Did ya’ll see the NYT Room for Debate about when to start sex education?
All four experts say, in short, “Start early, start often.”
Yes. Yes. Children should learn about sexuality the same way they learn about nutrition and hygiene and families and being kind.
But they don’t, and the reason they don’t is because the grownups are mired in a dangerous combination of lack of knowledge and abject fear.
How can we teach our children what we don’t understand ourselves?
The answer is that we ARE teaching our children, every day we are transferring to them our ignorance and fear – and the fear keeps us ignorant, and the ignorance keeps us afraid. I think Justin Richardson hits closest to the bone when he talks about how parents respond to seeing their son play with his penis, or whether or not they include “vagina” (VULVA!) in the bathtub song about body parts. In every moment, we communicate our uncertainty to others, and we teach them to be uncertain themselves.
The larger culture, both moralistic and capitalistic, has a vested interest in keeping us that way. And it’s working. The ancient morality-based social control mechanisms are the reason that otherwise evidence-informed practices such as medical education and mental health professional training include so very, very little sex education. The newer but powerful capitalism-based social control mechanisms (mostly the media) are the reason that young people think far more about what they’re supposed to be doing sexually than about how what they’re doing feels. It’ about performance, not experience.
So, how about 5 tips for being an awesome sex educator, no matter who you are, where you are, or what you do?
1. Love living inside your own body, including the sexual aspects of your body. The challenge here is in tuning your attention away from external voices about your body, from family of origin messages, from culture, from anything but the voice you had inside you the day you were born, the voice that is perfectly, deeply, serenely certain of your beauty, delight, and joy.
2. Allow the infinite in you to recognize the infinite in other people. Look people in the eye when you see them and think to yourself, “The infinite in my recognizes the infinite in you.” It’s okay if it’s not true; it’s okay if it is true. Just allow yourself to think it, allow yourself to look at their eyes and consider the possibility.
3. Pay attention to sensations – all the sensations. Pay attention to the texture of strawberries against your tongue and between your teeth. Pay attention to the way the fine hair on your lover’s forearm tickles the tip of your nose. Pay attention to the tension of your muscles as your body approaches orgasm, allow that tension, give it space. Pay attention to the way your feet feel in your shoes, the way your feet feel out of your shoes, the way your feel feet against the grass and the dirt.
4. Listen to things other people enjoy sexually. Notice when things they say make you feel uncomfortable. Reassure yourself that what they like in bed has nothing to do with what you like in bed, and that everyone gets to enjoy and do all the things they want to enjoy and do with whatever consenting peers choose to be involved. And having stuff you don’t want to do is just as okay as having stuff you do want to do. Having stuff you’ve done is just as okay as having stuff you’ve never done. This is autonomy. Your sexuality belongs TO YOU and you alone; their sexuality belongs TO THEM and them alone.
5. The strongest leaders lead not from their anger and frustration and fear, but from their vision of the world as it could be. Have hope. See a world you want to move toward, and take just one step forward today. Take one more step tomorrow. And one more after that. Justice and peace and a joyful, sex positive world are exactly like the ruby slippers – you had it with you all the time.
Consent. Satisfaction. Confidence. Joy.