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One of the most confusing but important subjects we seem to get wrong over and
over again is human sexuality. Somehow we have managed to cloak the most
natural, spiritual, creative, scientific and necessary experience under a
shadow of shame, ignorance and judgment. I realize I've said a lot here but it's
my truth and my experience and I'm sticking with it.
Last week a 13-year-old boy grabbed a 14-year-old girl without her permission and tongue kissed her. He had been dared
by his friends. The police were called and the boy was arrested. Maryland's criminal
code prohibits any unwanted, potentially injurious contact, whether or not
it actually results in physical harm.
On the Internet and in
street interviews, people have been saying "boys will be boys" and the action
doesn't deserve the punishment. In my personal circles I've heard mostly moms
expressing concern for this girl, asking about her well-being and suggesting
the boy deserves some type of punishment or a lesson should be taught.
This situation deeply concerns
me because it points to a system that does not take the necessary time to
properly educate and cultivate an environment of safety and responsibility
regarding sexuality from a very young age. In my circles of parents, I've heard
many struggling with what is being taught in the schools regarding sex. Never
mind what's not being taught in the homes and what has become available with
the click of a mouse.
I constantly hear parents wondering how they can "avoid"
the sex talk and wishing the other parent will take the responsibility. But I have
one friend who took a very unique approach to talking with her child about sex, and it seems to have worked in that her child has always been comfortable
coming to her with questions and concerns about sex.
I believe sex is something we should always talk about with our children because it is so natural and important in our lives. It should be a conversation that is as natural as ones we have about food.
My friend started by having age-appropriate conversations about body parts. She never used pet names but called them what they are—vagina, breast and penis. She used animals to explain sex, and as her daughter matured she allowed the conversation to evolve to human relationship. These were on-going discussions over the years, not a one time talk.
By the time her daughter was old enough to start dating and expressed interest in boys, there was a comfort level between them that allowed talk about everything. My friend never encouraged or discouraged sex. However she did tell her that her body was hers and that she owned her pleasure—it was not attached to a boy. She could do with her body as she decided as long as she understood the possible consequences. She also supported her daughter in making health choices regarding birth control and sexual habits to prevent infections and diseases.
I believe sex is
something we should always talk about with our children because it is so
natural and important in our lives. It should be a
conversation that is as natural as ones we have about food. Age-appropriate conversations can create general
understanding and evolve over the years. As I see it, by the time a child
is 13, so many conversations about sex could be had at home, school, with
the grandparents and other family members, that they understand what they are feeling,
why they are feeling it and have tools to assist them in appropriately and responsibly
As adults and parents, we know by now that our kids will make up all sorts of false and dangerous
information about sex if we don't create safe and loving spaces to have
discussions. How do we know? Because we did it when we were young. We shared
secrets and lies with our friends about what we thought sex was. We
responded to the rush of hormones that flooded our bodies with crushes and
clumsy, stupid choices hoping to get the attention of someone we liked. And if
we didn't do stupid things, we still wanted attention from the person we were
attracted to and likely tortured ourselves desiring it.
In my view, this is not
a boy-will-be-boys mistake to be dismissed. But this is also not something for which he
should be arrested. This is a family and community information breakdown around
an issue that is as natural as eating and sleeping, yet we treat it like a
secret or a plague. This is not a bad boy or a silly teenager. He, like many kids, are misinformed
and uneducated. They have not been nurtured and properly informed about their bodies, desires and responsible behaviors. The deeper problem is, it's highly
likely that his parents, his teacher or the police that arrested him are also misinformed
and improperly educated about sex. Many of us are ignorant when it comes to
developing sexuality and any other sex for that matter. We leave it up to
television, music and pornography to teach us about sex. And that has to change.
My friend's daughter
is now in college. She recently called her mother to thank her because she is
watching all of her peers struggle with sex and their natural desires. They experience
vicious cycle of shame for desiring sex and guilt for having it. They don't
seem to understand that though they have choices, their bodies and hormones are
designed to drive them toward sex for procreation purposes. It's science! This
information is priceless and necessary for every young person who will
successfully and responsibly navigate appropriate sexual behavior. As it stands, shame and repression are the tools used to control something as inevitable as
I feel bad for this
young boy and I feel sad for those of us who don't see him as a victim of a
system that was not designed to protect but to prohibit true understanding,
acceptance and appreciation of pure human expression.