Sex Ed Is Failing in the USA – You Can Help
Why are we whispering about sex ed?
Editor's Note: I’m still traumatized by our sex ed “health” class in middle school. I've blocked what was said and how it was said, except for one experiment:
The rows of desks with kids exchanging fluids (ew, gross!) in test tubes to see how fast STDs can spread.
There was a vague mention that sex can feel good but you should just say no until you're ready.
Whatever that means. Thank goodness Therese is on the blog today!
Sex Ed was a joke.
Bananas, condoms, red-faced boys and giggling girls.
Didn't it just make you more curious?
Sex isn’t bad. Sex ed is smart. So why do we treat the topics like they're, well, diseased? Why the double-standard when it comes to something every person on Earth thinks about (a lot)?
Keep reading to figure out how to move past those feelings and teach your kids about pleasure. There are some very unexpected benefits!
Note: This post is not for or against sex before marriage. We respect your beliefs. This information is to help you help your children. Nothing more, nothing less.
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Quick Link To Books
Here are some books we highly recommend on sex ed and bodies. The Family Library series are written by age group, organized youngest to oldest.
- Ages 4-8: It's Not The Stork
- Ages 8-12: It's Amazing
- Ages 10+: It's Perfectly Normal
These books make discussing sex ed So.Much.Easier. You won't regret getting one, as these books cover age-appropriate anatomy and psychology, as well as important topics like safe touch and safe adults.
Why Sex Ed has to include the P word (Pleasure)
Did you ever catch your little ones exploring their bodies and getting great delight out of it?
How did you react? Tell them to stop? Did you ignore it? Were you uncomfortable?
Did you ever talk to your kids about what fun it is to feel .... pleasure?
Your kids want to know what sex is all about. Eventually they will have sex and - hopefully - they will enjoy it.
Your children are tiny and they're curious.
They’re pre-teen and they’re confused.
Maybe they're older and think they know it all.
How do you handle the Sex Talk?
I have always considered myself to be the open-minded mama. So when the ridiculously titled "Birds n Bees Talk" occurred with my 2 older kids, I thought I made it through without messing up too badly.
It wasn't until years later, when my 3rd child entered adolescence did I realize a huge topic had been omitted from the sex ed conversation: PLEASURE.
Sex ed with the older two had the graphic (the ins and outs), the variations on a theme (a little DIY info), and the protection warning (don't get pregnant, don't get STDs). It was an objective presentation.
Pleasure was never mentioned.
While it might feel kinda creepy talking about sex and pleasure with your kids, it’s important if you want them to get the Big Picture.
What is having sex really all about?
Your automatic response could be: “Procreation of the species.”
But sex is about pleasure and, eventually, babies. If it doesn't feel good, we’re not going to jump to engage in it. If pleasure doesn't enter the conversation, then its absence undermines any message we might want our kids to understand about their sexuality.
Yes, sex can be about making a baby. But isn’t pleasure where it all starts?
Are my kids going to have sex way before they’re ready if I use the P-word (Pleasure)?
In a word: No
I spent to some time in the Netherlands and discussed this topic with several Dutch teachers. The Dutch government has a sex ed program called "Long Live Love" which focuses on age appropriate biology as well as values, attitudes, variations and ....
They even talk to kindergarteners about "spring tickles" - that warmth you feel inside when you are hugged by someone you love.
Dutch teens discuss the importance of mutually, sexually-satisfying relationships.
Researching the European approach, I discovered that while average age of initiating sex is the same as the U.S. — 17 — their rates of STD, abortion, and teen pregnancies are way lower than ours.
These stats are supported
I spoke with some Dutch teens and 20 year olds and a lot of the prejudices, insecurities, ignorance and shame that I hear from their peers in this country were not present. I got to see the benefits of the Dutch approach. Wow!
A little-known secret about sex and pleasure
It starts early.
And the idea of addressing pleasure from an early age acknowledges feelings that are present from infancy which can be confusing. These feelings are usually sublimated - at least until adolescence. If ever addressed at all.
When my now 20+ daughter was around 5 years old, we were going to her friend’s house for a playdate. “I so a-scited [excited] to see JoJo! I so ascited .... my bagina tickles! Does that ever happen to you, Mama?”
I’m choking with laughter but driving a car so I had to control myself. I blurted out - “Yeah, it does happen sometimes!”
I often think of that moment, realizing how physically directed children are when they experience pleasure - it’s not about sex, but it is highly sexual. Sexuality is ever-present, even if they can’t name it.
Let’s be realistic about sexuality and kids. Pleasure is a fact. It is felt viscerally in the body. It is a healthy response to a healthy drive. Pleasure improves the immune system and the nervous system and our general outlook on life.
Talking about the pleasure of sex makes the whole act real - not shrouded in shame or romantic vagueness.
Talking about the pleasure of sex with kids makes the whole act real, not shrouded in shame or vagueness. #sexed #empowerment
So what should you talk about anyway?
Clitoris, balls, breasts, and penises - in addition to the millions of nerve endings in every part of the body - are all part of sex and to bypass them destroys your adult credibility. Young people are more likely to ask questions about sex and their sexuality if the subject of pleasure is brought to them first.
The perception of pleasure as the goal for any sexual act will make sexual experiences quite different from sex on the sneak, guilty sex and in particular non-consensual sex acts.
Still not sure?
Maybe your sex-life sucks and you don’t want to share that.
Maybe it’s great and you don’t want to share that.
Maybe the entire topic freaks the hell out of you.
This is a perfect place to start.
You may think you don’t know what you’re doing (who does?). Yet you know you want your kids to be educated on all the issues you’re blundering through - finances, ethics, politics. Sex is just one topic on the list.
Tackling the big issues with our kids requires us to tackle them in ourselves. Confronting our children's sexuality (which is present and active from infancy), gives us pause to look at our own.
Answers are optional - it's the questions that open the conversation.
Why School Sex Ed may screw up your kids
When you have doubts or discomfort talking to your kids about sex, you might be tempted to just let their school handle all the details.
Choose an active role in your children’s sex ed.
See what your district has on their Sex Ed agenda (if they have one). Many of the United States school districts promote anti-sex messages and the idea that mostly girls are to blame if anyone goes "wayward".
Sex is often taught as something that devalues anyone who has it - though girls are particularly targeted as the ones who must say NO. This message is damaging to anyone who hears it. It is particularly damaging to victims of sexual abuse who could not say no.
What kind of sex do you really want for your kids?
How about a happy relationship with joy and eros, in a safe environment where they can love and be loved? A place where they never associate sex with shame.
Sex will happen. One day, your children will engage in sexual activities, hopefully when they’re ready.
Whether your beloveds are toddlers, tweens, teens, or in their twenties, integrating the pleasure principle in any discussion on sexuality will empower them to choose the love they want.
And isn't real, healthy love what matters most?