safe and conforming to standards of consent. During these years children will undergo many changes. Sexuality and gender are often fluid at this stage and may continue to change. Being an ever present positive support is the most important stance. Children who feel support from their parents, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity, tend to have better mental health and fewer issues as they enter into adulthood.

Keep it Simple and Ongoing

Ongoing communication is keep is key. Sex Positive parenting is simply being consistent and present for children. It is OK no to have all the answers right away. It is a process.

Growing up Sex Positive

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I am so excited to share a post from the source… a young adult that grew up in a sex-positive environment. Was it a positive experience? Read and see for yourself….

Growing up my mother was very sex positive. For as long as I could remember if I had a question, it was answered honestly and without hesitation and I never thought sex conversations were awkward. Being a girl, and having a mother that was sex positive made sex less of an awkward thing for me to talk about. I felt as though I could talk to my mom about literally ANY questions I had. Now just because we could talk about it, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing we talked about.

Is there such a thing as too much information?

   I’ve noticed people have this perception on sex positive parenting that they are “throwing sex into the child’s face.” That wasn’t the case whatsoever. My mom never threw sex in my face and we didn’t talk about her personal sexual encounters. It wasn’t like that. All it was, and is, is that children and teenagers have questions about sex. 

   Children are curious, and children become even more curious of what they know nothing about. I grew up where I felt comfortable to ask any questions I had. Any questions that popped into my head, that every child thinks of, I was able to ask instead of wonder. Instead of trying to figure out myself, where I could potentially get hurt in the process. I was able to know what was right and what was “wrong” in circumstances of consent, without it being a weird conversation with my parents. And honestly I never had to have that awkward “birds and bees” conversation you all know of. I was able to explore my body once being older, in a safe and appropriate way, and being able to ask questions at the appropriate time.

And the cycle continues…

     I think having a sex positive parent has been an amazing thing. Sex is natural and it’s something everyone runs into in life, and it should be talked about like a natural thing. Having a sex positive parent, has made me want to be a sex positive parent. Who doesn’t want to make sure their children know they can come to them literally about anything?

Nis Foster is a young parent to two amazing children and child herself of a Sex-Positive advocate and educator. Nis identifies as she/her and spends as much time as she can just enjoying being with her kiddos. She is a natural writer with an interesting point of view on many topics facing young people today. Show some love and hopefully I can convince her to be a regular contributor.

As always thanks for stopping by — RaxLeAnne